OPPO's success as a company can be largely attributed to their ability to launch a product that not only performs well above the competition, but also answers the needs of audiophiles and videophiles alike. The company is best known for their high performance blu-ray players and more recently, high performance planar headphones and headphone amplifiers.
Back in April, OPPO released Sonica, a Wi-Fi speaker system that supports Wi-Fi (and wired ethernet), AirPlay and Bluetooth. Sonica offers a simple, yet elegant look and is controlled using an app on a smartphone or tablet. It can be configured for multi-room, stereo pair or standalone use. Our review only consisted of a single unit, so we operated in a standalone mode. Sonica is compatible with a variety of high-resolution audio formats and is capable of decoding audio files up to 24-bit / 192 kHz from formats such as FLAC, WAV, and Apple lossless.
Design and Construction
Sonica comes in a well-built enclosure, constructed from a glass-filled ABS polymer compound that includes multiple internal reinforcement ribs to provide the rigidity needed to minimize sound colorations. The unit has a solid feel with a stylish look. The exterior includes a smooth rounded back with sharp cuts in the front that extend out to the sides.
Three active drivers occupy the front of the unit while a pair of passive radiators are placed on each side. Sonica uses a single 3.5-inch bass driver placed in the center of the unit. This center driver utilizes a heavy magnet structure with a large linear excursion resulting in undistorted, high output bass. This center driver works with the side mounted passive radiators that are tuned to provide deep bass response in a relatively small, sealed enclosure. These passive radiators mounted on opposite ends not only provide the tuned bass response, but also help cancel vibrations in the unit. Flanked by the center bass driver are two 2.5” wideband drivers designed to handle the mid and upper frequencies. These drivers use high energy Neodymium magnets with copper shorting caps (typically only found in higher-end speakers) to accurately reproduce music.
Amplifier-Driver Matching with DSP
Sonica's amplifiers have been specially designed for each of the drivers and uses a DSP (Digital Signal Processor) with electronic crossovers for optimal sound performance. In addition, the speaker has built-in presets for optimizing the sound for different room sizes, speaker locations, and listening preferences. Both the power supply and amplifiers are installed on a solid metal baseplate to allow for improved thermal dissipation. The result is a set of electronics that runs cooler, thereby offering longer term reliability.
Controls and Indicators
The controls on the Sonica remind me of Sonos products, a simple interface with only three buttons on the top for volume (up and down) and mute functions. The speaker status (used for network status, muting, and firmware updating) and bluetooth indicators provide the user feedback on the unit's operation. The bluetooth indicator flashes white when pairing and goes solid white when paired with a device.
Control via App
While there are not many controls on the top of the Sonica unit, the real controls are available using the Sonica app. Customers can use their smartphone or tablet to stream and control their music. Firmware updates are also possible using the app and automatically transferred over the network.
There are four main screens that include Music, Settings, Favorites, and Devices. Both Spotify and TIDAL can run directly from the app. We also used the Pandora app to stream music. The app makes it easy to operate Sonica and gives users control of the unit.
The back of the Sonica is simple with just a few interfaces. The unit connects directly to utility power (100-240VAC) with its worldwide power supply. The power cord is designed with a 90-degree bend at the unit so it can be placed up against a wall with the power cord exiting from either side. You will also find ethernet, USB, and a 3.5mm aux input on the back. In most cases users will take advantage of the WiFi capability and only need the power cord. Sonica also supports Apple AirPlay, which lets users wirelessly stream music from iTunes. Sonica has multiple built-in adaptive antennas with MIMO technology to ensure great signal strength (2.4/5 GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi) and is compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networks.
The excellent sound quality of Sonica can be attributed to a combination of good source material, well engineered electronics with advanced signal processing and high performance drivers in a solid enclosure. This results in a very satisfying listening experience.
Users can have multiple Sonica speakers and use the app to decide what music to stream to each of them. They can also be grouped to play the same music when having parties.
We streamed content from Pandora, Spotify, and TIDAL. The advantage of TIDAL is their ability to stream lossless audio, providing users the ability to enjoy music the way the artists intended.
TIDAL offer three levels of audio quality.
Normal (AAC+ 96 Kbps), High (AAC 320 Kbps), and HiFi (Lossless FLAC). The latter uses 16bit / 44.1 KHz at 1411Kbps FLAC files and on average will consume about 10MB of data per minute of content. A typical 4 minute track will require about 40 MB of data. The Normal mode will be less than 10% of the HiFi data rate.
Sonica offers a simple and easy to operate design, a key element when non-tech savvy users are in the house. What I liked most about Sonica is how easy it was to setup and start streaming without a complicated configuration process. It's evident that a lot of thought went into the users' end of the design.
Sonica is yet another well engineered product from OPPO. The speakers looks stylish while providing excellent performance with an easy to use interface with your favorite phone or tablet app. For those looking to get the most fidelity from online streaming, OPPO's support of TIDAL offers high resolution music not found with other offerings. Using two of these speakers in a stereo configuration will certainly provide a larger and more powerful soundstage. As of this writing, OPPO plans to release another version of this speaker in January 2017 called the Sonica Grand, which includes additional high-end features.