The ‘G’ in the name of the Technics SL-G700 SACD player/network streamer stands for ‘Grand Class’. From many other manufacturers in the audio world, this categorisation might seem like hyperbole, but given the build quality of this Technics, it is quite fitting. It’s hard not to be impressed at the fit, finish and execution of this Technics player: you would have to pay a lot more to get an equivalent grade of build quality and feature set from one of the many ‘boutique’ brands in this business. Whether this stonking build is backed up with a sound quality to match will be discussed later, but first impressions count and the first impression of the Technics SL-G700 is powerful.
The G700 is an unusual beast in today’s world; there aren’t many other one-box disc spinner/streamers on the market, with models from Naim, Marantz and Yamaha being the few other riders in this race. However, it’s an understandable concept, as those yet to make the transition to streaming might want something with this degree of flexibility.
The Technics player has digital inputs and outputs and both single-ended and balanced outputs. The G700 features an onboard volume control (should you choose to use it as a digital hub). Ethernet network connectivity is wired or wireless, and it even supports Airplay and Bluetooth, albeit the latter not in its better sounding aptX form. The onboard DAC can decode PCM at up to 32-bit/384kHz and is good for DSD256 with most features being adjustable via the front panel and others accessible with Technics’ Audio Centre control app. The G700 can stream from most of the essential services – including Tidal, Spotify and Qobuz – and has MQA decoding and Chromecast built-in, making it almost universally adapted for contemporary listening styles.
You can, of course, say the same for the more ambitious one box wireless ‘speakers’ that are infiltrating many homes today, but none of them has the quality of circuitry found inside the SL-G700, which continues to impress when you take the lid off. This Technics player has separate AK4497 DACs for each channel with four power supplies driving this critical section of the machine. The AK4497 is Asahi Kasei Microdevices second-generation ‘Velvet Sound’ flagship; a 32-bit differential design with a whopping 128dB signal-to-noise ratio. An even more fundamental element in a digital audio device is the clock, which here is battery powered for maximum accuracy; it’s charged onboard rather than a fixed-charge user-replaceable battery. The output stage is a discrete affair designed for low noise and distortion using a folded cascode array for improved high-frequency performance. There is a dedicated high speed, switched-mode power supply for the zero-feedback analogue circuit to deliver stable power with very low noise and the digital side power supply uses carbon film resistors and ruby mica capacitors. The network connection has a film capacitor in its power supply, and even the digital outputs (Toslink, coax) have an isolated power supply.
The SL-G700’s headphone output has its own DAC circuit that’s independent of the analogue output stage. This circuit uses various Technics processing technologies to remove jitter and optimise noise shaping and is tuned specifically for its application. Internally the chassis is separated so that the shielded power supply does not influence the analogue circuitry. The CD transport mechanism has a triple chassis construction to keep vibration under control, is delightful to use and as smooth as butter: all it needs is an eject button on the remote, and I’d be playing with it all day. More calming for audio enthusiasts with a healthy CD/SACD collection, the quality of that transport mechanism bespeaks of longevity; we’re (hopefully) not at the ‘final CD player’ point, but in case that changes it’s good to have a transport clearly built to last.
I used an Innuos Zenith SE server running Roon as the source. This combination allowed the Technics to deliver a focussed and slightly small scale rendition of artists including Fink and Lana Del Rey, the latter’s voice sounding particularly excellent in the context of a well defined acoustic. I found this to be consistent especially with female singers; a less well-known artist called Olivia Trummer [Fly Now, Contemplate Music] sings to a jazz backing to sometimes excellent effect. While the busier passages of piano and drums could have been smoother, her vocals worked a treat. The Technics does decent three-dimensionality of sound so long as the music remains reasonably straightforward, EST’s ‘Tuesday Wonderland’ [Live in Hamburg, ACT] sounds natural and well separated. However, when the interplay gets intense, the Technics starts to struggle. Give the Technics a straightforward groove, and it’s a happy bunny; ‘Sharing (Live)’ [Bugge Wesseltoft], for instance, sounds powerful and driven with a great groove. However, when the interplay gets rhythmically intense, the Technics can struggle a little.