This nicely priced Technics system does it all

September 29, 2022
9 mins read
Start
10/10

Summary

Technics SA-C600 Network CD Receiver & SB-C600 Speaker Review

ANDREW BAKER gets to know an ingenious sound system that does it all and sounds great for a comparatively small price.

$1899 each or $3798 as a set

Being an audiophile almost invariably used to mean having to own several big box components, often two, three or more just for amplification alone, laid out on a hefty dedicated hi-fi rack, all flanked by enormous loudspeakers and connected with cables the size of a baby’s arm. And while that is still awesome, there’s no denying that hi-fi is getting smaller – in terms of component inventory as well as footprint size.

This means it is now much easier for people with less room and varying budgets to enjoy audiophile-quality sound. Amplifiers with built-in phono stages and DACs are the norm now and some even have onboard streamers, though a lot of these are still big full-sized components. Gaining popularity are powered speakers – omitting the need for any components at all with amplification, DA conversion and streaming all inside the speaker cabinet.

 

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But what if you want everything – CD player, terrestrial radio, DAB radio, phono stage and digital streaming, even the option to use headphones – on a small scale that sounds great and is easy to use?

Technics has come up with an ideal solution with their Premium Class SA-C600 Network CD Receiver. Paired with their SB-C600 bookshelf/standmount speakers, we have an ideal solution for those with smaller rooms, or those who just want something small and simple regardless.

Build and Features

Measuring just 340 x 94 x 341mm (W x H x D), the SA-C600 Receiver will fit almost anywhere. It is plastic-y and doesn’t have the premium look or feel of Technics’ current higher-end products, but when we see what’s packed into that small chassis, little more thought is likely to be given to its construction.

From the front, the C600 looks pretty simple and uncluttered. It has a top-loading CD player with a round cover which slides smoothly around to the back to open. Also on top is the standby/power on button and a button each for volume up and volume down. On the front, we find a 3.5mm headphone jack alongside a USB-A input. Front centre is a smallish display screen with touch switches for selecting source, CD operation, etc. A nice remote control is provided for full control of the unit.

Around back we have phono inputs for the moving magnet-only phonostage (2.5 mV/47k Ohms), one line input, terminals for DAB and FM antenna, USB-B input for connecting a PC, Ethernet input, optical and coaxial inputs, and an AC power input. The only outputs are the speaker terminals (for banana plug, bare wire, spade) and a subwoofer output.

Along with the remote control is the ability to control the C600 with your smartphone using the Google Home app (there is also a Technics Audio Center app). I found this to be very good and it was useful for some initial setup, but really I just used the remote along with my chosen streaming service apps.

The C600 is a full digital amplifier and uses the superb JENO Engine (Jitter Elimination Noise-shaping Optimisation) borrowed from Technics’ high-end amplifier separates. As far as I can tell, being fully digital, the C600 needs no DAC chip meaning signals are processed fully digitally from input to output.

All you really need to add is a turntable – assuming you have records and wish to play them – and Technics have you covered there too, with their matching Premium Class SL-1500C and SL-100C turntables. I guess you could connect your TV via the optical input though I didn’t try that. The C600 has Bluetooth (version 4.2) streaming, and via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, you get Chromecast/Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Roon and even the ability to stream music from JRiver. DAB is perhaps redundant here in New Zealand but FM radio was pulled in nice and strong and you can store up to 30 stations.

The amplifier section outputs 60wpc into 4 Ohms and has a load impedance of 4–16 Ohms. There is a room correction feature called Space Tune which adapts the sound depending on where the system is placed – be that on a rack close to a wall, in a corner, or perhaps placed on an existing shelf. iOS can be used for the custom room measurement feature, while Android presets can utilise Space Tune. Sadly, that feature went unexplored for this review.

SB-C600 Speakers

These small speakers – 173 x 293 x 283mm (W x H x D) – are sold separately and ideal in keeping with the minimalist/small footprint theme. They come in all-black (apart from the phase plug and tweeter dome which are silver coloured) with circular magnetised removable covers and some bog-standard speaker cable. I had some old DNM Reson speaker cable lying in a drawer so I used that instead.

The SB-C600 speakers are a 2-way bass reflex design with a coaxial two-way driver unit (6-inch woofer and 1-inch dome tweeter in one) with what Technics describes as a uniquely shaped phase plug in the centre. This phase plug is aligned so that no matter where you sit, you should still get the “sweet spot” benefits and Technics claims it also helps give a wide presentation.

The speaker unit is mounted to a special internal baffle designed for rigidity and to prevent vibrations from interfering with the drivers. A specially engineered bass port sits below the driver and is said to reduce airflow turbulence, helping to provide low noise and good bottom end.

Around the back is a single pair of nice quality brass speaker binding posts. Technics gives an impedance of 4 Ohms for these speakers with a rated input of 60 watts (120 watts maximum) and a frequency range of 40 Hz to 100 kHz (-10 dB). While the SB-C600s aren’t in my opinion particularly sexy looking, I concede they have an understated elegance that many will find appealing. And they are in fact very well made, feeling surprisingly solid and hefty (they weigh around 6.3 kg each).

The reviewer’s set-up

Setup and Listening

Setting up couldn’t have been easier. The SA-C600 slotted into my rack in place of my Cambridge Audio CD player with no effort. I plugged The Wand 14/4 Turntable into the phono section by way of my A23 SUT (I use an EMT low output moving coil cartridge), connected the speakers, then sat back and set up the Wi-Fi connection. With everything up and running, I spent some time positioning the speakers – which I had placed on my old and manky but perfectly functional steel speaker stands – and then I was good to go. Technics recommends toeing the speakers in towards the listening position and I found a slight toe-in to be best in my room.

All the streaming functions, whether I went with Spotify Connect, Tidal, Roon, Bluetooth or JRiver worked immediately and with no issue at any time. Function-wise, the Technics gave me absolutely nothing to complain about. The display was perhaps a little hard to read from across the room (about three meters) even wearing my glasses, but this wasn’t really much of a niggle as everything was available to view on my phone anyway.

I would describe the Technics receiver/speaker combination as having a fun sound. Not in a condescending way, just that you get an engaging and moving sound with a nice even frequency response across the board and just enough detail retrieval to keep it sounding interesting without being clinical. Despite their size, the speakers have a decent enough soundstage in terms of width, depth and body, though they don’t exactly “disappear”, project out into the room or give a life-like scale. Instruments have very good timbre and the treble is just right for my ears, in that the sound isn’t too bright but has enough extension to give a good crisp, airy sound. The bass is a nice treat. You don’t exactly feel it but the C600s certainly give a good sense of bottom end with excellent punch and definition for their size. A subwoofer would definitely fill out that sub-bass region but not being a bass head as such, I didn’t really miss it.

They are very good little speakers and the only time I really heard any cabinet resonance was when turning the volume up louder-than-comfortable while playing something like Black Sabbath or a bass-heavy electronic track. Even then they mostly retained their composure, not distorting or congesting.

The phono section isn’t good. It’s excellent. Again, there was good frequency response, good dynamics and timbre and just a nice even-handed sound signature that doesn’t offend in any way. Similarly, the CD player worked flawlessly and sounded excellent – very smooth and natural. Nothing to complain about here, just lots of fun and musical enjoyment.

The overall sound signature of this Technics combo is free and uncluttered with a nice degree of fullness. Imaging is decent, not amazing but there is good instrument separation. Vocals are clear and present and, along with timbre, are probably the strongest aspect of this pairing. There is also a hint of warmth in the upper bass/lower midrange which I always appreciate.

Playing Wilco’s ‘Don’t Forget the Flowers’ from Being There (1996, Reprise Records) I found that warmth was plainly evident when the rhythm section kicked in, but also the punchy bass, nice image separation and the timbre of the strummed guitar. Jeff Tweedy’s voice was the most highlighted here and, while not exactly holographic, it was set quite high above the other instruments and displayed good definition and presence.

On a good system Cymande’s ‘Zion I’, from Cymande (1972, Janus Records), is presented on a wide and engaging soundstage, extending far left and right of the speakers. Through the Technics duo, the soundstage here wasn’t quite as wide but still had a decent “audiophile” width. Instruments were all well separated with natural timbre and good body, never descending into congestion. Vocals were again clear, standing well out of the mix and I was just as easily able to engage with the music. A shaker-like instrument – a maraca perhaps – did seem to project just in front of the right speaker and there was a good sense of front-to-back layering.

I tested the headphone section with a couple of headphones/IEMs. (By the way, another little niggle is that there isn’t a 6.35mm plug but I just used an adapter when needed.) My Moondrop KATO IEMs were first in and they sounded wider with more depth and detail than they do straight out of my phone. The KATOs have a bit more treble extension than I usually like personally and this was a little more noticeable through the Technics but not to the point of fatigue. I felt bass was slightly lacking with these (they normally pack quite a wallop) but this could likely be resolved to personal preference using the SA-C600s tone controls.

Next, I tried my planar magnetic HIFIMAN Edition X V2 headphones. These are very easy to drive with an impedance of just 25 Ohms and sensitivity of 103dB and while they are fine even through a smartphone, they sound their best with a bit of dedicated amplification. The X V2s are getting a bit old but they have a lovely spacious sound with incredible imaging, good detail and a really good bottom end. The Technics played to these attributes quite well, providing a very crisp and clean sound with a good punchy bass response on certain tracks. While I would be quite happy living with this combination, I did feel the Technics lacked a bit of body and overall dynamics, sounding a little bit thin and not quite as tonally rich when compared to things like my Woo Audio, AAA789 or Geshelli Labs headphone amplifiers.

Playing ‘Halah’ by Mazzy Star from the album She Hangs Brightly (1990, Capitol Records), Hope Sandoval’s vocal was clear and centred, guitars crisp and sparkly but the bass didn’t quite pop the way I’m used to, though it did have that nice hint of warmth. Listening on, I found myself wanting a little more flesh, as it were, and a bit more depth.  All things considered, however, I think the C600 is worthy and enjoyable for headphone listening.

Conclusion

This little system may not provide the rich tonal experience, the all-out dynamic punch and slam or the room-filling scale of a more conventional high-end separates set up but it has just the right amount of these qualities to justify being on my highly recommended list.

In fact, if I didn’t need all my other gear for reviewing purposes, I would seriously consider selling it all and getting this Technics setup. I would keep my turntable and SUT and possibly keep my EAR phonostage, utilising the C600’s line input, though I could live without that too.

Along with streaming, I still listen to CDs and still listen to radio (it sounds better to me receiving radio from the airwaves rather than from a digital stream) and still listen to records. This thing does it all and there are loads of options out there for subwoofers should I wish to add more bottom end. Keeping with the small theme would be easy here too as companies like KEF, Cambridge Audio and SVS have good compact – and discreet – models on offer.

Technics should be very proud of what they have achieved here. The C600s certainly won’t overpower a room with their physical presence but they will for sure be a talking point when music is being played. With all those features along with the sound performance on offer, I feel those prices are more than justified. These get my highest recommendation.

High-quality sound for all.

Having begun collecting music and attending concerts from the age of 10, Mr Baker became a full-blown audiophile in his mid-twenties. He loves discovering new music and despite an undying love for vinyl, enjoys all formats. He divides his spare time between raising his kids, laughing at his cat and writing about hi-fi. When he grows up, he wants to be a rock star.

1 Comment

  1. Hi, you mentioned Roon in passing but I was wondering if you had a chance to test if it worked. This model isn’t listed as Roon Ready or Tested.

    Many thanks
    Simon

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