Saturday, 3 October 2015

Xounts 2.1 System With QED uPlay Plus

As I am in the midst of revamping (more like downsizing) my hifi set up, my downstairs living is now empty... in a musical sense.... No more TV nor a hifi system. I still have the Arcadia portable TT and also the Bose Wave system but those have been parked across the dining table. 

Luckily my Mrs too cannot live without music, hence I am in the quest of a minamalist system. Coincidently, one of my FB mate, Laz Shamsudin messaged me saying that the Xounts 2.1 system is back in stock on Groupon. And at RM269 inclusive of GST and Postage, this seems to be a low enough gamble.

The item arrived within 5 days. Nicely packed in a box. The parts are smartly packed in the box, ensuring everything is protected in postage.






















Assembling the unit took about 30 mins with its clear instruction booklet and the first that was tested .... was the light!

So, What is This Xounts?

It basically a speaker-lamp system that is designed around 2 .1 speaker system using NXT technology. Its basically a pair of mini speakers mounted onto the frame of the unit plus a down firing slim subwoofer.


The Specifications

Incorporated in the system:

1. 3 x 3.5mm Aux In (one inside the unit and 2 in the rear panel)
2. 1 x 2 pins power socket (inside the unit and its for low powered unit)
3. 1 x wireless receiver (inside the unit and uses RF)
4. 1 x wireless RF transmitter (comes with power supply and another 2 x 3.5 mm inputs)
5. 1 x Philips energy savings bulb

So, all together there are 5 inputs to this system.

The power cable is hard wired into the rear panel alongside with volume and bass control with 2 x 3.5 mm aux in mentioned above.

No remote! Which is the biggest gripe for this unit.

The Session



First impression... it can go loud.... really loud for a medium size living room. Bass was a bit muddled, hence I lowered down the bass volume to about 12 o clock  on the dial. But clarity was there, crystal clear sound, The sample above is from Arcadia TT streamed wirelessly to the Xounts.

It did take loooongg hours before the SW to open up a bit and sounded more refined. Connecting my faithful Blackberry Passport to the unit via 3.5 mm jack, the overall sound coming from this unit sounded more subtle and refined compared to the wireless mode. The wireless mode sounds a bit harsh and constraint.

Listening to Azlan and The Typewriter's rendition of Jeritan Batinku, the Xounts produced quite centralised sound. Although the dispersion of sound is sufficient to be heard across the hall, but it does not give that full soundstage feeling. Its loud and could deliver the stunning vocals of Azlan... also a thud thumping experience when it comes to the double kick pedal of the drums. But it still sounded 1 dimensional.

Playing a hi res file of Eagles Hotel California via the RF wireless streamer, I can feel that this wireless module somehow does not deliver the refined and detail of the hi res file that I have.

After more than 200 hours of running in, only then I can start to experience a more open sound, with less restrain on the musicality. The sound is more airy and have some energy to it. Compared to before where the sound was quite flat, this unit now delivers a more lively sound with sufficient bass control and depth. I find that setting the bass dial to about 1 pm, gives the the best result.

Placement of the unit is also important. Its better to have the area on both sides free from big furnitures.

Many Inputs is Enough?

Now, if I was the designer for Xounts, this is how I would spend my cost on to rather than offering 5 inputs:

1. Just 2 Aux input
2. Replace RF module with the option of Bluetooth or WiFi
3. Remote... at least for the volume.

The RF module...although sends out a very stable signal, is not portable. You need to connect it to a power source and stationed it near your source. Hence, its not portable at all.

And each time I want to reduce the volume, I would have to go behind the unit and meddle with the small volume knob.

Very inconvenient for a lifestyle speaker design.

Because of this, I had to enhance the Xounts capability by adding a BT module.

QED uPlay Plus

I used to own the famous QED uPlay Puck BT module. But since I have purchased two BT enabled DACs, I have since sold the unit. I was actually planning to re-purchase the puck, but it is no longer in stock. Hence, I had to settle with the uPlay Plus.

Setting up is simple. The beauty of this unit is that I can tap the power source from the internal 2 pins plug  socket inside the Xounts. I then use an stereo RCA to 3.5 mm cable to connect to the rear aux in for the Xounts. The uPlay Plus unit fits nicely underneath the Xounts, just beside the down firing SW.




Connected to my BB Passport, I played the hi res file Hotel California again. Voila, instant change in sound signature. Via BT, I feel that it helped the Xounts to give more justice to hi res sound files. The percussion now sounds more punchy and natural and the guitar plucking sounds more natural. The overall song sounded more involving.

And with this addition to the unit, I now have control on all the music I have stored on my phone and also on my 4 TB NAS over the home network. Plus, I am now able to control the volume from my phone. I just set the volume knob on the Xounts at 12 pm, and I control the volume on my phone.

Conclusions

For RM269, this is much better than a mini compo which I used to adore growing up with them. However, at its original price of about RM2800, I would not suggest to anyone who is fussy with audio quality from a unit. Its overall design is a bit behind time with minimal convenience of the modern hifi world.


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