There’s a massive chasm between an everyday self-contained speaker and one that brings both class and fine performance to the home. The latter describes Oppo’s $299 retail Sonica Wi-Fi Speaker, which redefines what a home speaker should be. A high fidelity wireless speaker system, is what.
Start with what you see: unobtrusively black but with a curved design that obviates a plastic appearance so often found in so-called “home” speakers. The materials used do more than just provide an enclosure for the speaker system — the resulting chassis creates a sound chamber for the audio to exit from without distortion or vibration. This is a big thing because the speaker’s ability to create sound can be adversely affected if filtered through an ineffectual enclosure.
Controlling the Sonica is easily done via the free app (more on that in a bit), but of course there are physical controls on the speaker. It’s just that they can be ignored if desired in favor of remote control. Also obvious is the fact that having Wi-Fi capabilities (2.4/5GHz 802.11ac – multiple antennas to avoid signal loss, etc.) eliminates hard cable connections, other than the plug going into a wall outlet. So much for inhibiting placement based on the room’s configurations. This is especially true since Wi-Fi isn’t the only methods of getting audio into the speaker: there’s also wireless AirPlay and Bluetooth, plus an Ethernet connector and an USB port. Even an analog AUX input. And Oppo understands that not every room is gong to be the same, which is why they’ve built in a series of room optimization presets for different room sizes, speaker locations, and listening preferences.
So what IS inside of the Sonica Wi-Fi Speaker? Plenty. Set up in a 2.1 stereo configuration comes four (4) separate amplifiers: two @ 10 watts each powering a stereo pair of 2.5” wideband drivers. Taking care of the lower end of things comes two @ 15 watts each connected in a bridged mode driving the 3.5” bass woofer and two 3” bass radiators (that’s 30 watts combined). And forget about all of this being aimed forward like some picket fence; the radiators are located on each side of the enclosure opposite each other so as to 1)enhance the bass response and 2)avoid causing the enclosure to rattle and shake when the music gets loud (as it should, often). That Oppo are using custom drivers with heavy duty construction should be a given.
Now getting back to the app — there’s version for both iOS/Android and streaming controls function as one expects. What isn’t as expected are the wide range of audio formats that Sonica can play because it can decode up to 24-bit/192 kHZ — high resolution audio coming from formats like FLAC, WAV and Apple Lossless. This allows the high capabilities of the Sonica’s drivers to be fully realized, as opposed to being stuck playing lowrez MP3 and other audio streams. So what the Sonica brings to the audio party every time it’s used is not overkill but right on the money.
The Sonica Wi-Fi Speaker can be used alone, used in a multi-room setting or evan as a stereo pair, depending on how many you have (and yes there’s an optional wall mount too). But regardless of the number, you are getting a speaker that knows how to do sound that is worth listening to.