Hardware Reviews

Phonar p6.2 Match Air WiSA wireless wonders

Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match active loudspeakers review https://the-ear.net

Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match Air wireless loudspeakers

Loudspeakers need power to work. Historically, that power has been pure analogue signals from analogue power amplifier circuits. The crossover circuits, which share out these high-power signals, are usually passive, using only inductors, capacitors and resistors running at high power levels and inside the speaker cabinets. As these sit between each power amplifier and speaker unit, they inevitably introduce resistive and other losses, leading to distortion and sometimes less than ideal filter shapes  – not to mention the additional losses in the speaker cable. Nevertheless, these ‘passive’ speakers can work extremely well and sound great.

Putting the amplification inside the speakers, and carrying out the filtering actively internally (using low voltage electronic circuits), gets rid of long speaker cables and the inadequacies of passive filtering. If done well it can bring about very tangible improvements to sound quality. There are many active speaker systems which bear this out – although many enthusiasts still prefer the flexibility to tune their system by choosing speakers with passive crossovers and separate power amplification.

Active systems do however generally require the same analogue audio signals, or a digital stream to process and amplify, as well as a power source – usually the AC mains – to function, so they are by no means entirely wireless.

Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match active loudspeakers review https://the-ear.net

With lifestyle products expanding the audio market beyond died-in-the-wool enthusiasts, there is a need for systems which require fewer connecting wires and greater convenience, so there’s a trend towards ‘wireless’ speakers, which can be placed anywhere, providing there is a mains power socket nearby. There are so many of these, which can handle, at best, basic CD quality files via lossy Bluetooth, or wi-fi, many at low prices, which are only OK for background music. However, there has recently been a concerted push towards better quality hi-fi oriented wireless speaker options.

WiSA world

This is where the Veritas P6.2 Match Air speakers, reviewed here, are poised to make their mark. Designed by German company Phonar in conjunction with Abbas Hussain of UK based Phonar-Orelle, the innovative p6.2 Match Air loudspeakers incorporate WiSA HT wireless technology. This allows up to 8 channels of uncompressed, hi-res 24-bit/96kHz audio across its own dedicated wireless network, enabling the mixing and matching of WiSA enabled products from various manufacturers. WiSA provides 114 dB of available dynamic range and 48kHz maximum audio bandwidth, with low 5.2ms latency and less than one microsecond of synchronisation between speakers (which is of course vital for stereo, or multi-channel applications, such as Dolby Atmos).

In addition to wi-fi, each Match Air speaker also has RCA unbalanced, and XLR balanced analogue inputs. The analogue inputs pass through an on-board 24-bit/96kHz analogue to digital convertor (ADC). There are two displays, with buttons on the rear panel for selecting inputs, pairing and tonal balance.

Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match active loudspeakers review https://the-ear.net
Platin Stereo Hub

The really interesting part is what happens after the WiSA module and the ADC in the p6.2 Match Air. Both these output I2S digital signals to a powerful custom programmed audio processor, which applies the necessary individual crossover filtering and gain adjustments to feed each drive unit. This runs at 28-56 bits for the active crossover and tone/room correction and 32-48bits to convert the processed signals to pulse width modulation (PWM). So, all that’s required for conversion to analogue is low-pass filtering to remove harmonics above 100kHz.

However, Instead of converting to analogue at low level, as is usual, this PWM signal is fed to two high-frequency power stages (effectively power DACs running in Class D). These are optimised to accommodate each driver’s impedance and power handling, rather than using off the shelf, or slightly modified Class D amplifiers (as with many manufacturers). Drive units include a Scan Speak ring-radiator tweeter, plus a midrange and bass woofer from Peerless. In addition to these active speakers, Phonar also offers passive versions, which can be upgraded to active WiSA Match Airs later.

Abbas Hussain supplied thep6.2 Match Air speakers with a Platin Stereo Hub, (available as an option), which contains the WiSA transmitter and is equipped with various inputs, including stereo analogue (RCA), optical, coax, HDMI (ARC), USB ,Toslink, and LAN. There’s no analogue output, so it can only be used with WiSA enabled products. The Platin Stereo Hub is a neat all-in one unit, which  supports streaming via Chromecast, Spotify and Bluetooth. The Match Air manual also claims the Platin hub can stream Qobuz and Tidal. I use only Qobuz for streaming, but unfortunately, neither manual explains how to access it via the Hub.

Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match active loudspeakers review https://the-ear.net
Wiim Pro Plus

Fortunately, Abbas also supplied a Sound Sense hub (with only HDMI (ARC) and Toslink inputs), and a Wiim Pro Plus streamer, which does support Qobuz, and has inputs for SPDIF via Toslink  and analogue line in, via RCA sockets. It outputs via either the coax and Toslink for digital, or analogue via RCA sockets, selectable via the Wiim home app. So, these two separate devices may be linked via Toslink providing WiSA connectivity and control (albeit with two apps).

Sound quality

I briefly tried the Wiim Pro Plus in my own system and into the p6.2 Match Airs, playing vinyl via the phono inputs and outputs. Sound quality was acceptable at its price point, but not exactly outstanding. With its ADC, DAC, internal digital volume control, and 5V DC wall wart power supply, it is what one might expect, but did not give the Match Air speakers a fair chance of shining. So, being rather impatient to get down to some worthwhile listening, I plugged in a Moon 390 preamp/streamer/DAC in to the XLR inputs and played some vinyl, so analogue up to the speaker inputs (and, to be fair, about 30 times more expensive).

When the first bars of Beethoven’s Symphony Number 6 (Pastoral), rolled out into the room, I was pleasantly surprised. This was a very pleasing sound – nicely transparent, with a great sense of drive and rhythm, a lovely sense of acoustics, great sounding woodwind, cellos, etc. and a great sense of stereo imagery. There was no hardening up or harshness during louder passages, so the intervening analogue to digital conversion, digital processing, digital power amplification and speaker drivers were handling the music very competently indeed. I found that I generally preferred to switch in filter number 5 (via the rear panels), which tilts the frequency response down gently from 2 kHz. Any fears I might have had about connecting via analogue to a digital speaker, were instantly dispelled. Several more LPs found their way onto the platter giving similarly impressive results with a wide range of genres, so this was very encouraging.

Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match active loudspeakers review https://the-ear.net

However good this sounded, this is not the way these speakers are intended to be used. The whole point is of course the wireless WiSA connection. Having not managed to pair the speakers to the Platin Hub, or register for the Platin app, I got the Soundsend WiSA module paired to the speakers by ignoring the Match Air manual and using the Google Home app, which guided me through the process and was actually quite easy. Connecting the Wiim Pro to it via Toslink gave me access to Qobuz.

I first played Three to get Ready from Dave Brubeck’s Time Out. The overall sound was nice and clear, with swishy snares, woody clarinet, all in a lovely reverb. Nothing was exaggerated and bass lines were easy to follow. As with vinyl, I preferred the tonal balance when using filter 5. So, this WiSA connection sounded remarkably good, although having to manage two volume controls on two apps, was not exactly ideal. Setting Soundsend to max, and using the Wiim Pro volume slider is a much better approach.

One Love from Bob Marley’s Legend proved to be smooth and clear with fine vocals and a great sense of depth and atmosphere. Likewise, with Lang Lang in Paris (Chopin and Tchaikovsky on Sony Classical), his piano was reproduced with a beautiful sense of clarity and sonority.

However, curiosity got the better of me and so I wondered how the speakers might sound via WiSA using a better streamer, but I didn’t have one with a digital output. So, pressing into service an Auralic Altair G1.1 (streamer with DAC) and using the same musical examples via Qobuz as with the Soundsend and Wiim ProPlus, into the speaker’s phono analogue inputs brought about quite a lift in performance, compared with the WiSA link. But this should not be the case, because the files had been converted from digital, to analogue in the Auralic, then back to digital in the speakers. It should have sounded far better kept in digital throughout.

Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match active loudspeakers review https://the-ear.net
Soundsend

The speakers are clearly capable of much more. So, I enlisted the help of Karma AV, distributors of Primare, who make the Prisma SC15 Prisma Mk II System Control unit. This includes WiSA built in – along with miscellaneous analogue and digital inputs and streaming – including Qobuz.

A major advantage of the Prisma SC15 Mk II over the Soundsend and Wiim Pro is that it’s a proper preamp/streamer, all in one solidly-built package, including – one might assume – decent low-noise power supplies. As I had hoped, the results from listening to digital files on the p6.2 Match Airs, using the Primare via WiSA, were significantly lifted. Curiously, I found I could set the speakers’ filters to ‘flat ‘ to gain the benefit of the extra clarity, without feeling the need for filtering.

I played several tracks from Qobuz and experienced the same levels of improvement. As an example, the Lang Lang recording truly sparkled. I could now hear not only the rich harmonic sonority and solidity of his piano (and the brilliance of his finger work), but also the clatter and rumble of the mechanism as the hammers were operated by the keys. However, this was not in an exaggerated fashion, but seemed quite natural and indicated that the microphones had been placed quite close to pick up all these details. This was not so obvious when listening through the Soundsend and Wiim Pro Plus.

Don’t get me wrong. The p6.2 Match Airs sounded good via the Soundsend and Wiim Plus, but I could tell the speakers were capable of so much more. Now they were really singing. Abbas tells me he has very low noise power supplies in development for the Soundsend, Platin and Wiim Pro Plus, so hopefully they will lift the sound of these entry level options.

Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match active loudspeakers review https://the-ear.net

WiSA technology appeared to work fine, (once pairing had been accomplished) and was stable, although I did hear a couple of momentary breaks in the music in a short space of time early on in testing. However, these did not recur, after a lot of listening, so this seems to have been a ‘one-off’ event.

Conclusion

Summing up, these Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match Air WiSA-enabled speakers exceeded my expectations. They don’t sound flat and boring, thin, harsh or ‘digital’. They are quite natural in balance, and reveal lashings of subtle detail without becoming fatiguing.

They can sound superb hung on the end of a good analogue system, via the XLR or RCA inputs, and fed by a conventional analogue preamp, or a high-end streamer/DAC. They also work superbly over WiSA. The potential quality should be greater via WiSA (and can be), but as I found, that’s not a given, especially if using lower-cost sources. Whether the analogue or WiSA method sounds best will ultimately depend of the quality of the individual sources.

The Phonar Veritas p6.2 Match Air speakers are the whole package, making  external power amplifiers redundant and offering potentially outstanding sound quality. So they represent good value. However, they are high-resolution devices, which will only give of their best  with high-quality  sources – of whatever flavour.

Specifications:

Type: 3-way wireless reflex loaded loudspeaker
Amplifier power: 320W Direct Digital
Drive units:
Bass: 165mm
Midrange: 130mm
Tweeter: 26mm ring radiator
Crossover frequency: not specified
Filter options: 10 settings
Frequency response:not specified
Wired connections: RCA, XLR
Wireless inputs: WiSA
Dimensions HxWxD: 1000 x 200 x 320mm
Weight: 27kg
Finishes: high-gloss black, satin black, high-gloss white,  walnut
Warranty: 2 years

Price when tested:
p6.2 Match Air £5,599
p6.2 Match £5,200
Platin Stereo Hub £399
Soundsend £199
Wiim Pro Plus £219
Manufacturer Details:

Phonar Akustik GmbH
T + 49 (0) 4638 892 40
https://www.phonar.de

Type:

wireless loudspeakers

Author:

Dave Berriman

Distributor Details:

Orelle & Phonar UK
http://www.phonar.uk

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