This is a digital product that doesn’t have any of the negative qualities we normally associate with digital playback. The sound is surprisingly smooth, natural, widely spaced, and with excellent bass response. In short, the Technics SU-G30 amp is an eminently musical high end audio amplifier.
I have been closely tracking Technics’ new product launches over the last two years. There have been quite a few new products that have been released that give a wink and a smile to Technics’ historic greatness. This goes for the large power meters on Reference Class amplifiers, the direct drive systems on their newest turntables, and their cozy Premium Stereo Headphones to name a few. They have all caught my eye (and ear). I am not alone and many of their products, including their incredible speakers, have received accolades among consumers and the audio press.
My only experience in listening to these new products has come at trade shows…until I found myself fortunate enough to receive two of Technics’ newest products – the Grand Class SU-G30 Network Audio Amplifier and the ST-G30 Music Server. The review here will concentrate on the network amplifier while I will issue an update in a few weeks that will cover my experience using the music server.
Both of these products are not inexpensive but their prices are commensurate with the technologies and implementation of same in these boxes. They include some of the most cutting-edge developments that Technics has pioneered for their uber high end offerings and these technologies are included in the products under evaluation here. I was surprised by how much innovation they have on tap and I think you will be too.
TIDAL, Spotify, and vTuner Supported (with MQA Processing)
Coaxial Digital x 2, Optical Digital x 1, USB-A, USB-B, Ethernet (with MQA Processing)
Line x 1, Phono (MM) x 1
Speaker Level (5-way binding posts)
Front 1/4” Headphone
50 W + 50 W (1 kHz, T.H.D. 0.5 %, 8 Ω, 20 kHz LPF)
100 W + 100 W (1 kHz, T.H.D. 0.5 %, 4 Ω, 20 kHz LPF)
Line 200 mV / 22 kΩ, Phono (MM) 2.5 mV / 47 kΩ
Line 5 Hz – 80 kHz (-3 dB, 8 Ω)
Phono (MM) 20 Hz – 20 kHz (RIAA Deviation ±1 dB, 8 Ω)
Digital 5 Hz – 90 kHz (-3 dB, 8 Ω)
0.05 % (1 W at 1 kHz, 20 kHz LPF)
4 – 16 Ω
13-3/8” (w) x 3-1/16” (h) x 11-5/8” (d)
Technics, Technics SU-G30, Network Audio Amplifier, Network Audio Amplifier Review 2018
The new lineup of products from Technics embodies a ton of proprietary technologies that have been implemented to take music reproduction to a whole new level. Technics’ approach is consistent with the Japanese ethos of high quality design and manufacture. I will get into some of the technologies below but I wanted to lead off by stating that this amplifier communicates its greatness not only through the audible performance one hears but also in the very essence of its overall execution.
I am talking about build quality and it is the first thing you notice when confronted with this amazing little amplifier. I understood this amp was rated to produce 50 watts per channel into 8 ohms, but what surprised me was how hefty the box was when it arrived in my workshop. This amp is really put together, the knobs are polished so thoroughly that they sparkle like little jewels. It oozes pure class and respect, respect for the customer and self respect on the part of the manufacturer. There is no doubt that this is a product made to last a lifetime, forever providing supreme musical reproduction.
The Technics SU-G30 is a network amplifier that can be connected via many methods to include WiFi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB, SPDIF, etc. It also handles analog inputs and includes a tidy little phono stage. The architecture of the power section is Class D with a modest power rating. But I swear it sounds more like 150 watts per channel than the 50 wpc rating would suggest. Plus this amp has a knack for making every speaker sound better than it ever has.
Let’s talk about the underlying technologies that are a part of the Technics Grand Class SU-G30 Network Integrated Amplifier. The Technics website has very detailed information about all of this technology (though they don’t give away all of their secrets). I will only give a brief overview below.
Technics organizes their technologies into three broad categories – “Accurate Digital Technology”, “Noiseless Signal Technology”, and “Technics Definitive Design”. I’ll briefly discuss each of these categories here and I encourage you to visit the Technics website if you wish to dig deeper into all of this technology.
“Accurate Digital Technology” – Technics has developed their own jitter reduction circuit, comprising a clock generator in the noise-shaping system to reduce jitter in the low-frequency range and a high-precision sample rate converter for suppressing jitter in the high-frequency range. This system is therefor said to reduce jitter over the entire frequency range. Thechnics calls this their JENO Engine which is an acronym for Jitter Elimination and Noise-Shaping Optimization.
Also under this category is the GaN (gallium nitride) FET driver device with super-low resistance and a very short signal path. This enables the construction of a powerful amplifier using a single push-pull configuration.
Technics has further developed what may be the most unique of all the technologies found in this amp. This one also has a catchy name – LAPC (Load Adaptive Phase Calibration). But what is it, exactly? Technics sheds a little light on this technology but they do not reveal so much for fear that one could reverse-engineer it.
So they describe LAPC as a method to measure and adapt the phase delay due to impedance fluctuations within the loudspeakers. During calibration, the SU-G30 sends test tones to the speakers that sound strikingly similar to the tonal sweeps used by Audyssey but they become faster with each pass to the point of sounding downright staccato at the end. The amp must in some way measure the back-EMF from the speakers as there is no microphone involved. I am not clear exactly what the amp does with this information, but Technics claims it eliminates phase delays and improves the frequency response when implemented. It is easily toggled on and off and the result is subtle but worthwhile so I left it engaged during most of the analysis period.
Other elements of Technics’ “Accurate Digital Technology” include High-speed Silent Hybrid Power Supply (a fixed frequency switch mode power supply which reduces noise and distortion), a battery-powered internal clock generator, and a high rigidity metal double chassis.
Now on to the next category of technologies – “Noiseless Signal Technology”. This element comprises a number of advancements that are claimed to reduce noise and distortion. The first of these is Digital Noise Isolation Architecture. The premise here is that the playback devices (laptops, jump drives, and the like) are not low-noise components. So the SU-G30 isolates the interfaces for these devices to block and filter external electrical interference. The system also employs a jitter remover. This is said to offer “clear and stable” sound, free from noise and distortion.
The included Ultra Low Distortion Oversampling Digital Filter is claimed to reduce digital noise to a level at least 160 dB below the music signal!
High Res Re-Master is Technics’ version of an algorithm that can increase sampling rate and bit depth on compressed audio files. The claim is that it can upconvert to as high as 192 kHz/32 bits by reading ahead and interpolating the additional data to fill in the holes left behind in the compression schemes that are commonplace with modern digital music.
The third and last category of technologies embodied here involves what is called “Technics Definitive Design”. This is listed as the high rigidity chassis with a symmetric structure. And I assume this is also a related marketing concept that encompasses the fine build quality I mentioned earlier.
The unit comes with a medium sized remote control that was surprisingly light weight but worked well, offering full control of the basic amp functions. But you probably won’t use it much as the Technics Music App offers full control via your home network. I rarely used the remote once I had everything set up to my liking.
The SU-G30 is Tidal and Spotify ready and includes MQA technology. It also handles vTuner Internet Radio. It has one optical input, two coax digital inputs, a PC USB (Rear), one line level input, and one MM phono input with a chassis ground. There is a front USB for a memory stick or USB hard drive. You can connect to the network by a rear Ethernet or via WiFi and there are two antennae in the back.
I used this amplifier primarily with WiFi streaming of Tidal. Technics also shipped me a matching music server, the ST-G30 which is in and of itself an incredibly accomplished product that I will discuss a little more in the “In Use” section below. (I will be publishing an update to this review in a few weeks that will cover my experience with the server.) I also used the SU-G30 amp to play back digital files from my Oppo BDP-105D Blu-ray player as well as analog playback of vinyl courtesy of my VPI Scout with Sumiko Blackbird High Output MC cartridge. Lastly, I dabbled with listening to Bluetooth via my iPhone X.
Set up and connection of the “legacy” hard wired components (Blu-ray player, server and turntable) followed the typical connection schemes of which we should all be familiar. The analog inputs are single ended unbalanced only but I do not view that as a major concern for this category of product.
For streaming (outside of Bluetooth of course), I predominately used WiFi. There are a number of methods at your disposal when it comes time to get this amp connected to WiFi and naturally Technics had one unique method (to me anyway) to get this done. It involved connecting to the network by using an iOS device that is already on the network. You locate the Technics SU-G30 in the Settings on your iOS device, select it and let the system does the rest. This connection method worked very well though I had to re-do the hook up after each firmware update.
The Technics SU-G30 can play back files from a DLNA server on your network. This is one playback method that I did not try. (I didn’t need to because I copied a large amount of music files to the ST-G30 music server which was connected via the rear USB. This offers the best sound quality but one could use the Technics ST-G30 as a DLNA server to playback music throughout their home.)
Technics’ primary intent is for the consumer to use the Technics Music App on their phone or tablet to control the system including playback of files from the server, Tidal, Spotify, or internet radio.
WiFi is a funny thing and there were times when I would have to reconnect the system to the network. I also found that there was a correct sequence to this connection that should be followed for best results. Unfortunately, I only have a single Ethernet hookup in my equipment rack (and no network switch) so I connected the ST-G30 server to the Ethernet and the SU-G30 amp was left to connect via WiFi. I would recommend the user connect via Ethernet whenever possible as this is the most reliable connection for networking.
The musical reproduction offered by the Technics SU-G30 was among the best sound of any amplifier I have ever reviewed. Technics has a short preamble in the manual that hypes the great sound of this amplifier and I agree with their marketing-driven assessment. It is ironic that the better digital gets, the closer it sounds to analog. Tubelike even. And at some point, digital can have the best qualities of digital and analog at the same time. This is how I view the audio prowess of the Technics SU-G30 – it is like analog, super clean analog at that.
My generalized listening impressions involved excellent purity of tone, a huge soundstage, amazing detail retrieval along with surprising excellence on streaming services. This was my first long-term relationship with MQA and I feel it shows great promise. Tracks encoded with MQA that were streamed over the SU-G30 impressed but in direct comparisons to Redbook CD of the same material ripped to the ST-G30 server clearly illustrated that Tidal is a reasonable facsimile of what is available but has not reached the same level of sound quality that physical media can deliver.
Another immediate impression I had of the SU-G30 is that it plays way louder without distortion than the 50 wpc rating would suggest. It really sounded more like 150 Watts to my ears.
Most of my listening was via a pair of GoldenEar Triton 5’s. But I started the review by connecting this amp to my bedroom system that has a pair of $500 standmount speakers. The SU-G30 made these speakers sound like high end studio monitors. It was the best I have ever heard from these speakers in every way but especially in their ability to pump out clean, tight, and deep bass. It was uncanny in this regard.
I started my serious evaluation with Keith Jarret’s live album “Changeless”. Released in 1989, the songs on this CD were culled from a series of live recordings in 1987. This disc is known for its high dynamic range and the tracks are pure improvisation of four free-form songs from four different concerts.
Instrumentation was simply piano, bass, and drum. These are ethereal works that have an endless subtlety and require a great system to squeeze out everything they have to offer (the disc doesn’t sound its best in my car, for example). Over the Technics SU-G30, the music fell into a groove and I believed I was hearing it live as much as ever. The Technics also did a better job of any amp before with respect to the retrieval of the tiniest details on this CD.
I next auditioned Bob Marley “Songs of Freedom” four disc box set. I had the privilege to attend one of his last concerts only a matter of weeks before his untimely death. That experience will live on in my mind until the day I die. Of course this experience also made me one of Bob Marley’s biggest fans of all time. That means I’ve listened to his music repeatedly over the years.
Some elements of classic reggae that make it so enjoyable to me would be all the percussion, the “chicka chicka” guitar, and of course the strong, rollicking bass lines. This box set is well done audio-wise and I found absolutely nothing to complain about while enjoying it over the Technics SU-G30. Too bad many tracks are alternate mixes. Some are very good but I also wish for original, album versions of the standards.
In any event, this was one of the albums that played to a volume much higher than expected. Also, the soundstage was high and wide but with great continuity from left to right (no hole in the middle). This staging was strongly experienced on “Jammin’”. This song was also a reliable test of all that is right with Reggae. The percussion was right on beat with every harmonic intact. The bass lines were strong and bouncy but didn’t take over or muddy the mid and treble. The guitars had a strong and lifelike attack.
This album also revealed one of the Technics’ strongest traits and that was its ability to make instruments originate from outside the boundaries of the speakers. This struck me right between the eyes on “Natural Mystic”. I hear this effect from time to time on various systems and I can’t explain it. This super wide stage was a lasting hallmark of what I heard through the SU-G30, time and time again.
Next up, I wanted to spin a Blu-ray music disc – Rush “2112”. This is encoded at 24 bit 96 kHz resolution and employs a comic-book style of images to flesh out the story behind the music. As has been discussed about Rush, it was easy to think I was hearing five guys playing up there. This impression was enhanced thanks to the Technics SU-G30.
Also, I heard more space between the notes and could isolate Geddy Lee’s voice regardless of any fireworks surrounding it while his voice held rock solid center stage with no wavering. The opening guitar on “Discovery” floated between the speakers in a most delectable way. Later, the drum kit was positioned perfectly across the stage. The bass is lean on this Blu-ray and the Technics didn’t embellish it in any way. The guitar soared on each and every track as well.
As mentioned above, I did try listening to some material on Tidal and then compared that to the CD version. I tried this with Tony Bennett “Steppin’ Out”. I first listened on Tidal and thought it sounded pretty good to my ears. Of course I would be very happy with the sound quality over this streaming service. But as with many things high end, that thought quickly faded after listening to the CD version of this album.
The CD version (which had been directly copied to the ST-G30 hard drive) was much cleaner and spry. I could hear much more detail in the music and the bass lines were more nimble, being less encumbered with overhang between notes. This was proof to me that the music server was the way to go if you wanted the best audio possible.
I wound up putting about 500 GB of music on the server. I would estimate that 75% of this was CD in a lossless encode, 20% was MP3 of varying flavors, and the remaining 5% is high-resolution music. I preferred to listen to the music I copied to the server over any of the streaming services. This was for many reasons that I will cover in my follow-up report about the ST-G30 music server.
I have used a few expensive phono stages in the past, but lately I have been listening to an inexpensive Vincent phono preamp. This one has two boxes – a power supply and a separate gain module. I added it because I wanted to get a little tube warmth into my playback chain. It has helped me conclude that I personally don’t need an expensive phono stage.
And the one built into the Technics SU-G30 more than held its own on works such as the 180 gram pressing of Deutsche Grammophon Mozart’s Violin Concertos Nos. 3 and 5 featuring soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter leading the Berlin Philharomonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan. This album sounded every bit as real and spacious over the Technics as it has over my more expensive outboard phono stages.
This amplifier encompasses several major technical advancements that Technics pioneered for their reference class products. I think the good folks at Technics should be commended for including these advancements in this more modest amplifier. This allows a larger audience to enjoy pure high end audio goodness. Notice I didn’t say that it gives you a taste of the high end? That’s because the Technics Grand Class SU-G30 serves up more than just a taste, it gives you all the high end goodness you could ever ask for.
Of course this amp doesn’t have super high power output but I rarely felt that I needed more power even in my big system in the big room. But I do wish it had a preamp output for those who would use it as a preamp and add a bigger power amp. That being said, I think this amp is best suited for small to medium sized rooms. However, if you had high efficiency horn-loaded speakers, this amplifier would fill a whole theater with sound.
In conclusion, Technics has hit a home run with the Grand Class SU-G30 integrated amplifier and streamer. It’s not just a solo homer either, it’s like a grand slam! I never would have thought that my old studio monitors could sound as good as they did before the Technics SU-G30 came along. I have used these speakers to evaluate many amplifiers over the years and the best I have heard them was with the SU-G30. For me, the SU-G30 also represents a sort of convergence between digital and analog. It is the most analog sounding digital product I have heard to date. I hope all those out there who are total analog die-hards can get a chance to listen to this amplifier and honestly assess what they hear. I think they may be forced to reconsider things just a little bit.
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