- Luxurious build quality
- Striking retro design
- Warm and detailed sound quality
- Cheap fiddly remote
- Can’t change sources with remote
- Review Price: £279.00
- 2 x 20W hybrid tube amplifier
- Two-way bass reflex speakers
- 3.5in paper cone & ¾ in soft dome tweeter
- Analogue stereo, 3.5mm and USB inputs
- Faux leather finish on speakers with white stitching
It’s no secret that sound quality suffers when compressing digital music for playback on iPods and MP3 players, but Blue Aura reckons its latest audio system has the answer.
The achingly gorgeous V30 Blackline is a two-channel system that uses valve technology instead of transistors to replace the warmth lost through the conversion process, hopefully bringing it closer to its original quality.
It’s primarily designed for music playback, but there’s nothing to stop you piping a Blu-ray player through it and giving movie playback a bit of a boost. In fact, the unusual beauty of the system means it deserves pride of place in the living room – it’s quite a talking point.
The v30 comprises a 2 x 20W amplifier and compact stereo speakers, but it’s the former that’ll get guests’ tongues wagging the most. The main bulk of the bodywork is covered in a flashy chrome finish, nicely complemented by faux leather side cheeks. Large chrome knobs adorn the front, allowing you to control volume and switch between sources.
But it’s on top where the interesting stuff lies. The two glowing 6n1 audio processing valves and 6e2 volume indicator valve poke up through the top panel, surrounded by a two-tiered ‘rack’ and chrome handles on either side. The volume indicator is a nice touch, with a green bar that moves up and down according to the loudness of the music. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but those who hanker after the amps of yesteryear might enjoy its retro charm.
Build quality is fantastic too. At 3.5kg it’s deceptively heavy (those handles really do come in handy) and oozes quality craftsmanship from every nook and cranny.
The same goes for the speakers. Like previous Blue Aura systems they’re dressed in a luxurious black faux leather finish with white stitching, which not only looks and feels wonderful but also enhances the overall build quality. The 175(h) x 112(w)mm cabinets won’t take up much space either, and they come with rubber desk stands for extra stability.
On the back of the amplifier are inputs for three external sources. There’s a USB port for piping in sound digitally from a PC or laptop, as well as a 3.5mm minijack input, analogue stereo input and a headphone output. These are joined by gold-plated binding posts, with matching terminals on the speakers.
The speakers use a two-way design, with a 3.5in paper cone and ¾ in soft dome tweeter, with a quoted frequency response of 55Hz – 20kHz.
Good quality cables are supplied in the box and it’s no hassle to connect them to the binding posts. Operating the V30 is easy enough, but more effort should have gone into the remote. It’s too slim and small to sit comfortably in the hand, and sports those horrible blister/popper buttons.
It’s also a slight inconvenience that you can’t use it to switch between sources – that’s only possible using the dial on the front. Still, it’s nice to be able to adjust volume from the comfort of your sofa, plus you can easily tweak bass and treble and mute the sound.
We’ve been hugely impressed by the sound quality of previous Blue Aura systems like the WS30i and WS80i, and the same goes for the v30. When playing back MP3s of varying quality from an iPod and laptop (via USB and line input) it produces a consistently deep and velvety sound, with beautifully presented top-end detail and plenty of warmth in the lows and mids.
Despite the meagre power rating the V30 also sounds fairly potent, blasting out energetic dance tracks with drive and purpose, propelling them along with taut, punchy basslines.
Hi-hats sound crisp and on-point, plus there’s a lovely high-end twang to acoustic guitars and a breathy edge to vocals. The soaring saxophones of Sade’s Jezebel and the smooth vocal crooning of Amy Winehouse and Tony Bennett on ‘Body and Soul’ are a delight.
If we’re being fussy then perhaps the sound isn’t quite as insightful and refined as other systems like the Philips DS9800W. But the warmth and detail on offer will win this system many fans.
Blue Aura has once again come up trumps with an audio system that boasts distinctive looks, luxurious build quality and silky sound. Although it can’t completely restore compressed digital music back to the glory of the original recordings, the added warmth and fullness of the valve technology makes it sound more satisfying than many transistor-based speaker docks.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9