The ultimate gauge, however, of how successful Slim Devices has been in marrying high technology with high-end audio is how the device sounds. And on this front too, I have to admit to being disappointed. There is no doubt that the Transporter is highly capable. Team it with a decent amplifier, cables and speakers and it will reveal the sort of detail you’d never hear from any other wireless streaming music device. On Pat Metheney’s A Map of the World, the atmospherics are wonderful and the guitar notes ring out in a superbly natural way. Andreas Scholl’s piercing vocals are presented in an unforced yet beautifully natural manner and the balanced, understated bass ensures that tracks such as The Prodigy’s Girls rattle along so effectively that it makes you want to get up and pogo on the coffee table.
It is clearly a country mile better than the Squeezebox 3 and Sonos’ wireless music system. But it isn’t, alas, as good as a traditional CD or SACD player of similar price. In back-to-back listening sessions against a Unison Research Unico CD player, which incidentally sells for £100 less than the Transporter, it lacked the punch, presence and sheer excitement on offer from the humble disc spinner. Where the Transporter was clinically accurate, and revealed as much detail, it simply didn’t project the music into the room as much as the CD player did. The imaging wasn’t quite as holographic; the presentation much more laid back. And although these sorts of listening tests are, inevitably, subjective, the difference was large enough that I’d find it hard to believe that, in a panel listening test, that the majority would do anything but plump for the CD player over the Transporter… every time.
There is no doubting that the Transporter is a quality piece of equipment. Its combination of convenience and sound quality is simply unrivalled by any other music streaming device. It also represents an important development for audiophiles, bringing the worlds of technology and proper hi-fi closer together than ever before, which is an achievement in itself.
But I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in it, notwithstanding all of its plus points – and that wonderful, force feedback knob.
If Slim Devices were selling this for half the price I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it. Even at £500 less it would be just about worth it for the sheer convenience factor. But, in my humble opinion, £1,300 is just too much to pay for an audio meal whose flavour doesn’t quite cut the mustard.