Q:
My wife and I both love classical music. We are in our eighties and don’t have loud parties. I want to play Piano music from FM, CD and Bluetooth, and feel as if there is a real piano in the lounge room. The room is quite large about 30 square metres. Am I being too optimistic? Is it possible?

At the moment I am using a Panasonic CD Stereo System Model SC-UX100 but I plan to buy the Marantz MCR 612 you have reviewed. But what speakers do I get? Should I try the speakers I have from the Panasonic? What about the Audioengine wireless2+ speakers you have reviewed?

02 Marantz MCR612A:
The best speakers I have heard for piano are Steinway Lyngdorf Model Ds, built specifically to capture the sound of a Steinway Model D concert grand. Unfortunately they may be a tad over your budget at $400,000.

The equipment you currently own is geared at doing a reasonable job with everything, and this means it does a great job with nothing. Your strength, however, is that you are replacing it with equipment that you can pick and choose, and the MCR612 is certainly a great starting point. Now you have to find speakers that will do an equally good job. The piano is a challenging instrument for speakers because it covers such a wide range of frequencies, and the sound also varies piano to piano, player to player. There’s a heap of nuance.

Focal Chorus 706 walnutHere’s the thing: The sound that speakers make varies from country to country. American speakers tend to be very bass oriented, speakers from Asia favour the high range. For piano what you need, above everything, is accuracy. The Germans are very good at this and so are the French and Danes. Probably the most price accessible speakers I could recommend are Focals. I have a house full of these and I know from my personal experience that the 612 drives them beautifully, even big ones. But I have my ears and you have yours, so I would suggest you have a listen to Dalis and Jamos (from Denmark) and Triangles (from France) as well as Focals.

Two important points: First: Take your time, visit a few hi fi dealers and listen to their advice, but primarily be guided by your ears. You’ll be amazed at the differences you hear. Good salespeople are patient and will teach you heaps. You’ll love the first pair of speakers you listen to, but listen to more because there’s a high chance your opinion will change. Second: Take your music along with you and listen to it. You know what it sounds like at home and you have the advantage of knowing the music intimately. Nothing will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a speaker faster than listening to music you know.

And a final warning: You’ll almost certainly spend more than you’re anticipating, but hey, you’re going to live with these for the rest of your lives so don’t muck about with cheapies.

I don’t think the Audioengines would fill your space comfortably – they’d just sound like they were playing too loud.

Epilogue (five months later):
I’ve bought a system and it is beautiful; a Marantz M-CR612 plus two Focal Chorus 706 bookshelf speakers. I have a lot to learn but in the meantime I have a piano in the flat. I want to thank you for all your help and advice. You gave me the courage to have a go.

 

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