The Consolette certainly has a striking look — somewhere between state of the art hi-tech and retro furniture from back when ‘wireless’ meant the radio. The beautifully curved rear panel is made from walnut and the base is all brushed metal, which all goes to make it crushingly heavy at 8.1kg — if you’re thinking of putting it on a shelf you’ll need a sturdy one. It’ll need to be pretty big too in order to accommodate the Consolette’s 21cm depth.
The front is brimming with old-school charm that’s classic Marantz. The porthole LED display is flanked by three chunky buttons for play/pause, function and enter on one side and the ‘electronic gyro touch’ (a fancy way of saying a ‘scroll wheel’) for navigating menus and adjusting volume on the other. Above these sits a retractable iPod dock which opens smoothly when pressed. It’s the classic 30-pin variety, though you can get a Lightning adapter at extra cost.
Around the back are three more buttons for on/standby, WPS and NetLink, Marantz’s wireless set-up system. There’s also an Ethernet port, USB and a pair of stereo RCA inputs.
It comes with a classy looking metal-cased remote, or you can control the Consolette using Marantz’s app for iOS or Android devices.
The app has a nice-looking interface but set-up proved to be a bit of a pain, with unintuitive steps hampering the process of finding and connecting to our Wi-Fi network. We got there in the end but really, shouldn’t this be painless by now? The app could do with a few updates too, like decent presentation of album art (not all pixelated like it appears here) as well as favourites lists and the ability to queue up tracks without having to prearrange them in a playlist.
AirPlay is the most likely system you’ll be using for playback, and this worked well enough. But there are also a few other capabilities, including DLNA for streaming tracks across the network and internet radio.
All well and good, but it doesn’t as yet support streaming services like Spotify, though you can of course play back such tracks if you put your iPhone in the dock.
But on to the Consolette’s key strength — sound quality. Inside are four speakers — two 2.6in tweeters and two 4.5in woofers each powered by its own class D amplifier — 50W for the big boys, 25W for the little fellahs.
A hi-res version of Macy Gray’s bass-heavy Lately fairly roars out, with perfectly placed balance between her gravelly vocals and the largely computerised backing. Miles Davis’s So Whatreveals often unheard details in one of the world’s greatest live acoustic recordings and Gregory Page’s Heartstrings is simply beautiful, with every inflection rendered sumptuously.
It goes surprisingly loud too without a hint of distortion and always delivers a sound-stage that’s broad and deep enough to fill a good-sized room — you never get the feeling you’re listening to a system that feels constrained.