Serious performance hiding behind an (almost) approachable price and a pretty face
By Roy Gregory
I’ve lost count of the number of times some reviewer, manufacturer or dealer has opined that audio equipment “should be sold like the luxury product it is.” The normal example pushed forward is the watch industry – a suggestion that’s as dumb as it is misguided. Sure, watches are (generally) clunky, non-essential purchases that can reach seemingly impossible, wince-inducing price levels. But what these ‘luxury’ advocates are missing is that ‘luxury’ is about more, much more than a classy product. It’s all about the experience. A Chanel purse costs considerably less than a workaday set of interconnects – but nobody buying that purse will mistake the nature of the experience: the store, the staff, the packaging, the presentation. If audio retailers want to emulate the luxury market then they need to think in terms of a new suit, some decent furniture and a serious coffee machine. In a few cases, personal hygiene could stand some improvement too… When it comes to audio equipment, it’s also about performance and, sadly all too often, that get’s lost in the wash too, submerged beneath the weight of glitzy finishes and ostentatious casework, bigger boxes and bigger numbers. A watch can be seen. The bigger and uglier it is, the easier it is to spot. But a hi-fi component? That needs to be heard…
What has all this got to do with the Neodio A2 Evo amplifier? Two things: firstly, in terms of style, fit and finish, there are few products that actually tick the ‘luxury’ boxes nearly as well as Neodio’s Origine series; secondly, by dealing directly with dealers, or with customers where no dealer exists, Neodio’s products have a greater chance of standing on their own three feet. People operating with luxury products constantly refer to “the Reveal” – the point and the way in which a piece is first presented to the customer. Going back to my earlier example, anybody who has ever bought a Chanel purse will have been on the receiving end of the full, beautifully choreographed treatment. Receiving a Neodio Origine doesn’t include a perfectly presented assistant in an immaculately tailored outfit, but in its own, understated way, the packaging and presentation are a perfect extension of the product.
The A2 Evo arrives in a composite plywood and double-wall cardboard crate, with a hinged and double latched top. It’s sturdy construction and metal closures and handles are a world away from standard ‘fold-closed’ cartons. Inside the unit is encased in foam rubber and a velvet stocking. It’s all incredibly sensible, practical, effective and it’s even eco friendly. Lift the unit clear of the packaging and you’ll quickly appreciate that the common sense, no-nonsense approach of the carton is just an extension of the purposefully minimalist and focussed philosophy that informs every aspect of the product. The A2 Evo is reassuringly substantial and heavy – but not too heavy to lift. At 150 Watts rated output, it’s powerful enough for most eventualities (at least most of the eventualities it’s likely to confront) – not so powerful as to get dynamically constipated or rhythmically muscle bound. The beautifully constructed and finished casework is devoid of fixings, looking for all the world like a squat, solid block, with a side mounted heatsink at one end. Around its hips sits the unmistakable Origine ‘badge’, a narrow, polished copper strip that’s rebated into the surface of the panels. Being copper makes it significantly less glitzy and far a far more subtle statement than gold. The fact that all of the amplifier’s controls and its display are encompassed within the belly-band’s narrow dimensions adds just the touch of class and sophistication that so few audio products achieve. It’s that little flourish that really makes this product stand out from the crowd. This is one of the very few audio components that you will actively want to display.
Simple is as simple does…
Of course, that elegance is helped by the fact that the sum total of the controls amounts to six slender, ivory coloured push buttons and an alpha-numeric display that’s concealed behind the central, micro-perforated section of the copper band. Those buttons switch power on/off, display content/off, volume up, volume down, menu and input select. All pretty self explanatory apart from ‘menu’, which basically allows you to designate any one input as unity gain, for home-theatre use (or to use the A2 Evo as a power amp).