Sony's Giga Juke NAS-SC55 is a multi-room wireless music system comprising two products: the main NAS-S55HDE hi-fi and the smaller NAS-C5E wireless speaker system. The main unit can be purchased on its own, and will stream music to as many as five NAS-C5E wireless speakers around the house, should you want to add these at a later date.
We're reviewing both products in this review, sold now for around £650 as the complete Giga Juke NAS-SC55 package. But if you're looking to buy either system on their own, we've got the lowdown for you as well.
The main NAS-S55HDE unit -- from now on referred to as the "main system" -- comes with a pair of 50W two-way speakers, comprising a 120mm woofer and a 25mm tweeter. They're stylish, but their lightweight MDF construction and cheap speaker wire bindings suggest looks were chosen over performance. And some irritating proprietary speaker terminals on the main system mean you must use the bundled speaker wire. No, we weren't impressed either.
Moving on, the main system rocks a solid, glossy black enclosure, a massive, bright colour screen and clear controls, all of which and more are mirrored on a smashing remote control. The same goes for the NAS-C5E unit -- the other product in this package, from now on referred to as the "wireless speakers" -- which incorporates its own pair of built-in speakers inside a glossy enclosure, but only offers a small black-and-white display.
The wireless speakers do feature an internal Wi-Fi antenna, though, plus 3.5mm headphone and line-in sockets around the front, making it ideal for bedrooms.
But the main system offers much more: a USB port for the optional Sony Wi-Fi dongle (included as part of the complete SC55 package) and another for hooking USB memory sticks. Ethernet's compatible, there are stereo RCA inputs, a proprietary Sony DMPORT for use with the Sony iPod dock (also included in the complete package), plus connections for attaching the DAB, AM and FM radio aerials.
The main function, however, of the main system is to be a jukebox, and these days an 80GB hard disk is paltry even in low-end PCs built for the Internet and email. In a system built to hold your entire CD collection, it's just daft. Sadly, it is the industry standard.
But usable space is even lower, with just under 70GB accessible to users. This will hold between 8,000 and 15,000 songs, depending on the MP3 bit rate you rip your CDs into. The Giga Juke takes care of the ripping process, and a funky built-in database automatically adds song titles to ripped music.
Now then, those aforementioned wireless speakers -- which, by the by, feature no internal memory, CD player or USB functionality -- can wirelessly access and play any of the music you just ripped. Plus, both systems can independently stream music from PCs over your home network. Supported formats are basic, though -- just MP3, WMA and WAV -- and there's no love for FLAC, AAC, OGG or any of our beloved audiophile formats available on the amazing Squeezebox streamers.
What the streaming-focused Squeezeboxes don't have, however, is DAB and FM radio, and a range of dynamic playlist creation tools. So rather than making a random playlist from your entire music library, it can make lists comprising songs that are sonically compatible -- maybe pop with light rock, metal with punk. You can jack in your iPod using a Sony iPod dock, too, and control it with the main system's remote control. And ripped music can be transferred with a cable to other devices, including Sony Walkman MP3 players and the PlayStation Portable.
As a stand-alone HDD-based jukebox, the main Giga Juke system is dead simple, and the detailed user guide will help any novices who find even one-touch ripping of CDs a challenge. You can only rip to MP3 or WAV, and it can be tediously slow compared to PC-based ripping. This is once again in line with what other systems provide. We've never used one that's worked much faster.
Aside from the underwhelming array of supported formats, streaming music from your computer will be a piece of cake for slightly more advanced users. But by far the largest selling point is the ease with which the wireless speakers can stream music from the main system -- you need no existing home network, and setup may be easy enough even for Big Brother contestants to manage without a tantrum.
Up to this point we've experienced a system aimed at casual music lovers and, to some extent, tech geeks, too. But not the ever-critical audiophile. And sound quality reaffirms this feeling. With the bundled speakers, sound quality didn't impress. It's acceptable for sure, but it's a fairly cold, boxed-in sound, with tonal qualities we'd expect from a sub-£200 setup.
It's a shame, because when we hooked up our hi-fi reference speakers (a pair of which cost as much as the entire Giga Juke package itself), we were blown away. The main system has heaps of power and superb audio. It's the speakers here that let it down, although they're still probably fine for the average ear, with adequate bass and clarity.
Sound from the wireless speakers is ideal for bedrooms and kitchens. It's fairly loud, with a decent voice for the size. We've got no reason to whine here. Up to five of these wireless speakers can simultaneously stream music to different rooms in the house. Sadly we only had one of these to test, but it did work extremely well.
For just over £600 (or around £750 if you look at Sony's own store), the NAS-SC55 package offers a solid balance of features, usability and value, packaged in a stylish and functional design.
We wouldn't recommend the NAS-S55HDE -- the 'main system' in our review -- as a stand-alone purchase over the Philips MCi500, which offers twice the HDD capacity, better sound quality and comparable features. But as a complete multi-room package in one box, the NAS-SC55 package delivers great value and function that we wouldn't kick out of bed.
If you own a decent hi-fi already and just want an unthinkably capable networked music streamer, check out the Logitech Squeezebox Duet and Squeezebox Boom. And for an all-round different streaming experience, be sure to look up the Sonos Music System.
Edited by Marian Smith