To be perfect frank, I’m not even sure where to begin an exploration of Russound’s XZone70V Streaming Mixer Amplifier. Dig in with a discussion of its feature set, and I’m liable to undersell its versatility. Launch with a chat about the various ways (and locations) in which it can be used, and… Well, you get the picture. Simply put, Russound’s latest product is a deft mix of utter simplicity and near-infinite possibilities that’s hard to capture in a pithy introductory paragraph, but I ask that you forgive my stilted, rambling preamble and give the XZone70V some serious consideration, especially if you find yourself looking for an outdoor audio solution that makes streaming music a snap and works equally well in residential and light commercial applications.
That last point? I would imagine it’s what will likely make the XZone70V so attractive to so many integrators, especially in a post-2008 world in which so many of you have had to add a mix of light commercial work to your résumés. So, what makes this streaming amp so suitable for such disparate environments?
For one thing, you have your choice of 70V, 100V, or 4-ohm operation, meaning the XZone70V is just as adept at powering 32 speakers in a massive outdoor seating area at your local BBQ joint as it is rocking out a couple of speakers under a residential patio overhang. Russound’s AW70V6 70V Surface Mount Indoor/Outdoor Speaker, which is the recommended endpoint for the XZone70V, is just as versatile, with taps for 7.5, 15, 30, and 60 watts in 70V operation; 15, 30, and 60 watts in 100V operation; as well as a 6-ohm setting for those smaller jobs.
The long and short of it is that you really don’t need to have the slightest experience in 70V installation to get the most out of the XZone70V in virtually any installation. My experience in dealing with 70V is limited, mind you, but by comparison to any other solution I’ve installed, Russound’s implementation is virtually dummy-proof. Take care with your taps and toggle switches and there’s virtually no way to mess it up. It also includes a microphone input with optional phantom power, in case your commercial clients need PA capabilities with their music systems.
The other thing that makes the XZone70V so well suited to both residential and light commercial applications is its streaming capabilities. In addition to the usual suspects like Pandora, Spotify Connect, TuneIn, and vTuner, the amp also supports SiriusXM and—here’s the kicker—SiriusXM for Business, ensuring that your commercial clients won’t run afoul of any licensing issues.
Configuring these services also couldn’t be any easier. Once you’ve gotten your connections made (including an Ethernet connection; the XZone70V doesn’t have Wi-Fi built in) and power the unit up, you’re met with a notice that the an authorized Russound dealer is required for further setup. That screen, handily enough, gives you the IP address of the XZone70V, which you’ll need in order to dial into it and configure everything. Once you’re logged in via your browser of choice, you not only have access to network setup (including the ability to set a static IP—a necessary step if you want to use the Russound system with advanced control options like Control4 or URC), but also the choice of which streaming services to enable and disable, login options for those services that require it, and the ability to set an AirPlay password should you choose to.
With all that out of the way, I started my listening and overall evaluation with two of the AW70V6 speakers mounted under my patio cover, though I did leave loops of wiring at strategic spots between them so I could add two more after a bit of listening. The system is mono, of course (although it does provide stereo preamp outputs should you choose to bring your own multichannel amplification to the party), so the speakers were wired in series. Hence, making a few snips and plugging in a couple more speakers after a couple of days was a snap.
Either way, I was rather surprised by the robust output of the system. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been. The XZone70V itself, though as small as a slim-line DVD player, is as hefty as you would figure a 300-watt amplifier would be. Simply put, it feels bulletproof. Combine that with the numerous physical installation options (countertop, under-counter, rack-mounted, or wall-mounted), and this little beast of an amp certainly makes an impression before you power it up for the first time.
But in listening, I was doubly pleased by the powerful bass filling my patio, not to mention the silky smooth and natural midrange. The only downside to the setup with only two speakers was a bit of (totally forgivable) unevenness in the upper frequencies—that is to say some overly bright spots and somewhat dull spots as I walked around my patio. The addition of a third, carefully positioned AW70V6 speaker to the mix really evened that out to a significant degree. A fourth made for a seamless listening experience no matter where I roamed on or around my patio.
From yacht rock to classic hip-hop, to old-school jazz and progressive metal, I threw pretty much every genre of music in my collection at the Russound system and found it to be more than up to the task of delivering it all with authority and effortlessness. I guess my only real grip is that I found the My Russound app to be a little unresponsive and occasionally buggy when using TuneIn and vTuner. Stations would occasionally give me errors for no reason I could figure, or refuse to load altogether, and there was a good deal of latency to deal with.
That was never the case with Spotify Connect, AirPlay from my own music collection, or SirusXM and Pandora. All worked flawlessly throughout the course of quite a few days of nearly nonstop listening. In the end, my solution to this was simply to disable TuneIn and vTuner in the web setup menus, which took all of 30 seconds.
If that seems like nitpicking, you’re right. The thing is, though, the XZone70V is such a beautifully built, reliable, and high-performance piece of gear that there simply isn’t anything else to criticize, as far as I can tell. Its versatility and ease of installation almost feel like mere icing on the cake.
Built like a tank, more powerful than a locomotive, and as easy to set up as you could possibly imagine, the Russound XZone70V Streaming Mixer Amplifier is a flexible, configurable streaming amp that’s just as home in light commercial applications as it is in residential ones.
The My Russound app could still use a little bit of work, especially in the internet radio department, but given how easy those are to disable, and the wealth of other streaming sources available, that’s far from a big deal.
► Output Power: 300W Max
► Pre-Amp Output: Stereo Balanced
► Output Modes: 70v/100v/4Ω
► Number of Audio Channels: 1
► Analog Audio Input: 3.5mm stereo (rear panel)
► Hi-Res Audio Support: 24-bit/192kHz
► Maximum number of XStream Series Zones in a System: 16
► Number of Mic Inputs: 1
► Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz +1/-1dB at 4 Ohms
► Power Requirements: 100-240V ~50/60Hz, 240W