Let's take a closer look then. Purely on sight, I was reminded of my Mac mini which for years now has served as tireless and reliable music source in my office. The square Rena SA-1 parks just 18cm² of footprint at a mere 5cm height. Top and bottom are of black composite not just for weight and cost savings but to enable wireless comm. A white-lit interface in the high-gloss black cover incorporates three soft-touch controls for loud/quiet and on/off. Nothing more is needed here since detailed steering is via app. More on that anon. The monolithic chassis sports two horizontal stripes in silver, copper or black (one more than the amp-less Rena S-1) which lighten up the optics. For more visual loudness there's a copper-tone chassis and for ultimate understatement, solid black.


A gander at the back exhibits, neatly lined up, the input for the external 34V power supply which has nothing in common with typical shaver wall warts; an Ethernet link; one each coaxial S/PDIF i/o; Toslink; USB-A for hard disks or USB sticks; and a 3.5mm analog output. Below those ports sit entry-level speaker spring terminals whose small size limits us to very thin leads. Neither bananas nor thick-diameter ends will fit. It's cause for easy gripes. Clearly there's room for proper 5-way terminals. Elac's Element Amp which is hardly bigger shows how. But otherwise even this highly critical Schwabian commentator found no nits on finish or features.


Assumptions that the Rena SA-1 is suitable only for li'l speakers are rewritten once one learns that the onboard class D output stage delivers 75wpc. That tends to be sufficient even for tower speaker. Hence the app's setup menu offers a choice of speaker size. Defeatable processing can adapt the signal accordingly. This has compact monitors sound fuller than usual whilst on floorstanders there's no pronounced difference with/without DSP. Of course no streamer assessment would be complete without digging into its UI and app. How easy is its use? The Android/iOS 'EC Remote' app reminded me of the excellent Heos app, i.e. very powerful and decidedly non-nerdy. In fact this one had better functionality and ease of use than even the iPeng app of my Squeezebox Touch which always was the benchmark. Integration of the Norwegian streaming amp with the resident router network is either wireless or via CAT5.


Without cryptic menu layers, even in multi-room config the main menu showed zone choice plus music library. The user is equally supported when a NAS, PC/Mac music folder or, in my case, the SSD of an AURALiC Aries Mini serve as library source. Streaming subscriptions with Tidal, Qobuz or Spotify are quickly activated to then show up in the main menu. Ditto obligatory Internet radio and storage of favourite stations. Bluetooth is AWOL, however. Tablet/smartphone content connects wirelessly via AirPlay but, obviously, that demands an Apple product. Apropos user friendliness: it may sound odd but I particularly enjoyed the volume control. I much prefer the look and use of an adjustable circle than the typical bar.