Micro hi-fi systems haven’t quite attained ‘retro’ status yet, but they’re not exactly commonplace any more. They used to be sold in every major big-box retailer and even in most supermarkets, but the trend toward Bluetooth speakers, smart home audio and streaming have seen them disappear from the shelves. I looked at one of the last models by Philips in a recent repair. It was a perfect example of how every last bit of the cost possible had been cut, a typical example of the last of these kinds of system that were commonly available.
Majority clearly feel there’s life in the old format yet. They’re not one to shy away from a product that no-longer holds mass-market popularity. After all, both the Majority range and the range of sister brand OakCastle include a simple DVD player, yet not a Blu-Ray player in sight. It is from OakCastle that the subject of this article, the HiFi200 comes. The brand is majority’s entry-level lineup, with products similar in features to their uppermost lines but at lower prices. This system retails at £99.99.
For your money, you get a micro audio system with two separate loudspeakers. The system itself measures 190 x 180 x 105mm and has a CD player that can also read MP3 discs, a DAB+ / FM radio, and Bluetooth, USB (with device charging) and AUX support. It has a full-function remote control and a headphone jack. I was pleased to note Majority had located the USB jack on the front of the unit, unlike most of their other integrated systems. The headphone jack still resides on the back, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The loudspeakers are reflex-ported particleboard enclosures, each containing a driver with a cone diameter of approximately 4 inches (100 mm). They measure 123 x 130 x 172mm. The cloth grilles are not removable and the cables are fixed, terminating in a 2.54mm PCB connector at the end that connects to the system. They’re as basic as it gets, and are of about the same quality you’d have gotten with a cheap micro system in the mid ‘2000s.
Specs are thin on the ground. The claimed “Powerful stereo sound 60W Speakers” is nonsense – even at peak music power the system wouldn’t come anywhere close. RMS output power is roughly 5 watts per channel. The power comes from a pair of LTK5112 amplifier chips, which are a Chinese clone of the Texas Instruments TAS512 but with less output power and almost certainly without the onboard speaker, overload and thermal protection. The chip can produce 32W RMS in its BTL configuration at 15V, but without delving into the circuit it’s hard to say whether the components inside this system would be suited to raising the voltage of the power supply.
I presume they’re running the chips at the minimum 6V which would give the 5W RMS output power at around 0.02% distortion, which is quite respectable. This assumes the power supply has sufficient headroom, which given the included 9V wall wart is questionable.
Still, it’s packed nicely and despite claims to the contrary on the Oakcastle website there is a printed instruction manual in the box. Thankfully majority do have one of their excellent online instruction manuals available which details some of the additional functions of the unit, available Here. You also get a remote control with AAA batteries, which feels good in the hand and has large, well-placed buttons. It’s a very nice handset, and does give the brief illusion of a product far more premium than it actually is.
The system itself is extremely lightweight. It does have thick rubber feet on the bottom to stop it sliding around, but it doesn’t lend favourably to the first impression. The system itself is made entirely of plastic, and the speakers are vinyl-wrapped with a good finish – there’s even a cloth dust protector behind the port tubes, which is something you don’t see very often.
There’s no fuss in setup. The speakers connect to their designated sockets. So too does the power supply, and that’s it. The antenna is a simple piece of wire extending from the back of the unit, with a hook fashioned on one end for you to pin it to a wall with a pin or nail. There’s also a battery compartment on the underside of the unit, not mentioned anywhere in the literature. This compartment takes 2 AA batteries (not included) and retains the clock, alarm and timer memory which are otherwise lost when the mains power is removed.
When in its standby mode the unit displays the time, which can be set manually or in sync with a local DAB station. There’s an alarm that can wake you to the radio, a CD or USB drive, or a beeping sound, and a sleep timer which can be set to enter standby after 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 or 90 minutes, from any source.
You can also set a timer to switch the unit on or off every day. This is valid for the CD, DAB, FM or USB sources, though not Bluetooth or AUX. I can see this being useful in situations where the system is used to provide background music in an office, or where it is used to provide background music to keep animals company. In either case it can be set and left, and will power up and power down at the respective time to a predetermined radio station, CD or tracks from a USB drive. If there is no CD or USB drive present, and the unit has been instructed to wake to either of those sources, it will default to the alarm. Perhaps defaulting to the radio would be the smarter option, but there is no way to change that setting.
On initial use the unit performs a full DAB scan and stores stations in an alphabetical list. You can also perform manual tuning, both in DAB and FM modes, to tune weaker stations that were missed. Navigation of both radio modes can be achieved with the controls on the front of the unit or the remote control, though access to the DAB radio preset functions is only possible via the remote control.
The DAB tuner also supports varying levels of dynamic range compression (DRC) (off, high or low) and a prune feature to remove unavailable stations from the station list. DRC can be useful if you’re experiencing a poor signal due to interference, or if you’re trying to pick up a station that is outside of your area of reception. If you’re picking up a strong station I suggest leaving it off. It also supports ‘secondary services’, a feature that gives you access to secondary broadcasts from certain stations – sports stations with alternative commentary, for example. When a secondary service ends, the tuner automatically reverts to the primary station.
The tuner supports the DAB informational modes. These include signal strength, program type, Ensemble (the name of the multiplex, or group of stations that contains the station you’re listening to), frequency, signal error rate, audio bitrate, time / date (as broadcasted by the station) and the DLS (dynamic label segment) message.
The FM tuner is similarly equipped in terms of its tuning modes, with both automatic and manual tuning offered. It does support RDS (radio data system) and can display radio text, frequency, program type, audio type and the time / date as provided by the broadcaster.
The auto scan function can optionally filter out weak signals or perform a scan for all available broadcasting signals. The tuner automatically switches between stereo and monaural reception, but you can override this manually if desired. There are up to 30 presets to store FM stations, and unlike the DAB tuner they can be accessed from the front of the unit as well as via the remote control.
The CD player is as basic as it gets. So basic in fact that it uses a spring-loaded spindle rather than a clamp in the rather flimsy lid. Only the cheapest boomboxes and most personal CD players got those back in the day – but that’s progress, I suppose. It does support MP3 file playback across CDs and USB storage media though, with basic folder navigation, randomised playback and repeat functions, and (via the remote control only) programming of a desired sequence of tracks.
Bluetooth works without a hitch. There is no information concerning the Bluetooth version or supported codecs, but I wouldn’t expect AptX in a system like this. You do get device control though, meaning that the transport buttons on the unit and on the remote can play / pause and skip tracks on a connected Bluetooth device. Successful pairing is indicated by subtle tones. The last0used device is stored and only one device at a time is supported, but holding the stop button quickly put the unit back into pairing mode.
Sound wise, the unit sounds rather tinny out of the box. However there are five EQ modes, (rock, pop, jazz, flat, classic or off) and a bass boost that can be accessed via the remote. Using the EQ modes in combination with the bass boost brings a more pleasing tonal balance at the expense of headroom at high volume, but that hardly matters here. This is not a system for rocking out to classic rock at concert levels, nor is it for any kind of critical listening. It’s a bookshelf CD player for the bedroom or the kitchen, or for listening to the radio in the background. Most Bluetooth or smart home speakers can produce a better sound than this unit can – but often only in mono. It’s up to you to decide if that’s a tradeoff that matters to you.
The Oakcastle HiFi200 by Majority offers some nice features and a small package that harks back to the micro system that, not so long ago, were to be found in most households. Times have changed however and it shows – with cost-cutting evident, and the value for money diminished by inflation and an obvious lack of demand. This is not a music-lover’s hi-fi. It simply doesn’t sound good enough, and its limited output power makes it better suited to smaller rooms and background listening than centre-stage performance. It’s also too expensive for what it is, with much better systems even from majority themselves available for similar money. It does have a nice tuner though, useful alarm and timer functions, handy Bluetooth connectivity and USB playback.
If you’d like to check out the HiFi200 for yourself, you can do so via Amazon or the Majority (Oakcastle) Website. We earn a small commission if you purchase through our Amazon affiliate links at no extra cost to you.