All-in-one music systems, especially modern ones have a bit of a reputation for being a bit rubbish, to put it mildly. Once all the rage, the all-in-one system or music centre was born when the radiogram fell out of favour in the early 1970s. Home decor was changing and few people wanted a stereo system confined to a bulky, cumbersome and dated piece of furniture. And though a stack of separates was still accepted in the average living room, many people wanted a simpler set of components in a single box, especially for the bedroom of a teenager. Thus the music centre was born and, for a time at least, they were built to high standards by the big Japanese names (Panasonic, Toshiba, Sharp, Matsui, Sanyo, Sony et al) and the British names that were around back then, including Ferguson, Goodmans, ITT and others.
As hi-fi became less important to the average consumer, so too did the quality of the one-box music centre. By the mid ‘80s, it seemed as though every company had a music centre in their lineup. Most were built from the cheapest possible plastic and chipboard and followed a similar format with a turntable on top, a radio tuner, amplifier with graphic equaliser and a pair of basic cassette decks. Their plastic mouldings gave the illusion of separate components, when in reality the most basic of separates could show them the door.
Fancy models added CD players, high-speed dubbing and dolby cassette decks and better turntables. And by the turn of the millennium, when vinyl was consigned to history, the turntable gave way to a carousel CD changer – the status symbol of the day for any music lover. Once the CD began to die a death, thanks to the popularity of streaming and digital downloads, the music centre became obsolete.
Until the resurgence of vinyl, and revitalised interest in so-called ‘modern retro’. But the music centres you buy today are nothing compared to even the most basic models from their peak in the 1980s. Built mostly by a few OEMs in China from the cheapest materials money can buy, most of them comprise a slot-loading cassette deck taken directly from the worst of the 1980s car stereos, a DSP-based analogue tuner, a CD player and a truly awful turntable. Splash out on the more upmarket models and you’ll get digital playback via USB and Bluetooth. One look at one of these devices and it’s easy to see why I approach any modern all-in-one music system with a sense of trepidation.
That is until I was offered a Majority Oakington for review. The Oakington is a departure from the typical ‘retro modern’ music centre in that there is no cassette deck, nor flimsy turntable in sight. And its style is more ‘modern classic’ than ‘modern retro’, with a brushed front panel of real aluminium, sleek slot-loading CD player and vinyl wrap in your choice of Oak or Walnut over an MDF cabinet.
Defy convention it may, but it doesn’t skimp on features. There’s a slot-loading CD player with support for data discs as well as redbook CDs, and gapless playback on the latter. The tuner supports FM and DAB with 40 presets across both bands. There’s Bluetooth with A2DP and AVRCP for device control, an auxiliary input that is perfect for a turntable (as long as it has a suitable preamplifier or an external one is used), and a USB data input to play files from a USB stick or hard drive. There’s even a dedicated USB power jack to charge a mobile device and a fully-featured remote control.
The remote is a slim handset though is well put together, with clicky rubber buttons and a sensible, logical layout. The remote duplicates the controls on the front panel and adds a plethora more, including more equaliser configuration, CD programming, radio preset access and management and navigational controls.
The interface on the unit itself is based around a set of symmetrically-arranged buttons on its fascia and a large rotary dial on the top, responsible both for volume control and navigating various menus primarily concerning the radio. There’s no internet radio functionality or app control, features found instead in the company’s Homerton model for that.
Power is via a C7 figure eight mains power inlet with an internal multi-voltage power supply. There are 3.5 mm auxiliary and headphone jacks, two USB ports, a physical power switch and a seven-section telescopic antenna. The antenna is not detachable and oddly for a stationary device there is no socket to attach an external antenna for better reception.
Specifications are thin on the ground. There are no specs for power output, speaker size or Bluetooth version listed in the documentation or on the Majority website. There is one of Majority’s beautifully formatted online user manuals which I have raved about in my recent reviews of the Fitzwilliam and the Belford and Eddington radios, but some technical specs wouldn’t go amiss.
Judging by the grills I would estimate the speakers to be approximately 3 inches (75 mm) in diameter and full-range, though the system’s sound quality seems no worse off for lacking discrete tweeters. Indeed the amount of bass that is produced from such a small cabinet took me by surprise, and there are a number of sound profiles (Classical, Pop, Rock, Jazz or Normal) to tailor the sound to your liking. Alternatively there is a ‘user’ profile which can be set and recalled at will, with bass and treble adjustment buttons available on the remote. There’s no background hiss and stereo separation is quite respectable given that the speakers are both front-firing and in close proximity to one another.
The MDF cabinet no doubt contributes much to the system’s sonic performance. Taking a peak beneath the bottom panel reveals dedicated sealed enclosures for the speakers, each of which is ported at the rear. The cabinet is clearly tuned to bring out as much ‘oomf’ as possible without causing excess vibration, and the results speak for the effort.
I started my testing with CD playback, which is as simple as selecting the CD function and slotting a disc, face up, into the drive. The Oakington will remember your position on a CD, right down to the exact position in the track, even after the disc has been ejected and another played. I’m not sure how many discs the Oakington can store in its memory, nor exactly how it identifies the discs, but it’s an interesting feature. There doesn’t appear to be any way to turn it off, so if you frequently play only a few tracks from a disc, or change albums mid-way through, you might find the feature a minor annoyance.
The CD player supports the usual modes of operation including rewind and fast forward within a track. There are two repeat modes (all, current track) and a mode for random playback, and full programming of up to 20 tracks in any desired order. The disc drive itself is relatively quiet and smooth in loading / unloading operations. It’s a better drive than you find in some audiophile players.
Turning to the radio. When DAB is selected for the first time a full scan begins. Following the scan the first station in the list, which is displayed in alphabetical order, will begin to play. An option in the menu allows you to prune stations that were discovered but are unavailable from the list. It is possible to manually tune a DAB station if you know the frequency, and DRC (dynamic range compression) is available on supported stations to normalise the volume of the broadcasts. DRC is available in high or low modes or can be disabled entirely, which is my preference.
The radio supports DAB station information as and RDS text on FM. In DAB mode the station bitrate, bit error rate (BER), channel & frequency, program type, dynamic label segment (scrolling text supplied by the broadcaster), DAB or DAB+ mode, and the time and date. The radio automatically updates the system time and date based on the time and date broadcasted by a DAB station. In FM mode the radio can display the signal strength, time & date, frequency, audio type (stereo or mono), program type and radio text.
You can toggle between stereo or mono FM reception, and choose to scan for strong stations only or all stations, which will tune weaker stations. I prefer to scan for all stations as the FM tuner is actually quite sensitive, and picks up distant FM stations that you might otherwise miss. DAB signal is excellent across the board, though you do have to have the rear antenna extended for best performance.
Bluetooth works as you might expect. Selecting the mode plays a short tone to indicate that the unit is discoverable. It appears as the ‘Majority Oakington’ to a Bluetooth device and paired immediately with the Mac and iPhone I used for testing.
It supports only one device at a time, though re-pairing is easily initiated by holding the eject button on the unit for a few seconds. AVRCP support allows you to use the play / pause, next and previous buttons on the unit or on the remote to control the respective functions on your device. I didn’t experience any dropouts and the sound is perfectly acceptable, though there’s no support for AptX or AptX HD so you can’t expect CD quality audio. It’s perfectly adequate for streaming though and sounds infinitely better than a monaural Bluetooth speaker.
USB playback is quite primitive. The left-most USB port on the unit is a designated charging port for a mobile device. The right-most port is a data port for a USB drive. The two can be used in combination to power a portable external hard drive if desired.
You can’t navigate a connected USB device by file or folder, though you do at least get repeat and random playback function. If none are selected the unit will play files in alphabetical order, starting with the first folder of tracks on the device and completely ignoring any track numbers in the file names. There are no specified limits in terms of the number of files or folders, though devices like this are usually capped at 999 folders each containing 999 files, so a total of 998001 files per drive which is more than you’d ever be likely to try playing without any form of navigation. It will at least play lossless FLAC files unlike the Majority Fitzwilliam, which is great to see. MP3 files play without issue too up to 320KBPS constant bitrate.
The AUX jack is the best way to bring external audio into the unit. A 3.5 mm to RCA cable is provided in the box and though the manual suggests the AUX jack be used with a TV, it is the perfect way to add a turntable to the system for a compact vinyl setup. Your turntable will need to have an inbuilt RIAA preamplifier, or you will need an external unit such as a Pro-Ject PhonoBox or one of the myriad of alternatives that are widely available. Turntables like the Audio-Technica LP5X, LP60 and LP120 will connect without any external equipment required.
Lastly there is a headphone jack. When headphones are connected the speakers are muted. The headphone output works fine, though there is some background noise including interference from the unit’s microprocessor. It’s not audible when music is playing, but you can hear it reading from a USB device or scanning between radio stations, for example.
The Oakington is a compact system with plenty of features for most users, especially those with a large CD collection. Bluetooth connectivity gives you an interface to the modern streaming world, though it would benefit from support for more modern lossless codecs. Likewise navigation in USB playback mode could be greatly improved. Compared to the all-in-one audio systems on the market today, however, the Oakington is a top-tier contender. It is an excellent stand-alone CD player, sounds surprisingly excellent given its compact dimensions, and provides the ideal companion for a compact turntable.
If you’d like to purchase the Oakington directly from Majority, you can do so by clicking here. If you’d like to purchase via Amazon, you can do so by clicking here. We earn a small commission on purchases through the amazon link, which help to keep Audio Appraisal running.