Gadget Lust: April Music's Aura Note V2 Will Eat Your iPod for Breakfast

April Music’s Aura Note V2 is a multitasking music machine that takes one back in time by incorporating new and old audio technologies into one device. April Music

Begging your indulgence, please hear Rod Serling's voice as you read the following: "The time is the day before yesterday. You have no smartphone, no GPS, not even a lowly pager. You want to listen to music but can't find your earbuds, there's no Spotify, nary a lowly Walkman. Welcome, benighted soul, to the Audio Twilight Zone."

Scary scenario, eh, being denied your musical instant gratification? Thank the digital demigods for enabling us to cue up a bit of Beethoven or Boyz II Men in an eye-blink, but show even more gratitude that hi-fi eggheads are still obsessing about little details like sound quality and elegantly simple design. Meet April Music's Aura Note V2, a multitasking music machine that takes one back in time to when dynamics, tone-color and stereo imagery were more important than portability and streaming.

Not that anyone under 25 would remember, but they used to make something called a receiver—a combo amp and radio tuner that you plugged your turntable or CD player into. Then you strung actual "wires" therefrom and connected them to what they used to call "speakers." Think of them as wooden boxes that make noise and vibrate. Archaic, I know.

OK, enough with the jokey setup. Aura Version 2 is a quite sophisticated, all-in-one box—CD player, FM radio tuner, USB digital converter and 125-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier. If you're anything like me, you've been staring at a wall-full of CDs for the past several years wondering whether to give them to Goodwill or just make coasters out of them. I confess: When I want to listen to Mozart, I, too, type his name into Spotify and am bewildered by the choices.

The Aura Version 2 incorporates a CD player, FM radio tuner, USB digital converter and 125-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier. April Music

Instead, this morning I fired up the Aura and slipped in Paul Simon's album, So Beautiful or So What, which master engineer-producer Phil Ramone recorded before his death in 2013. Though they did it on a digital Pro Tools rig inside a Connecticut cottage, the low end is thumping and solid, and Simon's voice rings clear and clean above the rhythmic fray. For dessert I went with Nina Simone Sings the Blues and was equally impressed by the naturalness and definition coming through my powered Dynaudio speakers.

As important as the gorgeous sound is the tiny footprint such a unit takes up in your minimalist den or living room. Its gleaming stainless-steel exterior is quietly handsome, and the push-button controls quite intuitive and easy to master. Two USB sockets mean you can connect memory sticks, iPhones or iPods, which would allow you to digitally stream music if those damnable CDs start to pile up. And of course there's a headphone jack if you want to ditch the speakers and use the Aura as a high-end bedside system. It can also handle a subwoofer for you low-end junkies.

At around $3,000 retail, the Aura V2 isn't exactly cheap, but when you consider all that you're getting in one tiny enclosure, you could easily spend twice as much on comparable components and need a half-acre to set them all up. Small is beautiful, and in this case, sounds lovely too.