Sound+Image

And there’s more...

We round up some of the outlying wireless multiroom platforms and offer a reminder that custom installati­on is always a valid option.

-

The multiroom market is expanding and also broadening at such a rate that we could not possibly fit every available platform into this issue, even by providing, as we have throughout this issue, links to a number of previous reviews available online.

Notable by their absence, perhaps, are some of the majors — LG and Panasonic have not much changed their wireless multiroom systems since our coverage last year, with LG adding new soundbars to their capable Music Flow system, and Panasonic adding a couple of all-in-one solutions. Links to our previous reviews are included below.

Samsung and Sony were both invited to supply systems for this round-up but were unable to do so.

Rising platforms

The idea of third-party multiroom platforms, able to support different brands of products within one system, seems to have great potential. This time last year we were disappoint­ed to find that these apps were among the weakest in the market, with DTS Play-Fi offering a seriously ugly app low on features, and Qualcomm’s AllPlay also being basic and a bit flaky — this seriously affected the useability of the brands that chose them. But apps can be fixed and firmware can be updated, so we were delighted when DTS in particular went back to the drawing board to deliver a far better experience which raises Definitive Technology’s excellent hardware to a level where it now competes with the best systems on the market.

The advantage of a platform is that you get a wider range of hardware to work within your system. So the Undok technology used by the Bush Australia units in this issue should (‘should’ is a big

brave word in the Wi-Fi arena, of course!) interface seamlessly with Undok products from Ruark, Roberts and Sangean. Meanwhile Qualcomm’s AllPlay has attracted Panasonic, Monster, Aldi’s Medion, Hitachi and a few others to its stable.

But DTS does seem to have done best over the last year in bringing some impressive brands onto its platform. Along with DefTech, Polk Audio was an early adopter with its Omni Collection (no relation to the Harman Kardon Omni products, see below), and now we are seeing them joined by impressive­ly solid hi-fi brands like Anthem, McIntosh, MartinLoga­n (pictured above) and Paradigm, with promise of upcoming products from Arcam, Klipsch, Rotel, Sonus faber, SVS and Wadia. There’s a critical mass situation in play here — once a platform gets enough big brands, it’s likely to attract still more. In this regard, DTS Play-Fi looks set to lead the pack.

Another one to watch in the next 12 months is FireConnec­t “powered by Blackfire”, with both Onkyo and Pioneer putting the technology in its receivers. The Harman Kardon Omni system in this issue (and the Omni+ which was announced at CES) is the first we’ve seen to use an early version of this platform, and enjoyably so, but it’s the plan to include video streaming as part of the ongoing developmen­t of FireConnec­t that may become the most interestin­g part of this technology. Take care here, however, on brand interopera­bility — Onkyo has already said that its receivers won’t work in the same system as Omni, and Pioneer is offering no guarantees either. That might seem to rather dampen the delights of mix-and-match for this third-party platform, but it’s still early days. Blackfire

also appears to include Google Cast capability as part of its FireConnec­t specificat­ion, and the recent Australian launch of Google’s Chromecast Audio is certainly a potential disrupter in this market — we’ll have a full review of the ChromeCast Audio next issue, but in a nutshell it offers a receiver-type unit which provides an analogue minijack or mini-optical output to plug into an existing audio system. Multiple ChromeCast Audio devices can be grouped into multiroom operation, and at $59 per unit, it’s clearly a cost-effective option if you’re not in the market for buying actual wireless speakers, soundbars or other hardware.

Accessoris­ing

Some companies are making their mark not in providing their own audio systems, but in making accessorie­s for existing ones. Unsurprisi­ngly it’s Sonos that gets the most attention here, with Flexson appearing a few years ago with a range of ‘skins’ that add colour to the Sonos monotonal aesthetic, and a range of mounts and stands that can position Sonos speakers on walls, ceilings or in better acoustic situations than plonked on a desk. Also providing Sonos-specific mounting solutions are establishe­d bracket companies Alphason, Vogel’s and Sanus.

The custom option

If you’re planning on an extensive multiroom solution, don’t ignore the advantages of discussing your needs with a knowledgea­ble hi-fi shop or custom installer. We can attest to the fact that many of these systems are not as plug-and-play as their quick-start manuals may imply, while issues like Wi-Fi weak spots or lack of Ethernet distributi­on could bring things to an intractabl­e end. It can be neater, quicker and not much more expensive to call in an expert, and of course there are many profession­al multiroom system options not available to the public which can deliver the same or better results with just as effective app control.

Don’t junk your hi-fi

Lastly, as our Editor notes in his comment on page 8, we would really discourage anyone from junking an existing and capable hi-fi system thinking they can replace it with a neat wireless speaker solution. Every home should have at least one high-quality music system, with stereo speakers and high-quality amplificat­ion. Plug a multiroom receiver unit into this, and keep the one-box speaker solutions for other areas of the home. You’ll still have multiroom, you’ll still have streaming, you’ll still have app control. But you’ll have high-quality music on the end of it, something we’re sure you’ll never regret.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Platform speakers — these McIntosh wireless speakers and the MartinLoga­n Crescendo (le ) share the DTS Play-Fi platform with other brands including Definitive Technology. Below: Flexson’s wallbracke­t for the Sonos Play: 1 is just one of a growing range...
Platform speakers — these McIntosh wireless speakers and the MartinLoga­n Crescendo (le ) share the DTS Play-Fi platform with other brands including Definitive Technology. Below: Flexson’s wallbracke­t for the Sonos Play: 1 is just one of a growing range...
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia