Net­flix nine ways

Sound+Image - - Contents - Cheers! Jez Ford, Ed­i­tor

Oh the won­ders of to­day’s stream­ing and mul­ti­room plat­forms! As you’ll see from the prod­ucts selected by the awards judges in this is­sue, many of the most in­ter­est­ing new com­po­nents have stream­ing plat­forms built in; they’re ca­pa­ble of app-con­trolled and now of­ten voice-con­trolled ac­cess to mu­sic from Spo­tify Con­nect and/or Tidal and/or many oth­ers… And of­ten able to com­mand or re­ceive to and from other de­vices in the home, de­liv­er­ing a mul­ti­room au­dio sys­tem and more — all linked and con­trolled from your phones and tablets.

There’s a cost to th­ese tech­nolo­gies be­ing in­cluded, of course, but it’s in­vari­ably worth it for the sig­nif­i­cant extra abil­i­ties, and not least be­cause the qual­ity of most stream­ing ser­vices when re­ceived di­rect to a piece of de­cent hi-fi is a firm step-up from your stan­dard Blue­tooth-from-the-phone stream­ing so­lu­tion. Th­ese built-in plat­forms can bring both con­trol and qual­ity.

They can also have a no­table ef­fect on sys­tem build­ing, as the stream­ing/mul­ti­room plat­forms do en­force a de­gree of brand loy­alty. Once you have an am­pli­fier, say, with a par­tic­u­lar plat­form, and as­sum­ing you use it and en­joy it, you’re more likely to buy other prod­ucts with the same tech­nol­ogy; some­times you pretty much have to. Few plat­forms are in­ter-op­er­a­ble (through Roon has be­come a great in­te­gra­tor), and the ob­vi­ous con­clu­sion is that you don’t want half your home on one plat­form and half on an­other.

Nor do you want to du­pli­cate too much, mind you. It’s all too easy th­ese days to end up with an au­dio sys­tem which has a smart source, maybe sev­eral smart sources, and a smart amp, and even smar­tish speak­ers — and per­haps a smart TV as well. If all th­ese are on the same plat­form and are to­gether in the same room, you’ve paid for it sev­eral times over, but you can only use one of them at once. And it’s not only the hard­ware cost of the mod­ule it­self to con­sider, there are also the li­cens­ing fees the man­u­fac­tur­ers pay. It all adds to the price of your prod­uct.

So in this sit­u­a­tion you might ac­tu­ally be bet­ter with a HEOS mu­sic player, a BluOS amp and a set of Chrome­cast-equipped speak­ers — you’ll have more op­tions for both ser­vices and fu­ture in­ter­op­er­abil­ity. Al­though your head may ex­plode as you swipe be­tween apps try­ing to re­mem­ber what is where.

It’s the same in TV & video — in­deed here some­times the du­pli­ca­tion is ex­treme, no­tably for Net­flix, since that’s seen as a ‘must-have’ for any self-re­spect­ing con­nected video de­vice. Con­sider for a mo­ment — how many ways can you ac­cess Net­flix?

Let me count the ways in my home. Net­flix is in my An­droid TV (ded­i­cated but­ton), it’s in both of two PVRs (one with a ded­i­cated but­ton), it’s in my Oppo Blu-ray player (ded­i­cated but­ton), and I think it’s in my UHD Blu-ray player. I could use my Chrome­book or my iPhone or my iPad, or my wife’s Mo­torola An­droid phone. So that’s nine ways to ac­cess Net­flix, and that’s just in the lounge room! Even dis­count­ing any hard­ware/soft­ware de­vel­op­ment costs re­quired in im­ple­ment­ing the Net­flix stream, I as­sume each piece of hard­ware at least will in­cur a li­cens­ing fee for that — so many times that’s been paid in this one room! Oh and I for­got the Ap­pleTV… that does Net­flix too, though for this and the phones/tablets Net­flix will have cre­ated its own app... and pos­si­bly paid fees in the other di­rec­tion.

Given this pro­fu­sion of Net­flixes, an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion is whether some de­vices get bet­ter qual­ity streams than oth­ers, even through the same in­ter­net con­nec­tion. This is dif­fi­cult to test within the swirling vari­ables of the real world, but I can firmly if anec­do­tally sug­gest that it’s cer­tainly true of ABC iView. Watch­ing the same show from iView on dif­fer­ent de­vices, some plat­forms throt­tle back res­o­lu­tion while oth­ers hap­pily pull some­thing bear­ably close to HD. The Ap­pleTV of­ten seems to win out, though fac­tors like scal­ing qual­ity are also part of the equa­tion.

In au­dio, com­par­a­tive qual­ity of streams is not an is­sue. So far as I’m aware, all in­ter­net ra­dio streams are equal within the selected for­mat, all Spo­tify Con­nect streams equal un­less de­lib­er­ately re­quested lower in hard­ware. So in au­dio sys­tems, it’s less about which de­vice re­ceives, more which DAC you use to con­vert it. If you have a great stand­alone DAC which has on­board MQA, say, you might not want to stream Tidal di­rectly into your am­pli­fier’s stream­ing sec­tion; you might be bet­ter off play­ing from your com­puter into the DAC, or even us­ing the Tidal app on a net­worked disc player (from CD to UHD BD) with its dig­i­tal au­dio out­put into the DAC. Or some­thing.

Du­pli­ca­tion isn’t too great a dis­as­ter — it’s al­ways bet­ter to have too many op­tions than not enough. But why waste your money buy­ing smarts for a sys­tem that al­ready has the same smarts? Some­times it’ll be smarter to buy some­thing dumb.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.