Archives For Audio

As expected, Sonos is out with app and firmware updates this week that do away with the Bridge requirement. Now smaller scale Sonos deployments in homes with solid WiFi can more simply network their speakers without physically connecting hardware to one’s router. Having said that, Sonos does suggest that folks with a Bridge already in play leave well enough alone and take advantage of the existing mesh network (despite the clutter). Not to mention folks with more than three rooms or running 3.1/5.1 theater sound still require a Bridge intermediary. And, perhaps ironically, as the Bridge is decommissioned (for some), a higher powered replacement in the Boost is announced.

Available later this year for $99, the BOOST applies over a decade of learning about the varying needs of our customers and offers enterprise-grade wireless capabilities to serve even the most challenging home WiFi environments. Look for the BOOST’s official launch in the coming months.

Speaking of new fall hardware… we’re still wondering what the Sonos Playbase is all about.

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As Sonos consolidates amidst IPO speculation, by discontinuing the matte Black Sub and shortly dropping the wireless Bridge requirement, we’ve latched onto two new products.

From a source comes the screengrab above, which is the first reference I’ve seen to a Sonos Boost. While it could be an entirely new device, I wonder if might simply be a rebrand of the Connect products (used to network existing speakers) or even the Bridge itself given its Settings positioning. The only reference we’ve been able to dig up is this 2013 trademark filing. Which in turn…

…revealed the Sonos Playbase. Like the Boost, I can only guess what it might be (or when it will hit). Could this be an all-in-one speaker TV stand like the Bose Solo or Zvox line? Or some sort of dock for the portable, rechargeable Sonos speaker I want so badly?

Meanwhile, I’ve seen a few existing Sonos models take a second trip through the FCC – suggesting upcoming inline upgrades to bring beefed up wireless capabilities.

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Intro
A few weeks back, we put the G-Boom rugged Bluetooth speaker through its paces and concluded that it packs some impressive sound in a distinct looking package. This time around, we’re looking at the competing Ultimate Ears Boom ($200) which offers some unique features not seen on the G-Boom, while shrinking the overall speaker size.

Hardware
The UE Boom, by Logitech, reminds me of holding a can of Pringles, but slightly smaller and definitely less salty. The circular shape is intended to allow sound to travel 360 degrees from the speaker. On one end of the tube, there is a power button and Bluetooth pairing/switching button. The UE Boom supports Bluetooth up to 50ft and NFC pairing. I can attest to the range using my iPhone 5s and Chromebook. Having the speaker out back for a bonfire, I was easily able to move around the yard without any issues in streaming. Continue Reading…

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A curious thing happened yesterday while perusing my Amazon Fire TV … scrolling thru the left-hand textual menu seemed more tedious than usual and, sure enough, several new items were present. A quick check to the (slightly re-ordered) settings confirmed the Fire TV had been updated (to 51.1.1). It appears the headliners are a kid-oriented FreeTime and native Amazon Music playback.

Of course, Amazon Cloudplayer was a bizarre and notable absence upon Amazon Fire TV launch and this update goes a long way towards filling the gap. Yet Continue Reading…

Deezer is now integrated with Google’s Chromecast

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We’re big fans of Vizio’s original 5.1 soundbar, which delivers true surround sound from an extremely compact and tasteful form – including a wireless sub that powers the rear channel speakers. As announced at CES, Vizio has doubled down on this form factor with a larger model that overcomes the original’s connectivity limitations by adding two HDMI inputs. And their $500 home theater solution is now available for purchase. CNET is quite positive with their praise of the 2014 model… other than price point, as it clocks in at nearly twice the cost of the original, and soundbar size. While the elongated 54″ bar enhances front channel separation, your TV stand may not be able to attractively contain it. Further, the soundbar is nearly half an inch taller than the original at 4.18″ — which could be a deal breaker for me as the 2013 variant already does a pretty good job of blocking my Panasonic HDTV’s IR sensor. Hm.

Amazon Prime Music Arrives!

Dave Zatz —  June 12, 2014

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After months of rumor and speculation, Amazon Prime Music has arrived. And, as with other Prime benefits, the streaming service is effectively free for existing Prime members ($99/yr). At launch, Amazon’s collection pales in comparison to other streaming music services, such as Spotify. Yet, as The Verge notes, it doesn’t have to compete head-on. Prime Music is a just-nice-enough perk that it’ll surely replace my $4/mo Pandora and provides another reason to stick with Prime (despite LaserShip’s ongoing delivery challenges).

As to the service itself, it’s an interesting ad-free hybrid of albums, tracks, and playlists… with favorites ending up cross-pollinating your library of Amazon music purchases. In fact, anything tagged Prime can be downloaded for offline listening. Sadly, Amazon “Cloud Player” joins “Unbox” in the digital media dustbin as the e-tailer goes with the clear, yet dull, “Amazon Music” app branding for iOS and Android. Regarding app distribution, Fire TV support remains notably absent and my Sonos connected speaker system hasn’t yet been updated. Soon?