Archives For Audio
Amen. Sonos has finally concluded that, under most conditions, they can provide reliable music streaming over existing WiFi networks without requiring their $50 Bridge. Not only does this represent a cost savings for potential new customers, but it also provides a far simpler conceptual approach for civilian consumers who may be most familiar with Bluetooth speakers. Sonos can now (or soon) be described simply as a WiFi speaker (with whole-home benefits). And, of course, some neurotic folks such as myself will just be happy with less clutter. Beta testing commences in the next few weeks – register your interest here.
After what seems like a million years, Sonos has begun to refresh their app interfaces with something a bit more modern (and flat). Along with the updated visuals, organization is vastly different as well. And, having only spent a day with the beta Android app, I’m not quite ready to pass judgement. The app opens to a screen headlined by a listing of music sources and paired with new search functionality, spanning multiple services. Pinned to the bottom of the home screen, is a speaker – by clicking that, you bring up a Now Playing screen. To see other speakers/rooms, you’d tap the current room’s name in the upper right. It doesn’t appear all features are in place yet, as you might expect from beta software, and I’m not sure flipping between white and black backgrounds is the best approach – but I had no problems getting my music going. iOS iPhone and iPad updates, along with the final Android app, are expected later this spring.
By way of the FCC, we learn that D-Link intends to build upon their diminutive WiFi extender (DAP-1320)… with newfound home audio capabilities housed within the upcoming DCH-M225 WiFi Audio Extender. In addition to expanding one’s wireless network to perhaps the far reaches of your home, the 81 gram plug-with-benefits also incorporates an audio-out jack – similar to Apple’s Airport Express. And, while we can’t say with any certainly that D-link has licensed AirPlay, the pre-release manual suggests the Audio Extender will indeed relay AirPlay tunes from Mac or iOS device to whatever speaker you may have wired up. Just as interesting is the far more agnostic, baked-in DLNA streaming functionality. Of course, as we opined earlier today, we’re big Sonos fans and prefer our speaker and streaming hardware are one and the same.
Beep is latest entrant in whole-home audio. But, unlike Sonos‘ key products, their music streaming technology isn’t currently embedded within a speaker enclosure. And we suspect the potential market of people looking to network traditional speakers is rather modest. The $99 Beep appendage is sharp looking blinky, clicky dial … that’ll ratchet up your clutter in the form of dual power and audio cables. But unlike a standalone Bluetooth speaker, Beep quite cleverly implements the DIAL protocol, like Chromecast, to turn your iOS or Android device into merely a remote control – versus a music source, with Pandora streaming directly from the cloud to the Beep. On the flip side, unlike Sonos, Beep is content to use your existing wireless network rather than requiring a dedicated network hub (at additional expense). While Beep is taking pre-orders now (in copper or grey), for an anticipated Fall launch, we suggest those interested wait until they line up a few more streaming partners. Or just take the Sonos leap.
As the story goes, Beats acquired the music streaming service MOG in 2012… and 18 months later, we’re days away from the launch of Beats Music — based on MOG, with custom interface, a few clever new additions, and day 1 availability on Sonos. Of course, the
headphone company is banking on their brand to drive subscriptions in a way largely unfamiliar competitors like Rdio can’t. Interestingly, Beats appears to forgo the traditional streaming-only plan in the $4 – $5 range and only offer the $10 ad-free tier, that includes the ability to create and download custom playlists. Further, Beats offers a genre-based presentation and curated playlists – perhaps similar to Slacker, which I’ve successfully replaced Sirius XM with nearly a month ago. Given the small investment of cash, I’ll certainly check Beats Music out for at least month. But luring a percentage of folks like me away from the Spotifys of the world isn’t enough, and I assume their intention is to take this mainstream. And we expect a variety of product and service tie-ins as we’re already seeing with a launch day AT&T family plan.