Denon upgrades HEOS with hi-res and Bluetooth

 

Heos products

Denon upgrades its HEOS line of multi-room products and ads integrated bluetooth and hi-res 24-bit support. Basically what we have been waiting for Sonos to do a long time..

All products have been upgraded to the new HS2 platform (except the soundbar). So the new generation still has HEOS 1, HEOS 3, HEOS 5 and HEOS 7 wireless speakers. HEOS Amp for connecting to external speakers and Heos Link for connection to an existing sound system. 5 & 7 are available in stores now. 1 & 3 in june and Amp & Link in July. The prices will stay the same. See product links and prices below.

The HS2 platform has an upgraded processor (ARM A9 at 1.25GHz), 512MB flash memory and 256MB of RAM. This enables it to support high-resolution audio up to 24-bit/192kHz. An update later this year will also add support for the DSD format. Denon also adds fast Wi-Fi 802.11 ac to the existing 2.4/5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n.

As before, the HEOS system supports the streaming services Spotify (through Spotify Connect), Pandora, TuneIn, Amazon Music, IHeart Radio, SiriusXM, Soundcloud, Tidal and Rhapsody. You can also access local network music through DLNA or attach a drive through USB.

The updated devices plays nice with existing HEOS products and can even down sample hi-res music to 16/44.1 for them when they are grouped. All controlled by the Heos App for iOS and Android.

Yamaha MusicCast multi-room

Yamaha is going all-in with it´s MusicCast wireless multi-room system. Supported devices keeps growing and so does the functionality. So it is time to take a closer look at what it has to offer.

Let’s start with the basics: MusicCast devices has support for AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Internet Radio, Bluetooth and DLNA. They support 24-bit high resolution audio, can be linked to play in party mode and are controlled by an iOS or Android app. The system includes receivers, amplifiers, stand alone speakers, soundbars and Hi-Fi systems. They connect to each other through your wireless router and can also use wired ethernet.

MusicCast system

Streaming services

MusicCast supports Spotify Connect, Pandora, Rhapsody and SiriusXM Internet Radio streaming services.

AirPlay

You can AirPlay from your iOS device or Mac to all MusicCast devices. You can not AirPlay to multiple devices using the Link function. Use a Bluetooth for that instead.

Bluetooth

All MusicCast devices has Bluetooth. If you play with Bluetooth to a device, that device can in turn link with your other MusicCast devices to play synchronized music in multiple rooms, which is usually called party mode. You can use the app for volume, play/pause and track skip control.

Bluetooth has some latency between for example the phone sending the signal and the input device, but the linked devices will play in sync with each other.

You can also send music from MusicCast devices using Bluetooth to enabled speaker or headphones. But you can’t receive and transmit Bluetooth at the same time. So either as input or output.

DLNA

All MusicCast devices can access DLNA-compatible sources like computers and NAS devices.

Hi-res 24-bit

MusicCast supports true high-resolution audio formats like Apple Lossless (ALAC) up to 96 kHz / 24-bit, AIFF, FLAC and WAV files up to 192 kHz / 24-bit. Most MusicCast devices also support playback of DSD streams up to 5.6 MHz.

MusicCast app

MusicCast app

The app is available on iOS and Android. It provides browsing and playback of music libraries on the network and the device itself. It can also access sources connected to MusicCast products like gaming consoles, CD and Blu-ray players, turntables, and more, which can be played in any room with a linked MusicCast device. Up to 10 MusicCast devices can be controlled by the app.

MusicCast devices

WX-030WH

The MusicCast Wireless Speaker WX-030WH features a large passive radiator combined with Yamaha’s digital sound processing. It comes in black or white with a silver accent. It can be wall mounted using a threaded mounting hole. It is possible to pair two MusicCast Wireless Speakers in stereo mode.

NX-500 powered speakers

NX-N500 is a stereo pair of Hi-Fi network speakers with a built in amplifier and MusicCast. They can be used by themselves via Wi-Fi, ethernet or Bluetooth. Or connected to any music output device you like through optical or analog input.

ISX-80

ISX-80 is a more design oriented wireless speaker in the MusicCast family that can be placed on the wall.

Soundbars: YSP-5600, YSP-1600 and SRT-1500.

AV Receivers / Amplifiers: RX-V779, RX-V679
,RX-V579, RX-V479, RX-S601, RX-S601D, CX-A5100, RX-A3050, RX-A2050, RX-A1050, RX-A850, RX-A750, RX-A550 and RX-AS710D,

HiFi Components: R-N602, CD-NT670 and CD-NT670D,

HiFi Systems: MCR-N870, MCR-N870D, MCR-N670 and MCR-N670D.

Summary

Yamaha’s MusicCast offering is huge and the combinations and ways to use the devices seems almost endless. You get products that has support for the highest audio quality and you will always have Bluetooth to fall back on. Compared to Sonos, it is a more open system with broader technical functionality even though Sonos is best in their niche, in app control of the most streaming services.


Mobile Google Cast and Spotify Connect with Sony h.ear go

sony h.ear go

Sony h.ear go is a wireless mobile speaker in their multi-room line that you can take with you and play music on the go. You stream music to it through Google Cast, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth. It also has a line in for old school connections. It outputs 12W+12W. The battery lasts up to 12 hours and it even supports high resolution audio, even though it may be on the small side for you to actually hear the difference. So have it at home as part of you ordinary multi-room setup and bring it with you on your trips. A great addition to the Sony lineup.

Oh, and it comes in lime, pink, blue, red and black. The price is 199$.

Naim Mu-so Qb with AirPlay and Spotify Connect

Naim Mu-so Qb

Naim has followed up its existing Mu-so monster speaker with the new cube formed speaker named Mu-so Qb. Even if the mu-so Qb is smaller than its big brother, it still has an impressive size compared to the competition. It can play music through AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth/aptX, UPNP, Internet Radio, USB as well as analog and optical digital inputs.

You can connect multiple Mu-so units and play synced music in up to five rooms (party mode).

The speaker consists of two microfibre dome tweeters, two mid drivers, two pistonic passive bass radiators and a woofer. The tweeters and mid drives are driven by 50W amplifiers and the woofter by a 100W amplifier. The combined Mu-so Qb amplification can generate a massive 300 watts. The Mu-so Qb is driven by the same 32-bit digital signal processor used in the original Mu-so system. The standard grill comes in black with optional colors like blue.

The system is controlled with an app for iOS and Android. You can also control the basics on the device itself.

Raspberry Pi 3 with WiFi and Bluetooth

Raspberry Pi 3Raspberry Pi 3 has arrived with the important additions of integrated WiFi and Bluetooth which makes it an even greater multi-room media renderer than the Pi 2. The CPU power has increased 65%. The idle power consumption has dropped to only 2.5W and stays at 3.8W under load. The price stays at 35$.

if you want easy setup of AirPlay, DLNA, digital output of audio, map to network shares, equalizer and more, Max to play has an beta image that supports the Pi 3. You can read more on Max to play on the previous Pi 2 here.

The Raspbian OS and the NOOBS image are updated to support the Pi 3. You can then install Shairport for AirPlay functionality.

Full specs:

  • A 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU
  • 802.11n Wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
  • 4 USB ports
  • 40 GPIO pins
  • Full HDMI port
  • Ethernet port
  • Combined 3.5mm audio jack and composite video
  • Camera interface (CSI)
  • Display interface (DSI)
  • Micro SD card slot (now push-pull rather than push-push)
  • VideoCore IV 3D graphics core

Multi-room news from CES 2016 part 3

Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

philips-izzy-multiroom-range-image-1-1

Philips has shown four new Bluetooth speakers in the Izzy line that can be paired together to play the same music in different zones or seamlessly switch speaker when changing rooms. Bluetooth is usually used in simpler stand alone speakers and more advanced uses Wifi due to the added range, throughput, network environment with attached devices and obviously an internet connection. So it will be interesting to see if Philips can deliver on a more advanced Bluetooth based system. Comparing it against Sonos is stretching it a bit far, but it can add value compared to a stand alone Bluetooth speaker.
You will of course need your smartphone to play the music that is outputted to the Izzy speakers and it will take a toll on your battery while doing it.

Insteon supports Sonos

insteon-100588649

Insteon has added the ability to control Sonos multi-room speakers using Insteon’s connected home system. Through their hubs, remotes, and wall-mounted keypads.

This includes basic functions like volume control and more advanced home-automation scenes so that music can be paired with changes in lighting. A morning scene could open your motorized blinds in the morning, turn on your coffee machine and start to play a Sonos playlist or genre.

Users can assign functions such as volume control and radio stations to buttons on the Insteon remote and other Insteon controllers. They also plan to make dedicated keypad buttons for Sonos functions on new controllers.

Insteon adds this feature to their iOS app first, this week. Android compatibility is in the works but they have no official release date. Sonos integration requires Insteon Hub 2245-222.

Klipsch

Stadium-Angle

Premium sound brand Klipsch enters the multi-room market with eight devices based on DTS Play-Fi. Three soundbars, an upgraded Stadium desktop stereo speaker, a Heritage-series stereo speaker, a Gate streamer/preamp, an amplified Gate and two active Play-Fi speakers which also can be used as wireless surround speakers if paired with a Play-Fi soundbar.

Mcintosh

Speaking of high end and DTS Play-Fi, the high end brand Mcintosh also announced multi-room products based on Play-Fi. They are the RS100 Wireless Loudspeaker,  the MB50 Streaming Audio Player and the MX122 A/V Processor.

RS100_Angle_right_grille_400

The RS100 wireless speaker allows you to easily add streaming music capabilities to any room you want. Install the Play-Fi Apple or Android mobile app or Windows desktop app to stream your music. Up to 16 speakers can be connected to a single Wi-Fi network – enough for stereo playback in 8 separate rooms.

MB50_Angle_Right_400
The MB50 Streaming Audio Player should be connected to an existing audio system and the The M​X122 A/V Processor is the heart of your home cinema with support for 4k, Dolby Atmos and DTS X.

Google Cast

A6_Buy_LightGrey

Google announced new partners for its Google Cast audio platform. They include B&O Play, Harman Kardon, Onkyo, Philips, Pioneer and Raumfeld.

Google Cast speakers will also soon get the multi-room playback functionality that Chromecast Audio got in December.

Multi-room news from ces 2016 part 2

Read part 1 here.

srs-zr7

Sony has announced two new wireless speakers. The SRS-ZR7 with four built-in speakers, Hi-Res audio playback, support for Google Cast, Spotify Connect and Multi-room capability through the SongPal app. SRS-ZR7 also has HDMI with ARC so it can be connected to a TV to play Dolby Digital/DTS audio.

The SRS-ZR5 is smaller than its big brother but has the same features except that it lacks Hi-Res audio support and instead has Bluetooth with LDAC and NFC support.

They are both available in spring 2016.

ht-nt53-large

Sony also has two new sound bars that both has Multi-room support in the same way as their wireless speakers. The HT-NT5 sound bar with a wireless subwoofer has Hi-Res Audio playback, support for 4K content,HDR via HDMI HDCP 2.2. The HT-CT790 has similar specs and a few more HDMI inputs.

str-dn1070front-mid

Finally Sony upgrades its A/V receiver line with the STR-DN1070 A/V receiver. It has a new DAC with support for DSD native playback of High-res Audio files. It has 8 HDMI ports (6 in/2 out) with HDCP 2.2 for 4K/60p thus supporting 4K and HDR content. It has support for Sony’s other multi-room speakers, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Google Cast and Spotify Connect. So they all play nice together through the SongPal app.

In all, impressive upgrades across the multi-room product line by Sony.

Libratone

libratone_zipp_cph_edition

Libratone Zipp now comes in an updated design, the Copenhagen edition. The wireless multi-room speakers technology was updated a few months ago and has 360 audio, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth (APTX) and DLNA. The new covers comes in Salty Grey, Pepper Black, Raspberry Red and Steel Blue.

Samsung

Samsung_radiant

Samsung has its Radiant wireless multi-room audio speakers and will launch four new sound bars that will be a part of Samsung’s wireless multiroom-audio system. No mention of their product names yet, exempt for the HW-K950 mentioned in yesterday’s post. They have also added support for the streaming services SiriusXM and Tidal.

All multi-room products will become part of Samsung’s home-automation network controlled by their new line of TVs, that will be home automation hubs.

Intel Compute Stick

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If you want to build your own multi-room device based on windows 10, then the new Intel Compute stick line is something to look closer at. The entry level atom has twice the power of last years top device and they have also added the m3 and m5 with even better cpus paired with 4 gig ram and 64 gig on board storage. So with HDMI output and two real USB ports, you can easily play Hi-res audio, stream Spotify and AirPlay, with the right software of course.

Multi-room news from CES 2016 part 1

CES 2016, in Las Vegas, has started and multi-room audio is, just like last year, one of the bigger areas. So let’s go through the hottest news so far.

Harman Kardon Omni+

harmonkardon_omni_plus

Harman Kardon revealed its new Omni+ multi-room system. It includes the Omni 10+, Omni 20+, OmniBar+, Adapt+, and the Omni 50+. Four speakers, a soundbar and a streamer that connects to existing systems.

They all handle high-definition audio streaming with 24-bit/192KHz quality. The system supports both Spotify Connect, Google Cast, Deezer and Tidal. In the controller app, you can group a pair of Omni+ speakers with the OmniBar+ to build a 3.1 or 5.1 wireless surround system. It has 5G WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth, Ethernet and an aux input.

The Adapt+ will cost 129$, The Omni 10+ $199 and the OmniBar+ $999. The Omni+ system arrives in stores in the spring.

Prizm

prizm_music

The Social music player Prizm is getting ready to launch after a successful kickstarter campaign. It is said to be able to sense the mood in the room and choose music type accordingly. If you hear a song in the room that you like, click on its heart icon, and the song will be added to your connected account.

Prizm will have support for Spotify, Deezer and Soundcloud at launch. It will also support AirPlay, UPnP, DLNA and Bluetooth. Prizm does not have integrated speakers and should be connected to an existing sound system through optical or 3.5mm audio output. The price will be 169$.

MQA hi-res audio

The new hi-res audio technology MQA (Master Quality Authenticated), that consumes less bandwidth without sacrificing quality, is a hot topic at CES 2016.

BLS_Gen2_Family_Wifi-600px

Bluesound has announced that all of their products, both 1st-gen and 2nd-gen, will be MQA compatible through a free firmware update later this year.

The music service Tidal showcased its coming MQA support that also will come later this year.

Samsung Dolby Atmos soundbar

Audio_CES2016_Main_2

Samsung’s new HW-K950 soundbar supports Dolby Atmos surround. It has three forward-facing front-channel drivers and two upward-firing Atmos height drivers that reflect sound off the ceiling to deliver height channels. The system also includes a wireless subwoofer and a pair of wireless surround speakers with upward-firing drivers, enabling the system to deliver a 5.1.4-channel Dolby Atmos sound field.

More info will come later this week about pricing and compatibility with the other Samsung audio products.

AirPlay with Raspberry PI Zero

Pi_ZeroThe new Raspberry Pi Zero is a smaller and stripped version that only costs 5$ (in their own store at least), has 40% more power than the original Pi but lacks an ethernet port and analog audio output. The sound can be outputted through HDMI from the start.

So what do you need to get started?

RPi_wifi_dongle

Raspberry Pi Zero Adaptor Kit most importantly include an USB adapter. Connect it to an USB Hub for more peripherals or just the Raspberry Pi WiFi dongle to get network access. You can buy other adapters or maybe already have some in a drawer.

You now got what you need if you are going to use it as a stand alone player connected to a receiver through HDMI. Otherwise you will need a USB powered sound card or a HDMI to 3.5 mm converter.

Apart from the fact that the Raspberry Pi Zero is sold out in most stores, the total sum including the needed peripherals likely exceeds the cost of buying the original Raspberry Pi.

You can follow the instructions to install squeezeplug in this post or use Kodi. They both have AirPlay support.

Bose SoundTouch series III with the new entry level SoundTouch 10

bose_sounttouch_series_3
Bose has upgraded its SoundTouch series to version 3 and added the new entry level SoundTouch 10 to the existing 20 and 30. Bose has implemented a new dual band wifi platform with better performance and now supports b/g/n. Bluetooth has been added, which is fine but AirPlay has been removed for some strange reason. So this is obviously a potential deal breaker if you use AirPlay. The previous version of SoundTouch series will continue to have AirPlay support.

soundtouch_10
The new SoundTouch 10 is a direct competitor to Sonos Play 1 and replaces the previous SoundTouch Portable. It has (like its bigger brothers) support for Spotify Connect and Bluetooth. Bose also has support for internet radio and Deezer through their own app. It also has USB and AUX inputs for external sources. SoundTouch 10 costs 199$/179£ and comes in white and black.