Google Home Max with Chromecast and Assistant

google home max

Google Home Max is actually quite a big deal. For the first time, Google releases a speaker that is on pair with the top multiroom speakers on the market in terms of sound quality. Loaded with the Assistant, it has voice commands and is also a hub for controlling other smart home devices.

Home Max is twenty times more powerful than the original Google Home (that has quite bad sound) and has dual 4.5-inch high-excursion woofers for deep bass. It has Smart Sound, where Google uses artificial intelligence to make Max adapt to the environment it is in, the context, and your preferences. Smart Sound automatically adjusts the listening experience to where it is placed in a room. If it is moved, it will tune itself within a few seconds.

home max inside

Home Max supports all the services that chromecast built-in does, so every mayor one, except Apple Music. It also has Bluetooth and an aux port. So if you absolutely must play Apple Music, use those.

To enable the Assistant to play Spotify with voice commands, open the Google Home app, link your Spotify account and set Spotify as your standard music service. Then your ready to control Spotify with commands like “Ok Google, play Dr. Dre”, “Ok Google, what song is this?” and so on.

In some ways it is strange that it took Google this long to release a great sounding speaker. But it is probably due to them wanting to incorporate the assistant and having a large enough ecosystem around it at launch.

As with Google’s flagship mobiles, now the Pixel 2 series, it shows other manufacturers what could be achieved with Google technology and is also a clean version of their vision for the multi-room market. It will probably lead to more chromecast built-in speakers from other manufacturers that follows in its footsteps, with built-in Google assistants as well.

Sonos One with Alexa voice control

sonos play one

The Sonos One is basically a Play:1 with integrated Alexa voice recognition. You can play music by simply saying “Alexa, play Ramstein”. If you want to play the music in another zone, simply add the zone name after. Or “everywhere” for playing the same music on all speakers in your home. It has six onboard microphones to be able to capture the commands from any direction.

In some ways Sonos One is a work in progress. It does not have support for voice commands for Spotify at launch, even though it will get it soon after. It does have Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and other. It will get Google Assistant support sometime in 2018.

As with Play:1, Sonos One is a mono speaker but two Sonos Ones can be combined to a stereo pair for filing a room with hi-fi-like sound, or used as surround speakers with a PlayBase or PlayBar and an optional Sub.

sonos one top

To protect privacy, the microphone is disabled with one click. The on board leds indicates if the mic is active or not.

Sonos is challenged by a wide range of new competitors that tries to take a piece of their market. The new speakers from Google, Apple and Amazon are based around voice commands. With Sonos One, the company shows that they won’t give up their market leader position without a fight. Good for them, and the market.

New Marshall speakers with AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Chromecast

With over 50 years in the speaker and amplifier market, Marshall is a well known brand that now enters the multi-room market. They do so with a three-speaker lineup packed with wireless technology. They all have Chromecast built-in, AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth. You can also use the (old school) 3.5 mm socket and RCA input.

Marshall multiroom

Acton multi-room is the smallest one. It has one 30 Watt Class D amplifier for the woofer and two 10 Watt Class D amplifiers for the tweeters.

Stanmore multi-room is the middle speaker and has one 50 Watt Class D amplifier for the woofer and two 15 Watt Class D amplifiers for the tweeters.

Woburn multi-room is the beast of the lineup. It has two 15 Watt Class D amplifiers for the tweeters and two 40 Watt Class D amplifiers for the woofer.

Marshall appYou can control the speakers with the App for iOS and Android, directly from casting apps like Spotify and with the on board sound controls. Apart from volume and balance, the on board control also includes a switch with sevens presets for playlists on Spotify and Internet radio stations.

 

So quite cool speakers from Marshall that are worth considering when adding multi-room to you home.

Harman Kardon Omni+ with Chromecast and Spotify Connect

Omni+Harman Kardon has upgraded their line of multi-room music speakers and they are now called Omni+. They all have 24Bit/192Khz HD audio, Spotify Connect, Chromecast built-in, Bluetooth and digital and analog input as well.

The previous version, Omni, lacked support for both Spotify Connect and Chromecast which made them almost unusable for most people. Now an Omni+ product, can re-broadcast Spotify Connect to first gen products.

The speakers are set up with the Harman Kardon controller app for iOS and Android.

OMNI 10+ fits small rooms and costs $249.95.

Omni 20+ is for larger rooms and costs $349.95.

Omni 50+ is portable and weatherproof, for use both indoors and outdoors. Has a rechargeable battery. Costs $499.95.

ADAPT+ connects to an existing system and lacks own speakers. Not released yet.

JBL Playlist with Chromecast audio

JBL Playlist

JBL Playlist is a Wi-Fi speaker with Chromecast audio. It is always on and ones you have set it up in the Google Home App, it is available for casting music from all devices on your network. With a few of them, or other Chromecast speakers, you’ll have a multi-room music system for a low price.

JBL Playlist also have Bluetooth 4.2 which could come in handy if you bring it with you on a trip and do not have Wi-Fi available. Spotify Connect is also included. It also has a 3.5 mm connector for analog input.

JBL Playlist top

The speaker has controls for power, play/pause and volume on top of it.

The price is quite competitive at 150£.

Apple HomePod with Airplay 2

apple homepod

HomePod is Apple’s answer to home automation speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo. With the updated Airplay 2, HomePod is also Apple’s answer to multiroom music systems like Sonos.

The speaker is packed with an A8 processor, which probably makes it the most processing powered speaker on the market. This allows HomePod to interpret speech even when music is played, to sync with other speakers and adapt the playback to the room. Place two in the same room and they detect and balance each other. Homepod will also detect how it is placed in the room and optimize the playback for that setting.

You can give commands to Siri, ask questions and get answers. Just say “Hey Siri, play Dr. Dre” to get going. A huge downside is that this only works for Apple Music and not Spotify and other. They have to be managed through Airplay 2 instead of voice commands, when they have implemented support for it.

You can also tap the top of HomePod to control the playback and volume. A LED waveform shows when siri is listening to commands.

homepod internals

The speaker build is interesting with seven tweeters places around it to allow the music to be played in every direction. The bass is facing up. So even though it is a small package, it really is packed with sound technology.

HomePod uses Airplay 2 and can work together with other Airplay 2 devices of different brands in a multiroom setup, including grouped together in zones that has more than one speaker in it.

HomePod will be launched in December 2017.

Urbanears Baggen and Stammen

Baggen Stammen

The Stockholm based headphone company is entering the multi-room speaker market with the two colorful speakers Stammen and Baggen. Depending on the color they can be a design piece in your home or a discrete sound system.

Both speakers handle Spotify Connect, AirPlay, Chromecast, Bluetooth, 3.5mm and aux input. Baggen is the bigger one with two 2.5˝ full-range drivers and one 5.25˝ woofer. It costs $450. Stammen is smaller one with two 3/4˝ neodymium dome tweeters and one 4˝ woofer. and costs $350. They both have 3 Class-D amplifiers.

Urbanears Connected app for iOS and android lets you flip through presets, browse internet radio stations, manage multi-room settings and tweak the equalizer.

You can combine up to 5 devices in a multi-room setup. Playing different music or combined in multi mode, which is Urbanears name for party mode.

Urbanears combination of design, good sound and support for both Spotify Connect and AirPlay makes them an interesting newcomer in the market.

Heos new soundbar and sub

heos soundbar

The soundbar battle of multiroom system continues and Denons Heos line now includes a new soundbar named Heos Bar and a new stand alone subwoofer named Heos Subwoofer.

Heos already has a package called Heos HomeCinema, with a soundbar and a wireless sub but the two new products are more powerful and aimed directly at Sonos equal products.

So the Heos options are quite nice. Pay $599 for Heos HomeCinema and get good home cinema sound or more than double that and get even better sound with the new Heos Bar and Subwoofer.

Heos Bar

Heos Bar has four HDMI 2.0a p/HDCP 2.2 inputs, HDMI output with ARC, compatible with 4K HDR UHD televisions and sources like Blu-ray players and PS4 Pro. It supports HD audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio as well as the older formats Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS. It supports Bluetooth. Optical digital input and analog inputs are also included. So it can pretty much chew anything you throw at it. The price will be $849.

Heos Subwoofer

gallery_heos_sub_01Heos Subwoofer works with all of the Heos speaker lines and not just the Bar. It has two 5-1/4inch (13.5 cm) drives with Class D amps. The price will be $599.

Compared with Sonos

Heos Bar has support for all modern inputs and sound formats that Sonos does not have, with Sonos single optical input. So considering Heos Bar is a smart move, if you are not already invested in the Sonos ecosystem.

Sonos PLAYBASE

playbase

Sonos expands its home theater offering with the new PLAYBASE that is meant to be placed below a TV as compared to the PLAYBAR that is meant to be placed on the wall below a TV or in front of its stand. It has the same functionality as its older sibling. Which includes the ability to be paired to a SUB and a pair of Play:1s to get real 5.1 home theater audio. It can play music on its own through the Sonos app and connects to a tv with optical input.

A difference is that it incorporates a woofer along with nine other speaker drivers. So Ten amplified speaker drivers in total. Six mid-range, three tweeters and one woofer. It has one ethernet port. PLAYBAR has two.

PLAYBASE securely supports TVs on top of it up to 77 lbs (35 kg).

Both PLAYBASE and PLAYBAR supports Speech Enhancement and Night Sound for optimal listening without disturbing the sleeping part of the family.

PLAYBASE will cost 699$ and be available in stores in April 2017.

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.