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3 Home theater receivers with multiroom and 4k under 499$

The living room audio Receiver can be the most powerful part of your multiroom setup or its achilles heel. Any decent receiver connected to a pair of decent speakers can output higher quality music than most stand alone multiroom speakers. But what good will it do if they lack multiroom technology?

Im currently in the market for a new home theater receiver and multiroom support is a must. Along with support for 4K UHD, Audio return channel, 7.2 surround, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and decoding of the usual HD audio formats. But without multiroom techniques, it would end up collecting dust for most part. Or i would have to buy an external streaming player and connect it to the receiver.

So let’s take a closer look at three receivers that supports the criterias above:

Denon AVR-X1200W

AVR-X1200W is part of Denons 2015 lineup and has Spotify Connect, AirPlay, Bluetooth and DLNA 1.5. Denons own Heos system is not built in. X1200W can drive speakers in a second zone if not all 7 speakers are in use for your home theater setup.

The output is 80W at 8 ohm. It has basic support for DTS Atmos (5.2.2), which can bring 3D surround with ceiling speakers. DTS X will come in a firmware update later this year.

Sony STR-DN860


The STR-DN860 has Google Cast, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and DLNA. The STR-DN860 is fully integrated with Sonys multiroom system so it can be grouped together with Sony stand alone speakers, in their Song pal link app, to play music in party mode.

The output is 95W at 8 ohm. It also has Miracast. STR-DN860 does not have Dolby Atmos.

Onkyo TX-NR545


The TX-NR545 has Spotify Connect, AirPlay, DLNA and Bluetooth. Which are the same techniques that the AVR-X1200W supports.

The output is 65W at 8 ohm. TX-NR545 has basic Dolby Atmos support (5.2.2) in that two of its 7 speakers can be used for it. The TX-NR545 does not have DTS X.


From a multiroom perspective, the STR-DN860 is the strongest receiver with its support for Google Cast, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, DLNA and works well with Sonys other multiroom products. The other two supports the same, except Google Cast.

From a home theater perspective, the AVR-X1200W is the strongest receiver with both Dolby Atmos and DTS X support. The TX-NR545 comes second, due to its Dolby Atmos support and the STR-DN860 third. Even though they all support the usual HD formats.

So the AVR-X1200W from Denon seems like the best overall choice, when weighing in both multiroom and home theater aspects. With the STR-DN860 from Sony as close runner up due to its even stronger multiroom support. But maybe the better integration with the other Sony products (and Google Cast) makes me go in that direction. Its a hard choice.

Bluesound Gen 2

Bluesound has upgraded their multiroom system to generation 2 which brings new design and features. Bluesound has support for Spotify Connect built in and Airplay if you connect an Airport to the analog input. Existing CDs are ripped, stored and played from the VAULT 2. As before, Bluesound support 24-bit high resolution audio.

Changes includes:

  • ARM Cortex-A9 CPU running at 1GHz
  • Improved connectivity with both Analog and Optical Inputs
  • IR Sensor with TV Connect learning function
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX high-fidelity codec support
  • Headphone Output with Dedicated Amplifier
  • Coax Digital Out (NODE 2 and VAULT 2)
  • Gigabit Ethernet speed
  • New advanced Wi-Fi design
  • Industrial design by David Farrage of DF-ID.

The system now consists of:

NODE 2 Wireless streaming music player that you connect to your existing music system. ($499/549€)

POWERNODE 2 Amplified wireless streaming music player that you connect to speakers of choice. ($799/899€)


VAULT 2 Streaming music player, 2TB storage and CD ripper. ($1199/1299€)

PULSE 2 Full size all-in-one wireless streaming music player.($699/799€)

PULSE MINI all-in-one wireless streaming music player. ($499/599€)

PULSE FLEX all-in-one wireless streaming music player with an optional battery pack that last for 8 hours of streaming. ($299/349€)

Supported cloud services and internet radio

WiMP, Rdio, Slacker Radio, Qobuz, HighResAudio, JUKE, Deezer, Murfie, HDTracks, Spotify, TIDAL, Napster, Rhapsody, TuneIn Radio and iHeartRadio.

New Sony devices with Airplay and Spotify Connect

Sony multiroom

Sony has released three new wireless multiroom speakers that makes them a serious market contender. They are SRS-X77, SRS-X88 and SRS-X99. All three has support for all major streaming technologies: AirPlay, Google Cast, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, NFC and DLNA. SRS-X88 and SRS-X99 also supports Hi-Resolution audio. They can be used one at a time or grouped together in the Song pal link app for iOS and Android. The HT-ST9 and HT-NT3 sound bars and STR-DN1060 and STR-DN860 A/V receivers also has the same functionality.

SRS-X88 and SRS-X99 support playback of a wide variety of Hi-Resolution audio including MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC and DSD. You can also attach an external hard drive to the speakers through USB. SRS-X77 has a battery so it is mobile.

The SRS-X99 has 154 Watts and seven speakers: Two super tweeters, two front tweeters, two mid-range drivers and a single subwoofer.

The SRS-X88 has 90 Watts and five speakers: Two front tweeters, two mid-range drivers and a single subwoofer.

The SRS-X77 has 40 Watts and three speakers: Two front tweeters, a subwoofer and dual passive radiators.

The HT-ST9 and HT-NT3 sound bars and STR-DN1060 and STR-DN860 A/V receivers supports the same techniques and audio formats as the three new speakers and all seven units can be used together in the app.

So how do we compare this with Sonos? Sony has stronger hardware with support for hi res audio and all major streaming technologies. Sonys app is limited to grouping the speakers. The market leader Sonos has moderate hardware, that lacks hi res audio and manny technologies that Sony supports but instead has strong software that can handle almost any streaming service and scenario out there in a refined manner, with different songs playing in different zones from the same controller. So which of those two are best for a customer that wants to play multiroom music in the easiest and most powerful way? The boring answer is that it depends on how you want to use it. Both will handle the most scenarios but in different ways.

Odin brings big sound


Multi-room speakers have a tendency to favour small form factor over the (possibility of) extra sound quality that bigger form factors enable. The Danish company Cint has addressed that issue with their new Odin speaker, which is part of their Asgard multi-room system. They also have the smaller speaker Freya.

Odin is a 6.9 kg floor speaker that can play Spotify Connect, AirPlay and DLNA. It also has AUX-input for older sources. It has on device controls for basic operations and is also controlled with Cints own app for iOS and Android. Odin is reasonably priced for it’s size around 265£.


Freya comes in a multi-room version that has the same functionality as Odin. And one version with only Bluetooth. All in one would have been even better. The multi-room version is priced around 160£.

The Asgard line seems promising and covers most peoples needs with both Spotify Connect and AirPlay.

AirPlay and more with the Raspberry Pi 2 and Squeezeplug

Read about the new Raspberry Pi 3 with Wifi and Bluetooth.

Squeezeplug has partnered with Max2Play and delivers a powerful system that can manage and play music in many ways and is configured through the Max2Play web interface. The system supports the new Raspberry Pi 2 B and previous models.raspberry-pi-2
Raspberry Pi 2 B
The new high powered Pi has a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU and 1GB ram. It is considered to be 6x faster than the previous model but has the same price as it had. This makes it a great option for a small footprint media renderer.

airplayAirPlay works
Many features are activated out of the box, like Shairport, so you can AirPlay to it from the start.

The raspberry pi shows up as an AirPlay unit directly after the first bootup with squeezeplug and it works fine to AirPlay to it from Spotify. I have connected the Pi to my Onkyo receiver through HDMI. The sound quality is good.


You reach all Squeezeplug setting in the web interface, where you can map to samba shares, install additional plug-ins and activate things like DLNA, Squeezebox server and Kodi server. You can even activate an Equalizer if you want.

DLNA works
The DLNA client renderer is activated in the web interface. I use the BubbleUPnP app for playing music from a local DLNA server through the Pi and it works fine.

Audio output
Raspberry Pi 2 has HDMI for digital output and 3.5mm for analog output. Squeezeplug supports both outputs and the default is HDMI, if connected. You can also choose one of them.

Be sure to follow the steps described in detail on their web http://www.squeezeplug.eu/. The steps basically are:

  • Download image file from their homepage and write it to a micro sd card.
  • Insert it into the Raspberry Pi.
  • Attach a LAN cable.
  • The system will boot when you insert the power cable.
  • Access the web interface from another computer through http://max2play so no need for an attached monitor or keyboard/mouse.

Sometimes the Pi loses HDMI connection with the receiver which leads to tiny drops in the playback. It is irritating when it happens and needs to be fixed before the setup can be considered perfect.

Software alternatives
You can install Shairport on an existing Raspbian installation. The OSMC distro, that replaces the Raspbmc distro, is based on Kodi which also have AirPlay capability. Volumino is another linux distro for Raspberry Pi 2 that turns it into a music player with support for AirPlay and a bunch of other features.

CES Multi-room News Part 4

Read previous parts here: part 1, part 2 and part 3.


Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Moment is a device with a minimalist wooden panel that lets you start playing music with just a tap somewhere on the circular part of the wood that is touch sensitive.

Bang-Olufsen-BeoSound-Moment wheel

The other side of the device has a metallic face and touchscreen where you control music stored on your local network or outside sources.

The system supports Deezer for music streaming, TuneIn for Internet radio and from your local iTunes library. Bluetooth is also integrated.

The Moment learns your music habits during different times of the day and week.

You can then access different music types based on that learning from the MoodWheel, that is a colorful circular interface where you can tap around the display spectrum to play music different mood music. The blue side plays something with a slower tempo, like jazz. The opposite side plays more aggressive or fast paced music. The center plays more familiar music and the edges gets music that is further away from your usual.

It will be in B&O stores in January 30, costing $2,795 in the US, £1795 in the UK and €2195 in the rest of Europe.


Moshi has revealed its new AirPlay speaker Spatia that is focused on design with metallic, wood and fabric accents for a modern look.

The Spatia also supports playing music through Wi-Fi Direct.

The Spatia has an app in AppStore to set it up, adjust its equalizer, save sound profiles and playing ambient sounds for sleeping and relaxation.

On the inside there are two 2.75-inch drivers, a four-inch subwoofer and twin one-inch tweeters driven by two digital signal processing chips.

monster soundstage
Monster showed their upcoming SoundStage speaker system that is based on Qualcomm’s AllPlay technology.

The SoundStage line will include three speakers, the S1, S2, and S3. Music can be streamed from your mobile device using supported apps like Spotify to the speakers ower Wi-Fi. The speakers also supports Bluetooth. After the initial command to the speaker what to play, Qualcomm AllPlay uses direct streaming from the cloud to the speakers, not passing through your mobile device which is good for battery usage and you being able to do what you want with your mobile without disturbing the steaming.

The system has its own SoundStage app, that lets you stream music to one, some, or all speakers. You can also access media connected to your home Wi-Fi network, and have different speakers play music from different sources. Or, the same, in party mode.

The SoundStage line arrives in stores this spring. The price tags for S1, S2, and S3 are $250, $300, and $400.

Devailent Silver Phantom
French audio firm Devialet has demonstrated their upcoming speakers Phantom and Silver Phantom. According to Devialet they both sound the same, it’s only how loud they can play that differs.

Phantom can receive sound signals over WiFi, Ethernet, Power Ethernet and usual audio input formats. You can pair several Phantom units to build a stereo pair or place them in different rooms.

Since they have no lights to indicate the on/off state, very light music plays when the speaker is turned on. When the remote control pairs with one or more Phantoms the woofers flex a few times.

Devialet has a program for streaming to their different speakers from a computer called Air and an app for managing the speakers. Other than that, the system is lacking support for mayor online services as Spotify and Deezer.

They are priced at around $2390 (3000W Phantom Silver) and $1990 (750W Phantom). Harrods sells them in England from 1 February. They will probably launch at the same time in the US.

CES Multi-room News part 3

Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Intel Compute Stick seems like the multi-room DIY dream. Put it in a receiver and you get digital audio (and video) from a full fledged computer with the size of a (large) usb stick and the power footprint of a smartphone charger. Put spotify on it to enable Spotify Connect functionality and AirServer for AirPlay functionality. Pick your software choice for playing music from the device and your network. I will get back to this type of DIY setup in more detail in the future.

Bluetooth 4.0 is built in. It has a quad-core Atom processor, Windows 8.1, 32 GB of eMMC storage, 2 GB of RAM, HDMI, USB, a microSD slot and wireless 802.11b/g/n. All this for 149$. There is also a 1GB RAM/8GB memory Linux version priced at $89. Both arrive in march.

Philips adds the Spotify Multiroom Adapter SW100M to its existing Spotify Connect lineup.

The adapter can be connected to existing audio systems through analog (RCA) or digital (coaxial, optical). Then you’ll be able to send music from your Spotify app on your smartphone to the adapter or send it to more than one Philips speaker/adapter in party mode.
It launches in Spring 2015.

Harman Kardon has a new addition to its Omni family of wireless audio products. The Omni Bar is a 2.1 soundbar and has its own wireless subwoofer. The system will cost $800 and arives in April 2015.

The Omni Bar connects to a TV through digital optical or HDMI, and connects to your home wi-fi network. It’s controlled with Harman Kardon’s Controller App. You can stream the same audio (including TV audio) to the rest of the Omni speakers in your system. As the rest of the Omni family, it supports playback of 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution audio.

The Omni system also gets more compatible services including Tidal, Qobuz, Tunein, Rhapsody and Juke, made available in April 2015.

Sony announces multiple speakers, support for Google Cast and a new Song Link app to control them with in a multi-room environment, up to 10 wireless speakers/devices.

Among them, the new Sony SRS-X99 wireless speaker that has Hi-Res audio, 154 Watts, supports Google Cast, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and NFC. The SRS-X99 also supports Hi-Res audio up to 24bit/192kHz.

Sony uses a new LDAC codec that, they claim, transmits data three times more efficiently than Bluetooth.

CES Multi-room News Part 2

More Multi-room news is coming in from CES. Read part 1 here.

Raumfeld stereo M
The German company Raumfeld is launching its multi-room system in the US in 2015. Previously launched in Europe. The speakers use your existing Wi-Fi, uses 24-bit FLAC and WAV decoding, services like Spotify and Wimp HiFi, and DLNA. The system is controlled with the free Raumfeld app for iOS and Android.

The system has stereo speakers, stand alone speakers and a connector box for connecting to an existing stereo. Prices start at $299 for the stand alone speaker One S.

The French company Voxtok launches its Audio Capsule that is both a multi-room music player and server. It incorporates local storage and access to Cloud services (backup of library. Streaming of library). Based on dual Wolfson WM8741 DAC chipsets, it supports audio quality up to 24-bit/192kHz. The server can transcode to formats that is supported by the client in real time. You can also connect an external CD player and rip music to the server, which then can add the right cover art. It can handle most audio formats and is both AirPlay and Bluetooth compatible. The Audio Capsule is controlled by an app available for iOS, Connected TVs, computers and soon for Android and some smartwatches.

Audio Capsule had a failed kickstarter campaign before funding the work in other ways (or maybe the campaign was marketing). I think its an interesting product and good for them to make it a reality even though the campaign failed. They will probably need to add support for the most common services like Spotify and Google Music to succeed.


A kickstarter project that succeeded in reaching its goal is Musaic. They are now showing their new system at CES. The system has two stand alone speakers. The big brother Musaic MP10 Music Player, with integrated subwoofer, and the smaller Musaic MP5 Music Player. They support up to 24 Bit /192kHz quality in the usual formats (MP3, AAC, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV). Both units has preset button on them so you do not always need the app. Musaic also supports Bluetooth and UPnP/DLNA.

Musaic is based on Qualcomm AllPlay. They currently have partnerships with services like Rhapsody, Napster, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, DAR.fm and Grooveshark. Musaic is also in the certification process for Spotify.

The satellite and internet TV company Dish is powering their existing and new set top boxes with multi-room functionality that supports Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn Radio from the start. An upcoming Dish Music app will control the system. Worth trying out for people that already has Dish set top boxes in their home, probably connected to sound systems.

EMTEC Air Music Streamer - 3_4

EMTEC has announced the Music Cube Air Music Streamer and the Sound Unity Multi-Room Speakers. EMTEC will probably not win any design awards for their products, but its the inside that counts, right?

The Music Cube Air Music Streamer can be connected via analog or digital audio input to an existing audio system. It supports AirPlay, Miracast Audio, DLNA and Bluetooth. The Music Cube Air Music Streamer will be in stores in summer 2015 with an estimated price of $129.

EMTEC Sound Unity speaker - small package
The Sound Unity Multi-Room Speakers will be available in a variety of sizes and configurations, including portable, bookshelf, medium, large, soundbar and subwoofer. They can also be configured into a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. It is unclear whether they have the same functionality as The Music Cube. But it would be a bit strange if they were not interoperable. The Sound Unity wireless speaker line will be in stores Summer 2015, with estimated prices from $99 to $299.

Bose SoundTouch Series II


Read about the new SoundTouch series III instead

Bose is emerging as a major player in the multi-room market with its upgraded SoundTouch series II systems.

The upgrade to series II includes: More music sources, like Spotify Connect and Deezer, streaming from a PC/Mac music library (non-copyprotected iTunes files), improved control apps with new search and bass control, removed requirement for PC plugin during setup and both a black and a white color option.

Music Sources
SoundTouch supports both AirPlay and Spotify Connect. Can play 20,000 Internet radio stations, music on the local network, and music services including Deezer, Pandora, and iHeartRadio. Local network includes from a NAS and various music libraries on a PC (one library per PC) like iTunes and Windows Media Player.

The supported audio formats are: MP3, WMA, AAC and Apple Lossless.

You can control the system with an app, ir-remote and on unit controls. Apps exist for iOS, Android and PC.


SoundTouch 20 is for small to medium sized rooms. SoundTouch Portable is for small to medium sized rooms and portable through its rechargeable battery. SoundTouch 30 is for medim sized to big rooms.

Each unit has an OLED display that provides source and song/station info. They have Aux input that enables audio connections from other sources. They also have an Ethernet port for wired connection to the home network.


SoundTouch Wave is device that is compatible with SoundTouch but with different design and features. It has a CD player, AM/FM radio, Aux in jack and a headphone jack. It is also designed to work as a bedside alarm clock with alarm and snooze.


SoundTouch Stereo JC Series II is a stereo system with two Jewel Cube Series II speakers and a powered Acoustimass module that is targeted at the living room. It has a designed remote control that handles the standard tasks of skip, pause, play and so on.


SoundTouch™ SA-4 amplifier can be connected to speakers of your choosing which in essence makes it a competitor to Sonos Connect AMP. The designed round remote is included in the package.


SoundTouch outdoor speaker system is a package with amplifier and two speakers for outdoor usage.

Conclusion: Bose has a broad offering that matches top rival Sonos well. The SoundTouch system has one of the better source supports out there. Both AirPlay and Spotify Connect is impressive. Maybee Sonos should be a little worried.

Mu-so with AirPlay and Spotify Connect

Mu-so is the first wireless music system from well known hi-fi manufacturer Naim. Mu-so is a standalone system that pack a lot of punch. With 450W it literally blows the competitors smaller stand alone speakers away, for a higher price.

Mu-so supports both AirPlay and Spotify Connect. And it dont stop there because Mu-so also supports Bluetooth, UPnP, USB, Optical input and internet radio stations. Which adds up to one of the broader platforms in the multi-room market.

mu-so_03_customisation_nogrilleSix 75 watt digital amplifiers deliver a total of 450 watts of power and a porting system moves large volumes of air with low turbulence for the bass. the audio brain of the system is a 32-bit digital signal processor. The touch panel control interface is illuminated around for feedback.

The system has an iPhone and an Android app that you can control volume, light settings, room modes, create playlists and activate multi-room with. AirPlay and Spotify Connect are used in their ordinary way.

It is interesting to compare Mu-so with Sonos because the two systems are each others opposites, in a good way, for both. Sonos has gone for massive support of services with their own software and Naim has instead broad support for standards like AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth. So two different approaches to multi-rooming.

Naims offering would obviously be even better if they complemented the Mu-so with a smaller version and a dedicated non speaker player (like Sonos ZonePlayer). And Naim probably will. The price is around £895.