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Wireless Solutions For Multiroom Audio Grow

Wireless multiroom-audio staked out a presence at the CEDIA Expo in years past the years, and this year’s show is no exception as multiple companies launch their first wireless multiroom products, expand their selections, or show updated models.

At least three companies – NAD, Denon and Fusion Research — are also trying to make it easier to create hybrid multiroom-audio systems that incorporate a mix of wired and wireless zones.

For their part, Anthem, MartinLogan, Paradigm and McIntosh are bringing DTS’s Play-Fi wireless-multiroom technology to their products for the first time, with Anthem showing two audio/video receivers and one audio/ video processor with Play-Fi.

Here’s what systems integrators will find:

Anthem: One AVP and two new AVRs will likely be the industry’s first such products with DTS Play-Fi wireless multiroom-audio technology, which streams music via Wi-Fi from computers, network storage devices, smartphones and the Cloud.

Bose: The company is bringing Bluetooth to its SoundTouch Wi-Fi-equipped multiroom-audio speakers, soundbars, and home theater systems for the first time to rebroadcast a Bluetooth stream over a Wi-Fi network around the house.

The company also made its single-chassis tabletop Wi-Fi speakers more affordable, reducing the opening price point of a tabletop speaker to $199 from $399. It also reduced the price of two other tabletop models without changing audio performance while adding Bluetooth, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11n with MIMO, and integration of many Spotify features within the Bose app.

The three new SoundTouch speakers include the $199 SoundTouch 10, which is the line’s first mono speaker. The SoundTouch 20 is priced at $349, down from $399; and the SoundTouch 30 is $499, down from $699. The company dropped a $399 battery-operated SoundTouch speaker, calling it a niche product that didn’t deliver long-enough battery life on a Wi-Fi network.

Like before, all newer soundbars and home theater systems are available with SoundTouch, either built into the product or with an included adapter.

With Bluetooth rebroadcasting, content from Android and iOS mobile devices can be shared throughout the house. Previously, Bose’s platform did not let Android users send music from a mobile device to SoundTouch products, and sharing from an Apple mobile device was limited to streaming to one SoundTouch device at a time via AirPlay.

Bluetooth rebroadcasting is also positioned as a way to enable SoundTouch systems to play back all audio-streaming services from a mobile device as well to simplify access to a SoundTouch network without logging onto a Wi-Fi network.

Multiple Bluetooth devices can be used at once to rebroadcast music to different sets of SoundTouch speakers in a home network.

Like before, SoundTouch products offer embedded vTuner Internet Radio, Pandora, Spotify, Deezer and iHeartRadio, but SiriusXM is coming early next year.

Denon: The brand is showing its $2,499-suggested Heos Drive, which adapts proprietary Heos wireless multiroom-audio technology for use in installed multiroom-audio systems.

The component-size rack-mountable four-zone preamp/amp lacks Wi-Fi but features wired Ethernet, enabling installers to create a hybrid wired and wireless multiroom-audio system. The hybrid system would use a Heos app to distribute network-music sources and Cloud sources around the house from the Heos Drive to wired in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, but the app would also distribute the music sources to wireless Heos tabletop speakers and streamers in rooms where custom speakers can’t be installed.

The Drive appears as four zones in the Heos app. Up to eight Drives can be installed to create a custom-installed multiroom-audio system with up to 32 wired zones.

Fusion Research: The company developed the first multi-source music server with wireless DTS Play-Fi built-in. The Fusion Research Play-Fi Server will ship with drivers for control from Control4, RTI, URC and Crestron home-automation systems. As a result, installers will be able to build a hybrid wired and wireless multiroom-audio system that distributes music to wired in-wall and in-ceiling speakers as well as to wireless Play-Fi tabletop speakers in rooms where wires can’t be run.

Additional drivers will come in 2016.

Nuvo: The Legrand brand is simplifying the installation of its wireless multiroom-audio components by eliminating the need to connect a gateway to a home’s Wi-Fi router.

Version 3.0 software enables the wireless P100, P200, and P300 amplified zone player/streamers to connect direct via Wi-Fi to a home’s existing dual-band Wi-Fi router, eliminating the gateway’s $199 cost and simplifying installation, the company said.

The new software doesn’t affect the operation of currently installed Nuvo components, and a Nuvo system can consist of a combination of Gateway-connected components and router-connected components.

Nuvo’s Wi-Fi-equipped amplified zone players stream Internet radio sources, music stored on networked PCs and network-attached storage drives, and music stored on USB hard drives and USB sticks plugged into a zone player. The system, which can accommodate up to 16 zones, is controlled through an Android or iOS app.

Supported Cloud-music services include SiriusXM, Pandora, Rhapsody, TuneIn Radio and iHeartRadio.

The player lineup consists of the $479 P100 single-zone player and $599 P200 single-zone player, both of which are amplified and can be placed in individual rooms. The $439 P300 is a preamp/streamer that can be connected to amps, receivers and powered speakers. Two three-zone players with Ethernet but no Wi-Fi integrate with a custom-installed multiroom-audio systems to bring Nuvo functionality to installed multiroom systems with wired in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. The two are the $1,699 P3100 and $2,000 P3500, enabling a Nuvo app to control a mix of up to 16 wired and wireless Nuvo zones.

Paradigm: Paradigm’s first wireless multiroom-audio products, due in November, are the PW800 and PW 600 tabletop speakers, priced respectively at an estimated $799 and $599, and the PW AMP streamer/amplifier at an estimated $499. All incorporate DTS’s Play-Fi wireless multiroom technology.

A fourth product, the PW Link preamp/streamer, is due in January.

All four feature exclusive Anthem Room Correction (ARC) technology to optimize speaker performance in any room. The included microphone measures sound output, compares it to scientifically optimal response curves, and instantly adjusts output to compensate for the deleterious effects of a room’s acoustical properties.

Sonos: The company is raising the performance and price of its top-end wireless-multiroom speaker and bringing room-acoustics correction to its platform for the first time.

The speaker and Trueplay room correction will be available sometime this year. For now, Trueplay requires the use of Sonos’ app for Apple mobile devices to tailor a speakers’ response to a room’s acoustic characteristics. The company didn’t say when the capability would be added to its Android app.

The new $499 flagship Play:5 single-chassis stereo speaker will replace the current $399 version. The new model will add twice the power output and more drivers: three tweeters and three midwoofers in lieu of five drivers. Like before, two Play:5 speakers can be paired to operate as separate left-right speakers, but now the speakers can be placed horizontally or vertically when they’re paired, the company said.

When paired in vertical orientation, the speakers deliver a “focused and intense sweet spot,” Sonos explained. When paired in horizontal orientation, they create a larger stereo image, the company added. When a single speaker is used, it is placed in horizontal orientation like its predecessor.

The new model also adds the ability to operate as wireless surrounds, as do the current Play:3 speakers, when paired with a $699 Sonos Playbar, which also features Sonos’ wireless-multiroom technology.

The company also said the Play:5 delivers better off-axis performance than its predecessor, and its new dipole speaker array delivers a wider soundstage. An accelerometer recognizes its orientation to adjust tuning.

The speaker will ship with Trueplay, but the room-correction technology will be rolled out later this year to the company’s Play:1, Play:3 and existing Play:5 speakers. Trueplay will be added to Sonos’ other products, including the Playbar, “over time,” the company said.