Bose’s SoundTouch Wifi music system: what the critics said

bose-soundtouch

Trying to dethrone Sonos from the number one spot for wireless audio systems was always going to be tall order for Bose, but with the company’s SoundTouch Wi-Fi range they’ve focused on what they do best: sound quality.

The most impressive part of Bose’s SoundTouch range is the quality of the sound. Having built a name for themselves as the purveyors of high quality sound it’s good to see Bose using its expertise to bring high fidelity sound to the burgeoning mini wireless audio market.

Separated into three distinct ranges, the SoundTouch 30 is the largest of the speakers measuring 25.4cm x 43.2cm x 17.8cm, the SoundTouch 20 is slightly smaller measuring 17.8cm x 30.5cm x 10.2cm, and the final version is a portable battery-powered version that’s no bigger than an average sized paperback book.

One of the big advantages of the SoundTouch range is it has been designed to be modular. This basically means you can daisy chain multiple speakers together over time to assemble your own multi-room home audio system. So you may start off with two, say, in the lounge and kitchen, and then later on you can add more to an upstairs bedroom for instance, all without having to traipse wires across your house.

During Huffington Post’s early hands-on with SoundTouch they were blown away by the sound quality, noting: “the sound it generates is hugely impressive. Bass notes aren’t just loud, they feel alive – physically below the rest of the sound – and genuinely fill the room.”

Where the SoundTouch is less impressive, though, is the range of content services on offer at launch: there’s no Spotify or Rdio support, TuneIn radio is missing too, as is Last.FM – all of which just so happen to be available on Sonos’ range of systems. But don’t worry too much as Bose have told us they’re planning to add services to the speakers over time, as well as plans to bring SoundTouch Wi-Fi functionality to its more expensive lifestyle range of products.

It’s not all bad news, though, you do get access to 18,000 Internet radio stations and you can of course play your entire iTunes library via Airplay by using the accompanying app – which softens the blow a bit but for those of you who have Spotify subscriptions this isn’t the speaker for you just yet.

Setting up the system is a breeze, with Mashable noting the process was “painless”, simply requiring you plug in the speaker, download the app and connect the system to your local Wi-Fi network.

To control the system wirelessly, Bose has created slick app that allows you control the system from anywhere within your home as long as you’re on the same Wi-Fi network and are in range, of course.

The entry-level speakers are fairly affordable compared Bose’s usual eye-watering standards; the SoundTouch 20 and Portable are available for £349. But the SoundTouch 30 comes in at £599, which is quite frankly scary money, especially considering what you could get for that sort of money if you plumped for a archaic separates system.

The new SoundTouch range offers a simple, easy-to-use wireless music system, with Bose’s high-end sound quality at a reasonable price. The price of the top-of-the-range of version might just be too steep for some but for a first attempt the SoundTouch is a near perfect alternative to a Sonos system only being let down by some missing services.

Bayan Audio’s SteamPort Universal: Another Step Towards a Wireless World

Streamport-Universal

For the past ten years or so we have been able to carry around our entire record collection thanks to the digital music revolution. Whether it is an MP3 player, smartphone or similar mobile device, most of us now have the ability to listen to any song, anywhere, on demand.

While this has its advantages on the commute to work, travelling in the car or even at the gym, being able to listen to our favourite tracks at home relies on existing technology. One of the first MP3 solutions was via a humble cassette with an auxiliary lead, and then we turned out attention to a 3.5mm jack with 2 phono connections. However, nobody likes wires, they look untidy, get tangled up and take an eternity to unravel.

Another problem with plugging in your smartphone is that if you want to send a text, browse the Internet or play the latest version of Angry Birds, you are virtually attached to your stereo system. One of the best things about mobile devices is that they are able to deal with all manner of tasks, yet a physical wire renders all interaction inconvenient and irritating. It is like when remote control cars were on wires, unless you were prepared to run alongside it, you could only go so fast and so far.

Apart from the holy grail of wireless charging, we have pretty much achieved a world without cables with Bayan Audio now seemingly solving yet another common problem.

StreamPort Universal is a Bluetooth enabled audio receiver that plugs into any stereo system and connects to a compatible device wirelessly. Therefore all you need to do is plug in the StreamPort Universal to any sound system with a 3.5mm jack or RCA input, pair your MP3 player, smartphone, tablet, laptop or any other Bluetooth device, select the music, audiobook or radio station you desire and enjoy life with less wires. Simple.

The receiver is also the first of its kind with NFC, an increasing common smartphone feature and possibly included just in case future devices decide to ditch Bluetooth. Anyone remember infrared?

This pocket-sized device’s 10-metre range is more than enough for listening to music around the home and its integrated high quality digital to analogue converter enables high quality near-CD quality audio.

The StreamPort Universal costs £59.99 but if you enjoy all the trappings and freedom a smartphone offers, this is a small price to pay.

Audioengine’s W3 Wireless Audio Adapter: The End to Spaghetti?

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Not sure about you, but I have a drawer stuffed full with wires and leads – the detritus of a former life when everything electrical had to be connected. It’s made worse of course because not being a tidy person, there’s no order to it, just a tangled mass of USB, phono and scarts that were once needed but now lay dormant but are there just in case I need them.

Of course that won’t happen anymore because I am fully wireless and proud of it. There may be a time in the future when a study shows all these radio waves flying about are bad for us, but until then, I live a life of wire sobriety.

So given the fact wired connectivity is most definitely on life support, there’s a journey of discovery to be made with each new wireless product while we wait for the transition to fully integrated wireless on every device. Will this new one be better for my home system than the one I already have?

W3-reciever

Audioengine’s W3  Premium Wireless Audio Adapter will certainly a raise an eyebrow or two. This could well be the Swiss army knife for wireless audio, given it can turn any audio system with USB or 3.5mm mini-jack or RCA audio outputs into a wireless device via a sender and receiver with a range of over 30 metres (100 feet) with, it is promised, no drop outs or interference. A particularly bold claim considering most homes are full of noisy devices from cordless phones to microwaves. The 16-bit USB DAC handles audio up to 16 bits/48KHz with no compression, as well as analogue audio via a 3.5mm minijack so this device could be a very effective way of making your subwoofer or your surround-sound speakers wire free.

You can use W3 as a wireless USB DAC to send music from your computer to any stereo system or add W3 to your home cinema as a wireless link to your subwoofer or powered rear speakers. Setup is fast and you can add extra W3 wireless receivers, which are available separately.

Audioengine director, Brady Bargenquast

The sender and receiver units are powered via your computer’s USB port, the AC power adapter which is included in the package, or from any other USB power source such as an iPhone charger which is a perfect example.

At £125, the W3 Premium wireless audio adapter is a decent value investment for wireless wi fi and with the sender device capable of broadcasting to up to three receivers simultaneously, you can add additional receivers for £75 each and have a pretty comprehensive multi room system.

When you look at alternatives available at the moment, you might want to think about  Apple’s Airport Express system which connects your iphone music to the audio-in socket of each speaker via individual modules, one for each speaker. As they transmit at both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies they’ll automatically connect to the best available band for the fastest possible performance. Then again, if you don’t have any speakers, you could invest in Jawbone’s Jambox wireless speakers which belt out some powerful Bluetooth enabled sonics and are portable enough to use on the go too.