UPnP AV / DLNA media-playback hardware) Archive

A serious speaker manufacturer makes the wireless speaker more credible

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Stream 3 – Cabasse

My Comments

Those of you who have followed this Website earlier on may have read the review I did of the Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver which was able to also pick up DAB+ radio broadcasts, tune in to Internet radio and pick up content on DLNA-capable media servers like most network-attached storage devices. Here I tested this receivvr with a pair of Cabasse Antigua MT30 bookshelf speakers and had mentioned that these speakers or ones of a similar quality would accompany the Rotel as a simplified high-quality “three-piece” hi-fi setup for that apartment.

Now Cabasse have released a wireless speaker system that works with either a Bluetooth wireless link or a small Wi-Fi wireless network. Like the Sony SA-NS410 and SA-NS510 wireless speakers that I just reviewed, this speaker system can work with Apple AirPlay or the open-standard DLNA network media setups; as well as become an Internet radio when used with Cabasse’s mobile-platform control app.

But unlike most wireless speakers, this system uses a “three-piece” setup with two small “satellite” speakers for the high frequencies and a bass module for the low frequencies. Here, the bass module also has the electronics to interface with the home network as well as a USB socket for memory keys and hard drives full of music. This layout with the relocatable speakers is liked by a lot of music enthusiasts so as to provide real stereo separation for the music.

What I have seen of this is that Cabasse, a name of respect for hi-fi speakers, has joined in to the wireless-speaker game and catered for this with support for a multi-speaker setup using their knowhow that they have used with the Antiguas and similar speakers. This is alongside Bang & Olufsen launching an AirPlay / DLNA wireless speaker as one of their design pieces alongside them supplying the PlayMaker module which converts any Beolab “piece of art” into a wireless speaker.

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Product Review–Sony SA-NS410 Network Speaker

Introduction

Previously, I had covered the concept of the Wi-Fi-based wireless speakers on this Website including writing an article about how to get the most out of these and the Bluetooth variants. Now I have the chance to review two Wi-FI-enabled speaker sets from Sony – one being the midrange SA-NS410 and the other being the more-expensive SA-NS510 which will come up in a separate review.

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$299

Functions

Internet audio Internet radio via vTuner,
MusicConnect streaming music service

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo jack
Network
Ethernet 100Mbps Ethernet
Wi-Fi wireless 802.11g/n WPS

Speakers

Output Power 15 Watts (RMS) per channel  for high frequencies + 15 Watts (RMS) for low frequencies Stereo
Biamplification
Speaker Layout Integrated speakers
– 2.1 stereo layout
2 x 30mm (1 3/16”) tweeter per channel +
1 x 110mm (4 3/8”) woofer

The unit itself

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker control details 1 - volume, party streaming, input select, firmware update

Speaker controls – volume, input select, Party Streaming, firmware update

The Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker is a deep speaker with a leaf-shape profile. You see a blue status halo appears from the bottom of the speaker if in standby but this halo glows white when the speaker is in full action playing music. There are local controls on the bottom edge of the speaker to turn it on and off, invoke WPS network enrolment, adjust the volume and select whatever is connected to the 3.5mm input jack on the back of the unit.

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker control details 2 - power switch, Party Streaming

Other controls – the power switch and the Party Streaming button.

There is also another button to invoke the “Party Streaming” function which is an audio-broadcast function that is part of recent network-capable Sony home AV equipment. Here, you can have audio content playing on one of these devices such as the Sony CMT-MX750Ni music system configured as a “Party Streaming Host” and press this button to “pick up” the content through this speaker. Similarly, you could have content served to this speaker via a DLNA Media Server and “pick it up” from another of these speakers using the “Party Streaming” button.

Sony wireless speakers remote control

The remote control that comes with these speakers

Of course, this speaker can also be controlled by a card-sized infra-red remote control as well as your computer or mobile device running the Network Audio Remote app.

For setup, I was able to integrate the Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker with the home network using the “Network Setup” App on my Android phone. This required me to transcribe the SSID and security passphrase in to the phone. The app could support the ability to transfer the parameters of the network you were connected to or another network from the phone to the speaker. The speaker works as its own access point during the setup phase but I would like to have it able to work as a WiFi Direct master device or own access point so it can work as a standalone setup when you don’t have a proper small network to use it with when you want to play music from your phone. Of course, you can use these speakers with an Ethernet or HomePlug wired network segment thanks to an Ethernet jack being provided on the back of this speaker.

It is also worth noticing that these speakers have a “Network Standby” switch so you not have them come alive from DLNA control-point apps on the home network including the Audio Remote app. This can be useful if you have network problems or don’t necessarily want people to play a practical joke on you if you have the speakers in the bedroom.

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker connections - WPS button, power connection, 3.5mm line-in jack, Ethernet jack, Standby - Network-Standby switch

Connections on the back of the speaker – WPS setup button, power connection, 3.5mm audio line-input jack, Ethernet jack, Standby – Network Standby switch

The Network Audio Remote app worked properly managing the volume and pushing music from other media servers. It could find Internet radio stations and programs but this function does leave a lot to be desired with filling out the list of stations or areas. This is where it stalls when downloading these lists and then reloads the last few stations and can be a pain with US and European localities with many stations. This was “fixed up” through a firmware update that Sony “pushed” out to this speaker and the SA-NS510 speaker.

Personally, I would recommend that Sony offers a DLNA media server with the Android “Network Audio Remote” application so you don’t have to find one of these apps to “push out” music held on your Android device. But I used the Twonky Mobile DLNA server to share out the music on my Android phone and had it controlled via the Network Audio Remote and this may be an ideal path if you have DLNA software on your Android phone that serves well but is balky as a control point.

For the computer, I was able to use the “Play To” function in Windows 8 to push music to the Sony SA-NS410 speaker from the PC and the NAS and this worked properly. If you still run a Windows XP box and use it as a DLNA server, you may have to use other DLNA control point software on that computer or use Network Audio Remote on your smartphone or tablet to manage your music.

The Sony SA-NS410 speaker was still sensitive with the Wi-Fi network although it took a few attempts to register to the router. The music played very smoothly from the DLNA server on the network-attached storage and from a French Internet-radio station. As for this Internet radio station, this was noticed during the day and with good bandwidth.

I have run the Sony SA-NS410 at the maximum level possible with Network Audio Remote and played  some Italian folk songs recorded in the 1970s and a recently-issued dance track. Here, I was doing this to identify any points where the speaker can “stress out” and make the music sound awful. At that level, I noticed very minimal amounts of clipping with the dance track and the bass accompaniment was there and came through very tight. The folk music tracks sounded clear with the guitar accompaniment and even when there was full accompaniment going on, it didn’t sound muddled.

This speaker performed well as a Party Streaming guest device but can sound glitchy due to the network not supporting proper multicast behaviour over the Wi-FI segment.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

I would like to improve the way that the Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker and its peers are set up so as to allow for transportability. Here, it could have an easy-to-invoke “new-network-setup” mode like holding down the Standby button to have it act as if it is to be set up with a new network.

Similarly, it could benefit from the ability to remember the parameters for up to five wireless networks. This could have it work with range extenders or “Mi-Fi” routers as well as being able to be taken between two different home networks for party applications. As well, the speaker could work fully as an 802.11n single-stream wireless client device rather than using 802.11g as the preferred wireless network setup. This is a problem that will beset a lot of small comsumer-electronics devices like these speakers until a wide number of manufacturers make the single-stream 802.11n WiFi chipsets for these devices at cost-effective prices.

The “Network Audio Remote” Android software could be improved so it responds to changes that affect the device as soon as they occur with minimal time lag. It could also benefit from an associated DLNA server for Android phones so you don’t have to “hunt for” separate DLNA server apps from the Google Play store.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Sony SA-NS410 wireless network speaker as being suitable for most network-speaker applications where you want the speaker to yield room-filling sound that has tight bass and good response across the frequencies. It would work with DLNA or AirPlay setups as well as being a line-level amplified speaker that doesn’t sound wimpy.

The Sony Party-Streaming feature can also go a long way if you have recent Sony network-capable music or home-theatre systems in use on your home network and it could add a fair bit of extra value to these systems.

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Product Review–Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet table radio

Introduction

I haven’t reviewed any of the Internet table radios for over a year because of a desire to review the “big sets” such as the hi-fi equipment and systems; as well as encompassing other computer equipment.

But now I have the chance to review the Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet table radio which is the successor to the original Pure Sensia, the first Internet table radio that is controlled in the same manner to the smartphone or tablet. This set has been optimised for Pure Connect which is the rebranded version of the original “Lounge” online content service offered by Pure, with this service also become a music-content streaming service as well as an Internet-radio directory.

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio

Price

The unit itself

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$599

Accessories and options

Optional ChargePAK F1 battery: AUD$79

Functions

Analogue Radio / TV FM RDS
Digital Radio / TV DAB+
Internet Radio Internet radio via Pure Connect (Pure Lounge) directory
Interactive Services Facebook (activate multiple users at desktop), Twitter
Network Media UPnP AV / DLNA
Stored Memory USB

 

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line input 1 x 3.5mm stereo jack
Output
Headphone output 1 x 3.5mm stereo jack
Network
Wi-Fi 802.11g/n WPS

 

Speakers

Output Power 30 Watts (RMS) Stereo
Speaker Layout 2 3” full-range

The Internet radio iteslf

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio remote control

Oval-shape remote control

The Pure Sensia 200D Connect, which is available in white or black, is an egg-shaped radio which can sit directly on the bench with its touchscreen display angled upwards. As well it can be perched on its supplied base so the display can face straight forwards. It also comes with an oval-shaped infra-red remote control that can be used to operate the basic functions.

As for power. the radio can work on AC with the supplied AC adaptor or can work on the optional ChargePAK F1 rechargeable battery which allows it to be a portable radio.

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Interne radio connections - Aux In, Headphones, USB

The connections available on the radio – AUX IN, Headphones, USB

One feature I am pleased about is that this radio has a headphone jack so you can use it with headphones or connect it to external powered speakers like computer speakers for a better sound.

The sound from the internal speakers has some good bass response which works well for voice and music, something that would be expected from a good table radio. Even when I tried it with the New Year’s Eve broadcast form Heart London, the sound from Big Ben’s chimes that rang in the year at midnight GMT (UTC) had that same weighty sound. As for tone control, you only have the bass & treble settings, without any loudness compensation or other tone preset.

For FM radio, the Pure Sensia 200D Connect is not all that consistent in “nailing” a clean stereo signal for all Melbourne stations when it was used downstairs of our split-level house. On the other hand, the set was able to catch all DAB+ multiplexes in Melbourne and play the expected clean sound from the services that are on the multiplexes. Of course the radio supports full information display for RDS-capable FM stations and DAB+ stations.

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio function selection

This set is operated primarily via this touch screen

The Internet radio functionality that the Pure Sensia 200D Connect has work well even though it was dealing with over-subscribed Internet broadcast streams. Like other Pure radios, the Sensia uses a form-based selection arrangement for “drilling down” Internet stations that you are after. This is different to the “tree-based” arrangement that most Internet radios use.

As well, you sign up with the free Pure Connect to store your favourite stations, which can also work as a listening point for Internet radio on your computer. There is also the ability to record from DAB+ or Internet broadcasts to a USB memory stick in the same way that you used to in the 80s with the classic boomboxes. But this function doesn’t extend to FM broadcasts.

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio controls

Controls for power and volume on top of the radio

The Pure Sensia 200D Connect does work as part of the DLNA Home Media Network, more so when you select the content from its display rather than “push” the content from another DLNA Control Point device. You also have the ability to have this device show images on its display thus working as an electronic picture frame.

It can also work as a clock radio that responds to two alarm events and a kitchen (count-down) timer. The alarm events can be set to a particular weekday, Monday-Friday or the weekend as well as the ability to sound every day. There is even the ability to set the alarm to sound once which can be useful for specific events or if you have the Sensia 200D Connect in a guest bedroom.

When you turn the Pure Sensia off, the screen shows the current time, but goes blank until you touch it. You can override this so that the radio can work as a clock, showing the current time all the time when it is off.

Limitations and Points of Improvement

One point of improvement that Pure could implement is to be able to use a USB-connected optical drive as a CD player when you just want to play CDs. Similarly, the support for Bluetooth, DLNA MediaRenderer or Apple Airplay functionality could allow for wireless playback of music from smartphones or tablets.

This radio has the potential to be the basis for a platform-driven table radio product with such things as an app store or a software package that provide enhanced functionality. For example, it could benefit from a “hotel package” which provides an easy-to-set alarm clock that is reset when a guest checks out, volume limiting, tourist-information display and the like to benefit the hotel industry. Similarly, there could be apps that show the news, weather or RSS newsfeeds.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Pure Sensia 200D Connect radio be useful for a network-enabled radio that can be used in the kitchen, office or shop; or as a clock radio for the bedroom. This is more so if you value the large touchscreen or the online integrated functionality that this radio offers.

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DirecTV Genie whole-home DVR review–an example of what a pay-TV gateway device could offer

Article

DirecTV Genie whole-home DVR review | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

DirecTV

Product Page

My Comments

Those of you who follow HomeNetworking01.info from the USA most likely would have heard of the DirecTV satellite-TV service and this pay-TV operator has designed a whole-home DVR which shows what could be yielded for this class of equipemnt.

\Here, a whole-home DVR, known as the DirecTV Genie, has a high-capacity hard disk of at least one terabyte and has at least four RF front-end tuners to receive and record the broadcast TV signals. It will have the ability to stream live or recorded TV content to two or more other suitably-equipped TVs using the home network or other means.

This whole-home DVR that DirecTV has a one-terabyte hard disk and five broadcast front-ends so it can comfortable handle three or four TV sets as well as recording the shows to the hard disk in a reduced-conflict manner. It can also work with a optional regular-TV front-end kit to catch locally-broadcast TV shows. According to the review, this device connects to the main TV and can work with it very easily including having it as a client for the DLNA Home Media Network. 

What impressed me about this box was that it implemented the RVU specification for distributing content to the extra TV sets. At the moment, most of the Samsung Smart TVs made in the last two years support this functionality and the standard has been called as part of the DLNA specification for TV and video setups. Over the next few model-years, more of the manufacturers could implement this in to their Smart TVs and Internet-capable video peripherals. This may also include some existing models having this function delivered as part of a firmware update.

On the other hand, you may have to use a DirecTV "Genie Client” box with existing TVs or can stream the content to certain DirecTV set-tops if you have these in place serving the extra TVs. Oh yeah, there are the mobile-client apps for setting up recording jobs, controlling the Genie and using the TV Everywhere functionality on iOS and Android devices.

The unit can be provided for free for new DirecTV customers who sign up to certain (mostly high-end) plans for a prescribed contract period like 24 months or US$300 for those who have this service. Personally, I would like to see equipment like this offered for free to existing customers who have finished their contract period and want to continue with the service further on a similar or better plan. This is a practice that some mobile-phone providers offer to their existing customers who have completed a contract period and want to upgrade their phone to something newer.

The DirecTV Genie could become a benchmark for whole-home pay-TV gateway device with DVR capabilities and I would hope that companies in the pay-TV space keep an eye on this review so they can look at what they can offer to their customers.

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A tabletop Internet radio that doubles as an Internet TV

Articles – German language

19. Dezember – Albrecht DR870 HD-TV,7′ Internet Radio-TV Media Player zu gewinnen | GIZMODO DEGIZMODO DE

Product Page

Albrecht DR870

My Comments

Here is another Internet radio, pitched for use in the kitchen, that has the typical features of a set of its class. This set, known as the Albrecht DR870 and available in Germany, has the FM, Internet radio, local media playback via SD card and access to the DLNA Home Media Network. It would mean that it can play whatever is on the NAS or a Windows computer running Windows Media Player.

But it is also pitched as an auxiliary TV which can pull in DVB-T digital TV as well as various Internet TV services and show these on a 7” LCD screen. This class of compact AV product could earn its keep a fair bit more for “glancing” at news, sports or other events in the kitchen or similar location while you do other activities.

What I see of this is that it could raise the bar as far as a compact radio that is destined for the kitchen, office or small shop. Here, this can integrate TV reception as well as radio reception and media playback in that class of unit and shows what the direction is for a tabletop radio or similar device.

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The Pioneer SMA series wireless speakers can now become Internet radios

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Pioneer upgrades SMA wireless speaker systems with vTuner Internet radio

Firmware Download Site

My Comments

I have previously written an article about the Pioneer XW-SMA series of Wi-Fi-capable wireless speakers which can play music from your mobile device or laptop using either AirPlay or DLNA technologies. These can work as their own access points if you don’t have access to a Wi-Fi segment that can work across many devices like a home network.

But Pioneer has extended the functionality of all of these speakers by integrating vTuner internet radio functionality. You can add this functionality on to these speakers by performing a firmware upgrade.

Here, you have to download the latest firmware file from Pioneer’s Web site and upload it to the speaker via its management Web page that you discover through the Bonjour device list in Safari or the Network option in Windows Explorer. Here you have an option to open the device Webpage for each of the devices.

But how do you select the Internet-radio stations where the speakers don’t have a display? Here, you have to install the Pioneer ControlApp program on your iOS or Android mobile device and select the stations using that app. This is in a similar manner to what Sony are doing for their wireless speakers where they use a remote-control app on a mobile-computing device to control the speakers.

Of course, you would need to have the speaker connected to a network that has access to the Internet without the need for a login page when you want to listen to Internet radio. For best results on the road with a wireless-broadband connection, I would recommend using a “Mi-Fi” device.

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The XBox 360 now is a full member of the DLNA Home Media Network

Article

Play To | Play to on Xbox | Streaming media on Xbox – Xbox.com

My Comments

Now you can have your XBox 360 games console working as a DLNA-controlled media player, responding to TwonkyMedia Manager, Windows 7 or 8’s “Play To”, AllShare or other DLNA media control points. Previously, this console, like the PlayStation 3 was able just to “pull up” content from DLNA Media Server like a Windows PC running Windows Media Player 10 or newer; or most network-attached storage devices, then have this content coming on your TV screen.

But how do I get this games console set up for DLNA? You would firstly need to update the XBox 360 to the latest software. This is something you may have to do when you purchase a new XBox 360 or are dealing with a console that hasn’t been regularly updated.

Enabling Play To

Then you would have to enable the “Play To” functionality in the XBox 360 so it can be managed by software like TwonkyMedia Manager; or the Windows Play To function. Here, you go to the XBox Home menu on the Dashboard, then select “Settings”, then select “System”. In that menu, you select “Console Settings”, then highlight “Connected Devices”. When you select this option, select “Play To” and make sure it shows “On”.

Changing your console’s name

If you have two or more XBox 360s existing on the same home network, you may have to change your console’s name so it is easier to select a particular console from your UPnP AV / DLNA control point software.

While you are in the abovementioned “Console Settings” menu, highlight and select the “Console Name” option to name your console.

You have a choice of preset names that you can use or I would prefer you to use the “Custom” option to make a unique name for your machine. This may be particular to who owns it or which room it is in for example.

Here, you enter the name using whatever method you use to enter text on your console such as “picking and choosing” the characters with the buttons on your controller or using the Text Input Device keyboard. Select “Done” when you have finished to save your settings.

What can I play

Hiere, you can play most of the popular music, video and image file types through your XBox 360. This is similar to what the console has been able to do if you used it to find the content on a UPnP AV / DLNA media server or viewed the material from an optical disc.

Conclusion

This is another example of what these games consoles can do beyond playing video games; and who knows when Sony would update the PS3 to bring this same DLNA “push-to” media playback to that console.

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The Naim Uniti network-enabled CD receiver is now improved in different ways

Article – From the horse’s mouth

NaimUniti 2 | All-in-one Player | Uniti | NaimUniti 2 | Naim Audio

My Comments

Naim Uniti network CD receiver

Naim Uniti network CD receiver with Naim’s distinct CD-loading tray – now has been improved to the Uniti 2

I have done some previous coverage on the Naim Uniti, which is a premium network-enabled CD receiver. This, like the Rotel RCX-1500 that I previously reviewed, is one of those CD receivers that could just be hooked up to a pair of premium-grade loudspeakers to make a high-quality three-piece music system suitable for the likes of a city apartment or unit in a retirement village. Here, I cited this model as part of premium audio accepting the DLNA-based home media network; as well as mentioning it in my write-up about the Australian Audio & AV Show 2011.

But Naim have revised this unit and released the Uniti 2. Here, this unit is equipped with a power amplifier that is more powerful, thus allowing it to work with larger speakers that need more of the power. Similarly, this could play in to the hands of those of us who have a large open-plan living area and want to have the music fill that area, while wanting a music system that doesn’t physically dominate that area.

As well, there have been a few other technical improvements on the digital-analogue conversion chain where the digital bits from the CD, DAB, Internet radio, local data storage (including Apple iOS devices) and the DLNA Home Media network become the music we hear. Similarly the CD transport which uses the swing-out CD tray has been improved for better stability and sound quality.

What I see of this is that it is a continuing example of the way the premium audio companies are seeing the standards-based home network as a capable program source for good-quality music. Similarly this player, like the Rotel RCX-1500, is showing that there are single-piece multi-function music systems out there that aren’t second-class systems.

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Is this what the new super slim PlayStation 3 is all about

Articles

Sony unveils super slim PlayStation 3 | Crave – CNET

Sony PlayStation 3 2012 up close and personal eyes on | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

US Press Release

European Press Release

My Comments

The press have been afield with the news about Sony’s latest PlayStation 3 games console. But this one is a major redesign to cope with the smaller space that newer consolidated electronics can occupy. This has yielded a smaller console that is significantly lighter and doesn’t use as much power as the existing units.

One main difference is that it has a top-loading Blu-Ray drive for your games and movies. This uses a sliding lid in a similar vein to some CD players like the B&O Beocenter 9000 series music systems rather than the hinged lid that, in my opinion, is asking for problems. 

There are two main design variants – one with a 500Gb hard disk and a cheaper variant with 12Gb flash memory with the ability to add in an optional 250Gb hard disk. The American market would have the console come with the 250Gb hard disk in the box. The cheaper version may work with occasional gamers and those of us who use the PS3 more as a network media client rather than as the full-on games console.

Of course there will be access to the PlayStation Network and the local video-on-demand services that has allowed the PS3 to earn its keep as a network multimedia terminal rather than just a games console for teenagers and young men. It will also have the same performance expectations as the current-generation PS3.

But could these variants be a way to bring the PlayStation Experience to more households or allow one to increase the feasibility for more of the multi-player multi-machine gaming from this console?

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Network-capable speaker units–now coming as a torrent

Revo Domino Internet radio

Revo Domino – an example of an Internet radio with DLNA Media Playback

Regular readers of this site would have noticed the Internet radios that I have reviewed earlier on. These were typically tabletop radios that had a broadcast tuner capable of receiving at least FM and / or DAB digital broadcast radio. But they had Wi-Fi and, in some cases, Ethernet network connectivity which allowed them access to, most commonly, the vTuner Internet-radio directory and the ability to play through audio content from any broadcaster that listed its stream in this directory. They also had the ability to play audio content held on a DLNA media server after it was selected on the set’s control surface.

Of course, all of these sets had a line input so they can amplify other audio equipment like portable CD players but most of them had a dock for one of Apple’s iPod or iPhone mobile devices. A few of the sets even had a USB connection so you can play music held on a USB memory key.

Now the network-audio direction is coming in the form of network-capable speaker units that have Apple Airplay and, increasingly, DLNA Media-Renderer operating mode. This meant that you could use software running to these protocols to play music held on a computer, smartphone or tablet through these systems as explained in this feature article. The network connectivity for all of them is Wi-Fi to 802.11g/n standards with WPS “push-push” setup but some of these units would have an Ethernet socket for connection to an Ethernet or HomePlug network segment and / or Wi-Fi Direct so they can become their own access point for smartphones and tablets.

The manufacturers are running a range of two or three units with similar functionality but having differing speaker configurations and / or power outputs with some having the capability to offer a “punchy” sound where that tight bass does exist. As well, one or two of the models in these ranges is equipped with a rechargeable battery pack and designed for portability so they can be used on the beach or on the streets in a similar manner to those classic “ghetto-blasters” of the 1980s.

Pioneer NAC-3 Internet radio and iPod dock

Pioneer NAC-3 Internet radio and iPod dock – capable of being controlled by a DLNA control point program

The device that predicted this level of functionality in a network speaker system was, in my opinion, the Pioneer XW-NAC3 speaker dock / Internet radio that I reviewed on this site. Here, it had Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity as well as support for Bluetooth A2DP audio streaming. But it used the network connectivity to play broadcast content from Internet-radio stations on the vTuner directory as well as being able to be controlled by a DLNA Media Control Point alongside the basic DLNA MediaPlayer “play-from-own-control-surface” functionality.

Usage Issues

A problem I have discovered with some DLNA server / control point software running on Android devices is that they won’t work properly if you run the device as its own access point. This would be something that you may do if you enable “Wi-Fi tethering” on your phone to share your phone’s Internet access and data allowance with other devices.

Here, you may have to work around this by using another access point to create the temporary Wi-Fi segment. This could be done using an ordinary Wi-Fi router, even one of those “Mi-Fi” devices that work as a router for a wireless-broadband service. This solution may come in to its own with the battery-driven units that don’t have Wi-Fi Direct and you want to play content from your mobile device or laptop.

Another situation that may plague anyone who sets these units up in premises with a public Wi-Fi hotspot is that they may not work properly with these hotspots. Here, most of these public-access networks would be set up for client isolation so that no other client devices can discover each other. As well, most such networks typically use a Web interface for provisioning the Internet service. This will typically make the network unusable for point-to-point use like media playback.

Instead, if you are using that network speaker system in that hotel room or serviced apartment which has a public-access or guest-access wireless hotspot, use a “MiFi” or a similar device to create a Wi-Fi network if the computer, smartphone or speaker system doesn’t support Wi-Fi Direct. Some Wi-Fi Direct setups like the Intel implementations used for laptop computers may allow you to work the temporary network in conjunction with the public-access network and bridge Internet data to this temporary network. This would come in handy with units that offer Internet-radio functionality like the Pioneer NAC-3 or the Denon Cocoon series.

What to look for with these speaker systems

I would make sure that if you are intending to use these network speaker system with a smartphone, tablet or PC, make sure that the unit works with DLNA and Apple AirPlay.

If the speaker unit that you are after doesn’t have Wi-Fi Direct, you may have to make sure you have it working with a wireless access point like your home network’s WiFi router or a “MiFi” when you are using it on a wireless network.

Also pay attention to the sound quality and the functionality of these speakers, especially if you buy units that you intend to use “at home”. As for portable units, look for anything that also works for durability especially if they are intended to be used on the beach or by the pool.

Once you choose the right network-capable speaker system for yourself or to give as a gift, you could then end up enjoying listening to them for a long time.

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