The exhibit floor at CEDIA EXPO 2016 officially opened this morning, welcoming custom installers, dealers, and other CEDIA members a chance to preview the latest product, service, and technology offerings in the audio, video, and automation worlds.
While some are revolutionary, most are evolutionary. Key categories I’ll be covering over the next three days include whole-home audio distribution, projectors, and UHD-related peripherals. For Day One, let’s look at some of the most enticing new offerings in audio distribution.
Whole Home Audio Featuring DTS Play-Fi
It is quite surprising that it seems like, more than usual, we see whole-home audio distribution being offered by countless manufacturers. Yamaha offers MultiCast, Onkyo and Pioneer offer FireConnect, Denon offers HEOS, and the list goes on. There’s an abundance of varying, competing and incompatible formats, many of which have are limited to a maximum of only eight clients (i.e. a speaker or receiver/amplifier within the system.) The good thing, however, is that although each manufacturer is offering its own format, they all share one technology: DTS Play-Fi.
Play-Fi is a wireless audio technology developed by DTS, the company known for creating multichannel sound formats for movies. Play-Fi lets you stream music room-to-room through a growing number of wireless speakers and receivers. The way Play-Fi works is exactly like Sonos. Even the graphical user interface is pretty much a carbon copy of Sonos. But that’s where the similarities end.
With Play-Fi, you can use the built-in source selector to choose which audio stream, app (and I mean any app), or service to send to the speakers and/or receivers. Play-Fi sends the music where you want. You can now watch your favourite videos from your phone, PC, or tablet and have the audio perfectly synced to your wireless speaker or receiver. Just select the Video tab, pick a speaker and hit play. It works with videos of all kinds, including YouTube, Windows Media Player, and more, which is a huge leg up over Sonos, which limits the source to whatever is available within their app.
This is not to say that DTS Play-Fi is better than Sonos. By licensing the technology to dozens of manufacturers, how well each manufacturer’s implementation is could vary which, in turn, may cause a situation where incompatibilities occur. With Sonos, since both the technology and the hardware are manufactured by a single company, 100% compatibility is guaranteed. It’s akin to Android phones versus iOS.
Only time will tell which protocol will win, or if both can co-exist successfully, which is my prediction. After all, there is a market for each protocol.
An honourable mention for whole-home audio goes to Klipsch. Its new Stream Wireless Multi-Room Audio series is an ecosystem of soundbars, wireless speakers, legacy audio converters and, unique to Klipsch, USB DAC amplifiers that will feature DTS Play-Fi whole-home technology, enabling consumers to wirelessly stream virtually any source into any room of their home. The Klipsch Stream system is easily controlled by the Klipsch Stream app, which will be available for download on iOS and Android platforms.
Meanwhile, audio manufacturer RIVA, the lifestyle brand of Audio Design Experts, Inc. (ADX), also introduced its WAND Series, a customizable and easy-to-use multi-space audio system that delivers high-quality, patented stereophonic sound from a single speaker. But rather than use DTS Play-Fi, it uses Riva’s own proprietary protocol.
Similar to Sonos, the RIVA WAND series offers multiple connectivity options, from a single direct connection to a whole-environment wireless networked audio system that can simultaneously stream to up to 32 speakers without acoustic latency.
What makes the RIVA system particularly unique is its use of Trillium ADX’s proprietary three-channel audio technology that enlarges the audio image while allowing the power of the audio to be reproduced. What does this mean for listeners? Trillium provides an audio experience that’s as close to live as it gets by using three discrete channels to create stereophonic sound much larger than the actual speaker size.
Check back tomorrow for a report from Day Two of CEDIA EXPO 2016, which runs from September 15 through to 17 in Dallas, TX.