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Hi-tech wireless music system for the connected home

Latest technology allows listeners to truly enjoy the sound of music

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 June, 2015, 9:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:33pm

Thomas Edison changed family life forever when he invented the music-playing consumer gadget in 1877. His scratchy-sounding phonograph was improved by Alexander Graham Bell’s gramophone, but it was German inventor Emile Berliner’s patented design which brought music to the masses.

Today, the internet of things is jumping into the fray with hi-tech hi-fi for the connected home.

At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, British start-up Musaic launched a new-age wireless music system which supports high-resolution multiroom audio.

Musaic works with your home Wi-fi to play music from any smartphone, tablet, Mac or PC/laptop, plus internet-based streaming services such as Grooveshark, Aupeo, Rhapsody, Napster, iHeartRadio, SomaFM, Murfie and TuneIn. The new Qualcomm AllPlay smart-media platform links streaming apps directly to the speakers, putting thousands of online radio stations from around the world at your fingertips. It can be integrated with home automation such as smart lighting to create and control scenes and moods.

Also at the show, American company NYNE launched its new suite of wireless hi-fi audio products based on the brand’s “WiHi” platform, enabling the creation of a multiroom, multisource audio experience that everyone can connect to using Wi-fi and Bluetooth, independent of a router or internet connection.

Using the NYNE WiHi iOS and Android based apps, users can play their personal music from any source on their network such as a laptop, hard drive or any storage device to any room or all rooms.  They can also have their hi-fi on the go, thanks to the portable NYNE Ally box.

Bang & Olufsen upped the style stakes at the show with its new networked player BeoSound Moment, a wireless music system that integrates your music and streaming services into one, while memorising your musical preferences at specific times and on specific days. The intelligent PatternPlay feature will start to “learn” your taste in music throughout the week. It comes with an extensive online catalogue of music including 35 million songs supplied by streaming service Deezer.

Sharp revealed its new Wireless High Resolution Audio Player which, the brand claims, can exceed the sound quality of wired systems. The player is compatible with a variety of digital and physical media formats: its optical drive can play Blu-ray discs, DVDs and CDs, while home networking and two USB ports enable FLAC, WAV and MP3 playback. Regardless of the source, the sound quality will be “better than ever”, thanks to the WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio) standard which focuses on interoperability between devices and avoids the use of congested Wi-fi for its wireless connection.

Matthew Bramble, Musaic founder and CEO, who has worked for some of the leading British audio brands, believes such innovations meet a market need.

“It’s clear that despite the slump in physical format sales, listening to music has never been so popular and such an integrated part of daily life,” he said. “We all still love music, however many of the new music playback methods offer compromised sound quality or user experience. Airplay only works on Apple devices; Bluetooth has limited range and compresses the music, and so on. We wanted to make a product that offered a unique combination of high quality audio, cross-platform connectivity and home automation features at a reasonable price.”

As hi-fi aficionados, its inventors wanted to make a system “that truly sounded awesome”. “We took a high-end approach and designed the system so that it can play back any file type up to 24 Bit/ 192kHz ‘Studio Masters’ and used very high quality parts throughout - our aim being to offer a transparent window into what the recording artist intended you to hear,” he said.

Adding smart home functionality was foremost in their minds. With everyone busy these days, they reasoned, who wouldn’t like to arrive home, remove their shoes and recall a music and lighting scene perfect for cooking, reading or relaxing. “You can also set your alarm to gradually wake you to a favourite station, and slowly bring up the lights in the bedroom waking more naturally and more refreshed.

It’s the way of the future, Bramble asserts.

“We believe there is a new paradigm coming where music, light, comfort control and other services will not be delivered in separate product ‘silos’. Musaic makes what we like to call ‘smart hi-fi’:  our devices are wireless stereo systems that can integrate with smart lighting and other home automation devices.”

The system can discover other AllJoyn-enabled devices in the house to capture the details of what music is being played – so if you can’t recall the name of a song you are hearing on the radio for example, a notification can be sent to your TV screen, Shazam-style. The inventors are on several concepts whereby the speakers are able to provide alarms, messages and other useful feedback to the customer by playing various sounds or indeed talking to them.

Listening to music has gone mobile, Bramble points out. Products that allow music to be enjoyed in every room in a simple and satisfying way, on an “open architecture” platform that will ultimately interact with products from many other companies is, in his view “the future of home audio”.

NYNE president Arman Arami agrees that “the future of audio is in Wi-fi”, especially with solutions that don’t require replacing your entire existing audio system.

NYNE’s new WiHi Solutions products will be available in Q3 2015.