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DTS takes on Sonos: We go ears-on with three Play-Fi multi-room audio devices

Jon L. Jacobi, Michael Brown | Dec. 9, 2014
There were multi-room audio systems long before Sonos came along, but the market was tiny and very exclusive. If you couldn't afford to hire a custom installer to come in and wire your house, you couldn't have one. Sonos smashed that barrier more than 10 years ago and has worked to lower it further ever since.

Streaming was flawless the vast majority of the time; and the audio quality, depending on the device, was as good or better than anything I've heard. With WAV and FLAC files I forgot I was using wireless audio. I used my crowded and occasionally saturated main Wi-Fi network for about two hours with only a pop or two. Once I dedicated a separate Wi-Fi network to Play-Fi, defect-free was the order of the day, or actually, the several days I used the system.

When I added the Windows application to the mix, however, things went intermittently wonky. Apps hung when trying to take control of a receiver, or receivers starting looping the previously cached material rather than audio from a newly controlling source. Power cycling the target receiver would shake things loose, but the behaviors didn't disappear completely until I killed the Windows app. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.

Universal? Done spending? Not Quite

DTS doesn't offer Play-Fi apps for OS X or Windows Phone, and I was told the company has no imminent plans to do so. While these are relatively small portions of the market, they still represent a whole lot of enthusiastic and evangelistic users. Sonos offers a Mac app, but doesn't support Windows Phone.

Another mindshare-gathering puzzler: DTS wants you to pony up $15 for a license key to enable the Windows app's ability to stream to multiple receivers simultaneously. If I'm a customer who just dropped a rather hefty sum for multiple Play-Fi receivers and found out DTS wanted to nickel and dime me to use my PC, I would be very unhappy.

Marketing gaffes aside, Play-Fi reliably delivers wireless audio of extremely high quality once it's set up. If your curiosity has been piqued, here are in-depth reviews of the Phorus PR5 Receiver, Polk Audio Omni S2R Rechargeable, and Wren Sound Systems Wren V5PF Play-Fi Speaker.


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