Technology

Are Samsung’s new luxury wireless speakers a sound investment?

The Shape M7 system is clearly designed to take on Sonos, currently the best premium wireless home speaker maker, but can it really mount a serious challenge in such a discerning market? Even before specifications and features are listed, the fact that Samsung hopes to sell each individual speaker for $399 puts it on a direct collision course with Sonos.

So, what will music-loving consumers get for their money? Firstly, the choice of a black or white, wedge-shaped speaker unit which is capable of connecting to other devices via Bluetooth, wi-fi and NFC. Syncing the speaker with the device of choice is pretty simple and then it can play whatever's stored on a phone. However, for those that want stereo sound, or a multi-speaker, multi-room set up, things start to get a little more complicated.

If you want two or more speakers, you are also going to need the Samsung hub. A $49 box that must be plugged directly into the home router. Then you'll need to install the app. But once downloaded and the system configured, you will be able to play the same music in every room in the home simultaneously, or push completely different playlists to each speaker. Sonos also offers a 'bridge' to help manage multi-room set ups but its speakers also have an Ethernet connection so that one can be plugged directly into the router instead, serving as both a speaker and a hub, and saving customers extra expense.

However, when Samsung's system launches, initially in the US on October 13, the app, and therefore the speakers, will only be able to support a small number of music streaming services - Amazon Cloud Player, Pandora and Rhapsody. Notice that it doesn't currently support Spotify.

To get around this pretty big limitation, in single room streaming mode at least, a speaker will be able to play whatever is playing on a smartphone. However it does have one neat trick up its sleeve, a speaker can be used as a TV soundbar, as long as that TV happens to have been made by Samsung.

Sound bars and wireless speakers are clearly growing in popularity, but so is the choice of different products from different companies at every price bracket. Samsung is taking a gamble by challenging Sonos and, for the time being, its system, from the file formats it supports, through to the need for a hub, its less-than-polished app and its inability to stream Spotify or Rdio, make it second best.

Compare that with Sonos' offering, which supports pretty much everything from Apple's iTunes to BBC Radio. During a private press event in New York on Thursday evening to launch the event, Samsung said that these limitations would be addressed in due course. - AFP/Relaxnews, October 7, 2013.

Comments