Some day one may come to a point where one doesn't want to save on quality. This point came to me recently in the context of WiFi speakers. I have recently tried two competitors Samsung Multiroom M7 (model WAM750) and Sonos Play:1. How do they differ and which one is better? You might think that the Sonos is a clear winner, but let's take a closer look at the speakers. Subjective.
I have pretty clear requirements about an ideal WiFi speaker.
- Support Spotify, TuneIn, and custom radio stations defined by url.
- Alarm clock that wakes me up with any available sound source. Alarm starts with fade-in and continues for a defined time (or endlessly) with a given volume. In case of no connection to the Internet, it should wake me up with some jingle.
- Sound needs to be silent so that I can fall asleep listening to some music.
- The volume control accurate increased/decreased in small steps.
- I want to stream my library from my Mac. Actually, I want to be able to stream anything from my Mac!
- Aesthetic and small – kind of personal preference.
- Easy to sell on Ebay in case I want to go minimalistic.
Samsung Multiroom M7 (WAM750)
The big black triangle has been presented on the vendor webpage Samsung Multiroom M7. Let me focus on non-obvious things. First, I used only one speaker, I have not used the mutliroom feature so I can't tell how it works. I am aware that the speaker should compete rather with Sonos Play:3 than with Sonos Play:1 but anyway :P
Party, party, party
Samsung is loud. Very loud. Loo loud. You can blow a small wall without a problem. Setting your alarm clock to 20% can make you wake up in few seconds... together with your nearest neighbours. There is no fade-in feature for the alarm clock, so if you wake up few minutes earlier than your alarm clock you can get scared to death.
Silence, click, party
Volume control was implemented using touch interfaces – either on the triangle itself of in the Samsung app. It is extremely difficult to increase the volume by a single tick. You tap once and the volume jumps much more than you wanted. In fact, there are only three settings: mute, loud, party. You managed to set it as you like? Lucky you!
Connects with anything
You can connect it to anything with WiFi or Bluetooth. Really. Spotify discovers it as device that you can use, just like this. Magic! Even your 10 years old smartphone can play disco hits without a problem. I don't have a TV any ay other equipment than Mac and Android smartphone, but I guess, Samusng would connect even to my fridge if only the latter was smart.
Cosmic background radiation is a serious problem. Really. If you somehow make it to set the speaker to the lowest possible volume (e.g., help-me-fall-asleep-mode) then you may hear the distorting influence of the big-bang cosmos background radiation. If this is not the case, then the Samsung engineers must have forgotten about something important in the amplifier design. This noise is not so bad, but is there.
It has stereo, the alarm clock always works, transmission over bluetooth does not play well with my Mac, and I got it almost free (I bought it as a bundle with Samsung Galaxy S5 mini), but finally I sold it and now I have...
This small barrel called Play:1 mimics a bit the philosophy of Apple–minimalism. The richness is hidden in the app and under the hood. But really?
Under the hood are only few music services that you don't need to pay for. Yes, Spotify and TuneIn is there, but the rest? Anyway, I can connect it to my Mac and stream anything, but wait... no, I can't ;( Unfortunately, you need to count on mercy of the Sonos engineers to develop new streaming sources. Otherwise, you are locked-in.
A perfect alarm clock
Finally, I can wake up as I like. Slowly rising volume of my favourite Swedish radio station gently tells me that it is the high time to wake up and continue saving the world. New playlist on Spotify? You can have it as well! Perfect!
You can fall a sleep with Sonos but only if there is a party next door. Unfortunately, Sonos Play:1 on its lowest volume is too loud. Pity, but this might be fixed in the software in the future. Ah, and the cosmic rays are somehow silent since I bought the Sonos.
Push the button
You have the physical volume control with physical button that you may push. Finally, you can fine-tune the volume, although it is still loud. But sorry, no stereo here, you need to hit the Play:3 or get a second Play:1 and pair them.
I now, I am biased as I had the Samsung before Sonos, but this is really nothing new. It is smaller, has nicer power cord, has buttons, but it is more or less the same.
So, which one to buy?
Both speakers are priced around ~200€ (with some deal-hunting skills) and are very similar. There are other areas than the mentioned here where the speakers can perform better or worse. However these are irrelevant to me at the moment. My verdict is..
My verdict is Sonos. Why? Because neither speakers satisfy my requirements. Pity. But Sonos might become an update some day and, in case some third competitor appears, it will be easier to sell Sonos as used item on Ebay.
And what are your thoughts about the speakers? Is there any third competitor at the market?