Crestron Electronics recently released its CEN-NSP-1 network streaming player. We just received ours, and I wanted to provide my first reactions to the unit.
But first, a disclaimer:
Although this unit theoretically,could be paired with any distributed music system, it is designed to be used as part of an integrated Crestron Controlled Entertainment System. At minimum, control of the unit does require a Crestron Control Processor and requisite programming. This review is based upon this important detail. Thanks to Rich Fregosa, owner of R.A. Fregosa Electronic Interiors, who programmed the CEN-NSP-1 and provided excellent input for this review.
This device is intended to bridge the gap between the music collection sitting in your pocket (your smartphone, tablet, mobile device) and your house music system either via a wired USB connection (more on this in a minute) or wireless connection via Apple Airplay (more on this too). It’s the next logical evolution of the iPod dock.
How it Works
Airplay – much to the chagrin of Android users, Apple’s Airplay is king when it comes to wirelessly streaming music from your mobile devices. The CEN-NSP-1 is in essence a stand-alone Apple Airplay device that receives not only the audio from your mobile device wirelessly, but also all the relevant artist and track information and transmits it to all your Crestron enabled user interface devices. It also allows for basic 2-Way transport controls (play, pause, skip forward, skip back) from any of the aforementioned devices.
Wired – This is where the unit really shines. When using the wired USB connection between the CEN-NSP-1 and your device, your device becomes a full fledged media player. Complete 2-Way control and feedback of the handheld devices music is available when in wired mode as well as full search capabilities (a very nice feature when dealing with larger music collections). As a bonus, it also charges your mobile device via the USB cable, eliminating the need for “powering up” your device before using it. One Feature that I really loved was the decision to standardize the connection to USB, thereby eliminating any compatibility issues that have popped up over the years with prior docking solutions. Whenever Apple made a change to their connector technology, the owners of legacy docking solutions were left out in the cold and unable to enjoy the benefits of an upgraded device.
How Easy it was to Program
From a programming standpoint this device was a breeze to work with.
It took us less than an hour, start to finish to unbox the unit, power it up, configure it and then integrate the UI into our panels.
•It’s a more than adequate replacement for third-party iPod docks, including Crestron’s. It solves the whole 30-pin, lighting connector, or whatever else connector Apple comes up with challenge. Just plug into the USB and go (I also connected it to my phone via a micro USB on my Mophie phone charger and it didn’t have any problems.)
•The Airplay interface delivers and does it nicely, whether streaming the internal music collection on the mobile device or acting as a conduit for any of the “streaming apps” that are out there, we had no problems getting music to play from a variety of mobile devices.
•The interface with Crestron Media player widget is pretty snappy.
•For advanced programmers there’s a lot of great little feature that could be used to truly personalize the experience based on user or how the device was being used.
The Not as Good:
• Initially, the SPDIF output on my CEN-NSP-1 was completely dead. After a call to Crestron, I learned that my programming needed to enable either analog audio or SPDIF via a console command. In the current firmware, however, analog and SPDIF are active simultaneously, all the time, without requiring any programming to enable it.*
•Documentation is a bit “sparse,” although Crestron did provide a video on their website on how to integrate the unit into a system that was helpful and filled the gaps the documentation lacked
•There’s not a ton of flexibility when creating the Airplay name for the device and it requires that the Airplay name being broadcast appears in ALL CAPS. It’s a minor issue but it was a touch annoying.
Crestron’s CEN-NSP-1 network streaming player does an excellent job bridging the gap between the music collection on a smartphone, tablet, or mobile device, and your house music system either via a wired USB connection or wireless connection via Apple Airplay. I love how this product fits into the systems that I design, and think it’s a strong candidate for “product of the year” for my company.
*this bullet point has been updated since my original post.
+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.