As a reviewer, I don’t often get the chance to revisit a product once I’ve finished a review. In the case of CasaTunes, I reviewed the XLI music server more than two years ago and the company kind of dropped off my radar after that. I’m not sure why this was the case, as I was impressed with the XLI and concluded my review saying the product made life more enjoyable, and was something I would keep in my system. When CasaTunes reached out about reviewing its new CT-4+, it supplied a list of hardware and software upgrades made in the past couple of years, making a compelling case to revisit the company’s latest server.
CasaTunes’ CT-4+ Multi-Room Music Server Out of the gate, the CT-4+ was noticeably far smaller than the XLI, similar in size (though a bit taller) than many cable STBs and Blu-ray players. Also, it came with the most thorough “Evaluator’s Guide” of any product I’ve ever reviewed. While not important to most integrators, this guide speaks volumes about the support I received from CasaTunes during my review period, and the amount of thought put into the product. Support from the company’s typical “installer queue” and what we, the dealers, could expect.
Installation was a breeze, with four color-coded mini-jack analog audio connections corresponding to the four “music players” (four mini-to-RCA cables are included) as well as a Toslink optical digital providing a fifth stream and easy connection to a local AVR. There is a gigabit Ethernet connection but no on-board Wi-Fi, my only potential criticism on the piece. There is a DB9 connection for RS-232 control and mini-jack trigger outputs used to turn on separate power amplifier(s), and a mini-jack mute input which can mute music during a page, or trigger a doorbell chime (installers can import their own chime to customize). I connected the audio outputs to a 12-channel Niles amp, taking advantage of the trigger power on/off feature, and the optical to my Marantz pre-pro.
Configuration is fast, easy, and performed over the network via Mac or PC using the CasaSetup utility. Here you name rooms, configure sources, choose music services, set up room groups, enable AirPlay streaming and more. Dealers can also enable remote support tools such as email notifications for if the server stops running, and when it starts running again. Also, the server can be accessed remotely with a free LogMeIn account, letting you make configuration changes or update firmware from anywhere without rolling a van. Way cool.
Two of the new features are automation and AVR integration, and these are huge. The CT-4+ supports Control4’s SDDP discovery protocol making it an incredibly simple process to integrate with my Control4 system. A few clicks and bindings and it was fully integrated. Integration drivers are also available for RTI, On Controls, Roomie, NuVo, SpeakerCraft, Russound, and more, plus the server can be controlled via IP or RS-232 by other systems.
Equally cool is the AVR integration, enabling the CT-4+ to control various receivers (Anthem, Denon, Marantz, Harman, Pioneer, Sony, and Yamaha). Once set up, it powered on, switched inputs, and controlled volume on my Marantz prepro like a champ, meaning customers no longer have to switch between controls–as with Sonos–to enjoy the music server with an AVR.
The CT-4+’s internal 1 terabyte drive can hold a user’s music collection and there are several ways to fill it with music. Installing the CasaTunesSync program is easiest, as it synchronizes the iTunes library on any number of computers. These multiple libraries can be merged together into one massive library or kept separate such as “Dad’s iTunes” and “Kids’ iTunes.” It can also import any playlists…or not. It’s up to the user. Music can also import across the network by dragging it into a folder, which is how I added my high-res FLAC files purchased from HDTracks. Finally, the CT-4+ can be fitted with an optional $200 CD drive that would let users rip music straight to it.
Beyond a user’s music library, CasaTunes supports a large array of streaming services including Deezer, Grooveshark, Pandora, Slacker, SiriusXM, Spotify, and TuneIn. Don’t worry if it doesn’t have your favorite, because with CasaTunes Air it can stream anything your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad can AirPlay to it, with up to five incoming streams simultaneously! Even cooler, it treats AirPlay as just another “player,” so any room in the house can join in on an AirPlay stream. The CT-4+ also “sees” any AirPlay systems in the house (AVRs, speakers, AirPorts, etc.) and can broadcast any content up to five of them simultaneously.
Functionally and sonically the CT-4+ was nothing but a treat. It was virtually silent in operation and CasaTunes eliminated a rather distracting bright blue light on the XLI. The iOS app (both iPhone and iPad versions) was easy and intuitive to use, and I loved being able to take a pic to identify each room, really personalizing the system. The app also allows setting wake-to-music alarms for each area, and delayed turn off for sleep-to-music. The app also features a nice search and “jump to” first letter function, allowing you to easily browse your music collection as well as bookmarking to easily store your favorite playlists or stations.
The CasaTunes CT-4+ is one of those rare products that continues to be a joy to use, and a system where I continue discovering cool features as I keep playing with it. I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t strongly consider it as a server solution on your next project.
Terrific amount of listening and control options; easily integrates with various automation systems; terrific AVR integration
No built-in Wi-Fi
► Supports up to 10 simultaneous streams; 5 wired (4 analog, 1 Toslink digital) and 5 wireless to AirPlay speakers
► Supports multiple music services including Deezer, Grooveshark, Pandora, Slacker, SiriusXM, Spotify, and TuneIn
► Can handle five simultaneous AirPlay streams
► Supports high-resolution FLAC files up to 192/24-bit
► Internal 1 Terabyte hard drive
► CasaTunesSync allows simple integration of iTunes music libraries