You can’t talk about wireless audio systems without addressing the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Sonos. And, there’s a lot of love to give to Sonos; it supports almost every streaming service under the sun, it has a great user interface, it installs in a matter of minutes, and it just works. The downside to Sonos is that it is readily available, direct to consumers, has very low dealer margins, and doesn’t play nice with the third-party control systems that we all love to install. But there are times–especially on retrofits–where wireless audio distribution is just the perfect solution, and people are increasingly comfortable with streaming music in an app-based control world. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were another wireless option besides Sonos?
NuVo Technologies demonstrated its new Wireless Audio System at CEDIA 2012, and now it is shipping.When NuVo Technologies demonstrated its new Wireless Audio System at CEDIA 2012, I felt we might have the first true competitor to Sonos. And after playing with it extensively for several months, I’m confident that it’s the real deal that will excite both integrators and their customers.
NuVo manufactures three players: the wired/ wireless P100 and P200 and wired-only P3100. The wireless players feature identical connections but the P200 ups the power output (60 watts x 2, versus 20 watts x 2) and adds Bluetooth aptX streaming. (The P200 also features a currently unused input labeled “Setup Mic.”) The P3100 is essentially three P100s combined in a rack mountable chassis that will make racking a larger system much cleaner than using of a bunch of mini components.
All players feature a mini-jack input for adding a local source (like a STB), an output for connecting headphones or external amplifier to drive large zones, and USB to connect a local drive. What’s especially cool is that any input or USB drive is available for streaming to all zones around the home.
Wireless distribution requires the GW100 Gateway, which creates its own dual-band concurrent 802.11n Wi-Fi network. (For reliable wireless performance users cannot do any web surfing via this connection.) The GW100 states an optimistic 300-foot range, but multiple GW100s can be used if needed. The GW100 also features a five-port Gigabit switch for connecting other devices.
Installation–explained via a 5×5-inch “SET UP 1-2-3” card–is amazingly simple. Step one is “download and launch the NuVo app for iOS or Android.” Step 2 is “follow the on-screen instructions,” which basically involves pressing a connect button on each player, selecting an icon, and naming the zone/player. Step 3 is, “Enjoy uninterrupted listening.” And in reality, it’s pretty much that simple.
Beyond basic bass, treble, balance, and loudness adjustments, there are some nice configuration options on all of the players. I like that you can “force” the system into mono, summing the left and right signals together on each output; this is a very handy feature in some installs. The players also incorporate Audyssey’s Dynamic Volume to help even out volume levels.
The system supports Pandora, Rhapsody, Sirius/XM, and TuneIn, and un-used services can be hidden to avoid confusion. Streaming stored content requires NuVo’s Music Share software (Mac and PC versions available). Music Share scans connected drives for MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC (up to 96/24), and WAV files and makes the content available for streaming.
I used both the iPhone and iPad versions of the app and NuVo did a great job creating something that is equal parts powerful, intuitive, slick, and easy to use. There is also a Control4 driver from Extra Vegetables, and Crestron is on NuVo’s priority list “along with a couple others,” perhaps in the next two months, according to the company.
The home page shows all available zones and what (if anything) they are playing. Tapping a zone brings up a list of listening options–stored library, Pandora, etc.–and then selecting an option gives choices for browsing by artist, album, genre, or searching. Creating stations on Pandora, adding favorites on TuneIn or searching music on Rhapsody or your stored library is easy. A recent software update allows queuing music, letting you create playlists on the fly, even mixing Rhapsody and local content. Grouping zones playing the same thing is as simple as dragging zones together. Within a second, the new zone(s) join and start playing the same music in perfect sync. Volume can be adjusted individually or all at once and unlinking zones is as simple as dragging them out of the group.
I really liked the P200’s Bluetooth feature, letting me enjoy content from my phone, like Songza or YouTube. It’s also cool that other zones can join the Bluetooth stream. Just be careful not to wander outside of the P200’s Bluetooth range or music stutters to a halt.
Sonically the system sounded great. While the P200 was definitely able to wring some more bass and detail from my speakers, the P100/P3100 also had plenty of power to drive speakers to loud, undistorted volumes. In fact, I brought the NuVo Wireless Audio system into my CI showroom and used it to demonstrate speakers around our showroom. Performance wise, the wireless never stumbled or disappointed.
Honestly, there aren’t many reasons not to love the NuVo system, and if you’ve been looking for a solid wireless alternative to Sonos, your search is officially over.
Great app, abundant features, and rock-solid performance; Bluetooth adds additional streaming options
Extent of third-party integration remains to be seen
• GW100 Gateway provides dual-band concurrent 802.11n Wi-Fi with up to 300 Mbps transfer and 300-foot range
• P100 Player has 20 watt x 2 amplifier and USB input and 3.5 mm input and output
• P200 Player has 60 watt x 2 amplifier, and adds aptX Bluetooth streaming
• P3100 is 1U rack-mount version of three P100s and requires hardwired Ethernet cable; features internal Network switch and RJ45 output for connecting other components; includes three trigger input and outputs
• Supports up to 16 players
• Handles MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC (up to 96/24) and WAV
• Native support for Pandora, TuneIn, Rhapsody, Sirius/XM
• Controlled via free iOS or Android app