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DTS expanding whole home audio choices with new partners and iOS links

Mel Martin
July 24, 2014
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DTS, the company which gives us such great audio in theaters and on DVD and Blu-ray discs, is continuing a push to make a mark with distributed wireless audio in the home, taking on Sonos, Apple's AirPlay, and others with a push for Play-Fi technology.

Today, the company added new high end partners McIntosh, Sonus Faber and Wadia who will integrate DTS Play-Fi into their home audio products. Current partners include Polk, Definitive Technology, SpeakerCraft, Pandora, BBC and ESPN Radio.

Sources and services can be played from a smartphone or tablet, or from the desktop of a PC, wirelessly over an existing home WiFi network, to any number of Play-Fi connected speakers throughout the home.

Play-Fi supports multi-zone, multi-room and multi-listener modes. It means, for example, different people in one home can listen to the sources they want in whatever room they want, as long as it is equipped with the proper hardware. Playback can be managed from any iOS device, or that device can serve as a playback source. Play-Fi works over your existing wireless network, and with the right hardware, even supports lossless playback of high resolution audio files like those in the FLAC format, something Sonos and Apple don't do.

DTS offers a Play-Fi iOS app right now that allows music to stream from your iOS device to any DTS device from its product partners. It offers better audio quality than Bluetooth streaming, but you are limited to products that support it, such as speakers from Wren and Phorus. That list will grow. Music can also sit on networked attached storage or a PC. At this point, Macs are the weak link in the chain, as there is no Mac client as yet although iOS is well supported. Sonos, and of course Apple, support all Macs and iOS devices.

Dannie Lau, one of the inventors of the Play-Fi standard, told me that the product is device agnostic, meaning that anyone who wants to license it can include the Play-Fi chipset. Any product with a Play-Fi label can be mixed and matched with any other hardware.

Apple has also had success with AirPlay. Users with iOS devices and Macs can stream music from iTunes or their devices to speakers from companies including Denon, Marantz, B&W, JBL, and iHome. Content can be streamed to one or multiple devices. AirPlay also supports streaming video and audio to an AppleTV.

There are also solutions from companies like Bose that offer similar capabilities. The whole area of access to any media in the home is really heating up. The competition is good for consumers, and sure to advance the state of the art. Play-Fi has a leg up with support for high resolution audio files, but each system has pluses and minuses.

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