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Watch: Philips’ new Izzy BM5 Bluetooth speaker does multiroom audio differently

There aren’t too many speaker makers who haven’t been bitten by the multiroom audio bug. Pioneered by Sonos over a decade ago, the systems are now virtually ubiquitous. However, Philips’ new Izzy platform does multiroom differently, using an extended Bluetooth signal as opposed to Wi-Fi. The first in the series, the BM5, allows you to group as many as 5 speakers together to spread your music throughout the home.

Like traditional Bluetooth speakers, the BM5 easily pairs to a number of devices for basic wireless playback from virtually any source. However, engaging the “group” button on the top of the speaker allows users to link as many as four additional Izzy speakers to add sound to your kitchen, bedrooms, or anywhere else.

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Traditional Bluetooth has a much shorter range than most Wi-Fi setups. However, Philips has extended the range of its Izzy speakers to a claimed 100 meters in open spacing, and although that distance takes a big hit when you add barriers like doors and walls, we were still impressed by the BM5’s long reach.

Apart from range, Philips’ new Bluetooth-based system has other pros and cons when compared to traditional multiroom setups, which utilize an advanced proprietary app for more control over any speakers connected to your Wi-Fi network. Most multiroom speakers allow you to connect as many as 10 speakers or more, and they offer other benefits, including better streaming resolution than Bluetooth, the ability to play different music on each speaker and even source files from computers, or DLNA storage devices.

That hefty feature list is a lot to give up if you want supreme control over your speaker setup, but Philips’ new system does offer some benefits, including the ability to go where Wi-Fi can’t, as well as a remarkably simple setup. As mentioned above, the system isn’t constrained by a dedicated app, meaning virtually anything on your phone is fair game.

As for performance, the speaker offers a smooth and balanced sound, with a spritely upper register, and more bass than you’d expect for its size, thanks to a well-ported duo of 2.5-inch drivers. We really enjoyed the speaker for lighter tracks like jazz and pop at mid volume, but users will want to refrain from blasting rock and hip hip, which draws out some heavy digital compression to keep the speakers from distorting.

While not without its drawbacks, at $130 the Izzy BM5 presents a pretty cool new way to spread sound throughout the house, adding another format to the mix of multiroom audio. You can find the speaker exclusively at Best Buy now.