Phorus – a little company offering a genuine alternative to Apple’s AirPlay – was recently gobbled up by DTS, the surround sound technology giant that has been on a buying and product development frenzy of late. When we had the opportunity to try this streaming music technology aimed at Android users, we were more than just a little impressed. The Phorus PS1 loudspeaker system ($200) works really well straight out of the box. After downloading Phorus’ Play-Fi app from the Google Play store on a Nexus 7 tablet, we were able to immediately stream music that was loaded on the tablet, or stored on a DLNA/UPnP server, or from Pandora.
Aside from some minor technical grumblings, the PS1 performed quite admirably as a desktop loudspeaker system.
One of the Play-fi’s particularly nifty features is its ability to be added to any AV receiver with an external Phorus PR1 receiver ($150), making it possible to stream to a non-networked receiver. Play-Fi can also stream to multiple PS1 loudspeakers at the same time – one Android device can stream and control 4 PS1 loudspeakers or PR1 receivers at the same time.
The folks behind Phorus are all former Harman International (JBL, Mark Levinson, AKG, Harmon Kardon) employees lead by Dannie Lau who told us at Pepcom 2012 that sound quality was extremely important to them – not just making the first Android-based speaker dock. Lau let us know that they implemented a 24/96 Wolfson DAC inside both the PS1 and PR1 so that customers who wanted to stream lossless 16/44.1 FLAC music tracks would benefit.
The PS1 and PR1 will not, unfortunately, let users stream high resolution audio formats as it does not support 24/88.2 or 24/96 bit-depth and sampling rates.
The one area where the PS1 fell short was the amount of available third party streaming content aside from Pandora. One channel in 2013 is never going to fly with consumers and Phorus did promise back in late 2012 that more content was coming.
As promised, Play-Fi users can now access thousands of popular Internet radio stations from across the globe such as NPR, ESPN Radio, Radio Disney, Voice of America, and Fox News Radio, all directly from their Android smartphone or tablet, and stream it to the Phorus PS1 Speaker and PR1 Receiver. In addition, users can also stream popular Internet radio stations such as 1.fm, local AM/FM stations and Sports radio, as well as a vast directory of podcasts. Consumers can even select and save their favorite stations, almost like pre-sets in the car. Best of all, the audio streams with pristine quality over Wi-Fi, without the static or other artifacts that plague normal radio listening.
Existing users can update the Play-Fi app on their Android smartphone or tablet and immediately benefit from this expanded network of stations. iOS and Windows users will have to wait for a while, but Phorus maintains that functionality is coming this year.