Any source, any room: Philips introduces Izzy multiroom Bluetooth speaker

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While Sonos is credited with having pioneered the modern multi-room sound system years ago, there are now as many different flavors in the category as there are speaker brands. However, the newest offering from Philips, the Izzy, blazes its own path. Leaving behind the trappings of both Wi-Fi and the proprietary control apps that are the foundations of most systems, Izzy uses only Bluetooth — and some brains inside the speakers — to spread sound around.

Announced today at IFA 2015 in Berlin, Izzy is a simplified kind of multi-room solution. The system is based around a single speaker design, which pairs to your phone just like any other Bluetooth speaker. However, unlike most speakers, Izzy speakers know how to work together: Using a “group” button on the top of the speaker, users can link as many as four additional Izzy speakers to the main speaker to spread sound throughout your home from any app on your phone.

The first speaker in the Izzy lineup is the BM5. The speaker boasts dual 2.5-inch drivers along with a small bass port to offer a bit of resonance in the lower register. An LED on top measures the signal strength between partner speakers, and Philips claims the speakers can share sound at “up to 100 meters open range,” though, considering traditional Bluetooth systems offer only 33-50 feet between source and speaker, that distance seems optimistic and will no doubt be highly restricted indoors with obstructions like walls and furniture in the mix.

The idea of a multiroom system that isn’t bound by Wi-Fi and works with virtually any app or streaming service is certainly intriguing. That said, we’ve got some concerns about the limitations of a Bluetooth-based system for such a setup, including the aforementioned limited range for Bluetooth transmitters in comparison to Wi-Fi, lower-quality audio resolution, and the kinds of interruptions — like phone calls and text alerts — that don’t disrupt Wi-Fi based systems.

Still, for those looking for a minimalist system to transmit music without any software to learn, the Izzy might present an enticing solution. And there’s one more feature users will no doubt find alluring about Philips’ new Izzy speaker: the price. The Izzy BM5B speaker will retail for just $130, making it an extremely affordable way to get into wireless audio.

The Izzy BM5B will launch at select Best Buy stores in October.

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