Making Wireless Work for You.
Simple choices from Totally Wired
We're all about simple and effective solutions for your audio needs. It's also about giving you choice - this doesn't have to mean a bewildering array of options. Rather, a clear set of alternatives that will fill a varied range of requirements balancing sound quality, features and cost.
Learn about how we make wireless work for you. If you have been thinking about wireless but it seemed too hard, costly or compromised, then this article will show you thats it's easy, inexpensive and can sound great.
It's simple getting your music from A to B and making sure that what you hear is as good as it can be. And as easy to use as possible.
Right now there are two dominant wireless transmission systems for music - WiFi and BlueTooth. Although you probably already know this, we'll just go over the basics - WiFi involves a network although this can be just a source (say iPhone) and player. More generally a WiFi system allows operation throughout a home, with a Modem/router at the core and a number of components and rooms. It can be grown and changed over time. BlueTooth is a simpler system for one to one wireless communication, usually just in one area. Sound-wise the best implementations of both are very close in quality and many of our systems have both so it's not an either/or choice. So, let's have a look at the options - first up...
As an elegant, simple and great sounding solution, the new Geneva range of wireless speaker systems are the perfect way to enjoy sound in any room - they are a competitive alternative to traditional systems being a one box solution and cover a broad range in size and performance. All models connect via BlueTooth. For enthusiastic radio listeners, Tivoli also have several new Bluetooth enabled models. The new Cambridge Audio Minx speaker expands connectivity options with AirPlay wifi connection and is the only system we have found that can foot it with the Geneva. The mighty Monitor Audio ASB-2 goes further again with stunning sound, full home cinema connectivity and almost obscene amounts of power. Each of these options deliver in a way that we just cannot match with separate components for the same price.
Combined with a single source - say iPhone, tablet, or laptop, any of the wireless speaker options above are effectively a complete system in their selves. The Geneva and Tivoli options also give you radio and because the Cambridge and Monitor Audio speakers are network capable, you are able to do more again. Good as these wireless speakers are, you may well have an existing system you want to get more music to, or aspirations of even better sound - in which case we'll dig deeper.
What you'll actually see and use with your music playing is software and for the vast majority of people this will be Apple iTunes - which stores all your music; and AirPlay - which while part of iTunes, allows you to direct and control music wherever you want. You don't need a Mac for this - iTunes for Windows is free and just the same as iTunes for Mac. All Apple portable products - iPod touch, iPhone and iPad come with iTunes built in and ready to go. There are other systems and you can actually make pretty much anything work - for example to sync a Samsung Galaxy phone with iTunes you can use Samsung Kies, or Easy Phone Tunes from Google Play.
Apple cover a broad territory and, with iTunes/Airplay have effectively replaced Sonos. As long time Mac enthusiasts, we're right into getting the most out of iTunes and Airplay. No matter what track you head down some fundamentals apply - music is transmitted via wireless in digital form. So it's possible to achieve a high level of fidelity. In the past we built multi-room systems with lots of cable and everything was in analogue - the longer the cable the more expensive and difficult it got. No longer.
Now - here's the most important thing to understand - it's the conversion of music from digital (how it's stored and transmitted) to analogue (how we hear everything) that is critical to sound quality - this is both where you'll hear the greatest difference and enjoy the best value if you choose wisely. We'll get back to our best DAC choices shortly but let's quickly look at how we get your music to the DAC first.
Because the music is from a source other than the system that is playing it, you'll need some form of control. A touchscreen is now the standard - the iPod touch and its newer variants are dominant but this doesn't mean you can't use alternatives. Let's look at exactly what you need to get up and running, dealing with WiFi first
The new Apple Airport Express 2 is our unsung hero - under promoted by Apple, ignored and misunderstood by many*, it could well turn out to be the best $159 you ever spend. This unassuming little white box is the key to wirelessly streaming digital music around your home and in conjunction with our array of high value and performance DACs and systems, will change the way you'll listen to music. Airport express can either become part of any existing wireless network but can also operate as a wireless hub in it's own right.
*Apple or PC - Airport works with both!
AirPort Express and Apple TV are similar but significantly different - both are small, just $159 and can play music. Airport Express does many things - our prime area of interest is that it's a very cost effective wireless music receiving device that can connect to any system - analogue or digital. Apple TV has a strong set of visual features - connect it to your TV via HDMI and you'll never step foot in a video hire shop again. Like Airport Express it's also got an optical digital output and streams music via AirPlay. It is worth knowing that between the two options, Airport Express sounds better.
To make things work you'll need to do a little bit of setting up on the computer or touchpad. Within iTunes, make sure you have your CD Import options set to Apple Lossless Encoding for the best sound quality. AirPlay is effectively part of iTunes so is just there when you want to send music from room to room. And the Remote Ap is free from the iTunes store for controlling iTunes on your computer via your iPod/phone/pad - all this might seem a little complicated and fragmented. But each version of iTunes is better than the previous in pulling everything together and adds more useful features so don't assume that what may have been a problem in the past hasn't already been solved. Whichever way we do things, it's really not that hard and should only really take a few minutes.
With AirPlay you can also send music directly from your iPod touch or iPhone directly to Airport Express - so this means anyone and any device that can access your home wireless network
This is the point where we have a quality digital feed of music established. Now let's talk about the actual audio components.
Digital Amplifiers and DACs
The advent of affordable high quality integrated amplifiers with DACs - digital to analogue conversion - included has dramatically changed the way we listen but also bought some huge improvements in sound quality and performance. A year ago our best advice might have been to have a combination of separate DAC and amplifier but several products have changed this - first and foremost being the NuForce DDA100. If looking at a new system or working within an existing one, this is where you should start. As an amplifier it is better than most. As a DAC it is nothing short of exceptional. As both it is almost impossible to better in an all digital system. That said, you may well still want to listen to old analogue components.
Which is where the new Quad Vena comes in - yes, it costs a little more, but also sounds better again, includes analogue inputs for more backwards compatibility and BlueTooth to take you even further on the digital front. While the conventional wisdom for owners of existing amplifiers is to add DAC, we contend that both the DDA-100 and Quad Vena are better options for many people - you'll not just open up and improve digital options but also enjoy better amplifier performance. Connect your iPhone via Airplay, your computer wirelessly with Airport Express or directly with USB, add in any other components you want and prepare to rediscover music!
If you have considered the proposal above but still consider your present amplifier to be better and want to hear just how good wireless can be into an existing system, go straight to either the new Meridian Director (NZ$995) or the NuForce DAC-80 (NZ$1295) and you're suddenly in the high end. The Meridian Director is a simple device – you can have a computer (via USB) and one other component – say CD player or Airport Express (via optical or coaxial) – coming in. And a single set of RCA cables going out to your amplifier. Whereas the Nuforce is a little more flexible in your choice of set–up and operation. From both you'll hear huge improvements in all aspects – music will be far more alive and enjoyable. It’s a little hard to describe how special these devices are – every time we think we've heard all they can do, there will suddenly be new things there from recordings we’ve heard a thousand times before. As good as lower cost DACs may be, there is a world of difference them and the Meridian Director or the NuForce.
With all music playing components there is a broad range in price - the cynic in you might say that some may well be overpriced. This is something we agree with - in our own experience, there has been huge progress made not just in the performance of DACs and amplifiers, but also great improvements in value made by smart engineering. Some expensive products from not very long ago are now well bettered by compact, highly efficient designs that cost an order of magnitude less. Following this train of logic, you can also conclude that if you do choose to go further with us, you'll be getting something that is not just an incremental improvement but a serious and substantial gain for far less than you would have had to spend even two years ago. Which is a great introduction to this...
The NuPrime IDA16 digital integrated amplifier is a shot across the bows of every serious hifi designer and manufacturer. NuForce have carved out an awesome reputation for smart and affordable compact products, but have also been doing some pretty cool things in the upper end with their Reference Series products. NuPrime is an offshoot of the brand and the IDA16 is the first product in this new line. Just as the DDA100 tipped the value/performance equation on its head, the IDA16 is designed set a new standard - both in Digital to Analogue Conversion and in amplifier design. As the world's first fully integrated digital amplifier offering 384K & DSD decoding, from its digital or analog inputs to its 200-Watts/Channel speaker outputs it delivers the purest, most natural sound modern audio technology can provide, while also providing the widest support for the latest High-Resolution music formats.
Home Cinema Options
The new Oppo BD105D BluRay Player provides yet another route. As well as being a formidably capable multi-format disc player it has a highly specified DAC built in. You can now take advantage of this with a plethora of inputs. You can either connect to a wireless network directly or via the digital optical input for Airport Express - or even via HDMI with Apple TV. Added to this you also have full volume control on the remote - so the Oppo can run directly into power amps - but not just in stereo - all of the 7.1 outputs are active so surround modes can also come into play.
The simplicity of the new 'ASB' from Monitor Audio may appeal. Whether your focus is movie/sport watching, music or gaming this will do it all in one stylish compact package. It goes without saying that coming from Monitor Audio the sound is quite spectacular. The ASB is more than an active sound bar as it does wireless streaming via your wireless network or it’s wireless direct option. Plus it has extra inputs and different sound options. Perfect for all the family or someone who wants awesome sound for a variety of needs but desires a sound system that doesn’t take up much space. Check out this and many other cool cinema options in our Visuals section.
So as you can see, we've got all the bases covered - yet none of these options are crashingly expensive - that's the nature of the new generation of digital products. You are getting more for less and this leaves more to improve other parts of your system. Have a talk with us now and we'll work out which options are going to best for you. Here's something to get you started - 4 suggested wireless systems spanning from surprisingly affordable to the seriously good but all great value and sound...
1. Geneva Model S NZ$ 499
Great Bluetooth sound from Gevenas little wireless system - and it's also got FM radio, clock and remote control not to mention 3 flawless gloss finishes to choose from
2. The NuForce Audio Socialist system NZ$ 1,600
This is all about making great digital music available to everyone - Combine the stunning little NuForce DDA-100, Monitor Audio BX2 speakers and a set of Kimber speaker cables and you're doing digital in no uncertain terms.
3. The Quad Vena – get the best of Analogue and Digital Worlds NZ$ 2,000
You can have it all with the new Quad Vena and the perfectly matched Quad 11L Classic speakers as a system.
4. State of the Art – NZ$ 8,500
The NewPrime IDA-16 demands a fantastic pair of speakers. While we could go much much further, the floor standing Sonus faber Venere 2.5 looks and sounds just gorgeous - the perfect way to make the most of all the power and beauty that comes out of this new amplifier.
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