Written by Bella Dalima
31 Jan, 2014 | 3:04 pm
Wi-fi connected speakers are finally going mainstream. Samsung’s Wi-Fi Shape speaker ($399.99) takes the idea two steps further: It allows for both a multi-room experience (if you have more than one), and it supports Bluetooth and NFC for even more flexibility.
It’s a versatile system that sounds and looks great, though the user experience isn’t quite as exemplary. Setup is easy enough, particularly with the optional Hub, which sells for an extra $49.99. Without the Hub, an M7 speaker can still be set up on a Wi-Fi network fairly painlessly — though the router needs a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button to sync up.
Once the speaker is on your network, you control it via smartphone with the downloadable Samsung Multi-room app (Android and iOS). For wired connections, there’s an Ethernet port on the back. A USB port is there, too, but it’s just for firmware updates.
The smartphone app functions decently with drag-and-drop ease of use, though it has some rough edges. There’s sometimes a delay in response, and there are a few typos.
Currently the system supports streaming Internet radio as well as from Amazon Cloud Player, Pandora and Rhapsody. You can also play music from your phone or tablet or your networked PC’s music library, the last option powered by Samsung Link.
With the Hub, you can network multiple M7 speakers to allow for all-room synchronized music. You can also have each speaker play songs independently, all controlled via the app. Volume, EQ and mute can also be accessed for each speaker. Touch-sensitive controls glow atop the Shape’s mirrored top surface, which also houses the NFC touch point, a mute/power key, and a silver-fringed volume knob.
When connected via Wi-Fi, the speakers sound full and rich, with appropriately deep bass and clear highs. The sound is less impressive when streaming music via Bluetooth, however: the midrange is good, but that’s about all. Vocals and rock sound great, but anything with big bass or true highs will be lacking.
The M7 speakers are attractively wedge-shaped — the shapes makes them good for sticking in a corner — and can be positioned horizontally or vertically. In the vertical position, a pair of Shapes can serve up stereo sound (again controlled via the app).
If you’ve got other Samsung gear, the stereo option is especially appealing when you pair the Shapes with a compatible Samsung TV. At nearly 11 pounds, they’re light enough to move from room to room, though too bulky to be considered in any way portable.
As long as you stick to Wi-Fi listening, the Samsung Shape will give you great sound, but its real power is unlocked when you connect more than one on the same network. That gives you complete control of what you’re listening across multiple rooms, all managed from your phone, assuming you can tolerate a couple of app hiccups. With each Shape costing $400, that’s not a cheap system, but it’s about as convenient as whole-house audio gets.
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