Simple Audio - Some competition for Sonos?


An interesting prospect from some ex-Linn employees in Glasgow, UK. Looks to be aimed at the higher end of the market with 24-bit support. Built-in Powerline technology is an interesting choice.

Simple Audio

Pricing not been announced yet but allegedly £549 for the Roomplayer I and £499 for the Roomplayer II.

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Sync capability is conspicuously absent from the details, and the UI pictures don't show anything pertaining to linking "rooms." Track limit is 64k, and it doesn't seem to need a server. Relying on Powerline adapters is a curious choice over wireless. I see a support nightmare.

All in all, it seems like a series of standalone hires players which can be controlled from a single controller. Who knows, it could rob Sonos of sales, or it could be another Cisco disaster.
The Powerline choice seems odd to me. It's anecdotal, of course, but of all the networking technologies in my house -- wired, wireless-G, wireless-N, N at 5GHz, SonosNet and Powerline -- the Powerline performs poorest.

We'll let the market decide. At least it gives the 24/96 whiners another place to threaten to go.

We'll let the market decide. At least it gives the 24/96 whiners another place to threaten to go.


Is it too much to hope they follow through on the threat? 😃
They never have, but I guess we can hope 😛
A few additional observations:

Radio/cloud: "TuneIn" Internet radio, WE7 and LastFM music services.
For a European product, missing out Spotify at launch may be unwise.

No support for WMA ("licensing issues") or OGG or Audible

No iPod digital i/f - connection via the headphone cable.

No iPad app. FAQ says "iPod Touch and iPhone compatibility. What versions? TBC. Runs in stretched mode on an iPad."

Worth reading from Wiki:
HomePlug AV offers a peak data rate of 200 Mbs at the physical layer, and about 80 Mbs at the MAC layer. HomePlug AV devices are required to coexist, and optionally to interoperate, with HomePlug 1.0 devices. Typical data rates realized at the application layer by over 95% of the units in a typical home will be more close to 20-30 Mbps, not the numbers claimed by HomePlug. This is well known and documented in the industry. Further, the reliance of HP AV on CSMA technology, versus TDMA where specific data connections or flows are allocated specific timeslots on the wire, is problematic for anything but "best effort" internet traffic.

Good bits:

Per-user filtering of library content at the level of shares
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Hi,

I'm pleased to see that there are other competitors moving into this market at similar price points, competition can only be a good thing for consumers as far as product development is concerned, as well as for the businesses with regards to commercial rigour.

I'm equally sad to see the usual inflammatory posts starting, it would be nice just for once for there to be a polite and considered debate about this part of the audio market.

And on that note, I understand from feedback from Simple Audio that synchronised zones are not currently supported but are certainly planned as a software update in future, as well as additional music services.

I also think that EOP is an interesting choice, Ratty has noted some performance observations, and my own experience streaming video using EOP was average at best and not viable on a day to day basis. However, just as Sonos have done with their own wireless configuration, it's entirely possible that Simple Audio have made EOP a reliable transmission method. Only time will tell on that score.

It's going to be interesting to see how this pans out, looking at the SA products they seem to be simple and focussed, unlike the Cisco attempt and not unlike Sonos conceptually, but really with digital streaming becoming mainstream it was inevitable that more products would eventually appear in the space.

Cheers
Chris
Yes it's good to see other offerings, and I'm sure the discussion here can remain civil.

Apropos EoP the interesting thing is that even Linn -- with regard to Songcasting on the DS -- say:
Testing at Linn suggests:
CD quality - works with 1 sender and all 5 receivers.
96/24 - works with 1 sender and 1 or 2 receivers.

so they're not exactly expecting much of it in the way of dependable bandwidth. It's not clear whether they're talking about Homeplug AV.

Simple Audio may be in for something of a support headache, and I hope they've embedded some excellent diagnostic tools in the EoP. Experience suggests that customers expecting smooth operation in, say, a house extension on a separate mains spur could be in for a disappointment. Susceptibility to carrier degradation from appliances plugged in nearby could also make for some interesting troubleshooting to say the least.
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Hi,

Judging by the information on the SA site, they've been in development for around 3 years, which rather implies a fair amount of development work has been put into making the system robust. But I agree on the potential for transmissions problems, the sheer number of adverse variables that could potentially be in play with EOP could make for a support nightmare.

Sadly, in my case the passing years have rendered any possible benefits of hires rather redundant. However, good development of core functionality has some attraction, as previously noted the ability to create separate users and library separation is there from the start and I'll be interested to see what other core functionality exists.

Cheers
Chris
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The desktop controller looks a lot more 'up to current standards' than the SDC, which is more like a technical necessity.
My only concern is this lot look a bit too small. Unless they come out with something spectacular then I suspect they are not big enough to really make much noise in this space.

So far the specs look good, but not spectacular. To compete against Sonos I believe they need to come up with something that is significantly better. Other than the hires support (and, maybe, the native homeplug support which could be a decider in some cases) I can't see a compelling reason why people would buy this over Sonos, especially as the price point is similar.

I suspect than, unless someone much bigger acquires them and markets their system, I can see them being similar to Raumfeld who seem to have a capable system but who hardly made much of a splash.

I can hear a lot of people saying "who are Raumfeld?"

Exactly!

Cheers,

Keith
Regarding the Homeplug stuff, it's an interesting approach. The problem they will have is making it work as well as Sonosnet. there are inherent limitations with Powerline which are yet to bite many because it's not in widespread use.

These problems are similar to wireless in that you can get interference. The difference here is interference can be from unlikely sources and can be very difficult to track down. Any power equipment can put noise onto the mains circuit which will reduce the bandwidth. Computer power supplies, phone chargers, air conditioning units, etc. are all possible culprits. And certain equipment like X10 or some baby monitors directly competes with powerline.

Also you can still get interference from your neighbours if they are close enough and on the same phase (especially if they are using a Powerline system themselves). This isn't a huge problem generally at the moment as Powerline isn't currently that common, but it is picking up in popularity. The problem is if your neighbour suddenly decides to use Powerline too, you will be competing for bandwidth and there is no alternative. Unlike wireless there are no alternative channels.

I'm assuming they have made provision for users to wire players if the Powerline doesn't work.

Cheers,

Keith
I'm assuming they have made provision for users to wire players if the Powerline doesn't work.
The units have Ethernet jacks. If powerline doesn't work and the user can't readily cable he can always connect using a pair of ZoneBridges. :D

Interestingly they also have USB, though it doesn't appear to be used at present.
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We'll let the market decide. At least it gives the 24/96 whiners another place to threaten to go.[/quote]

Is it too much to hope they follow through on the threat? :D

I recently had a posting changed because using the phrase 'sonos fanboy' allegedly contravened the terms of service.

I find the phrase '24/96 whiners' offensive and wonder why it doesnt contravene the terms of service?
I recently had a posting changed because using the phrase 'sonos fanboy' allegedly contravened the terms of service.

Not by me you didn't.

Not having seen what you claim, I suspect it depends on whether you used the phrase generally, or whether you targeted it at a specific individual or individuals, i.e. a personal attack.

I find the phrase '24/96 whiners' offensive

I don't see why? I see nothing which suggests this is aimed at you personally. Reading this now, I have no idea if the "24/96" part is even appropriate. ;)

Cheers,

Keith
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Its clearly targeted at those who want 24bit support.

Its clearly offensive because it uses the term 'whiners'

Isnt that enough to infringe the terms of service?
I recently had a posting changed because using the phrase 'sonos fanboy' allegedly contravened the terms of service.
If you're referring to http://forums.sonos.com/showthread.php?p=136144#post136144 I removed the unnecessary name-calling as it was a direct retort to an earlier post.

I find the phrase '24/96 whiners' offensive and wonder why it doesnt contravene the terms of service?
The comment in this thread was not targeted at any specific person. To censor every comment which might just possibly offend any anonymous individual who happened to pass by would be preposterous.
So, someone used the word "whiner", without attributing it to any individual, and you feel that this applies to you, so you are complaining about it...

Sweet Irony!

Cheers,

Keith
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I rather feel that double standards are being applied, thats the 'sweet irony'!
I rather feel that double standards are being applied
I don't agree.

Any personally directed attack is prohibited. If it's mild, my inclination is to edit out the comment and allow tempers to cool. Persistent offenders will earn a temporary ban.

The fact that a poster here makes a remark about a general class of people is a different matter. So long as it doesn't use coarse and offensive language it's allowed to stand. Heavens, if we'd started to censor all adverse comments about Apple users we'd have removed a huge proportion of the last few weeks' posts!
I rather feel that double standards are being applied, thats the 'sweet irony'!

Enjoy that point of view. It's yours to keep and cherish.

Meanwhile, although this has been entertaining, we should really get back on topic.

Cheers,

Keith
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Back OT, so is anyone here gonna buy one and report back if it is released?
AFAIK Simple Audio haven't launched yet.
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Edited my post to reflect that.
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Well, if it is vapourware then I need to talk to them about how they've managed to obtain two rounds of funding so far, I could use some of that expertise in my business! :)

Cheers
Chris
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Cool hope they bring a solid product to market.
How soon do you think? Weeks, months?

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