My editor mentioned he’s been chiding himself for taking so lengthy to evaluate Urbanears’ entry into the wi-fi multi-room speaker market, however the Swedish producer ought to be pleased he waited. Software program and firmware updates have improved the efficiency of its Baggen and Stammen audio system, even when they haven’t solely rid the audio system of bugs.
The earliest evaluations of the Urbanears system could be summed up with two phrases: Don’t trouble. One 12 months later, the corporate’s engineers have but to squash each bug from the $349 Stammen and its bigger sibling, the $449 Baggen. However persistence, younger grasshopper. Dig by the weeds and you will discover so much to love: Previous-school sonic allure, elegantly easy industrial design, and user-friendly ergonomics coupled with fashionable connectivity within the type of dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Apple AirPlay.
In my checks, establishing only a two-room Urbanears system was fraught with frustration and delays. It doesn’t assist that the customer-support staff primarily based in British Columbia communicates strictly by electronic mail and (generally) on-line chat. There isn’t a stay cellphone assist, not to mention a backend system that may swoop in through a distant connection to watch how your native community and kit are working and work some fixes. These are expertise the likes of Sonos and Bose tech-support personnel make the most of to troubleshoot their corporations’ multi-room audio methods.
After three days of emailing forwards and backwards, with a number of reboots of router, app, and the Urbanears audio system, I lastly bought the present up and working. It occurred after my newfound tech-support pal Ian puzzled if I might presumably boot up the audio system with the Android model of the Urbanears app (on an Samsung Galaxy eight smartphone), as an alternative of the iOS model I’d been utilizing on an iPhone X and an iPad Professional. Voila! Success! As soon as the audio system had been up to date with the most recent (as of March 15, 2018) firmware, the system communicated fairly readily with my iOS gadgets, too. Go determine.
One other laborious lesson realized: Don’t transfer these audio system round when you’ve set them up, children. Even when there’s robust Wi-Fi reception on the identical community within the new location—in my case, a Samsung Join Dwelling Professional Wi-Fi mesh community—these relocated audio system will freeze up. The workaround: Reboot your router, then plug in and restart the affected audio system by holding down two buttons for seven seconds to provoke a contemporary connection. It’s not laborious, simply annoying.
Making probably the most with much less?
V-Tuner and Spotify are the one music-streaming companies Urbanears straight integrates, however the firm beats the competitors in the case of third-party machine assist. Along with streaming through Wi-Fi, you need to use Apple’s AirPlay, Google Chromecast, and Bluetooth. I discovered that native streaming works effectively at shut vary, however issues get iffy once you’re pushing a stream to the Baggen and the Stammen in separate rooms concurrently. The Baggen proved to be the higher sign catcher.
Against this, Sonos audio system don’t assist Bluetooth, and so they want a workaround involving an AirPort Specific or Apple TV to receive AirPlay feeds (though the corporate has mentioned some current fashions and all new ones will support AirPlay 2 when it comes out). Actually, most Sonos customers don’t care as a result of these audio system serve up each music-streaming service possible. Present Bose SoundTouch gear welcomes Bluetooth transmissions and works internally with good assortment of streaming companies: Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, Deezer, V-Tuner, iHeartRadio, and Sirius/XM.
Minimize from the identical fabric
European speaker makers are wont to wrap their merchandise in woven materials (see our Libratone Zipp and Vifa Oslo evaluations for examples), which helps them mix into any house’s décor. Urbanears’ Baggen and Stammen are easy picket bins wrapped in textured, porous material on 5 sides. Steel grills beneath the entrance fabric defend the front-firing drivers, and there’s a sizeable bass-reflex port on the underside of the cupboard, together with connections for AC energy, a 5-volt/1-amp USB charging port to your smartphone or pill, and an auxiliary line-level enter to attach one thing like a CD participant or a turntable with an on-board pre-amp.
Each audio system have two knobs atop their cupboards that hearken again to ye outdated desk radio designs: One rotates to manage quantity; when pushed down, it switches the speaker between solo reception and speaker-pairing mode for multi-room setups. Urbanears says as much as 5 audio system could be networked to placed on a unified present, however I like to recommend holding them in comparatively shut proximity to one another. Sustaining connectivity and synchronized play grew to become a problem when my two evaluate samples had been separated by multiple flooring.
The opposite knob is a multitasking tornado that leads you thru a number of enter settings: Bluetooth, auxiliary enter, and 7 channel presets (a glowing LED identifies which one is energetic). You’ll be able to simply assign playlists, albums or tracks from Spotify, and your favourite web radio stations as presets. It’s on you to recollect which quantity summons which favourite, although the Urbanears smartphone app does visually determine your choice. The presets work fairly effectively, switching to the brand new choice in as little as one second and by no means greater than 10.
Urbanears isn’t the primary streaming music participant maker to supply channel presets. A number of fashions within the Bose SoundTouch line have devoted channel buttons (plus Aux/Bluetooth, energy, and quantity controls) on their cupboards and distant controls, that are equally simple and a tad sooner to make use of. However twirling a selector knob is a captivating expertise, akin to dialing-in a terrestrial radio station on the sturdy, toasty-warm sounding desk radio of yore. Higher nonetheless, presets on every Urbanears field could be set independently; the Bose platform calls for that the identical six stations be mounted on each SoundTouch in your community.
Some evaluations have criticized these audio system for his or her dimension and box-like building, however that’s the value to be paid for the fuller, airier, and sometimes extra detailed sound that the Baggen and Stammen ship. To my ears, Sonos and Bose obtain their big-sound-from-small-cabinets bona fides with a midrange bump to push vocal presence and a high-end roll-off to stop listener fatigue (and to maybe enable for less expensive drivers).
The Urbanears Baggen
The Baggen is the biggest of the three audio system within the Urbanears lineup, measuring 11.eight inches broad and tall by eight.Four inches deep (the corporate didn’t submit the Lottsen—its smallest—for this evaluate). The Baggen blends the legal guidelines of physics and traditional speaker design particularly effectively. Fitted with two 2.5-inch, full-range, paper-cone drivers and a 5.25-inch coated-paper woofer with a rubber encompass, it delivers only a modicum of stereo separation (the Bose SoundTouch 30 makes the most effective stereo impression; a single Sonos Play:5 not a lot, though you may pair two of the latter for stereo).
However with the Baggen, a important listener is extra more likely to hear the air round every instrument, together with these delicate particulars that create a way of depth and presence: The resonance of a grand piano’s soundboard, the windy breath propelling a sax solo, or the glowing sizzle of the drummer’s brushes dancing on a cymbal. I heard quantity of that on the Baggen whereas listening to acoustic-music-minded stations like Linn Classical and Linn Jazz from London and WQXR New York; not a lot on the Bose and Sonos.
The Baggen additionally did a greater job of drawing me into the dense psychedelic swirls of the obscure English prog rock bands featured on the BBC 6’s “Freak Zone with Stuart Maconi,” and it was a tad higher at differentiating the distinct contributions of tight vocal harmonies, such because the Don Henley, Vince Gill recording of “Sacrifice,” and Rhonda Vincent’s and Dolly Parton’s remodeling of “Please,” each from the countrified tribute album Restoration: Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
On the draw back, you’re additionally extra more likely to hear the high-frequency hash of low-bit-rate streams, and also you’ll endure obnoxious distortion do you have to crank the Baggen’s 60-watt-trio of Class D amplifiers as much as 11. The pc-modeled-and-equalized entertainers from Sonos and Bose gained’t enable their drivers to overexert into these sorts of hassle zones.
The Urbanears Stammen
The smaller, cuter Stammen—measuring eight.27 inches tall and broad by 5.6 inches deep—is likewise imbued with presence and character. Its trio of Class D amps sends 15 watts of energy to a pair of .75-inch neodymium dome tweeters and 40 watts to a Four-inch woofer. However in prolonged listening comparisons with its prime competitors—the $249 Sonos Play:three and the $349 Bose SoundTouch 20—it was more durable to proclaim a clear-cut sonic winner. The more-expensive Bose sounded equally balanced and was virtually as detailed, and it gives options the Stammen doesn’t, together with extra user-friendly pushbutton presets, a wi-fi distant management, and a show that exhibits what’s enjoying.
With some streaming sources, such because the thumping New Orleans R&B stronghold WWOZ, the comparably priced Sonos Play:three made a deeper, richer sonic impression than both of these different audio system. If you happen to care about ergonomics and ease of entry, the Sonos app’s management and search options are to date forward of the pack that it’s pointless to match.
However community connectivity points in the end decreased my opinion of the Stammen. It’s way more simply distracted by temporary community outages, and much much less doubtless than its huge brother to recuperate from them. I repeatedly discovered myself unplugging the factor after which beginning it up once more. Work on that Ian, will ya please?