In the category of multi-room wireless music systems, Sonos has long been the leader, but DTS hopes to give Sonos a run for its money with the Play-Fi wireless audio standard. You can get the full rundown on Play-Fi's capabilities here; essentially, it allows you to add up to eight Play-Fi products to your existing home WiFi network (802.11g or better) and stream full-resolution stereo audio from a mobile device, Windows PC, or DLNA server to one or multiple zones.
DTS already has licensed Play-Fi to a number of high-profile audio/speaker manufacturers, including Polk--which has launched a complete line of Play-Fi-enabled products. The line features the Omni S2 tabletop speaker ($179.95), the Omni S2R rechargeable/outdoor tabletop speaker ($249.95), the Omni SB1 soundbar and wireless subwoofer combo ($699.95), the Omni P1 wireless adapter ($299.95) to add legacy components to a Play-Fi system, and the Omni A1 wireless amplifier ($399.95) to add Play-Fi functionality and power to a set of passive speakers.
Polk sent me the Omni S2 and its nearly identical twin, the S2R. The S2 is a simple-looking speaker that won't draw too much attention to itself...at least not visually. Sound quality is another story, but we'll get to that. The curvy, triangular cabinet measures just 3.92 by 3.96 by 9.06 inches, weighs about 2.75 pounds, and can sit vertically or horizontally (with rubber pads on both the bottom and side). Despite its small size and weight, its build quality feels quite solid, with an inert cabinet design and a refined finish. The speaker is available in black or white, and the front face is covered with a fabric mesh grille material. Only three buttons adorn the front face, for volume up, volume down, and play/pause. The backside includes a USB port, an auxiliary input, a DC power port, and a WiFi Setup button with a corresponding LED to assist with network connection. The S2 sports dual two-inch full-range drivers, dual 1.5- by 2.5-inch passive radiators, and a 20-watt times two (into four ohms) amplifier.
The only differences in the rechargeable/outdoor-friendly S2R are that it weighs a little more (the addition of the battery ups the weight to 3.25 pounds), it omits the fabric grille material, it adds rubber plugs to cover the ports on the backside, and it adds a WiFi antenna to help improve reception at longer distances.
The first step in setting up the Omni speakers is to download the Polk Omni app for iOS (v6.0 or higher) or Android (v2.2 or higher) to your mobile device--in my case, I used an iPhone 4 for setup and later downloaded the Android app to a Samsung Galaxy tablet, as well. Next, plug in the speaker, launch the app, and follow the clear instructions to add the speaker to your existing WiFi network. (You have to have a home WiFi network in place; the system cannot create its own network, but this approach means you don't need a bridge device to link to your network.) I had no trouble adding both of my review samples to my hidden, password-protected network, and the two-zone system was ready to go in just a few minutes. If you are going to set up multiple Omni speakers at once, you can send an identifying test tone to each speaker and easily rename it.
My music content came from a variety of sources. First was my iPhone 4, which is loaded primarily with compressed MP3 and AAC files. Second was the Samsung Galaxy tablet, which also includes mostly compressed music. Since Play-Fi supports DLNA, I was also able to connect to my DLNA-certified Seagate NAS drive to access my entire music collection.
I store a collection of full- and 24/96 high-resolution AIFF and FLAC files on a Windows 8 PC specifically for testing purposes, so I wanted to add that PC to the equation. Polk does not offer its own branded Omni app for Windows PCs or Windows phones; neither does DTS, for that matter. I googled "Play-Fi app for Windows" and was taken to Phorus' website (the original developers of the Play-Fi protocol) to download a Windows-friendly app for the PC. The free version of the Phorus app only allows you to stream music to one Play-Fi speaker at a time, and it will play any audio source from your PC--any music software, any streaming service, etc. However, it will also play any general Windows sound cues that occur during computer operation. You have to upgrade to the "HD App" to stream music to multiple speakers and remove generic Windows sound cues from the playback experience. That upgrade usually costs a one-time fee of $14.95, but Polk says that, when you register your Omni product through its website, you can get a code to download the full-function Windows PC app for free. For this review, I just tested the free app, and it worked perfectly fine with the Omni system. At this time, there is no Mac-compatible app, and Polk/DTS does not have one in development.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
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