In the beginning, the Great Technician created the Sonos speaker system. And it was good, as music reverberated around the Earth. But, realizing his new invention would not play well with others, he ordered the creation of Play-Fi and AllPlay and urged them to be fruitful and multiply.
The result is a growing choice of speakers that you can program to play different content in different rooms, enjoying great music as you amble about the house.
Play-Fi technology was developed by DTS and allows you to mix and match speakers from different manufacturers, placing up to eight of them throughout your house. The result is a system of speakers that use your WIFi network that can either work together, playing the same music, or work separately, giving you different tunes in each room.
The folks at DTS tell us the Play-Fi universe is growing, but we limited our tests to speakers from Polk Audio, Phorus and Wren, placing them in the kitchen, office and bedroom.
AllPlay is a WiFi-based technology developed by Qualcomm designed to provide the same features as Play-Fi for up to 10 speakers. Unfortunately,, as of this writing, we were only able to obtain product from Hitachi to conduct our tests. Panasonic, Monster and Altec-Lansing have also climbed aboard the AllPlay bandwagon, but we were unable to obtain speakers from them.
Both technologies worked as advertised, but we were a bit disappointed that neither one allowed us to stream music from our cloud-based music server using a smartphone or tablet. We were, however able to access our favorite tunes using PlayFi and a PC. Both do, however, allow you to stream tunes and playlists from Pandora, Spotify, Internet radio stations and several other steaming audio services. Both systems also provide so-called lossless audio technology and are able to play files created in all of the popular formats.
Basically all we had to do was install a Play-Fi or AllPlay app on our devices and we were ready to go. Both systems recognized all of the speakers using their technology, although we found that it took less time for so-called "discovery" if we were in the same room as the speakers.
Of course, since both of these systems use WiFi to communicate, neither will work away from home. Fortunately every speaker system we used gives you the option of using Bluetooth or a USB cable, so you can take them with you.
The speakers we used delivered sound quality ranging from decent to a bit above average, with the Polk Audio Omni S2 becoming our favorite among the PlayFi systems. It's small size and big sound won us over, with the much larger Phorus PS5 and Wren W speakers coming in at second and third.
But the best of all the systems we tested was the Hitachi Smart Wi-Fi W200 speaker that delivered a room-filling 22 watts of power. The only drawback is that you have to use a Hitachi-specific AllPlay app to access the speakers using the devices on your network. This is inconvenient, especially if you're using AllPlay devices from several manufacturers. It can also be used with Bluetooth and USB and NFC compatible devices.