Interview with Steve of Decibel Audio, Chicago
Decibel Audio, Chicago - Interview with Steve about Wireless Home Audio - 20 Apr 2017
Intro to Decibel Audio in Chicago
[Paul] We're here at Decibel Audio, and we're visiting with Steve. Decibel is one of my favorite places, because you can buy, sell, or trade audio gear. So you could walk in here and buy a fantastic vintage system, component system, or our favorite, a wireless audio system.
We are going to ask Steve about some of the latest developments in Wi-Fi wireless speaker systems.
[Steve] Yes, and thank you for having me. The Decibel Audio store has been in the Wicker Park are for years so we've watched the evolution of wireless speakers technology come to actually be a thing.
Because Decibel Audio can cherry-pick from many wireless speaker brands and I think that it is a unique business model that allows us to be flexible and do almost anything we want for the client.
What Makes Wireless Speakers Special?
[Paul] Welcome back to RateYourSound. We're here talking with Steve from Decibel Audio in historic Bucktown. We're going to talk a little more about Bluetooth wireless Wi-Fi speakers and what their advantages are.
You talked to me over breakfast about what you thought was important in pulling a system succesfully together and making it all work.
[Steve] Sure, and I think that one of the most interesting aspects of wireless speaker technology nowadays as the speaker manufacturers are really doing an excellent job matching up the amps, DAC, and DSP withi these speakers.
They're accounting for the space that's taken up by the amps and the heat sinks and everything that goes along with that and you're also seeing more manufacturers like KEF who are putting in multiple amps.
So, one for the tweeter, one for the the woofer which really makes the difference in sound quality. As well and you're basically buying an exotic out of the box pre-assembled stereo audio system.
Wireless Connectivity and Control Apps
[Paul] Welcome back to to Decibel Audio. We're talking a bit about wireless and Bluetooth speakers and one of the things I was wondering about is if you bought a pair of KEF LS50W wireless speakers, how are they for living room use, with movies, gaming, or if you have a turntable or CD player?
[Steve] Sure, that's what really is starting to separate a lot of the wireless speaker options and offerings that we see nowadays. The best offer a plethora of connectivity options you know, whether its digital inputs via optical, or direct streaming with Bluetooth, USB connectivity, Wi-Fi, and analog inputs and outputs.
A lot of these companies are hooking up with Spotify, Tidal, Apple, etc. offering direct connectivity to the speaker itself and that's that's pretty powerful. It allows you purchase the speaker system and it's a future proof in that regard you can adapt it to whatever sorce and environment you need.
So they do work great as a living room system, they work great hooked to your TV. So one of the the beauty's of these systems is the connectivity and the adaptability.
[Paul] So we're here in Bucktown today visiting Decibel Audio one of the best places to buy sell or trade audio systems. It's also one of the best place places to look for wireless audio systems.
It seems to me that the key component these days is the control app you use on your smartphone or tablet. What's your take on all these control apps.
[Steve] I've noticed is that a lot of consumers are ready to adopt or understand going into it that there's going to be some kind of remote.
There's going to be some kind of control center that they'll have to adapt to. Companies like Devialet with their Phantom system and then KEF did a nice job at making the sort of app that is very approachable. You know in a lot of ways it's simpler than the remote that controls a lot of TVs right now.
With wireless speakers you pick your source and pick what you want to listen to and that's all there is. It just plays, and the other advantages it's a touch device so you know it allows the user interface to be continuously adapted to suit the market demand and what people are looking for, and what people find comfortable to use.
You know Naim is doing that with their Mu-so Qb system, and they're just kind of starting to jump into that but I think we're seeing more and more that almost every higher end audio manufacturer is getting into the wireless scene at least a little and they're all starting to offer this kind of dedicated control apps through your touch device.
[Paul] Hi, and welcome back to RateYourSound. We're at Decibel Audio talking to Steve and I wanted to ask him about systems making a stereo pair out of Sonos Play:5. We were wondering is that audiophile quality high-end and how good is that system?
[Steve] Absolutely, and I'm glad you asked that because I think separate pairing these Sonos speakers together, specifically with the Sonos Play:5's I tell people all the time when they come in to look at Sonos that there's not a better pair of better sounding speakers - much less a better system that I could sell somebody for a thousand dollars then what you get with a pair of Sonos Play:5's.
Sonos is easy very easy to set up and everything is very intuitive. It takes a couple of clicks going through the Sonos app you in the same way that you could order dinner or get an Uber. You know you could have a stereo pair Play:5's going in a couple of minutes and that's what separates Sonos from other systems and once setup it really does sound good.
[Paul] Can you tell us about the tuning system built-in.
[Steve] Yeah, and it's kind of neat because I've used it both in here in the store to tune those pieces that we show for demo in the store and I've used it at home as well. For instance to give you an example I have a Play:1 in my bathroom and what you're able to do is tell the speaker that you want it to adapt to the room you're in and it emits a series of test tones and you know you use your smartphone and wave your phone around a little like your burning sage and what it does is it listens to what the speaker is emitting and then adapts the EQ for that so you know that's that's pretty powerful in that you can adapt it to someplace like a bathroom as I did which normally you know that's a room that'll have a lot of natural reflection in it and not necessarily always sound as good so it really does allow you to adjust for inconsistencies in the room and that's pretty powerful.
[Paul] Welcome back and we're here at Decibel Audio talking to Steve about setting up a wireless system. One of the questions I wanted to ask you was with the pairing of the Sonos. Is it pairing both speakers?
[Steve] Yeah, so they basically will pair together and form one stereo pair and that's you know kind of equivalent in a lot of way as to what you would get in a traditional stereo system where you have you know two speakers left channel on the right channel that are hooked into a power amp you essentially get that same the same effect with the Sonos stuff with the exception that each speaker has an amp built in.
Steve Picks His Favorite Wireless Speakers
[Paul] I want to ask Steve one last question. Among the wireless systems fastest easiest to get going somebody wants to do it all themselves what would be the top three systems you'd recommend?
[Steve] Oh. I wholeheartedly recommend Sonos. As far as being a closed platform something that is just a start to finish the solution for people whether it's integration with an existing two-channel stereo setup or doing an entire house wirelessly you know they really have kind of in some ways thought of everything and given you everything you need to be you know successful in doing that the first time around.
Its stable it's easy to set up and if you do run into issues I mean they're there tech support it's pretty crazy almost to a creepy level they can take control of your computer and pretty much set it up for you if you need them to, so I would recommend Sonos wholeheartedly.
And then I think KEF has shown not only the X300's the previous gen of wireless speaker and with LS50 wireless speaker is comprehensive and future-proof solution for somebody who is looking to either replace an entire system or add an additional system to their home. And then I would say you know for the more casual listener for somebody who just wants to listen to music and is fine streaming with Bluetooth or keeping an auxiliary cord nearby.
You know the audio engine stuff is great, and they offer a lot of different options in terms of wireless powered active speakers that allow you to just very easily have a sound system in your home.
More about Decibel Audio and Steve
[Paul] Back at Decibel Audio in Chicago we're talking to Steve about wireless audio systems and I have one last question for Steve. If I bought one of these wireless systems what do I do with all the components at the house I don't want anymore?
[Steve] Oh well, you can always trade them in where in right here at Decibel Audio. All we asked is that you know shoot us an email or give us a call ahead of time and let us know like what you want to trade in, and we'll always make it work and we will find a way to make something work for you.
Tubes or Digital?
[Paul] We're back at Decibel Audio visiting with Steve talking about wireless systems and I had a question about tubes. We both like the warm vinyl sound so how does digital compare with one of these wireless systems?
[Steve] Oh well, you know there's so much that goes into that kind of warmth of analog versus digital.
You know you have people who will tell you that digital sounds very sterile and maybe that's true. The fact of the matter for me is that you know digital can be perfect in a way that analog never will be or never could be and why I think that's interesting is because I think that we have adapted a certain nostalgia for those imperfections and distortions, for the fuzz and the warmth, and all of that.
I think that you know a lot of people associate that with nostalgia and with time's gone by only because you know you look at the recording formats of the day and these smaller and larger format tapes and a lot of the microphones and the tubes in there and in those preamps and then to play it back with that sort of system as well it overall takes on that very kind of warm analog tone.
And what I think is most interesting is that to me represents something that sonically can be just as enjoyable as you know what clarity and the detail that you get in a digital system, because like I said you know a CD, well it is never gonna have that surface noise. But you know if you've come to associate, you know that bit of surface noise with your favorite albums over the years then it can be hard to detach from that but there are benefits to each side.
Steve Has a Band
[Paul] We're in historic Bucktown we're talking to Steve a Decibel Audio, and we spent a lot of time talking about wireless audio as it relates to building a home music system but one thing we know about Steve is he has a band he's a musician, and he's putting out some tracks and I wanted to let him talk about that for a minute.
[Steve] Well I do appreciate that I play in a local band here from Chicago called "Wilde" it's spelled like Oscar Wilde oh so you have the e on the end, but we're about to put out a couple of singles here and in May, and we'll be on the radio so you can catch our interview there and what's this on Spotify we're going to be on WZRD, and then we have a couple of shows coming up soon after that but you can find us on Spotify iTunes all those streaming services and and listen to them on your active LS50's! You can check out Wilde here https://www.facebook.com/thatwildeband/
You can contact Decibel Audio here:
Email: [email protected]
Tel: (773) 862-6700
Address: Decibel Audio Inc / 1429 N Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60622
Hours: M-F 12-7 Weekends 12-6