A good start: Samsung’s multi-room M7 speaker reviewed

Multi-room audio is set to be the next battleground for audio fanatics, as Samsung attempts to steal the crown from industry leader Sonos, which has long had a hold on the area it practically got people interested in the first place. Can Samsung manage to best Sonos on the first go?

Features

Curious about sound throughout your home? You’re not the only one, and for Samsung’s first product in the field, the company isn’t holding back, releasing two speakers and a hub to expand the system in your home.

In this review, we’re looking at the M7, Samsung’s bigger speaker of the two available, featuring two 19 mm tweeters, two 56mm mid-range speakers, and one 4 inch woofer, with all of this lending itself to the plastic chassis and making the entire thing weigh in at just under 4 kilograms, or more accurately 3.8kg.

Connecting to the speaker can be handled through Bluetooth, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, and there’s even support for Ethernet, too, if you prefer the stability of wired networking. Support for Near-Field Communication (NFC) is also present, a technology that will help start a Bluetooth connection for supported devices, making the connection just that much easier for Android and Windows Phone products.

A network connection will be needed for that multi-room audio, and if you have files on your network, this will read them too, able to play AAC, MP3, WAV, OGG, WMA, and even FLAC, though that last one can only handle up to 16-bit 44.1KHz files, leaving high-res audio mostly out of the picture.

If you already have an audio source, however, you can patch this in using the 3.5mm headset jack.

The Samsung M7 can be found in black or white, and can be expanded across the house using a Samsung Multi-room Hub, which is available as an optional extra, but isn’t needed to operate the M7 by itself.

Apps for the Samsung Multi-room setup exist for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OS X.

Performance

Sonos may have pioneered the concept of multi-room audio, but it’s not the only company to take it on, and now that we all have smart devices that we carry around with us, it’s time to see another company enter the multi-room audio arena.

In case you’ve never heard of the concept before, it’s pretty simple: speakers all throughout your home that synchronise music and music services, to play audio in multiple rooms of your house at the same time.

In essence, the idea is that as you walk through your home, the music you’re listening to will follow you, playing out of the speaker in your living room, kitchen, bathroom, and back to your bedroom. If you so choose, you can change the music on a speaker by speaker basis, grouping the various speakers so they play different things, controlling them as you choose.

As we mentioned before, audio company Sonos practically pioneered the concept with its “Play” series of speakers which exist in a few types, and now Samsung is giving this a good and solid thwack to see what it can do to this area.

It’s worth noting that if you have a Sonos system already, the Samsung system is not compatible, as they work on completely different systems, though are based on similar technology, as we understand the Hub — which can expand a Samsung Multi-room speaker system — works by creating a mesh network similar to what the Sonos does.

That said, it is different, and to get started with the one speaker, the M7 in this case, you simply plug it in.

Before you do, you’ll have to pick it up and take it out of the box, and when you do, you’ll find a relatively weighty product, though one that doesn’t feel as durable as you might expect.

It’s good looking, that much we’ll attest to, with a repeating pattern over the grill and a clear top with only a smattering of controls, very few in number. For the most part, it’s clear, however, and will blend into most environments.

Is it a little plasticky, however, and picks up on fingerprints so easily, so if you’re setting it up for the first time in your home, don’t be surprised if you have to rub the glossy surface down with a micro-fibre hand towel, removing your fingerprints in the process.

That will no doubt happen as you’re deciding whether the M7 should lie down — how it comes in the box — or stand up, which it can do if you replace the back plastic on the corner with the stand option, and this even makes the speaker appear more compact, making it look more like a vertical speaker you might have in your home.

Once you decide, then you can plug it in, threading any necessary cords — the power, included — through the holes at the back of the replaceable plastic corner section. When this is done, plug it in and start setting the speaker up.

Now you may have a different experience to us, but we found the wireless setup was a little hit and miss. Technically, it should just be as simple as switch the speaker on and start the pairing process, linking the speaker up with your network by using Samsung’s Multi-room smartphone software, but our complicated network proved fiddly, forcing us to connect it via an Ethernet cable, which linked the Samsung speaker immediately.

Depending on your setup, one of these will work quickly, and once you’re done — and have installed the almost immediately required update — you’re ready to go, using the application to stream music directly from your phone, your network devices, or from one of the few streaming services available to you.

Those streaming services are small in number, with Deezer, Pandora, 8tracks, Rdio, and Spotify available to you, as well as TuneIn for radio, and any music tracks available on your device or network.

Setting up Bluetooth is even easier, and if you have NFC on your device, simply bump the two products together to start the Near-Field handshake, connecting the two and making the handset and speaker talk to each other quickly.

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