As is always the case this techy review is one for Dave – it’s lacking in photos at the moment but I promise to sort that out:
For a long time now Colette has been swooning over some WiFi speakers her best friend has, and has been pestering me to get some for our house. In case you haven’t heard of these before, they are speakers which connect to your WiFi network and allow you to play music from any source which is also connected to your WiFi network without the music source and the speaker being physically tethered to each other. As with anything Colette desires, she finds an inordinate amount of reasons for why we should forgo paying for non-essential things like food or fuel for the car. So that we may sate her desire! (Sadly I’m exaggerating less than you might think!)
The speakers in question are SONOS speakers which, for a long time, have been the only real choice for WiFi speakers. In truth they are lush. Well built with great sound reproduction and an easy to use app for playback of your music. SONOS has also been working hard to get compatibility with lots of streaming services too. All good things. I truth I lusted after them as much as Colette did, though probably for different reasons. I wanted them for their geek credentials!
The sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed that the title of this post is not SONOS speakers. It is Panasonic Allplay speakers. Here’s how we get to that bit.
We decided we wanted one speaker in the lounge and one speaker in our bedroom at least, and then maybe add a few more if we needed them. Unfortunately these speakers are not cheap. So it was apparent we’d have to buy the lounge one first and get the one for our bedroom at a later date. As our lounge is quite big, runs into the kitchen and now the playroom (yay extension!) the lounge speaker was going to have to be big to fill the space. Tiny speakers in big rooms don’t work! That meant getting the largest speaker for downstairs and the mid range one for our room once we’d saved up. Maybe in 2025! Maybe.
Once we’d saved up the necessary funds for the lounge speaker I was looking around for the best deal and saw a cracker of a deal at John Lewis. Not however on SONOS speakers, but on some relative newcomers to the WiFi speaker market. Hence the title of this post.
Panasonic launched their speakers in 2014 and in the range there are two speakers and a device to connect speakers you already have to your network. The ALL8 is the largest of the bunch with the ALL3 filling the middle ground. The deal at John Lewis meant that for just over the price of one mid range SONOS speaker we could have both the speakers we needed. I’m a sucker for a bargain. So we bought them.
Not before I’d done some research though. I’m not an idiot. I think. I looked online for reviews and saw how the speakers were built. Read up on streaming partners etc. I reckoned they were a good buy. Now they are here in our house. We like them.
The lounge speaker (ALL8) has 5 drivers and easily fills the downstairs of our house with more than enough sound. Is it as loud as the club’s I used to frequent as a young man about town? No. Then again those clubs are the reason my hearing is shot! So maybe not such a bad thing. The sound quality is good. Bass is punchy without any distortion, although you don’t get the real floor shaking sound that only comes with massive woofers. High frequencies are clear without being shrill or tinny. Basically, they sound good, but they should, these aren’t cheap.
The speakers both come in oversized packaging surrounded by hard foam with instruction manuals in the box explaining how to set up and use the speakers. The speakers themselves are reassuringly weighty and feel well made. No rattles or shakes here. The front is all mesh while on the top you have the touch sensitive buttons. Around the back there is the power lead and sockets for an Ethernet cable and 3.5mm Jack so you can plug in any old devices by hand that might not have a WiFi connection.
I thought the Ethernet port was going to be necessary for set up but in actual fact it was as easy as connecting to any WiFi network. Basically the speakers put out their own WiFi signal which you connect to using your phone/tablet or PC. Once connected to the speaker you tell it which WiFi network is yours and input the password. The speaker connects to your WiFi and that’s it. Ready to stream music! The manual recommends updating the firmware of the speakers once connected which I did. This was a series of buttons presses on the speakers to initiate, then about 5 mins while it updated itself.
Panasonic suggest using their own streaming app to playback music and control the speakers. In my experience the app was sluggish and not very user friendly. A quick search found other apps which were much more useful. Always have a look for alternatives. There’s very rarely only one app for anything you want to do. The streaming has been very good on the whole. Streaming from your phone/tablet is faultless. Just choose which speaker you want your music choice playing on and away it goes. If you fancy you can have both speakers playing different songs at the same time. Or one playing the radio while the other thrashes out hard rock. Or group the speakers together and have them playing in unison. As a side note if you happen to have a speaker in the bedroom and your other half is having a lie in while you’re downstairs with the kids you could set something fun playing just for them. Like Mr Blobby! Or Slipknot! If you wanted to that is. I’m not suggesting you do it. And it’s definitely not my fault if you do. You can also stream music from your PC using your phone/tablet as the control device. This has been a bit more hit and miss. Mainly due to Colette’s music collection being stored in iTunes from what I’ve read. Using the speaker in the bedroom sometimes has a slight delay on playback or changing tracks which I think comes from being on the edge of the WiFi signal.
Overall the speakers are great. Well built with great sound and they work well. Since having them we’ve listened to more music than we have in years which goes to prove their effectiveness. I’ve been doing some reading and soundcloud is readying their app to work with the speakers which will be great for me. So that’s enough from me. I’ll hand over to Col to tell you how she likes them and her thoughts. Just as in life she likes to have the last word.
Music was a big part of my childhood – whether we were in the car or in the house there was always music on – Dire Straits, Queen, Fleetwood Mac etc. All artists I still love to listen to and refer to as “Dad Music”. As an adult music has been just as important from traveling half way across the country to go to a club where my favourite DJ was playing to all the many many gigs I went to in my mid twenties. In recent years we’ve been somewhat lacking in a means to enjoy music at home – playing my vast (and I meant vast) music collection through the speakers on my laptop really hasn’t cut the mustard. As Dave mentioned at the start of this post I have indeed coveted Kirst’s SONOS speakers for quite some time – I loved the idea of being readily able to listen to whatever I wanted just from a few clicks on my phone. I was really excited when we finally had the opportunity to invest in our own wireless speakers. Now I must admit that I was really skeptical about venturing from our plans to purchase a SONOS system – I have a number of friends who own and love them so going for a different brand made me nervous! In the end of the deal at John Lewis was so good that it would have been foolish to say no. I had very little nothing to do with setting up the speakers but Dave didn’t seem to have any problems and we were quickly up and running! I’m not a fan of tech that involves me having to “learn” how to use it – I want to it to be intuitive and to just work. The Panasonic Allplay speakers are exactly that (especially once you’ve found the app you’re most comfortable with). They are everything I’d hoped they would be and more, as Dave said we are now listening to more music that we have done in years and the children are enjoying this too. So were the speakers worth the money? Every penny and more.