Imagine it's 2008 and you're Google. You want to build a phone to compete with the iPhone, and its a pretty daunting task. Now flash forward to 2013. It's the same Apple versus Google-type scenario, but in the audio realm: you want to take on the incumbent big dog in the streaming music space, Sonos, and offer a compelling alternative. What would you do differently to take on such a well-established brand?
That's the task facing Phorus, a company formed by CEO Danny Lau after his experiences designing iPod docks for JBL. He wanted to build an open wireless standard for audio, and -- after leaving JBL -- the "Play-Fi" standard was born.
But there's one problem with Play-Fi that I found in my testing: it uses a lot of wireless bandwidth -- even more than streaming Netflix. If your network isn't up to it you'll either get lower quality audio or stuttering, hiccuping sound. Even with a wired connection I found it prone to dropouts.
The PR1 receiver is half the price of the Sonos Connect, but it lacks that product's sound quality, ease of setup, and bombproof build. While I look forward to the products that are to come, I can't currently recommend either the PR1 or the PS1. Even if you bypass the dodgy Wi-Fi performance and opt for Bluetooth -- which worked much more reliably -- there are cheaper wireless adapters and better speakers for the money.
The PR1 receiver is a large-ish oval device which features a textured surface. Indeed, the topside can be used to cradle a mobile phone, which can be charged from the PR1's rear USB port.
In addition to charging your phone, the rear USB port can also be used to connect a USB-to-Ethernet adapter if your connection is poor. But be aware that the Play-Fi system is only as strong as its weakest link; if you have a poorly performing wireless gadget it will drag the performance of the other components down.
Although originally billed as "Wireless Audio for Android" on the Phorus website, the company has much loftier aspirations for the system than just streaming music from Google phones. In September, the company added iOS support, and coming soon is PC playback. With future improvements including hi-res audio -- at present it's limited to 16/48 -- and a wider array of supported streaming services, parent company DTS is really hoping to take the Play-Fi(ght) directly to Sonos.
While the app is available for iOS and Android, they don't yet have the same functionality. The Android app offers the ability to stream from an NAS or other computer and listen to internet radio, the iOS app only lets you stream music files from the phone itself or Pandora (the Android version handles both of those features, too).