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New tech syncs small speakers for big sound

Mike Elgan | Oct. 1, 2015
In the past week, new methods for synchronizing speakers to create loud, high-quality sound have emerged. Finally.

ampme speakers
The new AmpMe app synchronizes music between two, three or even dozens of smartphones to create high-quality, high-volume sound. Credit: AmpMe

Music is good. It's even better when it's loud, high-quality and playing all over the house. (Just one guy's opinion.)

To achieve this, you can buy multiple, expensive speakers from a company like Sonos and distribute them around the house. That can cost thousands of dollars.

Another idea is to synchronize the speakers you already own, and have them all play the exact same music at the exact same time for a quality- and volume-multiplying effect.

Sounds simple, right? Trouble is, it's hard to synchronize music.

A smattering of startups and upstarts tried and -- well, I won't say failed but I will say didn't succeed. In 2013 and 2014, companies like Beep, Seedio, Boombotix, TuneMob and others attempted to launch products for synchronizing speakers or smartphones. Most of those products don't sync right, don't have cross-platform support or just don't work. And some of them don't even exist anymore. The category as a whole has not caught on with the public.

Suddenly, however, we're hearing about two companies -- one of them Google, the other a tiny startup -- that may have cracked the code on synchronizing speakers or phones for big sound on the cheap.

Is the world finally ready for music played across synchronized speakers? If so, here are the two products that just might make it happen.

Google Chromecast Audio

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, Google may launch a new product called Chromecast Audio, according to a report on 9to5Google.

Internally code-named "Hendrix," the Chromecast Audio product uses dongles plugged into speakers for playing streaming music all around the house. The system reportedly will use Wi-Fi for connecting the speakers, which makes sense given Google's recent launch of an Internet-of-Things-centric Wi-Fi router called the OnHub.

Chromecast Audio may also support the mirroring of whatever music or audio (including audio from videos) is playing in a Chrome browser or on an Android phone or tablet.

Finally, Chromecast Audio should support Spotify and, one can assume, Google Play Music.

Chromecast Audio sounds a little like Motorola's Moto Stream, which features adapters that pair phones and sound systems via NFC (near field communication) technology. But most consumers have never heard of Moto Stream, and its price of $50 per adapter makes it a little expensive for connecting speakers throughout a house.

Given Google's history with Chromecast, I expect Chromecast Audio to be innovative, cheap, flexible and by far the most popular form of synchronizing home speakers. We'll have to wait and see, however, before we know for sure.


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