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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.

Meanwhile, a new mobile app has already proved itself, at least to me.


A free new app for both iOS and Android shipped last week. It's called AmpMe from a Canadian startup called Amp Me Inc.

The app synchronizes music between two, three or even dozens of smartphones to create high-quality, high-volume sound. The phones can be iOS or Android devices, or both.

AmpMe's secret sauce is the use of encoded sound to synchronize the music, according to the company's CEO, Martin-Luc Archambault.

Here's how it works: First, the app must be downloaded on each participating phone. When you launch the app, the main screen asks if you want to "host a party" or "join a party." The host phone is the one that will play the music; the phones that join the party are the ones that sync with the host.

The user with the host phone then goes into SoundCloud from inside the AmpMe app and chooses the music or the playlist (or the podcast), and starts playing the audio.

Users who want their phones to join the party enter a four-digit number provided by the host. The AmpMe app on the host phone then plays a barely audible series of clicks and beeps that quickly synchronizes the music exactly. (Amp Me has a patent in the works for its "server­centric proprietary audio fingerprinting technology process," as the company's press release calls it.)

In my test, it took about a minute to download the app and start a party and then have others join and start playing the synchronized music. It worked flawlessly and quickly.

And I have to say, if you walked into a room with even as few as two or three devices playing music in sync, you'd never guess that the sound was coming out of smartphones. In my test, the audio quality was so good that it sounded like the music was playing over a Sonos setup or another high-quality speaker system. (I used iPhone 6 Plus phones for my test.)

Nobody knows the maximum number of phones AmpMe's system can support, but Archambault told me that, at the company launch party last week, they had 50 phones playing at once, and that's the most he's aware of.

Interestingly, the synchronized phones don't have to remain in close proximity to one another after they're connected. The AmpMe system doesn't connect phones peer-to-peer via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Once the music is synced, it stays synced -- no matter how far apart the phones get.

If the host user has an iPhone and an Apple Watch, the watch can control the music. And if the host is using an Android phone, Bluetooth speakers that also have a microphone can be added to the party.


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