Speakers

Hands On: Definitive Technology Wireless System Sound Quality Trumps Setup Snafus

CE Pro senior editor Robert Archer reviewed the Definitive Technology and Polk DTS Play-Fi Systems.


The Def Tech W speakers and soundbar shown above.

Photos & Slideshow

Robert Archer · May 13, 2015

Last Fall, Sound United brands Polk Audio and Definitive Technology launched their respective wireless audio systems at the CEDIA Expo with the goal of targeting mainstream and custom installation consumers, respectively.

Licensing DTS’ Play-Fi wireless platform as the backbone, both brands introduced complete product lines at pricing in line with their intended markets. Adding value and performance to the equation, DTS Play- Fi facilitates the ability for integrators to mix and match Polk and Def Tech products.

Features & Setup

Play-Fi utilizes a home’s existing wireless home network, along with apps for Apple iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and Windows PC products to allow users to manage and play back streaming media and audio that resides on their networks. Play-Fi supports lossless and whole-house audio applications.

Def Tech’s products, called the Wireless Collection, features the W7 powered speaker system, the larger W9 powered speaker system, the powered W Studio Sound Bar with included Subwoofer, the W Adapter for integrating existing audio systems and the W Amp that both drives and integrates an existing pair of speakers.

Polk’s offering is similar with the Omni S2 powered speaker, the weather-resistant Omni S2 Rechargeable Wireless Speaker (which includes a built-in lithium battery), the Omni SB1 Sound Bar with included subwoofer, the Omni P1 Adapter and the Omni A1 Amplifier.

Setting up a W9 in my dining room, an S2 Rechargeable Wireless speaker in my media room and the W Studio Sound Bar with included Subwoofer in my kids’ playroom I started by downloading the app for my iPhone 6 and iPad 2.

Specs

  • Wireless Series from Definitive includes W7 and W9 powered speakers, as well as W Studio soundbar, the W amp and W Adapt products
  • Omni Series of wireless speaker products from Polk offers a choice of products that includes S2 and S2 Rechargeable speakers, as well as SB1 Soundbar; P1 Adapter and A1 Amplifier
  • Both brands employ DTS’ Play- Fi wireless, and through this dealers can mix-and-match brands’ products
  • Definitive Technology MSRPs: W7 $399; W9 $699; W Studio Sound Bar with Included Subwoofer $1,299; W Adapt $399; W Amp $499
  • Polk Audio MSRPs: Omni S2 Wireless Speaker $179; Omni S2 Rechargeable Wireless Speaker $249; Omni SB1 Soundbar with Included Subwoofer $699; Omni P1 Adaptor $299; Omni A1 Amplifier

I paired the soundbar with a Runco plasma TV, a Comcast X1 box, a Wii U console and a Panasonic Blu-ray player. Def Tech deserves a pat on the back for incorporating several HDMI inputs into the W Studio. I ran all my sources into the bar with cable in Input 1, BD player in Input 2 and Wii U in Input 3. I ran an HDMI from the output into the Runco’s processor to complete the connections. After plugging in the sub and soundbar I turned it on and opened the soundbar’s menu. This enabled me to view the wireless options, and EQ settings.

After making my adjustments I opened the Definitive app, which walked me through the steps to put the system’s wireless functions on my network. This process was a bit frustrating. For starters, you have to leave the app to select the Def Tech gear in the iOS’ Wi-Fi settings.

Once the setup was completed, the app informed me the system required a software update. This took several tries as it told me it lost network connections. I found this odd since the soundbar is literally 6 feet from my downstairs WAP. After about 15 to 20 minutes I was able to get through the firmware update. Thankfully it only took a few minutes to input my account information for Pandora, Songza, etc. Also, mating the wireless sub to the bar was easy following the prompts in the soundbar’s menu.

Moving on to the W9, I tried two rooms before it landed in my dining room; the network connectivity just wasn’t there, although tests showed otherwise. Using the Speedtest app, I checked my network in the rooms and the slowest connection I measured was 40Mbps and 12Mbps of upload speed in the first room, and 38Mbps and 10Mbps of upload speed in the other so my network was running fine. The speaker finally landed on my network and I renamed it “dining room”; I finished with a similar experience in my media room for the Polk speaker.

Performance

Network peskiness aside, sound quality is where these products really shine. I absolutely love the soundbar; the W Studio unquestionably enhances activities such as watching TV, movies, playing video games, and listening to music.

One of the most important items with soundbars is dialog intelligibility, and the W Studio delivers this with streaming content, TV and video. I also found the integration between the soundbar and sub to be quite good. The sub delivers natural sounding extension that added richness to whatever I was listening to. The W9 is the best sounding powered wireless speaker I have heard. Streaming media and content from my network sounded smooth, well defined and big — the W9 throws a nice soundstage that will easily fill a small- or medium-size room.

Polk’s S2 rechargeable speaker sounded fine for a small, battery powered speaker. It may not be loud enough for certain outdoor situations, but playing sound outdoors is a different animal than indoors.

Conclusion

Connectivity aside, these are excellent performing speakers. The app is certainly easy enough to navigate and it shouldn’t present any issue to homeowners.

Once I placed the products on my network I didn’t experience any issues — perhaps more an affirmation that systems such as these present dealers networking upsell opportunities — and overwhelmingly family and friends remarked how good they sound. I’ll go as far as saying in a crowded market, the W Studio is one of the best soundbars, period.

CE Pro Verdict

Pros: First and foremost, the products sound great; flexibility addresses a number of home applications; speakers are easy-to-use on an everyday basis.
Cons: Process to place the devices on a network isn’t as easy as some competitive products; robust network required to maintain reliability.



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  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at robert.archer@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Speakers · Wireless · News · Media · Slideshow · Definitive Technology · Polk Audio · Soundbar · All Topics
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