Charlottesville Home AV

Charlottesville Home AV- A How to Guide

A How to Guide for Easy Home Streaming Devices- Sonos, Amazon Echo, Amazon Fire TV & Apple TV

1. Sonos home audio

What can it do?

Cville AVS has been installing and selling Sonos for years.  Why?  3 Reasons:

1. Because they sound great

2. Because they are simple to operate- use the free app on your phone.

3.  They have a ton of versatility and onboard apps:

• You can listen to Pandora, Spotify, Itunes and a ton of other online streaming music services.

•You can listen to local radio (streamed)

• You can put these all over the house without speaker wire.  All you have to do is plug it in (AC).

• You can create many many independant zones (rooms) or have them coordinate and play the same thing

Here’s a little about the new Sonos ONE:

The Sonos One is the first smart speaker I’ve heard that actually sounds great with music. Based on the company’s Play:1, a 4-year-old multiroom speaker that still outperforms pretty much anything at its price, the Sonos One sounds even better. It can join an existing Sonos whole-home audio system or serve as the beginning of one. And with Alexa built right in, the Sonos One can do almost everything an Echo can. And her voice sounds more natural than ever.

Amazon’s assistant is just the beginning. Sonos is the first company to promise compatibility with both Alexa and Google Assistant, the other major home voice control system. Sometime in 2018 the One will work just like a Google Home speaker. Also coming to Sonos is Apple’s AirPlay 2, allowing control of the speaker from any Siri-enabled devices like iPhones and iPads.

Even without these future additions, the Sonos One is a great smart speaker today. Of course it also costs twice as much as the new Echo, and Amazon has multiroom audio support too. Soon the higher-end Apple HomePod and Google Home Max speakers will hit the market too, promising improved audio quality of their own. We haven’t tested those speakers or the Amazon Echo Plus yet so we can’t say how well they compare to Sonos.

Either way the Sonos One offers an awesome combination of versatility, sound quality and affordability right now. If you’ve been looking to jump on the smart speaker bandwagon, but been put off by poor sound quality, there’s no more reason to hesitate.

2. Amazon Echo 

What can it do?

  • Streaming music and podcasts from Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio
  • Adding items to your to-do list and shopping list
  • Setting kitchen timers and recurring alarms
  • Looking up facts and unit conversions
  • Playing a curated “flash briefing” of news headlines from the sources and topics of your choice
  • Controlling compatible smart home gadgets, including lights, locks and thermostats

As for audio quality, the Echo features dual downward-firing speakers that promise 360 degrees of “immersive sound.” Its bass tends to weaken or distort at maximum volume, but I haven’t had a problem with that personally, since I rarely find myself needing to dial things up much higher than 60 percent or so. To my ear, the Echo does a fine job of filling a room with sound, especially with crisp speech playback, something you’ll notice when you listen to a podcast or stream an audiobook.

Still, if it’s audio quality you’re concerned with, you can find better-sounding speakers at this price. The option to sync the Echo up with an external sound system and use it more strictly as a point of control would be a good fix, and a nice touch for the audiophiles out there. That’s an option with the pint-sized Echo Dot, but not with the full-sized Echo. Amazon seems pretty committed to the idea of the Echo as an all-in-one device.

All of that said, the Echo is more than a music streamer, just as an iPhone is more than a telephone. The key is Alexa. She’s helpful, she’s capable and she’s mostly good at understanding what I’m asking of her, enough so to put her right on par with Apple’s Siri as far as virtual assistants go.

3. Amazon Fire TV 4K

What Can it do?

  • It’s designed to hide behind your TV out of sight, and attached to an HDMI port with the included built-in cable, like a slightly larger (and square) version of Google Chromecastrather than a streaming stick.
  • To use hands-free, far-field voice control, you’ll need to get an Echo or other Alexa-capable speaker. Otherwise you’ll have to use the remote for voice commands, just like on Roku.
  • It lacks apps for Vudu and Google Play Movies, but if you own titles on those apps (or even on Apple’s iTunes) you can play them using Movies Anywhere. They’ll just appear in your Amazon library — which may necessitate a lot of scrolling. And you’ll also miss out on 4K, HDR or Atmos.
  • Just like Roku, it lacks Dolby Vision HDR, so all HDR is delivered as HDR10. This isn’t a big deal unless 1) you have a Dolby Vision-capable TV, and 2) it performs significantly better with Dolby Vision compared to HDR10. If you want Dolby Vision your only current streaming options are the much more expensive Apple TV 4K or the apps built into your TV.
  • 4K HDR video on Fire TV is currently available from Netflix, YouTube and Amazon itself. Apps with 4K (but not HDR) support are Smithsonian and Curiosity Stream, and Amazon says it’s working to add more 4K and HDR support soon. Roku has more selection, including all of those as well as FandangoNow in 4K HDR, Vudu and Plex in 4K (but not HDR), and niche apps like UltraFlix, Toon Goggles, 4K Universe.
  • Streaming in 4K requires more bandwidth and, in the case of Netflix, a more-expensive plan. Amazon recommends 15mbps is ample for 4K streaming, while YouTube and Netflix recommend 20. If your Wi-Fi near the Fire TV isn’t up to snuff, Amazon sells a wired Ethernet adapter for $15.
  • Aside from 4K the only major advantage over the standard Fire TV Stick is a faster processor. In my side-by-side tests, however, navigation, app loading and general responsiveness were identical (and excellent) between the two, even on “heavy” apps like PlayStation Vue.
  • Some apps, like Vue, HBO Now and Watch ESPN, are better on Fire TV than on Roku, with a more updated interface and in some cases, more features. Many others, however, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Sling TV, are basically the same on both.

4. Apple TV

The Apple TV 4K is the streaming box we’ve been waiting for. It brings together the excellent interface from the 2015 model and the long-awaited ability to watch movies and TV shows in 4K and HDR. And perhaps most important, it seriously drives down the cost of digital 4K releases. Sure, competitors like Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV have had 4K/HDR capabilities for years, but Apple’s pricing model makes the format more accessible to consumers. While it’s not quite perfect, the Apple TV 4K is a solid step beyond HD video.

What Can it do?

  • Thanks to the new Amazon app it can finally access the movies and TV shows available to Prime members, as well as play back stuff you own on Amazon.
  • A new software update allows you to adjust settings to disable conversion of videos, menus and games to HDR and a fixed frame rate.
  • When this review originally published, Apple’s iTunes was unique in charging the same price for 4K and HD movies. Now competing services like Vudu have followed suit, matching prices for the most part.
  • Apple TV can discover and pair with AirPods for private listening, adds AirPlay 2 support with multiroom audio (coming soon), and a setting to automatically engage Dark Room mode based on local time.
  • You can sync the home pages of multiple Apple TVs in your household, automatically mirroring their arrangements and folders. Downloading an app on one adds it to another.
  • In addition to integrating TV shows and movies from Amazon, Apple’s TV app will soon add a section devoted to live sports, starting with ESPN and the NBA. You’ll receive notifications when your favorite teams are playing live or the game is close, and a tab in the app lists events currently playing or coming up soon, along with the time remaining and current scores.

Call AVS to help design, setup, program and install your home av!

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