When you think of wireless, multi-room audio systems, there's really only one name that comes to mind. Sonos has dominated this market in the US for years, even as other wireless technologies such as AirPlay, DLNA, Play-Fi, and soon Google Cast have debuted. Despite only having four speakers and a subwoofer in its lineup, Sonos has won many over with its rock-solid streaming, great sound quality, and ease of use.
But Sonos isn't the only company offering this kind of multi-room wireless audio system. German brand Raumfeld has had a very similar setup for years, offering a series of wireless speakers that connect to your Wi-Fi network and are then controlled with an app on your smartphone or tablet. Starting September 1st, Raumfeld will bring its speakers to the US for the first time and go head to head with Sonos.
Raumfeld aims to be the Tidal to Sonos' Spotify
While Sonos has a streamlined lineup of speakers, Raumfeld offers a broader array, ranging from a $249 single speaker on up to a $2,399 pair of standing speakers. The company hopes to attract more serious listeners with its lineup, which supports high-resolution files up to 192KHz/24bits. It essentially plans to be the Tidal to Sonos' Spotify.
Raumfeld's speakers boast a variety of high-end features, depending on the model. The base One S, which sells for $249, is a lot like Sonos' Play:1, but it's splash resistant, making it ideal for use in the bathroom. The $599 One M is similar to Sonos' Play:5, but it includes a built-in downward firing subwoofer for more oomph. From there, Raumfeld's range gets even fancier: the $699 Stereo Cubes, $1,399 Stereo M bookshelf speakers, and $2,499 Stereo L standing speakers all evoke traditional hi-fi systems your parents (or grandparents) might have owned. Like Sonos, Raumfeld also offers a soundbar and wireless sub (sold as a pair for $1,599).
Wooden enclosures and powerful amps are some of the high-end features
The company is quick to point out the high-end components used in its speakers. Starting with the One M, the speakers all have wooden enclosures and multiple drivers. The top-of-the-line Stereo L speakers are powered by a 400 watt amplifier and include two woofers in addition to a midrange driver and a tweeter. The Raumfeld speakers also share similar volume knobs and favorite buttons on their front, which add to the retro look. You can connect the speakers to your network using ethernet in addition to Wi-Fi, and you can plug in a USB hard drive to the back of any of the speakers to make the audio files stored on it accessible by any other Raumfeld speaker in your home. The higher-end models also feature line-in jacks to hook-up turntables or other older audio components and stream their music throughout the home.
Raumfeld's mobile apps — which work on the iPhone, iPad, and Android — let you stream locally stored files or music from Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn radio, Rhapsody, and Last. That's not nearly as many services as Sonos, which includes big names like Pandora, SoundCloud, Amazon Music, and Google Play Music.
I got to experience Raumfeld's full lineup of speakers during a demonstration in New York City last month, and I have to say they are impressive. The speakers have a high-end look and aesthetic that suits a more grown-up decor, and the sound was equally high-end. While Sonos' speakers do a great job of blending in and disappearing into their surroundings, Raumfeld's are something you can be proud to display as the centerpiece of a room, especially if your decorative taste aligns with their sharp, modern-yet-retro aesthetic.
Raumfeld will be selling its systems through its direct online store, Amazon, and eBay this fall. If you've been pining over a multi-room system like Sonos, but wanted the ability to stream high-resolution files anywhere in your home, Raumfeld may have just what you're looking for.
Correction: In addition to Raumfeld, Tidal's lossless streaming service is available on Sonos. An earlier version of this report stated that the Raumfeld was the first wireless speaker system to support Tidal.