NuVo’s new Wireless Audio System delivers streaming audio anywhere in your home—even to multiple rooms simultaneously. The P200 ($599 list), the company’s wireless stereo amplifier and media hub, supports dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi and MIMO for truly reliable performance, and is capable of transmitting up to 16 simultaneous streams at 600Kbps each. It’s also a stereo amplifier, giving you the ability to hook up any pair of passive speakers that could very well sound much better than any AirPlay or Bluetooth speaker.
Used as intended—in multiple rooms, with the GW100 Gateway (which is required for wireless use), multiple P200s, and multiple sets of speakers—the whole system is very expensive for the average music listener, and it has a few issues as well. But if you’re an audio component fan interested in top-quality wireless streaming throughout your home, and you have the means, read on.
Design, Amplifier, and Main Setup
The NuVo P200 measures 1.65 by 9.02 by 5.0 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.5 pounds. It’s made entirely of black plastic, with a vertically curved edge on one side and a horizontally curved edge on the other. The front panel is clean save for four capacitive buttons, which control volume, muting, and Bluetooth functions, plus a combination power and status LED. The back panel houses standard-size 3.5mm input and output jacks, a 3.5mm setup mic port that the manual says is for “future use” only, and four gold 5-way binding posts for connecting speakers. There are also USB 2.0 and Ethernet ports, plus a hardware power switch that, thankfully, doesn’t send a loud thump through your speakers when you switch it on.
Inside is a 60-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier that works with 8 ohm and 4 ohm passive speakers. There’s Audyssey-powered dynamic volume processing onboard for balancing day and night listening at lower levels, as well as bass and treble adjustments with 12 dB of range in either direction. I tested the P200 with a pair of Klipsch HD Theater 600 satellites and their companion 100-watt, 8-inch powered subwoofer. I hooked up the satellites to the P200 via its five-way binding posts, and then used a 6-foot stereo Y-cable (which is not included) to connect the stereo 3.5mm mini-jack line out on the P200 to the pair of stereo RCA inputs on the powered subwoofer.
The setup process is a little confusing. First, you hook up your speakers, plug the P200 into the wall, download the NuVo Player iOS or Android app on your mobile device, and follow the on-screen instructions. From the app, you can begin setup of a new system or join an existing system you’re expanding.
Unfortunately, while the P200 supports Wi-Fi, you need the $199 NuVo GW100 Gateway in order to use the P200 wirelessly. Otherwise, you must use the included Ethernet port and connect it to your router. I tested the P200 with the GW100, which came with no instructions. Basically, you just connect the main port (not one of the four LAN ports) to an existing free port on your router with the included Ethernet cable. The app found it immediately. Next, I powered on the P200, waited for the solid green LED light indicating ready status, and then tapped Next in the app. Then I paired the P200 with the GW100 by holding down the Volume Up and Mute buttons as indicated. From there, I was off and running.
Sound Quality and Music Source Setup
As a general rule, sound quality from the built-in amplifier was uniformly excellent, with a clear soundstage and plenty of gain. I wouldn’t have any reservations about powering a full-range pair of floorstanding speakers with the P200. That said, audiophiles may wish to bypass the P200′s internal amp and employ the line out for use with an external integrated amplifier or preamp/amp combo. Even better, I didn’t experience any audio dropouts while sharing music from a variety of sources, even on our extremely saturated PCMag Labs Wi-Fi networks.
The real purpose of the NuVo system is to enable multi-room wireless streaming, and with multiple sources of music. For that, you may find that a single P200 isn’t enough; you can put one in each room, along with an appropriately sized set of speakers, and then control the whole shebang using the app’s visual interface. This is the kind of setup where the NuVo system excels, thanks to its reliable wireless performance.
(Next page: Other Features, Product Line, and Conclusions)
There are drawbacks, though: You can’t stream music from your iPhone or Android phone directly. To play music from your iTunes or Windows Media Player library, you must add it to the app’s Library, and to do that, you have to open a desktop Web browser, download and install the Nuvo Music Share software on your PC, and then add the folder inside Music Share. Or you can stick with Internet radio streaming, which includes support for Pandora, Rhapsody, and TuneIn, as well as SiriusXM satellite radio programming if you have a subscription. Pandora streaming worked great in my tests. There’s no Spotify support, which is a bummer.
You can also stream from your iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries, even if they include lossless-encoded music. When following the NuVo app’s directions, I tried adding my iTunes library folder multiple times; some of the time, NuVo’s app crashed on my Windows 7 laptop. Other times, it successfully added the folder and worked fine.
Other Features, Product Line, and Conclusions
One nice touch is that you can plug a USB key full of music into the back of the P200 and use the iOS or Android app as a remote control. There’s also the aforementioned Line In port, which lets you plug in another MP3 or CD player. But to use the Line In port, you still have to select it and control it from the app on the phone; there’s no way to just use the NuVo system to power speakers without an iPhone or Android device nearby. The P200 also lacks a headphone jack, so you can’t just jack in and listen; you’ll need to go back to using your phone or tablet for that.
One time, during testing, I forgot to enable sharing in iTunes, so I couldn’t get the NuVo P200 to see my library. This problem was caused by me, mind you, but adding to the frustration was the fact that there’s no volume setting feedback on the P200. The capacitive buttons mean no volume knob with an indicator, and there’s no display on the P200 either. So I lived in constant fear that when I tapped Play, I’d either go deaf, or it would be working but I just couldn’t hear it.
You may not need everything the P200 offers in all rooms, though. If you want to save $120 on a given room, the smaller $479 P100 Wireless Player loses the Audyssey processing and compatibility with 4 ohm speakers, and steps down to a small 20-watt-per-channel amplifier. It also drops Bluetooth wireless streaming, although it still delivers lossless music wirelessly otherwise. This model could be an option for rooms where you don’t need a lot of volume and just want to extend the network to, say, a home office or a bedroom with a small pair of bookshelf speakers, although I wish the P100 were less expensive still.
To be sure, at $600, the NuVo P200 costs a lot to begin with, and that doesn’t count the GW100 Gateway and the fact that you’re bringing your own speaker system to the party in each room. It does perform well, though, and is worth consideration if you’re looking for the P200′s unique combination of features. In recent years, Sonos has added AirPlay capability and an iOS app, among other improvements; there are some differences on the whole-house integration side that are beyond the scope of this review. NuVo and Sonos both offer competitive, high-priced, multi-room systems with both dedicated controller and iOS apps.
If your needs are more modest, you’ll probably get by just fine with various AirPlay- or Bluetooth-equipped systems, assuming you have a less crowded wireless network or stick to interference-resistant 5GHz Wi-Fi. Or you could simply use an AirPort Express connected to an existing amplifier and speaker system in each room, as long as you don’t need to listen to different sound sources in different rooms simultaneously.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc