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Gramofon Review: Add a Cloud Music Player to Any Speaker System…

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Back in April I came across the Gramofon Kickstarter page and immediately became excited. The Gramofon is essentially a box that connect to your home WiFi. Connect it to your existing speaker system via auxiliary cable and play music using your iOS or Android device as a remote. Pretty handy, and a perfect way to add a cloud music player to my 20 year old speaker system.

The Gramofon Kickstarter raised $315,295 in April, surpassing its $250,000 goal. Units sold for around $50. Gramofon units are currently being shipped to Kickstarter backers.

+Gramofon: An All-In-One Cloud Music Player, Social Jukebox, and Router…

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I recommend the Gramofon, but setting it up wasn’t smooth. The first demo unit I received wouldn’t update and wouldn’t reset after I plugged it in. I had to return this unit, and the company shipped me another. Once I had a working unit I had to figure out the settings. Understanding the provided documentation and software was difficult, and I basically had to ask their team to walk me through it.

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Currently, there’s two ways to play music through the Gramofon: Spotify and the Gramofon app. The team says they’ll add more music services in the future through a software update.

Spotify Premium is by far the easiest way to play music. Just connect your phone or tablet to the same WiFi network as the Gramofon, open Spotify, click on the Spotify Connect button, and choose the Gramofon from the menu.

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The Gramofon app controls settings and plays music via WahWah Radio. I didn’t have very much luck with this app. The volume of the music was entirely too loud and didn’t sound good, and I had trouble using it to change settings. I had to change setting using the web. Navigating to http://fonera while on the same WiFi network as the Gramfon brings up a settings menu.

The Gramofon also allows multiple users to pick songs, adding them to the play queue, but I haven’t tested this feature yet.

Despite the bugs, I do recommend the Gramofon. In fact, a second unit from the Kickstarter campaign is being shipped to me now. First generation tech always comes with bugs and a learning curve. If you’re willing to work through the issues you can add a cloud music player to any existing speaker system.

 

Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more. Follow her on Twitter: @nine_u

 

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Comments (5)
  1. jw

    1) Is there a lag?
    2) Is there an optical output?
    3) Does the onboard DAC sound like junk?
    4) Does it require you to allow anonymous users onto your wifi network?
    5) Does it ever drop off of your network?
    6) How does this compare to Apple Airport Express + Airfoil or the Sonos system?


    Reply
  2. Tycho

    @JW

    1) No lag at all. This thing communicates in milliseconds!
    2) Optical output in means of color. A ring shows you when connected to WiFi and when music is playing. You can press the center of the ring to play/pause music.
    3) No.
    4) Yes.
    5) Not yet, instead: you can hook the Gramofon up to your WiFi so you can control the Gramofon when connected to your own WiFi. One of the best features.
    6) You cannot control it using a PC or Mac. Big difference. It looks sexier though, and has a Wi-Fi extender.


    Reply
    1. jw

      Re: 1) This seems like a canned answer. I guess it’s moot, since it doesn’t support transmitting the audio of a youtube clip, anyhow. But, supposing you could, would the audio match the video or lag behind? I would put my money on a lag.

      Re: 2) By optical output, I meant digital output that bypasses the onboard digital-to-analog converter, so you can run the signal through a third party DAC (or directly into a modern receiver). Airport Express offers this (though it does downsample the signal to 16/44.1). If I’m connecting a signal to my stereo, the last thing I want is the source downgraded by the DAC on some plastic router. That kind of defeats the whole purpose.

      Re: 4) If it requires you to allow anonymous connections to your network, that’s a dealbreaker right there.

      Re: 5) I was referring to the stability of the device’s connection.

      Re: 6) It’s pretty clear to me that this is an inferior competitor to the Airport Express + Airfoil setup (which has optical out, allows you to send the specific audio from any application you’re running, extends your network, works natively with iOS devices, & doesn’t require you to open your network up to anonymous connections, which… I don’t really know why anyone would agree to that).

      I said this last time Nina posted about this device, but this seems like an inferior product that’s used as a trojan horse to expand Fon’s Hot Spot service at the expense of the consumer. There are just too many higher quality alternatives that don’t co-opt your network for anyone to seriously consider this product.


      Reply
      1. Bruce Burbank

        Nice ‘article’ Nina.

        Biggest red flag- when the creator(?) of this audio device doesn’t know that an ‘optical output’ refers to a digital audio output and not some shiny button on the outside of the unit. Nice going.


        Reply

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