The Korus team was on hand at this year’s Macworld / iWorld expo back in March, where they wowed the crowd in both the press room and on the show floor with their V400 and V600 model wireless speakers. Both speakers offer amazing sound and a sleek design, and it’s evident the team behind them have packed serious technology into their products.
Zigging Where Others Zag
Korus has done something a little bit different with their speakers: they’ve created their own wireless transmitters and protocol, rather than relying on AirPlay or Bluetooth. The first time I heard the V600 I was blown away and thought “Must have one!” But when I found out it used a proprietary wireless protocol I dialed back my enthusiasm several notches. Why would I want a wireless speaker that needed extra hardware when I’ve got both AirPlay and Bluetooth built right into my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook? Turns out the Korus solution is superior to both of those standards, and I found myself emphatically joining the chorus after testing it out.
AirPlay theoretically offers a great experience; it works with virtually no configuration on any Apple device, but first you have to get your speaker onto your WiFi network. Some AirPlay speakers make this easy with NFC or a USB connection, but others require more complex setup. Although the sound quality is great, I often get stutters, lags, and drops in my audio. Guests can’t use my speakers unless I give them access to my network, something which I usually don’t do as I have a guest network that’s isolated for security reasons. Bluetooth overcomes many of these issues, but it’s primarily good if you’re in the same room with your speaker. Move a couple rooms away, put some furniture in between your speaker and your iPhone, and the beats just don’t sound as good anymore.
Korus overcomes all these headaches with their SKAA transmitter technology, which packs in extra features that make it worth the trouble of plugging in an extra transmitter. There are batons (transmitters) for a variety of devices, including full-sized USB, Lightning, and 30-pin Dock ports. You just plug in a baton and turn on your Korus speaker. That’s it. The SKAA transmitters pair instantly and require zero configuration; to switch between batons—if you have one plugged into your Mac and one in your iPhone, for example—you simply press a button on top of the speaker and it will jump to the next available baton. The batons have a range of 65 feet (more than twice that of Bluetooth), and you can have up to four Korus speakers playing the same audio in perfect sync anywhere in your house!
The V400 is Korus’ compact speaker, and it’s intended for small spaces. Like its larger brother, the V600, the V400 delivers a sound that’s much bigger than you’d expect given its size. I found the V400 to be a capable speaker that delivered accurate mids and highs, but on the bass end things where slightly less impressive. The soundstage is expansive; you definitely can’t pinpoint the speaker location exactly if you close your eyes, and overall the sound is rich and impeccably crisp. The V400’s rendition of vocals and other midrange is impressive, with slight details like a singer’s smooth shifting between notes playing prominently without being overpowering.
At high volumes I wasn’t able to detect any distortion in the sound, and the V400’s four speakers are well balanced. Two factors prevented the V4oo from being a complete standout winner: its slightly anemic bass and its lack of portability. Despite having an easy carry handle and being fairly lightweight, it lacks a battery, and so must be plugged in to work. Compared to the competition at this price, the lack of portability is disappointing.
The Korus V400 is $299.99, and is available directly from the Korus online store.
The V600 is really the Korus flagship, and it’s an impressive speaker that’s well worth its price. Not only does it pack the company’s LiveStage DSP for a digitally-expanded soundstage, but it has seven drivers including two side-mounted tweeters that provide a physically enormous soundstage. The first time I heard a V600 was in the massive, bomb-fallout-shelteresque media room at the Macworld expo. The room had terrible acoustics, but the V600 still sounded crisp and clear, and filled the room as though a live band were playing rather than a mere speaker. The V600 delivers the same gorgeous distortion-free mids and highs across a wide variety of music as the V400, while also packing a powerful bass punch. It’s got a much wider frequency response with expanded response on the lower end of the range, and bass is clean, tight, and really makes this speaker a great performer.
The V600 has the same shape and easy carry handle as the smaller V400, but it also packs room for six D-cell batteries that let you take the music on the road. While this portability is nice, the lack of a built-in rechargeable battery is a bit of a mystery, especially at this price. I felt very Fresh Prince of Bel Air cramming D cells into a speaker, but the sound was good enough that I really didn’t mind that much.
Overall, both the V400 and V600 pack great sound and impressive technology, which makes their proprietary wireless protocol worthwhile. The zero configuration, zero latency, and greatly expanded range are worth the tradeoff. Still, there are some drawbacks. First, the batons required to connect your Korus speakers are sold separately; this is nice, because you only buy the batons you need, but they are pricey at $50 a pop. On the plus side, the iDevice batons include a neat passtrhu which lets you charge the devices via a Korus-suplied cable, but that’s another $20 add on. Also, built-in rechargeable batteries are increasingly common in wireless speakers. While I understand the Korus setup idea that you can place a speaker in each room, I’d still like the ability to easily take one of their speakers away from its normal spot without having to bring a cord or batteries from last century.
Overall, both speakers earn a four-apple rating for their truly superior sound and easy-to-use wireless setup, but they’re not quite five-apple due to their aforementioned drawbacks related to portability. Still, if you’re looking for audiophile-grade sound in a wireless package, Korus makes it easy.