NuVo is a name most anyone familiar with the custom integration market will recognize. The company’s aim is to make high-quality, great sounding, whole-house audio systems. From it’s the top of the line Concerto system, to the Renovia system, which retrofits into your home using existing electrical cable, NuVo delivers a superior home audio experience to fill virtually every niche. Up until now, though, their systems required a bunch of cabling and a central space to house the head end of the system, and were only available via custom installers. That has all changed with the Wireless Music System, which NuVo recently sent my way for review.
The Wireless Music System consists of two basic parts — a gateway and a player. It also represents a decidedly consumer-friendly turn for the company, given how easy it is to set up. The gateway is NuVo’s dedicated router, which creates a separate, proprietary audio network. The player hooks onto the gateway’s network, giving you access to all of the music that your devices and the internet have to offer. Configuration and control is handled exclusively through an iOS or Android app.
The gateway itself is a pretty simple device to use. Just connect it via ethernet to your own router, configure it via the app, and you’re on your way. It’s about the size of a basic wireless router, and does have Ethernet jacks on the back, so hardwiring is also an option from the gateway. It’s important to note that the gateway sits side-by-side with your existing network. Never at any point will your iOS or Android device not be connected to the internet when using the NuVo system.
The player is available in three different models. The P100 has a built-in amplifier with 20W per channel into an 8 Ohm load. A line input is available, as is a line output. Speaker outputs are via a pair of very nice binding posts. Step up to the P200 and you get everything the P100 has as well as a larger amp (60W per channel) and Bluetooth connectivity. The P3100 is awired system, which allows you to feed three zones from a central location, and control them via the NuVo app. All three players also include a USB port, allowing you to connect an external hard drive or USB stick to access music of your own.
A quick aside on the wireless aspect of the system. The Wireless Music System does operate in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wi-fi bands simultaneously. The players are able to hop from one to the other, or you can designate them to use one band or the other. In my case, I’m in a very dense wi-fi area, and clear channels are hard to come by. I was experiencing some dropouts every now and again. A quick wi-fi scan concluded that I was better off placing the NuVo system in the 5 GHz band. Once I did this, I had zero issues. As with everything else, this is also controlled through the NuVo app, and is very straightforward. In fact, pretty much everything about this system is pretty straightforward.
Setting up the system was a very easy affair. All configuration is done via the app, and it walks you through ever aspect of the process step-by-step. Once the gateway is found, you can add players to create zones. You can give each zone a name and set up various parameters. Once your setup is done, you can drag and drop your zones to create groups of one or more zones. From here, you can select what you want to play in each group. The system is capable of running up to 16 zones simultaneously, with perfect audio synchronization across every zone.
Speaking of what you want to play, the Wireless Music System delivers plenty of options. You can use the aforementioned external drive connected directly to a player. The beauty of this, is that whatever music is on the drive is available in all zones, not just the one where the drive is located. The same is true for the Bluetooth and line-in connections. Connect it in one zone, and play it in all the others as well. This makes connecting up a friend’s device easy as can be, and doesn’t require any app downloads to make it happen. Your iTunes library can also be included in the available song selections. NuVo has a piece of software to run on you computer to link up you iTunes library to the Wireless Music System. As long as your computer is on the same network, you can access your library through the system. The one caveat here is that your iTunes library must follow iTunes standard folder structure and default location. In my case, my main media server has music and movies spread across different drives and it wasn’t able to access the music. However, on my laptop, all the folder structure is set to the defaults, and the Wireless Music System had no issues finding my files. Other content options come from the internet in the form of Rhapsody, SiriusXM, Pandora, Napster, and TuneIn. Some require an account, and some do not, but using account with things like TuneIn and Pandora allows you to sync your stations and favorites across platforms. No matter which way you go, the integration into the system is seamless. It just works.
For this review, NuVo provided me the GW100 Gateway, a P100 Player, and a P200 Player. I was also provided with a pair of the company’s AccentPLUS 2 outdoor speakers which I’m not officially reviewing here (but — of the record — they sounded pretty darn good). I set the system up with one zone in my kitchen, and another in my bedroom/bathroom. The kitchen got the P200 and the NuVo speakers, while the bedroom/bathroom used the P100 and some speakers I had laying around, as well as my Polk soundbar. I toook the bang-for-the-buck approach here and used both the integrated amp and the line out to create two rooms full of music from one player. Granted, going that route didn’t allow me to configure them as individual zones, but it does show a little bit of the flexibility in the system. In this setup, the speakers were driven directly by the player, and I had to control the sound bar separately. It’s probably not NuVo’s intended application, but it works.
My main sources were Pandora, Bluetooth, and iTunes. It’s important to note here that the only way to play the music stored on your mobile device through the Wireless Music System is to use the Bluetooth or line-in connection. It’s not the end of the world by any stretch, but especially if you are used to the way AirPlay works, this is a little different. The Bluetooth connection sounds great, and has pretty good range, so it’s definitely a viable option.
In practice, the Wireless Music System is really a breeze to operate. My wife and I both had the NuVo app installed on our iPhones, and were up and running pretty quickly. The app itself is very intuitive, in that it basically tells you what to do and how to do it. As I said before, creating groups is a simple drag and drop affair. Grab the zone you want, drop it on the “new group” box, pick your source, and enjoy the music. One of the coolest features is that the system runs independently of your mobile device. For example, if my wife started playing some music and left the house, the music continues even though her iPhone that was controlling the system went with her. I could then hop on with my iPhone, and the app would show me how the system was currently configured and what it was playing. I could then make any changes I wanted. The takeaway here is that the players truly are just that — they are doing the heavy lifting. Your iOS or Android device is only acting as a two-way remote control. This is a very cool feature and something that I will sorely miss when I have to return the review system.
The app itself is very well executed. It does most things automatically, or gives you a step-by-step, wizard-style approach to guide you through a task. Control of the system is very intuitive, and it’s easy to find what you want to play, and send it where you want it. System updates are also handled through the app, and is also about as painless as it gets. Every aspect of the app indicates that NuVo made sure the average end user could maintain and operate this system, and it shows.
Another great feature that I don’t want to overlook is that it is truly a whole-house system. From your iOS or Android device, you are able to control every zone you have connected to the system. For anyone who has worked with multiple AirPlay zones, an iOS device can only send content to one at a time (without using a non-Apple designed workaround). This is a big deal for me, and I think it would be for a lot of people. When doing things around the house, we enjoy having music playing everywhere. Having the same thing in every room, and in perfect sync, is a snap with this system. I don’t know of anything else in this price range that makes whole house audio this simple and intuitive. In case you didn’t figure it out, I’m a huge fan of this system. Granted, you can get this same type of control with a system that includes a control pad and speakers in every room, but that involved lots of wires, and running all those wires, and, ultimately, adding cost. The system accomplishes a lot in a small form factor, and at a low price point.
There are some other nice features that I haven’t touched on yet. One that I found pretty useful was the ability to make the players output a mono feed. Both of my players were set up as background music players, and not necessarily a true, critical listening stereo setup. For both, I just set them to mono, and didn’t have to worry about missing a piece of the audio, or getting a strange mono mix. Another great feature, especially for a background music situation, is Audyssey Dynamic Volume. Dynamic Volume aims to give a more consistent audio level so that you’re not constantly chasing the volume. In practice, it worked very well and provided a consistent audio level. It’s obviously not for a critical listening environment, but for me, I found it very beneficial.
Overall, this system performed magnificently. It delivered on its promise of high quality audio, without a whole lot of fuss. Once I set up the players, I tossed them in inconspicuous locations, and just enjoyed the music. I never had to touch them. NuVo has delivered a quality product that is laser-focused on one thing: delivering music around the home with no muss and no fuss.
If you are in a situation where you can’t modify the residence — like a rental property or apartment — or are just looking for an easy way to add whole-house audio to your own home, it doesn’t get much better or easier than the Wireless Music System.
The Wireless Music System is available now from NuVo’s network of dealers and integrators. The GW100 retails for $199, while the P100 and P200 retail for $479 and $599 respectively. The NuVo Player app is a free download.