In the great forest of streaming platforms and techniques, DTS is a relatively new player. The company has put DTS Play-Fi on the market as a streaming audio platform and we are now seeing more and more products based on this platform. But, what exactly is DTS Play-Fi and what are the pros and cons?
What is DTS Play-Fi?
If you want to stream audio from different sources to different speakers in the house, you will end up in the world of streaming platforms and techniques. We know here, among other things Apple’s AirPlay, the HEOS platform, the MusicCast platform, the Sonos platform, Google Cast, DLNA, Bluesound, bluetooth and even smaller players such as Flareconnect. One is a platform, the other a protocol. One is tied to a loudspeaker brand, the other can be implemented by all manufacturers. DTS Play-Fi is a platform that enables streaming of audio and that any manufacturer of AV equipment can get started with.
DTS Play-Fi is a platform that allows you to wirelessly stream audio from all your mobile and fixed devices (and even TV equipment) to all audio systems and speakers that support the standard. For example, you can stream your own music or music from various streaming services to speakers, receivers and other compatible audio products from your computer, from your tablet and from your smartphone.
DTS uses its own streaming, synchronization and authentication technology for this. These should ensure that audio can be streamed from all your devices to all your devices without loss of quality and synchronously.
Freedom in streaming
In addition to the focus on quality, DTS Play-Fi mainly focuses on freedom of choice, both with regard to supported services and with regard to hardware. As a consumer, you must be able to determine yourself which services and speakers you use.
DTS Play-Fi is therefore not proprietary. Any AV brand that is interested can get started with Play-Fi. Philips, Sharp, Pioneer, Polk, Klipsch, Arcam, Rotel and HP, among others, use the platform. An important aspect of the platform is that all compatible devices from all these brands can work together seamlessly and can therefore send or receive music.
The platform provides access to the most popular streaming services. You can get started with Amazon Music, Deezer, Spotify (Connect), Qobuz, Tidal, TuneIN, Napster, Pandora and Internet Radio. You can also stream music from your own network through DLNA. In addition, devices running on the Play-Fi platform can also have streaming techniques such as AirPlay and Google Chromecast. These functions are not standard on all Play-Fi devices: the manufacturer makes the choice. And if control with the app is not for you, you can also get started with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. Here too, the manufacturer of the product must have built-in support for this.
Finally, almost every source must also be supported. Play-Fi is compatible with Android, iOS, Kindle Fire and Windows. Play-Fi supports the following file formats; mp3 (MPEG Layer III), m4a and .aac (Advanced Audio Coding), flac (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and wav (Waveform Audio File).
Features and possibilities
DTS Play-Fi offers several useful functions and possibilities. For example, Play-Fi is not tied to one brand. For example, you can use a speaker with Play-Fi from brand A together with a receiver with Play-Fi from brand B. Everything can also be used in a multiroom setup, where you can stream to one speaker or multiple speakers at the same time.
The standard offers Play-Fi support for high resolution audio (24-bit / 192kHz) and it is possible to configure left and right speakers in a stereo setup. If you have a product that supports Play-Fi surround you can place two small and wireless Play-Fi speakers in the back of the room for a complete surround experience. After watching the movie, these speakers can also easily be disconnected and used as separate (multiroom) speakers. Televisions can also be directly connected to speakers, provided they support Play-Fi. At the moment, several Philips televisions support the platform, so you can play the TV sound wirelessly in another room. From 2021 you can even use Play-Fi speakers as surround speakers for your television. In our review of the Philips W6505 and W6205 speakers with DTS Play-Fi you can read more about the connection with TV and the use of the Play-Fi platform.
In addition, Play-Fi offers support for a critical listening mode. If you enable it, you can send high-resolution audio files to your Play-Fi product without transcoding or downsampling and without the use of cables. Finally, for Windows user, there is AV sync. Activate Video mode in the Play-Fi app for Windows and send the audio to the nearest Play-Fi product to watch a video with wireless AV synchronized sound.
DTS Play-Fi Headphones
DTS has created a special app for consumers who use headphones: DTS Play-Fi Headphones app. This makes it possible to stream audio from linked Play-Fi products (sound bars, amplifiers, speakers, etc.) to headphones via WiFi. According to DTS, the WiFi connection is much better than the connection of bluetooth headphones and thanks to the AV synchronization there should be no synchronization problems between audio and image when watching videos or TV. To listen to audio from a Play Fi product through your headphones, you must have a smartphone with the Play-Fi Headphones app installed. The headphones must also be physically paired with this smartphone. You can then listen to one stream with up to four people, even at different volumes.
DTS Play-Fi app
DTS uses Play-Fi widely and that means that the standard / service can be used on all your devices. There is an app for that Android, iOS, Kindle Fire and Windows. Each manufacturer of products running on the Play-Fi platform is allowed to release its own version of the Play-Fi app, but basically all Play-Fi apps are the same. Whether you pick one from Philips, Arcam or DTS yourself: every app offers the same experience and can handle all Play-Fi products, regardless of the brand.
In our review of the Philips W6505 and W6205 wireless speakers have already looked extensively at the app and although it is not the most clear or user-friendly app, it is packed with functions and possibilities. The home screen is where you can view all of your groups, zones and stereo pairs. You can also see which music / source is currently active.
The app gives you the option to create groups yourself, which you can then use to create specific zones in the house. You can also put two speakers together as a stereo pair, but the manufacturer of the speaker must support this with both speakers. The app also offers the possibility to create a surround setup based on Play-Fi products, although a ‘master surround loudspeaker’ must be present to do this. This can be, for example, a new generation soundbar with Play-Fi. Finally, you can create groups for Spotify Connect and it will soon be possible to adjust the audio output of the speakers yourself with the Fine Tune app.
What else you need to know
Currently DTS Play-Fi supports up to 16 compatible products in a home network, although that is an advice for optimal performance. So you can basically link 16 speakers, which will be more than enough for many. You can control a maximum of 8 products of these 16 products at the same time and therefore listen to the same song on all products. But, you can also create zones and stereo sets (merge two speakers) and then stream to up to four zones from one device. Each zone can consist of a maximum of 8 speakers, so the possibilities are actually endless. You can also use Play-Fi with several people; up to 8 different people can stream different songs simultaneously to different speakers.
Advantages and disadvantages
The biggest advantage of DTS Play-Fi is the versatility of the platform. You can link AV products from different manufacturers (even TVs and headphones), use almost all major streaming services and in many cases you have access to extra streaming techniques such as Google Chromecast and AirPlay 2. There is also support for voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. In terms of streaming quality, DTS has invested a lot in techniques that enable the highest possible quality and in addition, the platform supports audio streams in 24bit / 192kHz. That is also one of the reasons that the more expensive AV products run on Play-Fi.
Yet all this does not mean that every Play-Fi product can do the same. Some products come with voice control, other products without. It is also up to manufacturers themselves to build in techniques such as AirPlay and Chromecast. In terms of the app, the iOS and Android versions offer all hi-res possibilities, but the PC app is limited to CD quality. Finally, there is one thing that many Play-Fi products are missing: bluetooth. While this is still the most popular way to stream audio worldwide, it is not a standard that is receiving much attention within the Play-Fi platform. Some manufacturers of Play-Fi products still integrate bluetooth, but it is certainly no longer standard in the Play-Fi world.