I have a confession to make. I use Alexa devices to handle my multi-room music at my home, despite having a reasonably sized audio library and skills to handle it differently. It’s a lazy (and costly) approach and I’d try something else quicker if it wasn’t for the fact that I pay for Prime Membership already. Arylic decided to challenge my skills and sent me Up2Stream Pro v3 (Amazon, Arylic Store) boards, as I needed some speakers to go with it, Majority Audio made sure I have a set (or two).
I have a multi-room system to make.
What’s wrong with Alexa
I still stand by what I said in the past. When it comes to wireless speakers, Alexa Echo 3rd gen is one of the best speakers you can buy for £20.00 (they are priced like this during Prime Days and usual sales). While you can connect Alexa to external speakers to punch above that price tag, Alexa tries to get conventional each time you ask it to play music and multi-room audio is limited to supported services only.
On top of paying for access, annoying voice prompts, and limited playback time per session, some would also consider privacy concerns (not everyone fancies a smart speaker at home) and that’s fair!
Arylic & Majority are a perfect match
On one side Arylic offers a wide selection of DIY boards tailored to your taste and requirement with wireless audio and multi-room capabilities, on the other side we have Majority Audio which focuses on delivering the hardware to make sound: speakers, soundbars and more.
It’s a no brainer to combine both together for true multi-room audio without the premium price tag. Arylic hooked me up with 2 of their popular Up2Stream Pro v3 sound cards to bring bookshelf speakers and Atmos graded media soundbar with subwoofer online.
The bottom line? You could get a decent stereo audio node for a multi-room setup for about $130. A Sonos offering with the stereo-in-one speaker will cost you almost twice as much. Will it be better? Considering the fact that the music is streamed from a single speaker, I very much doubt it.
Be advised, that Arylic offers DIY sound solutions, not high-street ready, consumer products. Depending on your selection, you will be asked to put some work into making things look nice and work well. This includes selecting the right board, modules and interfaces for your audio setup at home. The reward is a completely bonkers unique hardware that you will definitely show off to your mates and family.
Up2Stream Pro v3 (from $59.99)
I received 2 Up2Stream Pro v3 (Amazon, Arylic Store) boards which come without pre-amp and require the audio system to amplify the sound. You can select boards with a built-in amplifier if your speakers can’t handle it. Despite rather unimpressive looks (let’s face it, it’s a PCB) the Up2Stream Pro has a lot to offer.
On the list of inputs, we have AUX in (3.5mm), USB, Bluetooth, DLNA via WiFi and LAN and optional (via module) S/PDIF. The module is pretty barebone and comes with extra sockets to add modules and control panels. There’s even an IR diode if you need a remote. All of that will take some DIY to make it happen.
Up2Stream Pro v3 isn’t limited to streaming music stored locally. You can either use DLNA streaming capabilities or lean on one of the supported streaming platforms via the 4Stream app: Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Napster, TuneIn, Internet Radio, iHeart Radio, QQ Music, QQ FM.
From the hardware perspective, the board has everything you need to connect the most demanding audio equipment to it. More demanding audiophiles can also get a tuning kit and tune in the sound profile to their liking. It’s an option, which I probably never need to use, but it’s there if the standard tuning isn’t to your liking.
If you going to pick this board, take a look at the add ons which include:
As you can tailor your Up2Stream Pro v3 even further to match your existing audio needs.
The app is easy to use, however personally, I find the user interface dated. It works well, and the app gave me no problems in operation, but browsing streaming services for content was… less than impressive. If you want to stream music served by PLEX, you will need to enable the DLNA streaming server in PLEX’s settings.
The playlist management is fine, but browsing for content in connected services feels crude and basic. I realise that if you are going this way, you are most likely to use your own library but as the streaming integrations are there, it would be a shame not to take the advantage of it.
What’s good about the app is the fact that you will be able to bypass multiroom limitations of the services. If your service isn’t supporting multi-room audio, the 4Stream app won’t care and let you share the current stream with the selected group of DLNA devices.
For this project, I picked two Majority Audio devices: Dolby Atmos Sierra Plus (Amazon, Majority Store) and Bookshelf Speakers D40 (Amazon, Majority Store). I wanted to test Arylic boards on a sound system that would be likely used for home cinema as well as a more budget-friendly option.
Bookshelf speakers D40 (£69.95)
A smart take on popular bookshelf stereo speakers comes with a twist. Majority D40 speakers feature-rich connectivity options including Bluetooth, UBS/microSD readers to play music from portable storage, S/PDIF Out, and AUX-in to connect the external audio source. Operated by the side panel or via included IR remote.
Both channels (L/R) are wired together with a 1.5m cable and perfectly suited for a music setup for adding that extra punch to your computer’s audio. I already found a home for them underneath my monitor and after years of relying on headphones and in-monitor sound, I’m just shocked I haven’t changed this sooner!
They sound pleasantly nice, thanks to the dark, classic look they will blend into any environment and enrich most of the standard audio setups that come with computers or audio devices in a small form factor.
Dolby Atmos Sierra Plus soundbar +subwoofer (£269.95)
For anyone more cinema inclined, soundbars are the way to go when the available space is at a premium. Dolby Atmos Sierra Plus brings Atmos-certified spatial sound coupled with a dedicated subwoofer that enriches the experience.
Packed with generous connectivity options: S/PDIF Out, Bluetooth, USB, HDMI, HDMI-ARC and Aux-in (3.5mm) and coupled with a wireless connection to the subwoofer, you will be able to connect to any hardware and add a dedicated sound to your TV. It’s controlled with a dedicated button and an IR remote.
The setup replaced the less impressive soundbar I had so far, and I’m pleased with the result. If I had to point out anything that annoys me the built-in display stays on during playback which I found distracting.
The dedicated subwoofer makes a big difference when it comes to movie sound effects and if you put it in a strategically placed location, it will transform your room into a small movie theatre. Atmos support is incredible when the Atmos sound is included in the media, but this will depend on the movies and services you consume. Sadly, for the most part, my selection of old TV shows gets stereo sound at best!
The barebone setup is relatively simple. Power the Arylic Up2Stream Pro board and connect it to the internet via the preferred option. Use the 4Stream app to add the device. Just note that firmware has changed on these boards and the instructions it came with were outdated.
If you run into any setup issues either pairing, playback or multi-room setup, connect the audio output to the speaker (looking at LED lights only isn’t sufficient) check the following:
- Use a quality power supply (min 1A)
- Upgrade firmware on your boards (have the same revision on all boards – mine: 4.6.337862.29)
- Assure good WiFi connection (if applicable)
Initially, I had issues setting up multi-room audio, but a firmware update to the board solved it for me.
It’s a DIY setup, but it doesn’t need to look like one. I quick search on Thingiverse has returned a case that can be used with Arylic Up2Stream Pro v3. It’s not perfect, as it doesn’t expose the LEDs properly nor leaves space for any controls, so at some point, I will have to open Fusion 360 and make my own. For now, it will do.
With speakers hooked up, it was a piece of cake to set the audio to stream multi streams from the 4Stream app to each device. Switching to multiroom is also quick and easy. Add your devices to a single group and you can beam your music to all of them at once, or select different albums in each room.
What’s missing in my book is easy integration with smart speakers. There is nothing that I’m aware of, that works like a skill, but it’s not impossible thanks to a very rich API.
The only downside of the multi-room setup is the delay. You won’t care about it when playing music, but due to the synchronisation of the devices, if you are playing video, the de-synch is noticeable and will ruin your experience. In reality, you would rarely need this to consume videos. If that’s the case simply decouple the speaker where the video is played and the audio becomes synched up with the video once again.
Arylic Up2Stream Pro v3 can do much more if you are keen to spend time on it. A well-defined API allows you to take complete control over the player and even integrate it with existing smart speakers. This is where the DIY aspect of the setup comes to play. It won’t be for everyone as knowledge is required to take this to the next level, but anyone with time and skills can come up with really fancy automation.
Examples include using 3rd party devices as remote controllers for music and playlist selectors, custom dashboards for your home automation panels and clunky but very possible voice commands to control playback features.
The bottom line is: if you have the skills, time and will, Up2Stream Pro v3 (Amazon, Arylic Store) can bring interesting multi-room audio opportunities to your house without the expensive price tag. Anyone who lacks the above, can either settle for a somewhat limited experience or chose the commercial way with Alexa alike services, paying their way into multi-room audio. I know that NodeRED opens an easy integration of Arylic products in my home automation. Stay around, I may share some soon. Let me know what you think about Arylic and Majority in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈💵 – See the transparency note for details.