As one of the first companies to show off Qualcomm AllPlay-enabled wireless speakers, Lenco aims high with PlayLink range
Lenco, a company perhaps best known to a certain generation for its legendary turntables, looks set to be amongst the first companies to embrace Qualcomm’s AllPlay wireless audio platform with its PlayLink speaker range. We were shown early production samples of the range ahead of a formal launch later this year to see if Qualcomm has the technology to rival closed systems from the likes of Sonos.
Even at this early stage, the PlayLink range isn’t exactly stylish; the smaller PlayLink 4 and larger PlayLink 6 are grey, boxy and rather plain. The brushed metal effect around the edges is subtle, and the mesh materials covering the speaker drivers looked rather dull compared to some of the more colourful wireless speakers we’ve seen from the likes of Sonos and Pure.
The power button on one side and volume keys on the other are built into the plastic bezel, helping preserve the rounded corners and smooth lines, and at least the speakers themselves don’t take up a lot of space. The smaller PlayLink 4 is more likely to find a home in the kitchen, while the larger PlayLink 6 is more suited to living rooms and reception areas.
Both speakers have two mid-range/tweeter drivers and a single extended range driver in bass reflex setup, paired with a Class-D digital amplifier. Each speaker includes 802.11n dual band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC for easy connectivity, along with 3.5mm auxiliary input and an Ethernet cable for wired connections on the PlayLink 6.
The system connects over standard Wi-Fi, meaning you can use your existing router to start streaming audio around the home, although you’ll be limited to the areas that have Wi-Fi signal. You can use WPS for one-touch setup, or use the app for manual setup. Once connected, you’ll be able to stream music from any smartphone or tablet – either to all devices at once, to a single speaker, or by streaming multiple tracks to multiple speakers. Qualcomm is working on iOS and Android apps, with partners able to develop their own custom versions or stick with the basic Qualcomm version.
During our demo, we were shown Qualcomm’s own AllPlay app, but Lenco marketing manager Luan Vien told us the company was working on an app of its own that would focus on ease of use. As well as giving you individual volume control over each speaker connected to the network, the app lets you combine specific speakers into a group, rename them to make it more obvious where they are placed throughout the home, and send tracks to a central playlist. Although still in development, the app already lets you play local content from the device and tracks saved to the network, either from a PC or NAS device, but it remains to be seen how it would work with streaming services like Spotify.
With only a few tracks available during our demo, it was difficult to judge the PlayLink’s audio capabilities. We certainly can’t criticise it for volume, as the tiny speakers are able to pack a punch when turned up to full, but neither Jack Johnson’s acoustic guitar or Avicii’s thumping house tracks had any real presence. We put this down to a lack of any real bass, with the reflex system struggling to produce a low end that could do dance music justice. We’ll withhold final judgement until we see the finished systems, however.
Qualcomm’s technology seems to work smoothly, with no audible timing difference between speakers, and with at least eight manufacturers already committed to using AllPlay it looks like Lenco will soon have plenty of competition. However, unlike proprietary systems like Sonos, there’s nothing stopping you from buying a speaker from one manufacturer then expanding your setup with speakers from other companies.
The PlayLink range should be going on sale from September onwards here in the UK, with retailers yet to be confirmed. The PlayLink 4 should cost around £190 and the PlayLink 6 should cost £280.