Last year we brought you a detailed review of the SoundMate M2, a WiFi music receiver that allows you to stream music from devices on your network (ie phones, tablets, laptops, etc) to any stereo system in your house that supports RCA, line-in or optical. It wound up working very well, and now Uyesee has sent us the successor to the series, the SoundMate WM201.
The WM201 is what you get when you combine the features of the M2 model, online media sources such as internet radio and cloud storage, 5.1 support and easy firmware updates. All of this which can be toyed with using the app “EZCast”, allowing you to choose what you are sending to it, adjust its settings, add it to your network and easily update its firmware.
Just like the M2, you are able to use Airplay, DLNA and Play To features of your mobile devices to directly send music to the device once it has been added to your network. For example, in Windows 8 or 10, it is as easy as right clicking on an MP3 and choosing the SoundMate in “Play-to” menu (done).
Adding the new SoundMate to your network is extremely simple:
- Once you plug it in, it automatically begins to broadcast it’s own network. The login details are found on the bottom side of the device.
- You would then download the EZCast app to your mobile device.
- Once the app is installed and the SoundMate it is fully powered, you connect to its WiFi network via your mobile device, access the device using the EZCast app and choose “AirSetup” (which is not a settings screen for AirPlay–it’s just what they refer to their settings screen as)
- Under the WiFi sections, you will choose your actual (router) network and enter your network password/phrase so that it can connect as a device.
- Now on your mobile device, bounce from the device’s WiFi network to your router’s network and you will then find it as a device on the network. It’s that simple.
You are already ready to stream music locally. Music can be streamed to it regardless of if you are connected to your actual network or the device’s personal network (it just won’t have internet access if you don’t add it to your router).
It also offers a USB port on the back so that you can connect a drive to it with media on it. It supports multiple audio formats, including AAC, MP3, WAV, FLAC and APE. In our tests, we tested using both MP3 and FLAC with success, and it sounded great. On top of that, there is also a microSD slot for loading up a card with music as well.
One of the features it boasts about, is the addition of being able to stream certain online services such as MTV, YouTube, Vimeo and more. This is not based on the separate apps, but by using the EZCast app itself. You choose the “Web” icon in th app to launch an internal browser within the app that leads you to a homepage of sorts that links to the online sources. Unfortunately we were unable to test any of these out as the 2 test phones failed to accomplish this. The Android phone resulted in a “Invalid Media Link” error whenever we attempted to play any content, and the Windows Phone attempted to, but either audio would come through or just silence.
This may be something that will be fixed in a future firmware update. What was odd, is that barely anything worked when attempting to use the app via a Windows Phone. Clicking on “Music” lead to an empty screen (it wasn’t detecting any of the music on the phone), and before we updated the firmware, clicking on “AirSetup” lead to the settings, but then a “Please wait” screen pops up almost instantly and doesn’t go away (preventing you from adjusting any of the settings). The screen was also thrown about as if it was having trouble rendering the gui. Thankfully, once we updated the firmware, we were able to access the AirSettings screen, but only certain options would work (ie, WiFi and update, but nothing else really did anything.
It would appear there are a lot of troubles, but honestly, it appears most (or all) of them are coming from the app. Which means, they are just soft bugs that they should be able to stomp out. The fact that remains, is that the device (just like the M2) still streams great music from your device directly using files (as long as you are not using a Windows Phone). If you are using an Android, iPhone or a laptop, you should be fine.
If you want to play FLAC music to your stereo using this device, we recommend using the USB port on the back to bring the files directly to it. Although WiFi shouldn’t give you the same trouble as Bluetooth does when it comes to streaming HQ formats, it’s best to be safe as you at least know you are getting the full experience out of each file.
Using a Windows 8.1 laptop, we were able to play a number of MP3s to the SoundMate both both right clicking on them and selecting “Play-to” or by using the device–>play-to side bar of certain applications such as Windows’ own Music app. We were not able to stream FLAC for some reason, but that might have been a problem with Windows. Upon attempting to stream FLAC, it would result in getting stuck on “connecting to device”. We were able to confirm that FLAC was the only format doing it as switching back to an MP3 would result in an instant connection. We were just unable to narrow down the culprit as Windows doesn’t exactly give you a rundown of what’s happening behind the “connecting” message.
Also, Airplay and DLNA work great as a solution to stream audio from your apps on your phone. Just like streaming MP3s from a laptop, it is super user-friendly for these options and you will find yourself using it frequently.
Just like the M2, the WM201 model does not come with a wall adapter, so you will have to use one laying around (assuming you do, at least). Inside the box you find the receiver, 3.5mm to stereo RCA cable, 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable (line-out to line-in) and a USB to microUSB cable for power (and a small instruction booklet). Your stereo *may* have a USB port on it that it can supply power with, but in most cases, you are probably going to be plugging it into the wall. This is where you will need the adapter. They use USB so that the device can work in multiple scenarios (like in the car using a USB car adapter…which hopefully you already have as well). However, it would still be nice to have an adapter (one of the most common things you would expect to find in a box like this).
One of the very first things we did when powering it up and figuring out the app, was upgrade the firmware. Once you power the device, it begins talking to your stereo (seriously). It uses what sounds like text to speech to form words and communicate its progress with you. You hear messages like “connecting to your router” and “new firmware available”, which is nice. The new firmware message was one of the first things we were met with. The Windows Phone was useless, but upon using an Android, the AirSettings screen came up just fine and the firmware update was OTA (over the air) and a cinch. Within seconds, we were back up and running again with the new firmware and a new icon on the app for “3G/4G”. As mentions earlier, even the Windows Phone experienced a little extra enhancement in operational success.
The 3G/4G is a new feature they have added to the device that apparently allows you to use your phone’s cellular data connection as a WiFi hotspot for accessing online media with. We were unable to test this function with our test units (the accounts associated to the test phones do not have tethering enabled), but you can read more about it here (Uyesee’s walkthrough/tech doc). Some cellular providers require that you subscribe to a tethering plan (additional to your data plan) in order to allow you to use your phone as a WiFi hotspot. Personally, we are not fans of this practice, as you are already paying for the data that you are now having to pay twice for–but that’s another story. If your plan does allow you to tether, then you can take advantage of this feature.
The troubles we had with using the Windows Phone app was a bummer, but thankfully the Android app came through. Except for streaming online media like YouTube, which became a bummer again. The lack of a wall adapter again, just like the M2, was also unfortunate. It does however work very well as a source of streaming local music files from your devices. The app works great for updating the firmware and we assume future updates should be able to clean up any troubles the app may be experiencing. We were troubled with how we should review this one. It doesn’t perform worse than the M2 (which received an 8/10 from us) when comparing similar features, but it has “additional features”, that aren’t 100%. We decided to give it a 7 out of 10. It’s basically the M2 with a bunch of features that need some work. The idea is solid and it appears most of the trouble can be solved with a software update, so it’s not like the product has no future. It would be nice to give it an 8, but this can only be done if those bugs are worked out. So here’s hoping!
In the end, it is a solid device for the price if all you want to do is stream local music (MP3s) from your laptop to your stereo wirelessly or use DLNA or Airplay. There are other apps in Windows 8 that support the play-to feature in Windows as well, such as Pandora. So there are other possibilities that work just fine with it. Essentially, for now, use the app just for settings, and Play-To, DLNA and Airplay for the actual streaming (until they can work on the app a little more).
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.