Beep is a new wireless audio system that's pretty, but limited (hands-on)

/ Updated: February 6, 2014 8:45 AM PST

Beep wireless audio
Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

Sonos may be the undisputed king of wireless home audio, but that hasn't stopped a steady stream of new competitors over the last six months.

Beep is the latest entrant in the increasingly crowded wireless audio market, offering up a new Wi-Fi-based multiroom audio solution. Unlike Sonos or Samsung's Shape wireless audio systems, Beep isn't selling speakers, focusing instead on a solution that works with the audio gear you already have.

The system is centered around the dial. It's an attractive piece of gear, with a solid, metallic feel, although most of the casing is actually plastic. The effect is pulled off by a manufacturing process called vacuum metallization, which applies a thin coat of metal to the plastic container. Beep showed off bronze and silver finishes, both of which looked nicer than the standard "black glossy box" look that many devices sport.

Around back is a minijack port for connecting to existing audio systems. In the demo, Beep was connected to the SoundFreaq Double Spot, but it just as easily can be connected to a larger system with an AV receiver. The Beep dial doesn't have an amplifier built-in, so you'll need to connect it either to a powered speaker or amplifier. There's also a Micro-USB port on the back, which is used for powering the device using an included power adapter.

Twisting the dial, as you'd expect, adjusts the volume, while pressing it works functions play/pause, and a double press skips a track. You can also control Beep using the company's app, which will be available for both Android and iOS. The app is used for setup, as well as grouping speakers into separate zones, so you can sync the same music in every room or play different tracks in different zones. Lastly, the app allows you to stream music stored on your phone to Beep speakers.

Beep wireless audio
Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

Aside from your own music, Beep also works with Pandora using Pandora's native app on iOS and Android. It works similar to AirPlay or Google's Chromecast -- you press the cast button and pick the speaker (or zone) you want to use to use. It's simple, and the ability to use the native app is a nice touch.

All of the wireless audio streaming is done using your home Wi-Fi network. Beep has an integrated 802.11n wireless chip, although it doesn't support dual-band Wi-Fi. Using Wi-Fi will certainly deliver better audio quality than most Bluetooth speakers, although I've found in the past that Wi-Fi rarely has the same reliability as Sonos' mesh network approach.

Beep wireless audio
Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

Beep is scheduled to be released in the fall and will be sold directly through the company's website. Pricing will start at $99 for preorders, with a $149 retail price after it launches.

While Beep's hardware definitely stands out, $149 seems pricey for what the system is offering. With the Sonos Play:1 ($200), you get an excellent, powered bookshelf speaker and a much more robust wireless audio ecosystem, all wrapped in a sleek design. (You do need to buy the $50 Sonos Bridge, although Sonos often offers sales that include the Bridge for free.) The lack of support for at least one subscription music service (such as Spotify) also seems like a misstep, especially as those become more popular.

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