Phorus PR1 Receiver review: Phorus PR1 Receiver is no Sonos killer

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK
  • Overall: 5.8
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Sound quality: 6.0
  • Value: 5.0

Average User Rating

5 stars 2 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Phorus PR1 offers a lot of potential with both Bluetooth and wireless audio streaming using your existing Wi-Fi network. The unit is less than half the price of itsnearest competitor. The system offers plenty of potential for the future with hi-res support and more services in the offing. The Phorus app supports Play-Fi devices regardless of manufacturer.

The Bad The system is a wireless bandwidth hog. Sound quality can suffer if there is congestion on your network with the sound closing in upon itself. Playback of any file format other than MP3 is spotty or doesn't work at all. The system suffers from frequent connectivity issues, even when wired. Initial streaming service support is limited to Pandora, unless you use Bluetooth. There's no Ethernet without purchasing a separate adapter.

The Bottom Line While the Play-Fi standard offers plenty of potential, the Phorus PR1 is currently too limited in its scope and performance to warrant buying over a Sonos.

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Imagine it's 2008 and you're Google. You want to build a phone to compete with the iPhone, and its a pretty daunting task. Now flash forward to 2013. It's the same Apple versus Google-type scenario, but in the audio realm: you want to take on the incumbent big dog in the streaming music space, Sonos, and offer a compelling alternative. What would you do differently to take on such a well-established brand?

That's the task facing Phorus, a company formed by CEO Danny Lau after his experiences designing iPod docks for JBL. He wanted to build an open wireless standard for audio, and -- after leaving JBL -- the "Play-Fi" standard was born.

Phorus has two "Play-Fi" products on the market -- the PS1 speaker and the PR1 receiver reviewed here. We're told additional Play-Fi products from other companies will be announced at CES 2014 .

But there's one problem with Play-Fi that I found in my testing: it uses a lot of wireless bandwidth -- even more than streaming Netflix. If your network isn't up to it you'll either get lower quality audio or stuttering, hiccuping sound. Even with a wired connection I found it prone to dropouts.

The PR1 receiver is half the price of the Sonos Connect, but it lacks that product's sound quality, ease of setup, and bombproof build. While I look forward to the products that are to come, I can't currently recommend either the PR1 or the PS1. Even if you bypass the dodgy Wi-Fi performance and opt for Bluetooth -- which worked much more reliably -- there are cheaper wireless adapters and better speakers for the money.

Design
The PR1 receiver is a large-ish oval device which features a textured surface. Indeed, the topside can be used to cradle a mobile phone, which can be charged from the PR1's rear USB port.

Sarah Tew/CNET
There are five buttons on the front of the speaker: power, volume up and down, plus two wireless buttons: one for Bluetooth and one for the proprietary Play-Fi system. Unlike the PS1 speaker the receiver lacks speakers so it needs to be connected to an existing stereo system. It has a 3.5mm output for this purpose, but unfortunately lacks a digital out. (By contrast, the Sonos Connect has two digital outs.)

In addition to charging your phone, the rear USB port can also be used to connect a USB-to-Ethernet adapter if your connection is poor. But be aware that the Play-Fi system is only as strong as its weakest link; if you have a poorly performing wireless gadget it will drag the performance of the other components down.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Features
Although originally billed as "Wireless Audio for Android" on the Phorus website, the company has much loftier aspirations for the system than just streaming music from Google phones. In September, the company added iOS support, and coming soon is PC playback. With future improvements including hi-res audio -- at present it's limited to 16/48 -- and a wider array of supported streaming services, parent company DTS is really hoping to take the Play-Fi(ght) directly to Sonos.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Type Streaming adapter
  • Connectivity Protocols Bluetooth
    Wi-Fi
  • Functionality Content streaming
About The Author

Ty Pendlebury reviews televisions in CNET's New York office. He originally hails from CNET Australia. Ty's interests include gaming, indie music, hi-fi, streaming media, movies, literature, and cycling.