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Sonos has been the leader in whole-home music streaming industry for a long time, long enough to see numerous competitors fall by the wayside. In the last few years at least a dozen new players have emerged, including DTS' PlayFi, Bose's SoundTouch, Denon's HEOS and Yamaha's MusicCast. Into the breach steps Raumfeld, a German brand which has been in the the UK and coming to the US soon.
While the company's line of wireless products gets pricey very quickly -- the Stereo L is over $2,000 -- the entry-level Raumfeld One S, which is $249 or £199, offers excellent sound quality and a robust design. Compared against both Denon's HEOS 1 and the Sonos Play:1, the Raumfeld comes out on top in terms of sonics and is the only one that supports higher-than-CD-quality music. It's also the only one to support Google Cast which is the best entry-level multi-room music system.
As a gateway drug to Raumfeld's architecture, the One S is pretty compelling. While the native app isn't as comprehensive as competitors the recent addition of Google Cast more than makes up for this. When you also throw in great sound the Raumfeld One S stands out as one of the best entry-level Wi-Fi speakers.
Updated December 9, 2016 The Raumfeld One S (as well as other Raumfeld components) now supports Google Cast, and the review has been updated with further testing.
Compared with the other speakers in the range -- particularly the beautiful Stereo M -- the One S is the plainest-looking Raumfeld speaker. The One S is available in a choice of either black or white, but in either case it is dominated by a black cloth grill. The front and sides are covered in black acoustic cloth and the rest of the speaker is dressed in plastic. While the white version looks a little more striking in its two-tone color scheme, it's not by much.
The One S' moisture-resistant design makes it particularly suited to use in kitchens and bathrooms, and it comes with a rubber stopper to block the ports underneath. The stopper makes the speaker humidity-proof rather than waterproof, for while the rubber adds some protection you can still see the bare driver poking through the acoustic cloth.
The top of the unit houses rubberized buttons for volume and four customizable shortcuts.
The Raumfeld One S is a multiroom speaker which can run either over Wi-Fi or via Ethernet (but not Bluetooth). There's a USB port too. While it's designed to be used in damp environments, even maybe a pool, unlike the Denon HEOS 1 it lacks battery capabilities and therefore portability.
While you can't expect much in the way of "high fidelity" out of a small box like the One S, Raumfeld's ecosystem is especially attractive to audiophiles, namely for its support for high-resolution 24-bit/192 kHz files. For the record, CD quality ends at 16-bit/44 kHz.
The Raumfeld is controlled with the use of an app for iPhone, iPad and Android, and it's one of the cleanest and easiest to use out there. The app is specifically designed for tablet use with an attractive three-panel layout, which includes cover art and control of each individual player in your system: from volume to playlists to a three-band equalizer. Services on offer include Spotify Connect, Tidal, TuneIn and DLNA for music from the phone or on your network.
As of December 2016 the device also now supports Google Cast which lets you stream or Cast from compatible apps including Spotify, Pandora and Tidal. You can also use the Google Home app to set up a multiroom system using Raumfeld speakers or other brands that support Google Cast such as Sony and LG.
Sonos is the clear winner of all of its competitors in terms of content choice, with not only dozens of services but more importantly universal search. If Raumfeld could at least add another "radio" service like Pandora this would help things a little bit.
One of the greatest contributions Sonos made to wireless streaming was in making setup really easy -- press a button, tell your app to look for the speaker and bam, you're done. Sadly some of its competitors are still a way off from emulating this experience, and this is something that Raumfeld has improved during my time with the unit.
Initial setups proved frustrating, and the unit tended to forget everything if it was unplugged from the power, but recent updates have suggested the Raumfeld is easy to setup in both Android and iOS. Simply press the Setup button, fire up the app, enter your Wi-Fi credentials and you're ready to go.
While it may be intended to use in a small room, the One S has no problem powering a much larger living area. The amount of bass the One S is capable of without distortion is particularly impressive, and the ability to tweak the EQ means you can tailor the sound to your room.
Whether in my system at home or in the CNET audio room, I found it easy to forget which speaker I was listening to, and this is partly because of the amount of bass energy the One S is able to put out. It behaves like a much larger unit with tuneful and full bass. While of course switching over to a much better speaker like the larger Stereo M was like night and day, the One S isn't completely embarrassed by the competition.
Intimate male vocals -- whether Gotye on "Heart's a Mess" or Roger Waters' "Perfect Sense Part 1" -- retained their urgency without becoming chesty. The Raumfeld's bass elevates its performance above the Denon HEOS One, which sounded a little thin, even though the Denon was a more open-sounding speaker.
Even in comparison to the Sonos Play:1, the Raumfeld offered more bass weight and, with a little tweaking of the treble EQ, more open-sounding with our copy of "Stonemilker" by Bjork.
I also tested the One S alongside the Raumfeld Stereo M and Google Home as part of a Cast group. I had no problems casting from Tidal or Rocket Player on my phone. I found there were zero dropouts and all of the speakers stayed in sync.
The Raumfeld One S is even better than its modest "bathroom and kitchen" ambitions might suggest with better sound quality than its competitors. It's simply one of the best entry-level Wi-Fi speakers available. It's a pity its current online-only sales policy could mean an uphill battle for the company against the all-consuming Sonos.