Here we’ll look at the Gramofon WiFi music player for your speakers. Basically what this unit is trying to be is something akin to a low cost Sonos alternative. You plug it into a pair of speakers, or to your stereo via an RCA jack, and you can stream your music via Wifi to the device. The benefits here being that instead of Bluetooth, it uses WiFi which enables your device to be freed up for making calls, playing games, or whatever you like without disrupting the music. Basically what happens is when you start to stream to the device, the Gramofon takes over and your device is just used to switch songs. Being that it’s WiFi and not Bluetooth, it outputs better sound quality. Also, it is a Wifi extender, so you can add it to somewhere in your house to get some added range out of your WiFi network. They also allow for multi-room sound if you have multiple Gramofon units, you can stream in sync to multiple rooms, or play something different on each one.
Setup of the Gramofon is quick and easy. You just need to download the Gramofon app and run through the setup. I’ve seen reviews of the setup prior to receiving mine that said it was complicated, or they ran into problems, but I was able to set mine up without a hitch. I’ve also seen reviews that state they are not pleased with the device creating a public hotspot, but this device created nothing more than an extension of my wireless connection that could only be accessed by those that have my network’s key.
Playing to the Gramofon is limited at the moment to a few apps. The ones of interest to me were Spotify, which is a great music service, but requires a premium account, and the AllPlay Radio and Allplay Jukebox. AllPlay Radio will allow you to stream local radio stations to the device, and the Jukebox offering will let you stream from your personal collection. There are some others such as Rhapsody, DoubleTwist, and Napster, but I didn’t test those out since I don’t use them. Streaming from either AllPlay or Spotify is a breeze. Just start your music, then click the button to cast to your device(s). Sadly, if you’re a Windows Phone user, casting from the Spotify app is not an option.
On the back of the unit you’ll see the jack that you can use to plug directly into your speakers, or you can attach to your stereo via the included RCA plug. If you have a nearby ethernet port, you can connect the Gramofon directly to your network which should effectively make it better at extending your wireless network’s signal than if it were attached wirelessly. I should note that is based purely on my knowledge of how wireless networks work, so take that with a grain of salt, but generally speaking, devices like this connecting wirelessly to your network would in effect act as a repeater, halving the output to connected devices. Also on the back is a port labeled Computer, but I didn’t find any documentation on that, and haven’t played around with it yet, so I don’t know what that is used for. It came with a plug in that port, but I pulled it out for the picture.
While I find the Gramofon to be an excellent piece of hardware for situations such as use in my garage where I have an old set of decent computer speakers with a subwoofer, and was in need of an extension of my Wifi, I don’t think this is a device that I would have spread out to a bunch of rooms in my house. Due to the overhead of having additional wires for power and connecting to the speaker, I’d much rather sacrifice a bit of the sound quality and just use a wireless Bluetooth speaker. There is the option to hook it to a stereo, so that could be a good alternative. The downside there is you’ll need to power everything on and switch inputs on your receiver to get things going. I think one thing that would have improved the design is a usb power out jack to plug your wireless speakers into for charging, so as to have less wires running to your outlets, but that’s a minor quibble.
Overall, this is a well crafted device that has great sound quality (depending on your speakers of course), and is easy to operate. It also fills a niche in that it extends your wireless to places where you may not have the greatest coverage. At the end of the day though, you may find it easier to just use a wireless Bluetooth speaker, or opt for the less pricier Chromecast Audio that works about the same minus the Wifi extender capabilities.