The Best Multiroom Speakers That Don't Need a "Smart" Home
| Reuben Howe
We recently took a deep dive into the August WS350 Multiroom WiFi Speakers. They provide a high-fidelity audio experience from their 4 driver units, but it's the features of the August A-Link App that really make the device incredible. The app lets you make the most of your portable speaker with wifi ranges up to 100m!
Without needing a Smart Home under the control of Siri or Google Assistant you can still enjoy the same level of quality, responsiveness and control. Being able to seamlessly connect a network of up to 10 speakers for each channel is enough for businesses, offices, events and halls (Like Churches) to fill the space with audio.
There's a lot to dig in to and many features to use, so let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's explore how we can set up an independent audio network without Google or Apple Smart devices. Your speakers, your audio, your network.
The August WS350 Speaker - Set Up
First of all the unit itself is robust and easy to handle. The Oak finish is stylish and fits in with any room, so just unpack your speaker and set it up somewhere nice. If you've never charged the speaker then make sure it's close to an outlet and plug the mains to micro-USB cable in.
When powered up, the WS350 will default to Wi-Fi mode. I found the green flashing LED started almost immediately and had no need to hold the WPS button, but if you find that the speaker doesn't scan then use the button on the rear to initiate it.
If you're particularly far or obscured from the router then using the screw-in aerial (Which also gets radio reception if you'd like that feature) will help you connect.
The August A-Link App - Set Up
Alongside the wifi speakers, you'll want a smartphone or tablet with the August A-Link App. Sticking to their commitment to making tech accessible to all, the app is available on both Apple and Android devices regardless of if you currently have any "Smart" tech.
Once installed, the August A-Link app will allow you to connect your WS350 speakers (Again, over 8 of them!) to your WiFi network. Alternatively, you can connect to the WS350 speaker WiFi itself which can then in turn connect to your home network.
Linking the Speaker and the App
If you want to get the full functionality that prompted me to write this piece to begin with, I advise using the app to connect the speaker and your phone. The WS350 is a capable speaker in its own right and can play Line-In or Bluetooth audio just fine (Great, in fact) but for the full "Wait, this is awesome" experience I recommended completing WiFi pairing!
To add the system to your Wi-Fi with the app there are 2 methods
1) Connect to Your Wifi Network and Add the Device
The first method is to connect your phone to your home WiFi. Next, open the app and allow it to scan. You'll add the speakers one at a time to create an authentic, directional and surprisingly loud Hi Fi system.
For now, let the scan continue and press the WPS button on the WS350 to prompt it to be visible. After a time, you'll be asked to confirm which device to pair and which WiFi to connect to.
Once this information is provided the WS350 will appear as a "Device" on the newly accessible app screen. Due to Wifi configurations, this method can sometimes fail. If you cannot connect using this method, connect directly as below
2) Connect to Your Device and Add the Wifi Network
The second method is to have the speaker enter WPS mode as before, but this time connect to the WiFi network on your Smartphone / Tablet named "WS450_XXXX". This is the dedicated wifi network of the device itself.
Once connected to the speaker, it can then be pushed by the app on to your home network that your phone is ordinarily connected to. This will add the WS350 to the device list just the same as method 1, but can be easier when only adding one device since you connect directly to it first.
Using the August A-Link App
Now for the really fun part. The August A-Link app takes a high-fidelity, room-filling Hi-Fi system and makes it approachable, adaptable and most importantly, simple.
On your device list you can rename the speaker should you want to have "Living Room" or "Bedroom" names for a multiroom wireless speaker system. Since you can change any speaker to any channel at will you don't have to name them "Left" or "Right" or "Stereo" which is fantastic, as making sure you put the Left and Right speaker the right way is an age-old hassle of Hi-Fi networks.
Once named and assigned a channel you can choose your audio source. There are a few categories to choose from
1) Line In (Direct Wired)
Starting simple (And usable without any of this set-up) is the Line In. This is a standard 3.5mm AUX port as you find on speakers, headphones, earphones and more. The speaker includes a 2.5mm Stereo cable in the box, which you should use to ensure that the audio transmission is in full stereo.
You don't want to use a one-pin 3.5mm and miss out on the speaker quality!
2) Bluetooth (Direct Wireless)
Moving to the realm of wireless connection, the WS350 supports Bluetooth. The Multiroom Bluetooth Speakers can be found in your Bluetooth menu on your Phone, Tablet, PC etc. The connection can utilise the speaker well, but only in one configuration (No channel selection).
The benefit is that all audio from the connected device will get routed through the WS350
3) App Connection (Wifi Multiroom)
This is the crux of the August A-Link app, as it supports multiple third-party apps within itself. You can use Spotify, and access music controls through it all within the August A-Link App. Wifi speakers work best when they have a connecting software and usually that's an AI Assistant like Alexa or Siri or Google Home. The best thing about the WS350 is you don't need any of that AI or Smart Home stuff, you can control your wireless multiroom speakers all through a standalone app.
Choose Spotify, launch the app and select your playlist or Album. From then on, you can control the music through the August A-Link app directly to the speaker. Even better, you can control it from the speaker itself! Even Spotify, Tidal and other apps can be controlled from the physical buttons on the device, rather than scrolling through apps on your phone.
The Features of Smart Audio Without Needing Smart Devices
Once you're connected in your chosen way, preferably with the WiFi, you can begin tweaking your entire home to suit your audio needs.
From the device menu you can quickly and easily group or ungroup speakers. By dragging the speaker in-line with another they will be paired for simultaneous playback. The first time I dropped the speaker there are 5 seconds later had full stereo from not one, but two speakers on my little office desk I was almost literally blown away.
Luckily, before being thrown out of my chair from powerful audio, I tapped the little L/R symbol attached to each speaker in the app. Without needing to go into settings menus I assigned one as Left and one as Right.
The speakers themselves actually declare "Left Channel", "Right Channel" and "Stereo" when you switch in real time, so setting up a surround sound network would be easy. That level of communication is a subtle way in which August's commitment to accessible tech shines through.
Once I'd saved myself from the wall of music that had fast-approached me I lowered the left speaker a little as it was closer than the right. The volume slider is right there on the device list and slides up in convenient steps.
The feeling of utter surround sound from 2 multiroom Bluetooth speakers that in their own right can provide hearty, "thumpy" stereo and bass was something else. In fact, I opened up this webpage and started writing! (I have since turned the speakers off as I work in a joint office, but they are not leaving my desk).
The device list is only 2 speakers right now, but with space for up to 8+ speakers connected at once you could make a home cinema, fill out a convention hall or host a garden rave all with limitless sound.
On top of the playback options in the app, you can set the physical buttons on the speaker to have functionality too. By playing a Spotify playlist, radio station or local file and selecting "Preset" you can program the speaker pad. The integration with 3rd party apps is seamless and tactile.
Preset your favourites and switch to them without getting out your phone and launching the app, simply by pressing the button on the top of the WS350. This sort of instant-access makes sure your independent multi-room network works as well as a "Smart" one, without all the faff.
Connect Any Speaker To This Network
Once you're all set up with the WS350 (Or Multiple WS350s) you can begin crafting a truly unique Multiroom Network with another August product, the WR320. This little adapter box makes any wired speaker a Wifi one! Read more here and find out how to transform your current hi-fi network into a Wifi one.
Your speakers, your audio, your network.