What are multi-room streaming amplifiers?
If you wired your house with multiple speakers anytime before 2015, it’s likely that you power those speakers with an audio receiver, a multi-room speaker selector box, and maybe some volume controls in the wall. To operate it, you would turn on your CD player (maybe a 5-disc if you upgraded), select the CD input, and that same CD would play around the house.
Thank God we don’t have to listen to that same Frank Sinatra CD for the 1000th time this year. Today, multi-room streaming amplifiers allow us to listen to music in different rooms using our favorite apps like Apple Music, Pandora Radio, and Spotify to get a better variety of music and easier control of different speaker zones.
VSSL vs. Juke Audio
Today we are comparing some key differences between the VSSL A.6x and Juke Audio 6 zone streaming amplifiers. Both of these brands have gone to the market as easy-to-use solution that does not require professional A/V installers to set up. In fact, each brand takes only about 30-45 minutes to install and set up. Neither of these amplifiers will require a technician to be readily available due to a controller not functioning properly, firmware upgrades that need to be implemented, or any other reocurring monthly fees that pile up.
One deceiving feature of Juke Audio is that it works using Apple Airplay. It does, kind of. Airplay is a functionality built into every Apple device (iPhone, iPad, Apple Computers) that allows wireless transmission of audio and video to other devices (multi-zone streaming amplifiers, soundbars, speakers, etc.) connected to the same WiFi network. For simplicity’s sake, we are only going to be discussing Airplay audio in this article. The latest Airplay 2 allows the Apple user to transmit music to multiple devices at the same time.
With VSSL, the user simply starts playing music, and using Airplay 2, you can select one or multiple zones to stream the feed to. Each zone’s volume will also be controlled using the simple integrated utility built into every Apple device. With VSSL, your guests and family just join the WiFi network and they can play music from any music app they are already used to using. Check out this video to see how easy it is to use VSSL and Airplay 2.
With Juke Audio, it works only on Airplay 1 (as of writing this article) and you are required to use their app to control what zones you want to listen to music in. You will also notice in the video below, the zones in Airplay are not named “Living Room”, “Kitchen”, etc. as they are in the VSSL video but instead, they are named “Juke 1”, “Juke 2”, etc. The user will have to turn on Airplay, then has to go back into the Juke Audio app to select the room and volume. Then they would have to go back to the music app (Pandora, Spotify, etc.) to change the music selection. I can not imagine certain people in my household, let alone guests, trying to figure out how to use this easily.
I didn’t forget about you Android users! But Juke Audio did. By using third-party apps, you can somehow stream your Android device’s audio into Juke’s amplifiers. With VSSL, you have full Chromecast capability.
Hi-Res Audio Streaming
Just like when we went from AM to FM, cassette tapes to CDs, today’s streaming audio has gone from Pandora Radio quality to Hi-Res audio streaming using apps like Tidal and Quobuz. This new streaming quality gives your speakers a new sound that you may have never heard. VSSL is capable of playing full Hi-Res audio (24-bit/192kHz). As far as Juke Audio goes, I am not sure what the quality is. Since I can not find it on their website anywhere, I can’t believe it’s anything to brag about.
Inputs and Outputs
Looking at the back of these two amplifiers, you will notice a dramatic difference. The biggest difference is the number of connections that vary between the units. RCA inputs are typically used for local sources to be played through that zone. A turntable, cable box, TV etc. are great examples of audio devices you may want to hear through your house speakers. RCA outputs can be used to connect a larger amplifier for an outdoor audio system or sometimes a subwoofer for that zones.
The VSSL has an RCA input and output for each zone. In addition, you can set each zone to prioritize the RCA input or the music streaming. Let’s say you have a satellite box connected to a zone with a TV on the wall. When that satellite box turns on, the amplifier will automatically turn off the music and turn on the football game. This is an option and works on a zone-by-zone basis, giving you complete control.
The outputs on the VSSL amplifiers have two functionalities, add a subwoofer to the zone or send the audio to a different amplifier. Each zone on the VSSL has an output, again, giving you complete expansion capabilities.
Lastly, the VSSL amplifier also has an Optical input and IR input allowing digital audio from a source to play through your speakers and control the volume with a TV remote control.
The Juke Audio amplifier comes with two USB ports. According to their website today, you will have to purchase a third-party adapter to turn these USB ports into RCA ports. Make sure you get the right one! From what I can tell, these two ports can either be an input or output, but neither allow for a subwoofer connection.
Power and Connectivity
When we are talking about amplifiers, I feel as though the word amplification is a big piece of the decision making process. The RMS (average wattage) of the VSSL is 50 watts/channel (A.3x and A.6x) where the Juke Audio is half that at 20 watts/channel. Another interesting piece I found is that the Juke Audio can only connect up to 4 devices where each zone on the VSSL can be connected to a device. This isn’t crucial but this means with the VSSL I could have 6 audio zones connected to 6 different phones, playing 6 different streams, the Juke Audio only allows for 4.
Control 4 and Crestron Integration
If you already have an expensive control system like Control 4 or Crestron, you may want to integrate your new streaming amplifier into the system. With VSSL we have free drivers available to implement that setup. Juke Audio does not have any integration options at this time.
The Power of Voice
I don’t know about you, but it seems like my house is being controlled by our voices more and more each year. Both of my kids have an Amazon Alexa in their rooms, one in the kitchen, one in the playroom, and a few more scattered about the house. We control our Philips Hue lights, Ring security system, and of course our music. A simple command of “Alexa, play smooth Jazz on the kitchen speakers” immediately fires up my TruAudio PP-8 speakers connected to my VSSL amplifier.
The VSSL Amplifiers are wirelessly Google Home and Amazon Alexa compatible. Each zone can have its own Alexa or Google Home attached wirelessly to its respective zone. Juke Audio can use one of these devices, but you will have to physically connect the voice device to the amplifier using an RCA cable (and the third-party dongle). Not very convenient if your amplifier is in a rack located or in another room.
There is no doubt about it that Juke Audio has a lower price point than the VSSL amplifiers. When you are looking to purchase audio equipment there has always been a few features I look for in all systems
- Ease of use
On all of these bullet points, VSSL wins out. Their chassis’ are made of durable aluminum with a fantastic easy-to-use overall system. Integration with major brands like Alexa, Google, and control systems makes me feel good to know that the company is investing in partnering with the biggest companies in the world.
One last item to point out is the name brand. I often get a lot of hesitation because they have “never heard of VSSL.” VSSL is a part of one of the best names in custom audio, Soundvision Technologies. Soundvision Technologies manufactures brands like TruAudio and Current Audio Speakers, amplifiers, and other audio equipment. Do not feel like you are purchasing a “no-name” brand here!
*Airplay 1 only
*One for each zone
*One for each zone
*3rd party hardware required
*Two inputs max
*Must use Juke Audio app to see zone names
|Maximum number of connected devices|