These speakers deliver multiroom audio with an old-school approach - but is that a problem?
Audio Pro takes the rather unfashionable decision and eschews Wi-Fi for its Living Series of multiroom stereo speakers in favour of a dedicated proprietary protocol RF network. It’s by no means an antediluvian approach, as RF has distinct benefits including a maximum (line of sight) wireless range of around 100m, although this is reduced to around 20m from one room to another because of physical barriers such as walls, sofas, large pets, etc.
Living also offers CD-quality streaming at 48kHz with no discernible delays, and is operated using physical remote controls rather than a touchscreen app, which is definitely an advantage in my book.
Setup may sound more complex than a John Le Carré novel but it’s both versatile and pretty simple to install. Each set of speakers is provided with a mini transmitter (TX-D200), which is USB powered and can connect to a PC or Mac in order to act as a conduit for online music services, iTunes libraries, etc. It can also be hooked up to other sources, including those with analogue line or digital optical outputs such as CD decks, TV screens and Bluetooth receivers, and doesn’t need to be attached to a computer (a mains PSU is supplied). It can also play nicely with AirPort Express, thus providing Apple users with AirPlay streaming.
An alternative to the TX-D200 is the Living LV-HUB, which is a mains-only hub/transmitter designed for permanent wired connection to a TV screen or CD deck. It has a wider selection of sockets, namely a USB type B input, two digital optical inputs and one 3.5mm analogue line input. I hooked up the hub’s two optical inputs to a Samsung TV and a QED uPlay Plus Bluetooth streamer. The latter received an aptX Bluetooth connection from my MacBook Air.
Both the LV-HUB and TX-D200 mini transmitter have asynchronous USB sockets, which allows you to bypass your computer’s (usually mediocre) sound card and take advantage of a Sonix sound processor. The system progressively controls the audio bands available, ensuring that the Audio Pro network can coexist with other wireless systems. A built-in filter removes RF interference from other networks.
A slider switch on both transmitter and HUB lets you choose from one of three channels on which to operate, called House Codes. For party or multiroom use you can add as many speakers as you like within the range of the transmitter and control the volume on all speakers at the same time from the remote control, which has a master volume. Or, you can divide the speakers into three zones and set volume levels separately for each zone from the same remote control.
When the party’s over you can disengage from multiroom use (if you have more than one transmitter) and can operate different speakers on different channels. Each speaker has a small LED display that can briefly show you which channel/zone they are operating on. I had no trouble getting a signal around my house’s thick brick walls and floors.
The bookshelf-style LV22s have a gorgeous leather finish and are no bigger than any of the other models tested here. Each speaker is a fully active two-way bass reflex cabinet, driven by dual 25W Class D amplifiers. The power output is mightily impressive, as is the effortlessness with which the speakers are driven. Billie Jean (Michael Jackson) is dynamic, assured and offers a nice balance of sheer detail with smoothness.
The bass extension isn’t the lowest but it is beautifully controlled and does more than enough to draw you in, while higher frequencies are silky but with real substance. By using my QED uPlay Plus with an analogue connection I managed to get a smidge more detail but either way the results were spectacularly good. The LV22 is not the most affordable of speakers – multiple zones will soon become costly – but it certainly justifies its price premium.
Audio Pro LV22
Price: £600 (pair)
Highs: Powerful but refined sound; extensive range; well-built; physical remote controls
Lows: Can’t stream from a phone or tablet without additional receiving equipment; expensive
Drivers: 1 x 1in soft dome tweeter; 1 x 4.5in aluminium midbass driver
Onboard power: 2 x 25W
Dimensions: 210(h) x 145(w) x 180(d)mm
Weight: Not specified
Features: Transmission via RF and TX-D200 transmitter, or Living LV-HUB (both with asynchronous USB); House Codes multiroom setup; remote control; built-in RF filter
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