There’s a new player in the high-end U.S. home audio market and they’re gonna blow you away. Raumfeld’s initial stateside offerings are impressive. We’ll be looking at three of their products in this series of reviews. First up are the oh so impressive Raumfeld Stereo M Bookshelf Speakers. These speakers get seriously loud and sound great at all volumes.
The Raumfeld Stereo M bookshelf speakers feature an award-winning design, easy setup, lossless file support for CD-quality sound, and multi-room streaming functionality. They bring German-engineered audio technology to the U.S. in a way that, I suspect, will gain a tremendous amount of attention in the coming months.
The Stereo M Wi-Fi bookshelf is a pair of powered speakers that deliver high-definition sound from a variety of different sources. The speakers have an integrated 320 W amplifier and a three-way arrangement for stereo imaging that delivers remarkable detail.
As the company explains, “the midrange driver and tweeter are arranged coaxially and approach the ideal of a point sound source. The Bauhaus-inspired design employs select materials including wooden cabinets, brushed aluminum controls and lacquer finish.”
Designed to work in conjunction with the free downloadable Raumfeld app, you can also control your music using the preset buttons built into the speakers themselves. These speakers are poised to compete directly with companies like Sonos and, from my limited experience thus far, they compete remarkably well.
The company has this to say:
“The new Stereo M bookshelf streaming speakers set a new standard for true-to-source stereo sound. A 3-way system along with the use of two identically constructed speakers are responsible for the system’s authentic stereo panorama. The coax midrange/tweeter unit in each speaker approaches the ideal of a point sound source, allowing the treble and midrange to emanate from nearly the same physical location.”
“The resulting phase/time alignment is a vital prerequisite for realistic playback. An additional dedicated woofer within each bass reflex enclosure allows the Stereo M to produce deep, resonant bass with excellent definition. Powering it all is an integrated 320 watt integrated amplifier in the master speaker that gives the Stereo M higher, distortion-free levels than one would expect from speakers this size.”
If powerful high-fidelity sound in a bookshelf-sized streaming speaker is what you want, the Stereo M is where you’ll find it!
Let’s walk through the speakers, setup, and use-experience of the Raumfeld Stereo M Bookshelf Speakers.
In a word, these speakers are absolutely gorgeous. Measuring 10.8” deep, 8.3” wide and 16.5” high, they weigh in at an impressive 25 pounds. Yeah, these are no lightweights! The wood cabinets, brushed aluminum controls, and lacquer finish come together to create speakers that look every bit of the $1300 they cost.
Raumfeld describes the design language as “restrained.” I think that is an apt word. They look amazing but are simple and understated. The clean lines and high-end finish simply look amazing. And that holds true for both the matte black speakers (the ones I was sent) and the white lacquer speakers. (Although for transparency sake I will want to make clear that it is only the matte black speakers that I have seen first-hand.)
An aluminium control panel with a brushed surface sits toward the bottom of the “master speaker” and introduces some design interest and adds an extra bit of elegance. The control panel isn’t simply a design feature, however. It places some preset buttons and a volume dial (YES! A physical volume dial!) within easy reach. This is especially important since the only other way to control the speakers is through the free downloadable app. The volume dial offers some “pleasant haptic feedback” so you won’t simply be spinning the dial around aimlessly.
To add to the coolness of the Raumfeld Stereo M speakers, you choose to use them with or without the grilles in place. With the grilles installed you get a clean understated design. Pull off the grilles and you get a more aggressive look that screams, “DUDE! I’m serious about my music!” And since the grilles are held securely in place by hidden magnets you can not only install or remove them in under a second but, when you do remove them there are no bolts or connection points to disrupt the surface. It is as classy as a design as you will find.
Setup and Control:
Setting up the system was as simple as simple can be. The first step was to download the free Raumfeld mobile app. It is available for iOS 7.1 and higher or Android 4.01 and above. You also need to have a strong WiFi system in place since the music is streamed from either your mobile device or the internet.
Note: In this initial review of the Raumfeld ecosystem I did setup and play directly without the benefit of the optional Raumfeld Expand. The Expand adds some interesting dimensions to the system but we will hold off on looking at that until the third in the three-part series. (And that part will wait until I am in my new home and setting up a permanent audio system in a few weeks.)
Once the app is in place you simply turn on the speaker, press the setup button on the back, and follow the prompts provided by the app. It walks you through step-by-step and takes just a few minutes. After that, you are ready to go.
The other way to connect to your music is by using the analog audio input on the back. In that case, you are simply using the speakers the way you would any speaker with a wired connection. Sadly, there is no optical input or even an RCA connection.
On the iPhone, the app itself is good but not great. It does the job but there is a fair bit of tapping and digging through menus required for most user scenarios. On the iPad it is a far nicer experience since the screen displays far more information and requires far less tapping and digging. Here’s a quick look at what I mean.
You can have this:
Yeah, the iPad app is a whole lot better!
There are also preset buttons on the speaker that let you avoid using the app entirely. As Raumfeld explains,
Preset buttons on the active speaker are extremely handy for activating streams without the Raumfeld Controller App. Simply press one of the four preset buttons during a stream you like and hold it down until you hear a signal. Press this button again for the instant hi-fi playback of your favorite music or radio stations. A volume dial allows the user to quickly adjust sound levels without reaching for a tablet or smartphone.
The app also lets you stream different music to different speakers for a true, multi-room experience.
If you have more than one Raumfeld device, you can assign different music to different zones or play the same tracks in perfect sync throughout your home — a great option for parties.
The Listening Experience:
There are a few ways to access music and enjoy the audio prowess of the Raumfeld Stereo M Bookshelf Speakers.
You can listen to music that is saved to your Android or iOS device just as you would if you were dreaming to Bluetooth. Well… Sort off. You see, with Bluetooth you can, for example, stream music that you have “rented” through Apple Music. That’s not currently possible with the Raumfeld system so only music you actually own and is downloaded to your device will even show up as available. On my iPad, that meant just a few songs since most are through Apple Music.
You can access USB storage devices, NAS drives, UPnP/DLNA music servers. I transferred some music to a small, USB flash drive and plugged it into the speaker. It quickly showed up in the app’s menu of available music and was easily played. I like this approach the most and suspect I’ll be using it most of the time. In fact, I’ve been collecting all my music from different hard drives and combining it with Raina’s. Once the process is done I’ll put all the music on a single drive and plug it into the system. I suspect we will end up with a huge collection of easily accessible music. Best of all, when you take this approach the app is simply the controller and the music is physically resident “in” the speaker and there’s no streaming buffering.
You can use online music services such as Spotify, TIDAL, and Rhapsody or free radio streaming services such as TuneIn Radio. Neither Apple Music nor Amazon Music are currently available but hopefully that will change at some point. By mid-year 2016, Google Cast for audio will arrive. This will greatly increase the number of apps that can be used as audio sources with Raumfeld since, with Google Cast, you will be able to send audio from a large growing selection of apps such as Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Google Play Music, and more!
Finally, with the Stereo M, but not the Raumfeld One S we will also be reviewing, you can connect external devices such as MP3 and CD players via a line-in port. Since, however, I will have both the Stereo M and the One S on my system I’ll be able to connect via line-in to the Stereo M and direct playback or streaming to the small speaker lacking the line-in port.
This final approach opens some interesting possibilities since I can connect a Bluetooth adapter via line-in to the Stereo M and turn the Raumfeld system into a system that can take Bluetooth streaming as well. Once this is done the system will be as flexible, or more flexible, than any other I have reviewed.
As for the sound…Wow. That’s really the only word I can use to describe it. The system has a 3-way driver system in each speaker for a :wide and extensive stereo panorama” and the integrated 320-watt amplifier kicks ass.
In all, the Raumfeld Stereo M Speakers are awesome. They look great and sound even better. Yes, there was a bit of a learning curve in using them to enjoy my music, since there are a limited number of supported streaming services at the present time and the speakers do not have integrated Bluetooth. But after realizing that I can plug music directly into the USB port and I can also add a Bluetooth adapter to the speakers I discovered that there really are no limitations to speak of.
It took a bit of work, and the expense of the Bluetooth adapter, but the result was a system that is impressing me more and more. And when Google Cast arrives some of those initial limitations will disappear. Finally, it is worth mentioning that, to my ears, Raumfeld’s audio kicks Sonos to the curb. Yes, I have long been a Sonos fan but, were someone to ask, I would probably recommend this system over Sonos. That’s especially the case since the Raumfeld One S is designed for use in places like the bathroom. But that’s another review.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the Raumfeld Stereo M Bookshelf speakers
What I Like: Amazing sound; Get’s super loud with little to no distortion; After figuring out the best way to access music I am able to get pretty much anything I want playing.
What Needs Improvement: No Bluetooth; Limited streams currently available; Pricey.