NuVo Whole Home Audio system review

Inside CI 5 Rating

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posted on Monday, 7th April 2014 by Steve May

Multi-room  Habitech 

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The NuVo whole home audio system is a powerful, scalable multiroom solution designed specifically for custom install. Available only through CI channels, it combines a high level of performance with fast, straightforward installation.

NuVo Whole Home Audio system: Components
Integrators have a choice of wireless single zone (P100 and P200) amplifier/source components, which need to be anchored by a network gateway (the GW100), as well as wired multi-zone rack mounted units (the P3100 and P3500). Any NuVo system can be expanded, with new zones added as and when required. In total, the platform will support a total of 16 zones or rooms.

Rear P200

For a more typical living room listening environment, the larger (4.3 x 24.7 x 17.5cm h/w/d) wireless P200 (pictured above) would most likely be the NuVo Player of choice. This unit embraces the same connectivity, design and build quality as its sibling and boasts a chunky 2x60w (into 8ohms) amplifier (the P100 is 2x20w into 8ohms) with Bluetooth receiver with aptX compatibility. It also offers Audyssey Dynamic Volume processing, commonly used to automatically iron out differences in volume between disparate sources.

The GW100 gateway will be the starting point for many installations. It's a compact (11.25 x 17.7 x 13.3cm h/w/d) Wi-Fi hub which connects either to a local router or wherever there's a convenient network port. As it creates its own Wi-Fi web, it doesn't intrude on other network traffic. The gateway is a MIMO design (Multiple Input Multiple Output) with dual aerials and uses the 802.11n protocol with concurrent 2.4 and 5.6 Ghz band transmissions. It maintains a consistent 600kbps to all zones. Five Ethernet ports are provided on the rear.

GW100

P3100 Rear

If the individual zone Players are too limited for any specific project, NuVo also offers the P3100 (pictured above), a rack mountable three zone component. The unit supports 3.5mm line inputs and USB media for all three zones, with triggers and two-port Ethernet switch. Note that unlike the banana plug friendly P100/200's, and befitting its rack-status, it's equipped with spring clip terminals suitable for only thin gauge speaker cable. All three zones have 2x20w of digital amplification available.

Leading the NuVo line-up is the newly introduced P3500 Portfolio Player. This more powerful rack component offers analogue stereo phono inputs for each of the three zones, in addition to a trio USB ports (including one on the fascia). Significantly it has deeper, more refined power reserves, offering 2x50w per zone (into 8ohms) from high-grade ICE Power modules. This allows it to address both larger spaces and satisfy clients looking to create a party space solution. All three zones can be grouped together and played in sync with Party Mode. Digital amplification allows all components to run cool.

P3500

NuVo Whole Home Audio system: Installation
Setting up a NuVo wireless multi-room system is a doddle. With the gateway connected, installers will need only the NuVo Player app (available for both Android and iOS devices) to steer you through the setup via simple prompts. It's a surprisingly friendly process that's not at all dissimilar to that used to install a Sonos. The app will initially discover and connect with the GW100, and then prompt you to add Players and attribute them to zones. Each zone can be assigned a preset location graphic (Living Room, kitchen etc, see below).

App

Both the P100 and P200 Player install and operate the same way. The smaller (4.3 x 18.7 x 13.7cm h/w/d) P100 boasts substantial speaker binding posts, plus Ethernet, line input, USB port and integrated Wi-Fi. It partners with the GW100 gateway through either the simple expedient of holding down volume and mute buttons simultaneously or engaging a Connect button; it's down to circumstance whether they're installed via LAN or wirelessly. Whichever, the units connect in a matter of minutes. There's a reassuring amount of heft (635kg) to the P100's build; it strikes us as an ideal choice for ancillary rooms and multiroom dutties.

Once networked, services and content sources can be added. Network shares need to be added manually, as the Players will not discover DLNA compliant devices automatically. At this point Internet Music Services such as Napster, Deezer and Tunein can be assigned, all of which require individual accounts to be authorised. Music sharing software is available for download from the NuVo site for Windows PCs and Apple Macs.

The 3.5mm mini-jack input and USB port opens up connection to local source devices, which become available across the network. A USB stick automatically shows up on the app under the Music Library setting. During the process we found it necessary to undergo several firmware updates, but these executed without incident.

NuVo Whole Home Audio system: Performance
Once assigned, all Music Library sources are synced and amalgamated together. The NuVo app interface proves to be slick and engaging, smooth in operation with album art niceties. The latest iteration of the NuVo Player app for iOS, version 1.8.1, has enabled Direct Stream capability for iOS devices using iOS 6. However, NuVo also offers extensive support integration with third party control systems, including Control4, Crestron, BitWise Controls and RTI.

Crucially, the NuVo system not only comes together quickly, but it sounds excellent. Integrators are also free to add speakers according to budget; even the smaller Player will handle serious loads. We ran our Player to zones utilising large in-wall Definitive Technology reference speakers. Sonic clarity was high, certainly superior to what you might expect from all-in-one multi-room solutions. Even the smaller P100 has plenty of poke and doesn't sound ragged at volume. The indie rock of Admiral Fallow (Linn Records) was dynamic and exciting, maintaining integrity at volume, while FLAC rips of Canadian rockers Rush would surely satisfy those with audiophile tendencies. The GW100 never dropped a connection during our evaluation, with zones playing both independently and in sync. File support, when pulling content from a local USB device, is broad with FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, MP3, AAC, WMA and WAV content all playing; the GW100 can stream files up to 24bit/96kHz. There's also Internet radio provision as standard.

Currently, though, the NuVo system can't successfully be used with a TV source. There's an audible delay on the line level inputs (upwards of 500ms) - the lag is too big. However we've been told that a firmware update to elimate this is due in a matter of weeks. This will be worth keeping an eye out for.

NuVo Whole Home Audio system: Verdict

We rate NuVo's whole house audio solution as an eminently musical multi-room proposition with considerable versatility, whether you're looking for a bullet proof rack-mount component or plug and play wireless. In terms of ease of install and source functionality (Bluetooth, USB, network music services), it's class leading and manages the trick of combining customisation with great everyday usability. Hopefully, upcoming firmware will enable it to be integrated with TV, which should only add to its appeal. Highly recommended.

The NuVo Whole Home Audio system (P100, P200, GW100, P3100 and P3500) is available now.
System retail prices:
GW100 gateway £245
P100 Player £455
P200 Player £560
P3100 multiroom £1,296
P3500 multiroom £2,323
NuVo is distributed via Habitech. For more on Habitech's product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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