Onkyo TX-RZ610 with FireConnect named “Top Pick”: Sound & Vision

Onkyo TX-RZ610 with FireConnect named “Top Pick”: Sound & Vision

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Did you know that the Onkyo TX-RZ610 A/V Receiver was named a “Top Pick” by Sound and Vision Magazine? In their glowing review of the receiver – which features Blackfire’s FireConnect Multi-Room Wireless Technology – they call FireConnect the “icing on the triple-layer cake of Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth.” Sounds delicious.

Read the full product review here and check out Amazon or another authorized Onkyo reseller to purchase yours today!

Setting up a new 5GHz WiFi Router

Setting up a new 5GHz WiFi Router

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In my previous blog post Blackfire Router Recommendations, I recommended the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U as the two routers that will best support whole home wireless streaming at the latest 802.11ac WiFi standard. I also explained why I chose the ASUS RT-AC68U to upgrade my home WiFi from 2.4GHz to 5GHz. In this blog, I’ll explain how to set up these ASUS routers.

The first thing you’ll want to keep in mind before set up is that devices work differently on 5GHz and 2.4GHz WiFi bands. 5GHz capable devices on a 5GHz Wifi channel give you the best data rates from your router. The problem is that 5GHz WiFi has a shorter range than 2.4GHz (meaning your laptop might actually get a better connection on the 2.4GHz band than 5GHz if you are a couple of walls away from your router). Also, any older devices you may have in your home will only work on the 2.4GHz band. The reason why I’m mentioning the differences between 5GHz and 2.4GHz is because this router gives both bands. It also gives you two choices for setup: have one SSID name that covers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands OR create separate SSID names for each band. Of course, all the devices on the router will still work together whichever band they use to connect.

So, one SSID or two?

If you set both SSIDs to the same name, and with the same password AND with the same encryption method (e.g. WPA2), then you and all your household will only see one WiFi network to join. Your devices will then join whichever band it sees first, and dynamically switch to 2.4GHz if you get out of range of the 5GHz band. The advantage of using just one SSID is that it’s simplest for all your household users – no further decisions need to be made. The disadvantage of this, is that your high speed 5GHz capable devices might end up joining the slower 2.4GHz network. Further, the switchover from 5GHz to 2.4Ghz is not always seamless: if you are listening to music or watching a video, you will experience a glitch or drop out.

If you set up two separate SSIDs, you will have to manually choose the right band for each of your devices. The advantage for going down this route is you can be sure that 5GHz devices near your router can operate at the max data rate at all times. The disadvantage is that you need to know which band your devices can operate on, and decide upfront whether you want to trade max data rate potential for long-distance roaming throughout a larger home.

 

For an uninterrupted streaming experience, we’d recommend the following:

  • You’ll get the best performance with devices positioned near the router
  • To optimize a Blackfire-powered wireless 5.1 audio system, position the router in the same room
  • To optimize a multi-room music system, position the router centrally in your house, and high up – to get the best range.
  • Connect to the 2.4GHz SSID for most of your devices most of the time
  • Connect to the 5GHz SSID for devices that are known to be 5GHz capable and have high data bandwidth requirements (like a SmartTV, Set Top Box, Blackfire capable speakers, or a laptop used for streaming)

 

How to Set Up an ASUS RT-AC68U or RT-AC56U:

  1. Use an ethernet cable to connect the WAN socket to a cable modem
  2. Plug in your router and switch it to “ON” (If your router is not brand new, make sure to push the “Reset Button” on the back panel to restore it to the factory defaults)
  3. Look for blue LEDs lights to appear indicating that “Power,” “5GHz WiFi,” “2.4GHz WiFi” and “WAN” are all on
  4. Either connect another ethernet cable directly from your laptop ethernet port to your router LAN port OR use WiFi to find an SSID called “ASUS” on your Laptop. (You can also download the ASUS Router app to your phone, then connect to the “ASUS” SSID.)
  5. Open your browser – a setup app should appear
  6. Set your Admin password:WiFi
  7. Decide on your SSID Name(s) – I called mine “BFRX-BUTTERS” for the 2.4GHz band and used “BFRX-BUTTERS_5G” suffix after the name to show the one on the 5GHz band.
  8. Decide on your new password(s):
  9. Hit “Apply” then reconnect to your new SSIDWiFi
  10. Congratulations, you’re now live!

 

In my next blog post, I’ll discuss how to get the best performance out of your new router.

 

 

WiFi Router Upgrade Recommendations

WiFi Router Upgrade Recommendations

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If you’re like me, setting up your home router is as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist. Maybe that’s why I have a toothache and my home network is struggling with the 2.4GHz router that I installed 7 years ago. It was a pretty good router in its day, however, 7 years is more like 50 when it comes to technology. It’s currently running well below its optimum due to advances in WiFi standards, improved router technology and increased demands on WiFi from almost every new device I buy. I’m giving in and setting up a new router for my house. But which router should I get? At Blackfire Research, we are often asked for recommendations on which routers will best support whole home wireless streaming. I must mention that technology changes rapidly, so by the time you read this blog post, there may be an even better router on the market. With that in mind, reviews at Tom’s Guide and CNET are my two go-to references.

 

We do quite a lot of wireless demos and testing at our Blackfire office in San Francisco, which require high performing routers operating at the latest 802.11ac WiFi standard. Netgear and Linksys/Belkin make very fine routers, and the Apple AirPort Extreme is a popular choice, but, we’ve grown particularly fond of two from ASUS that are not only high performing, but reliable, easy to set up, and are now available at a much lower cost than when they were first launched. Those two routers are: the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U.

 

The more cost effective of the two is the ASUS RT-AC56U, but the ASUS RT-AC68U will give the highest performance. Here’s what we like about both of these routers:

  • Default settings out of the box are good for most situations
  • Subjectively cope with noisy environments better than other routers we’ve tested
  • Relatively low cost (for an 802.11ac router)
  • Mobile phone app simplifies both setup and maintenance
  • Mature design (launched in 2013) which is very reliable
  • Large user community, offering plenty of online advice.

 

The ASUS RT-AC68U has all the features of the 56U, but adds:

  • 1.3Gb/s (vs. 900Gb/s) data rate at 5GHz
  • 600Gb/s (vs. 300Gb/s) data rate at 2.4GHz
  • External antenna (for more flexible adjustment, tweaking and positioning)

 

We recommend that you upgrade to the 68U version if:

  • you have a big home
  • there are several walls between your router and your living space
  • you have lots of family members all connecting at once
  • your home internet connection is greater than 200MB/s

 

You can purchase both the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U on Amazon.

Further, here’s a breakdown of the tradeoffs between 2.4GHz and 5GHz:

 

2.4GHz:

  • supports most WiFi devices; better range; less attenuation by walls and objects
  • congested band due to Bluetooth, cellphones and lots of other non-standard wireless devices

 

5GHz:

  • Fastest data rates; relatively uncongested frequency band at the moment
  • Not suitable for many devices due to antenna, range limitations and power consumption

 

For my home, I purchased the ASUS RT-AC68U for the extra capacity for multiple users and flexibility in antenna positioning. For my next blog post, I’ll walk through how I setup my new router.

Powered by Blackfire: The Pioneer MRX-3 Wireless Speaker

Powered by Blackfire: The Pioneer MRX-3 Wireless Speaker

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This past February and March, Pioneer rolled out a new set of firmware updates for select A/V and hi-fi components and systems initializing Blackfire’s FireConnect wireless multi-room audio distribution. Pioneer has now released the MRX-3 Wireless Speaker featuring FireConnect by Blackfire Research for the US market, another major step in expanding the Blackfire wireless home entertainment ecosystem. With the MRX-3, your music can follow you from room to room – the speakers can be grouped to create a wireless, multi-room audio system via Blackfire’s FireConnect. Enjoy Stereo Mode thanks to Blackfire’s FireConnect Technology: simply combine two MRX-3 speakers to create a Right and Left pair. FireConnect provides reliable, fast and flexible performance, enabling dynamic, real-time wireless streaming.

The MRX-3 has Chromecast built-in, meaning, you can access streaming services through Chromecast-enabled apps. Built-in dual band WiFi also allows you to access Spotify, internet radio, and other music streaming services, directly. And, with FireConnect compatible audio products, such as multichannel or stereo A/V receivers, you can stream almost any music source, including vinyl and Hi-Res Audio files, to the MRX-3 wireless speakers, anywhere in your home.

The Pioneer MRX-3 comes in black and weighs 5.1 lbs. For more product information, visit:

pioneer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Music Friday: Odd Hours

Featured Music Friday: Odd Hours

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Lifelong friends, singer and guitarist Chris Rehm and drummer Sean Hart, the New Orleans-based duo who make up Caddywhompus, have released their third studio album, “Odd Hours.” Over the course of their nine-year career, the duo keeps getting better. Because of their shared history, they have the same adolescent musical influencers, which you can unmistakably hear in their music to this day. Their lifelong friendship also allows the duo to take risks – risks that certainly pay off – like the quick, exaggerated tempo changes within songs that makes “Odd Hours” unforgettable. Highlights on the album include opener “Decent,” and “Waiting Room,” a dizzying, manic jam that throws the listener for a loop on multiple occasions. Featured Music Friday is brought to you by Blackfire Research.