Korus SKAA wireless streamers impress (November 25th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Korus
Price: $490 and $590 retail
- Stunning sound reproduction - Easy configuration - Low-latency wireless audio streaming
- Seemingly pricey - Minor USB static on computer wake
Thin. Thin gadgets are in. We blame Steve Jobs. Regardless of the source, thin devices are prevalent and popular in the speaker marketplace, and with them comes generally tinny, lightweight sound. Bluetooth streamers are everywhere, but can introduce a delay in the audio signal, making them unsuitable for some uses. Core Brands' offshoot Korus has a solution -- a plug-and-play wireless audio solution catering to any computer with a USB connection (or an assortment of Apple iOS devices) in the Korus V400 and V600 Wireless Speaker System.
We were able to test both models of the Korus WSS -- the V400 and V600. The V400 has a frequency response of 125Hz to 20kHz in an 11x6x5.5-inch package. The larger V600 has a better frequency response of 80Hz through 20kHz with side-firing tweeters, and is significantly larger at 17x9x7 inches. The V600, unlike the V400, can draw power from six D-cell batteries for what the company says is up to 90 hours of playback.
Using a USB, Apple 30-pin, or Lightning Korus Baton wireless audio transmitter, users can instantly connect mobile devices or computers to Korus speakers through plug-and-play. The Baton uses the company's SKAA streaming protocol, giving the speaker set nearly twice the effective range of Bluetooth streaming. Up to four speakers can be combined into one system, with the ability to separate speakers to use independently at any time.
We tested the Korus systems with a variety of musical styles and compositions including classical, modern rock, classic rock, adult contemporary, rap, heavy metal, and dubstep. All tracks were ripped from an original CD, at four different bitrates: 128kbit MP3s encoded using iTunes 10.6.3; average 256kbit AAC VBR with Max 0.9.1; 256kbit AAC with iTunes 11, and Apple lossless with iTunes 11. Following this reviewer's personal assessment of the device, we used our five-person testing panel, and comparatively listened to nearly 40 hours of music over a span of several days.
We tried the smaller V400 in both a sparsely-furnished room and a dense room used as a children's playspace. Most of our testing of Korus' proprietary SKAA 480 kbps protocol testing was done with the V400. We liked the bass response in the unit, which belied its relatively small size. Volume increases were linear, with little if any distortion when climbing the scale. We did find a brief harmonic, but it wasn't with the speaker itself -- the system was so powerful at higher volumes that it started shaking the joint in the wood table that it was set on at between 75 and 80 percent of max volume!
The V600 is more -- more range, more bass, more volume, more of everything. The side-tweeters give the music a deeper feel in every aspect. We thought the V400 was a complete room-filling sound until we tried the V600.
Where the system excels is in the use of multiple Korus speakers as one integrated system. While the more-expensive Sonos system uses Wi-Fi for connectivity, the Korus system uses their "batons," one each for USB, Apple 30-pin dock, and Lightning (with an Android-compatible version available some time in 2014). Range on the V400 peaked at 64 feet from the speaker, with the V600 stopping the music rather than unpleasantly breaking up the audio stream at 69 feet. The choice of baton connector didn't affect the range that the music would cease, but the use of the USB charging cable cut the range a bit -- down to 52 feet for either the Lightning or 30-pin versions of the baton.
A free iOS application allows a user to manipulate the volumes of all the Korus speakers that the baton can see. We didn't actually see much utility to this, given our testing environment, but we can easily understand where the functionality would be handy to some.
We tortured the Korus speakers and baton setup. Beat the batons up, left them plugged in with the phone bouncing around in a pocket all day, held the phone by the baton, and so much more. While none of these behaviors are endorsed by Korus, we found the batons to be quite durable and resistant to most anything a normal user would impose on them. Even after abuse, the USB charging cable that plug directly into the Baton to connect to the phone still functioned properly.
One minor technical issue presented itself during testing: if we allowed a computer to sleep with the baton plugged in, the next audio selection played was static-filled. Unplugging and reconnecting the USB baton to the host computer solved the problem in every instance. This problem manifested itself on every version of OS X from 10.6, as well as Windows 7 and 8, but not 8.1.
The attention to detail and design from Korus in designing the speakers is evident from the packaging, and from the initial unboxing, including niceties such as larger-than-normal buttons for a speaker set and an integral handle on the back of the speaker that faces up inside the packaging which allows the user to extract the speaker with no effort. The Korus system is a premium system, designed from the ground up with audiophiles in mind who are tired of the limitations of wireless streaming, and the nature of twice-compressed music when dealing with Bluetooth. The Korus is the wireless speaker that Apple would build today if it had continued the high-end audio equipment line after the Apple Hi-Fi.