Hands On with Russound’s DMS-3.1 and iPad App

 

Preparing for last week’s Worthington University class, I had my first opportunity to spend time with the Russound DMS-3.1.  I had read the specifications and knew what it could do but I had not had the time to sit down and get a feel for the user experience.  Wow!  The concept of listening to what you want locally, or from the ‘cloud,’ takes on a whole new meaning with the DMS-3.1.

 

Setup:

Setup was a snap and will be even easier for customers with brand new MCA-C5’s or MCA-C3’s.  Because the 2 MCA-C5’s in the training room are from the original shipments, the controllers and keypads needed a firmware update.  Now that firmware updates can be executed from the SCS-C5 software, all you need is a serial connection and a little time.  The software allows you to flash the controller and keypad firmware easily.  One note, if you look on the back of the DMS-3.1 you will see the shipping firmware number, you can compare that number to the file downloaded in the SCS-C5 software.  In my case, no update was necessary.  After that, it was just 4 patch cables, an antenna, and an Ethernet connection.  Configuration was also easy, choose the server as the source type and name in the SCS-C5 software.  To name Apple AirPlay streams requires a quick browser connection to the DMS-3.1.  The DMS-3.1 manual shows how you find the DMS-3.1 IP address using the Safari Browser Bonjour feature.  Just an FYI, there is a Bonjour plug in for Firefox.  As well, if you know the DMS-3.1 IP address from your router, you can type it into any web browser bar.  While the Safari browser is nice, there is no need to download it just to setup a DMS-3.1

 

Built In Features:

The DMS-3.1 has 3 stream outputs as well as a RDS compatible tuner.  Each of the streams gives you the opportunity to access content locally and in the ‘cloud.’  Now, instead of ordering a Sirius or XM tuner, mounting a satellite antenna, and adding another tuner to the customer’s account, you can simply add streaming SiriusXM via the web.  The customer will need an account per each stream; however, streaming accounts are only $3.50/month; far less then adding tuners.  The TS3, MDK-C5 and iPad App (more on this later) all allow you to choose stations by category.  As well you can move up and down channel numbers and the user sees complete metadata.  The next streaming option is Internet radio.  Unlike the SMS3 where the user had to find content, the DMS-3.1 places it all at your fingertips in a layout that makes sense even to novice users.  The root menu starts with very broad options like choosing a station based on location or genera and then becomes more specific.  Finding a particular station has been made very easy.  Once you find a station, you can add it as a favorite or retrieve it in the last played option.  Both work great.  During University we chose a station from South Africa and we were all amazed at how quickly we found the station and how good it sounded.  The last major source option in DMS-3.1 is the ability to play MP3’s from the built in USB port or off your local network.  Both give you the ability to browse the directory structure of your music and to easily play tracks from any folder.

 

Apple AirPlay:

While the DMS-3.1’s built in features are awesome (and they are), the icing on the cake is Apple AirPlay.  In case you have not seen this technology in action (I had not), it is everything Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) was supposed to be but with out any of the complication or cryptic ID’s.  Now I would not call myself an Apple advocate, they have really been doing a number of things right lately.  Add AirPlay to the list!  If you have not updated your iPhone, iPad, iTouch to 5.0.1, you are going to need to so to gain access to AirPlay.  What AirPlay does is take anything destine for your iPhone, iPad or iTouch’s speakers and sends it to an AirPlay receiver.  In our case the receiver is one of the streams on the DMS 3.1.  So now your customer says, “I want Rhapsody support” or “I want Pandora” or “I want….” it no longer matters!  Simply grab your iPhone, iPad, or iTouch and click on the AirPlay icon and choose the stream.  Notice I did not mention configuration?  Because there is none!  If there is an AirPlay receiver on your LAN, the icon shows up, if not, it doesn’t.  The only thing that you really need to know is that not all apps have been updated for AirPlay support.  The one that I was playing with is Pandora.  No big deal.  If you double click the Home Button on the unit, a bar will pop up at the bottom of the screen.  Flip to the left to where volume and brightness are adjusted and the AirPlay icon will appear.  That tip makes every app AirPlay compatible. 

 

So that explains playing content from an iPhone, iPad or iTouch, what about larger MP3 collections?  This is where things get interesting (and cool).  While I know not everyone loves iTunes because it has become the 800 pound gorilla, I have found that the price is right (free), it is a clean interface, and it handles large databases very well.  All said, it is actually a pretty nice media player.  In addition, there is a free app called Remote.  Think of it as a remote desktop from the iPad (and iPhone/iTouch) for any Apple or PC installation of iTunes.  If you have not tried it, you need to.  Every time I use it, I can’t believe it is free.  It handles enormous MP3 libraries with album art like a rocket sled.  This is where it gets even better.  Take the PC (or MAC) and leave iTunes on.  The AirPlay icon will pop up.  Point the Desktop at one of the streams on the DMS-3.1.  Launch the remote app and bingo, you have very fast access to you entire collection.    Outstanding, and no new wires required!

 

Russound App:

So if AirPlay is the icing on the cake, the iPad app is the cherry (iPhone is coming early in 2012).  First of all, the app is GREAT looking.  There are nice touches like the ability to change backgrounds.  When you use it, you quickly will realize that Russound put a great deal of time and care into this project. It feels polished and works well.  Installation once again is a cakewalk.  Enter the IP address of the MCA-C5 (or C3) and you are off to the races.  The DMS-3.1 is fully supported with full metadata and album art.  You can control all of the source gear and zones.  You even have access to features like party mode.  For dealers there is a great demo mode that allows you to run the app without being connected to a controller.  At $9.99 the app is a steal.

 

The MCA-C5, MCA-C3 and DMS-3.1 are all in stock and shipping..  Be certain to ask us about the new low prices on the MCA-C3!  Thank you for your business and be certain to give the DMS-3.1 a try.