Published on October 18th, 2014 | by Greg0
Korus M20: Wireless Audio, Multi-Room And Now Portable
Wireless audio today is dominated by Bluetooth, and then AirPlay- the latter offers multi-room support but is limited to iOS devices and requires a network in place. The former, of course, is available on just about every mobile device out there, but is pretty much limited to a single speaker, and though it doesn’t require a wifi network it is pretty short range. Sonos is a mixed bag as well, with great hardware but requiring some installation. But what if you want wireless audio, even without needing to setup an 802.11 network, and you want to be able to use Android and iOS devices, along with your computer? And imagine you could add a portable speaker to the mix, so you can take it outside to the pool or patio.
The Korus M20 Mobile Speaker is the latest in the line of wireless audio speakers; we previously reviewed their V400 and V600 models that continue to perform well in a commercial environment. The Korus models use a special protocol to transmit the audio signals, different from most others, called SKAA- it offers a host of advantages, especially very low latency. If you’ve ever tried to watch a movie or video clip using AirPlay or early versions of Bluetooth, you’ve seen the lag, which can be incredibly distracting. SKAA, and the Korus M20, don’t suffer from this problem, which makes it perfect not only for parties but for showing off your home movies or results from your action cameras. If you want Bluetooth, though the M20 offers it as well, an even a microphone for placing speakerphone calls. Audiophiles can rejoice too, as the SKAA protocol is high definition, originally derived from PAW which is used widely in the pro audio world. With seven hours of battery life and weighing in at just over a pound, the M20 is the perfect addition to your porch or balcony area.
Also unlike some other mutli-room systems, we never had an issue with different speakers getting out of synch. The system doesn’t require line of sight, but does have a limited range- maybe 50 feet in most of our real-world tests or farther in an open space. The M20 doesn’t appear to have boosted range, but worked immediately and without any setup in our existing installation. All you have to do is turn it on and find the correct Korus channel and you’ll have immediate sound. We did have one issue worth noting- the onboard volume controls sometimes didn’t work, requiring a reboot and re-connection. But that was the only nitpick we found; the unit puts out a surprising amount of volume, and though it doesn’t offer the same level of bass as the others in the family, it still is crisp and clear. We liked the carabineer for easy transport, and it’s IP54 water and dust resistant with a rubber case that feels pretty sturdy. We also got a chance to try out their new Android baton (iOS and USB models have been available), and it works exactly the same as the others, though make sure your smartphone supports native USB audio. Pricing and an exact date were not available at press time (and the M20 itself appears to have been delayed, as the page states a ship date in September but we could not find them yet).
The Korus M20 stands tall amidst the competition, offering a fairly unique option in a crowded field. If you don’t already have SKAA gear (like the previous models), and don’t plan on getting any, the M20 might not be worth the extra cash over a Bluetooth-only model. After all, there are plenty of decent outdoor-ready portable Bluetooth speakers around, and the requirement of having an extra baton can be annoying (plus this one is fairly boring the looks department, available only in black). But few others offer multi-room capabilities (the Libratone Zipp comes to mind along with the Pure Jongo S3) and none combine SKAA’s low latency (40ms) and high quality (near lossless, 480kbps). Expect to spend around $200 for the Korus M20, available soon.