Control4’s new Wireless Music Bridge is blessed with a pretty boring name. It’s like calling something a knife that cuts bread, but as a product, it’s not really meant to stand out, to be the star. Rather it’s meant to get out of the way so you can let your music be the center of attention, and it does that really freak’n well.
The Wireless Music Bridge (I’ll call it the WMB or Bridge) is a small accessory product for owners of Control4 home automation systems. Its purpose is to get music from people’s iPhones, Android tablets and sundry other little wireless doodads into their home A/V system via Control4.
The past year or two has seen the market awash in wirelessish music solutions. Sonos is probably the most well-known, or at least the one most companies think they’re competing against, but every little speaker company has some variety of Wi-Fi, AirPlay and/or Bluetooth thing for playing music from their phones and tablets. But until the WMB there was no easy way to play your phone’s Spotify tunes through your home speakers via your expensive Control4 system.
Now you can, and while it seems like a simple thing, it’s a simple really cool thing. The device doesn’t play any music directly. It has no built-in streaming services, radio or hard drives. It’s a bridge to march your portable music over. The WMB supports Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, and DLNA, which covers pretty much any kind of smart phone or tablet you can find.
From your integrator’s standpoint, installing the WMB is easy. Your installer will be in and out of your house in no time. The WMB connects to your network, in most cases via your system’s Ethernet switch (it can be connected via Wi-Fi too). Once it’s configured in the Composer program, it’s ready to play.
Now here’s the neat part—you don’t need to have a Control4 remote, touchscreen or app in your presence to make the WMB work. You don’t need any special app. You just need the device that holds your music (or music services). Once you select a song and use the Bluetooth or AirPlay icon to select the WMB as the playback system, your whole audio system will power up automatically—Control4 makes that happen. You can adjust the volume from your phone or with any of the standard Control4 interfaces. What this means is that a house guest who doesn’t have the Control4 app on her phone can still play her music on your system—my teenage daughters and their friends think this is amazing.
Once it’s all set up and your installer has pulled out of the driveway, using the product is a simple matter. As noted above, you can use the Bridge with AirPlay, Bluetooth or DLNA. If you think you’ll be wandering around the house with your phone in your pocket, while playing music, then you’ll want to use AirPlay or DLNA because the range is better than Bluetooth. For those to work you’ll need to have the Bridge connected to your wireless network. Since my Control4 system is confined to just one room, I stayed with Bluetooth. Note, though, when using Bluetooth, you may hear a buffering pause of half a second every now and then.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.