Review Price £349.00
Follow the instructions (and/or one of the workarounds) and the PlayMaker performs very well. AirPlay performance is excellent as you would expect for a lossless standard while the two-second response time to music control is as low as we have seen from the standard. Quality will depend entirely on the bitrate of your source files and the performance of your speakers, with the PlayMaker providing no bottleneck.
DNLA requires specific codec support with Flac lossless streaming available, though MP3, AAC and WMA are restricted to 320k-bit this is unlikely to be detrimental to anything but the most high-end of speaker setups. Lag time is entirely dependent on the speed of your network and typically, like AirPlay, no more than a few seconds however the absence of 5GHz support in its 802.11n wireless streaming is disappointing considering both 2.4GHz and 5GHz are offered by AirPort Express. Unlike AirPort Express the PlayMaker also cannot act as a wireless signal extender and so does not boost wireless reception around the home from wherever it is positioned.
There is a further complication. While the PlayMaker has both B&O’s proprietary connectivity and phono ports there is no way to switch sources and the B&O cables always override, so the PlayMaker is purely designed for one set of speakers.
All of which brings us to a key factor, price. While the PlayMaker offers the crucial addition of DLNA, compared to the £79.99 AirPort Express it's twice the size and weight, cannot drive passive speakers without an amp, lacks 5GHz Wi-Fi, omits optical and 3.5mm auxiliary outputs and cannot extend wireless signal. Which brings us back to the core of the statement made in the introduction to this review, because B&O has priced the PlayMaker at an eye watering £349.
At this price you can buy four AirPort Express units (and have change left over), hook them up to speakers and docks all around your home and toggle between them at will. There are also DLNA streamers available for a fraction of the cost. For example, the more powerful and flexible Sonos Connect and Connect Amp units cost £279 and £399 respectively. Why would you buy the PlayMaker then? Quite simply for non-B&O speakers you wouldn’t, but the PlayMaker is the only way to output audio via its BeoLab 3. A self-made problem? Completely.
The PlayMaker is a bamboozling product. It is essentially a crippled AirPort Express that costs more than four times as much. Even the bonus of DLNA connectivity cannot remotely offset this excessive cost. As such its role only adds considerable cost to B&O’s own BeoLab 3 speaker, which could have simply built both standards in and thus avoided the problem. The PlayMaker's dreary design, poor build quality and cheap construction materials are also considerable cause for concern. Products like the brilliant BeoPlay A9 have seen B&O go on a great run, however the PlayMaker falls well short.
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