Review of the Phorus PR1 Receiver

I don’t normally do these sorts of things because there are usually plenty of good reviews by actual review companies or tech companies, but there don’t seem to be a lot of them out there for this product right now.

Admittedly, I’m not very good at this.  I will try my best though.
phorus-pr1-receiver-office
First of all, the device is a little on the pricey side, compared to crapple’s airplay express thing. The price at this moment is $149 and is available directly through Phorus’s website (while it is shipped and processed by Amazon’s store http://www.phorus.com/pr1-receiver).  The image above shows the Phorus PR-1 (on left) plugged into some sort of speaker.

The build quality is good, and it comes with two sets of audio cables (use whichever you need or prefer) and it is nice and compact.

This is what comes in the box:
PR1 Receiver
Power adapter
Audio cable (mini jack to mini jack, 6′)
Y-adapter (mini jack to 2 RCA)
USB-A to USB micro cable
Warranty and Quick Start Guide

Setup was a breeze. I downloaded the app for my phone (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.phorus.playfi&hl=en) and launched it. I then plugged the audio cables into my receiver and my audio receiver, plugged in power and the phone app found the device. It asked which wireless network to connect to, I selected my network and input the WPA2 passcode. It asked me to name the device and I named it “Living Room”.

From there, I was able to play media from internet radio stations, audio on my Plex server, audio stored on my phone or Pandora (which I don’t use, because I prefer Last.fm).

I’ve noticed after a short amount of time using the app, it can’t find my plex media server. I’m unsure if the plex server is to blame or if the app just fails to search the network properly. If I start internet radio and go back to look through the media server list, it’s usually back and I can use it.

The app certainly has some limitations and seems to crash a lot. It doesn’t have a bunch of options or choices, hopefully they add more services such as last.fm, slacker radio, google music / amazon music integration, etc. I also notice that it doesn’t seem to support Android 4.x’s ability to show the simple media player while the device is locked, which I really hope they add soon. Most of my other audio programs have this ability.

All in all, it’s a great way to add wireless audio to your Android device. The fact that I can play any of my music from my media server directly through my home audio receiver (and on zone 2 which plays on my speakers outside on the deck by my pool!) is an awesome feature that Android has been lacking for quite some time.

I hope that they add Windows and Linux support at least soon, so you can play music directly from a laptop or computer as well, but at this point it seems like it’s just Android.

I haven’t tested bluetooth because I don’t see a whole lot of purpose to it, my Nexus S 4g doesn’t usually play music through bluetooth very well and my wireless network easily outperforms the short distance that bluetooth provides, but the PR1 does support it if you wanted to use it.

I might add one of their PS1 speakers in my kitchen or Den someday, but I’m hoping for the price to come down a bit before I do. $200 seems a little steep and I haven’t heard the speaker yet.

If you’re looking to add wireless audio to your Android family of devices, it’s worth the money. Just hope that they upgrade the app soon so it has more features and better compatibility with newer Android OS’s

 

*EDIT*

It’s probably been about a month since I have received this receiver and I’d like to clarify a few things that I posted originally.

First, I love the hardware.  It has been very stable, easy to use, and the sound quality is great.

Second, the software (app) is getting rather annoying.  Earlier, I mentioned that the media servers on my network take a bit to show up (Plex, PS3 Media Server); that seems to be normal.  Anything else that I try to view my media servers (my PS3 included) DO take a while to recognize the media servers as being available and listing them.

Now, on to the other parts of the app.  The internet radio seems to work very well.  With the occasional hiccup I might receive while streaming internet radio (clipping in the middle of songs and whatnot) I don’t really have major problems.  The app seems to plug away happily while listening to internet radio and uses very little battery power in doing so.  I can stream pretty much all day via Wifi and still have about 60% battery life afterwards which is very nice.

Now, on to the nit picky stuff.  I’ve grown accustomed to the lock screen mini-player as I’ve mentioned before.  The app still lacks this feature and I’m hoping that it’s on their list of things to update as time goes on.  It seems very “gingerbread-ish” and I hope they take a few cues from Plex’s own Android app, because it friggin’ looks gorgeous, even though I haven’t paid or used it yet (link here: http://elan.plexapp.com/2013/02/11/introducing-the-new-plex-for-android/)

I find the lack of fast-forwarding or rewinding tracks in the app very annoying as well.  If I’m playing local media or media on my own network, I should be able to do this.

I’m also finding that through the internet radio app, it doesn’t give a hint of detail about the current track being played (or previous or next or any track for that matter).  I figured that since it is a built-in app, it should be able to download current track information, maybe a CD logo or something, with the additional lyrics or something as an afterthought.

I know it’s a nit-pick and it would probably cause more battery drain and lag times than what it’s worth, but it would be a nice touch and certainly make it more polished than the app currently is.

Now, I’ll get to the media server peeves.  When loading up the app and selecting media servers for the first time, the app will search your network for available media servers.  I’ve already explained twice that my media servers don’t show up immediately (a work-around for this is to use something else like local media or internet radio for a bit, then go back to the media servers later), but once you search for media servers, it’s incredibly hard to go back and “search again” which it should be able to do, being as how there’s such difficulty in finding published media servers the first time.

The app seemingly finds my DirecTV DVR’s every time I open the app, even though I’ve never been able to view any media from my DVR’s on any device EVER (why DirecTV published their boxes as media servers is beyond me, I’m guessing it’s for box to box communication and transferring shows but they should us a proprietary protocol instead of confusing people and making them think they can watch their recorded TV shows through their home network!) but once you select one of these boxes, it’s incredibly hard to back out and “search again” for other ACTUAL media servers on the network.  It just causes wasted time and confusion and I wish they would have some dedicated “refresh” or “search again” buttons in the app to allow for network re-scanning.

Again, using another source such as internet radio for a minute or so and going back usually lets you view your media servers just fine, and all works well after that, provided that you have adequate Wifi coverage for your device and the receiver.

Now, last but not least, I’ve had this device for about a month and I still have yet to see an app update.  I know that Phorus receivers are probably not selling off the shelves like hot-cakes with crack sprinkled on them, but if they want them to, the devs better wake up and start making some regular, important upgrades to their software.

Seriously, look at the Plex app for android and you’ll see why.  This app could be seriously sick if they just put a little more time and effort into it, and upgrade it to Android 4.x standards at least.

Adding things like Sirius, XM, Last.fm, or even a developer SDK would be friggin’ awesome.  I like the fact that they’ve integrated Pandora, but not everyone in the world uses Pandora!  Hell, I only created an account because I knew that my new media receiver worked with it and I figured Pandora would be the easiest way to get music that other people like on my deck; not everyone likes ‘Hatebreed’ unfortunately ;-P.

So, after a lengthy rant, I still give this receiver a 5/5, but the app needs some friggin’ work, and I hope to hell it gets it soon, summer is coming! 3/5.

-Update 2-

Recently (a few days ago actually),  the Play-Fi application was updated and has added a few things.

For one, they’ve added the ability to ‘skip’ through songs which was one of the things that I had on my wish list.  They have added a “More Music” button, which for now, just hides the Pandora app unless you specifically check the box next to Pandora, which returns it to the main screen, just like the previous version.  I’m assuming that more services will become available soon and this is the way they thought of organizing the main screen without cluttering it with a billion different music services.  If you think about it, it was a great idea; instead of having to scroll through the home screen through every service available, they give you the option to only see the ones that you use.

The bad part about the update is that while I was browsing the listings from my PS3 Media Server (PMS for short, I’m talking about this one: https://code.google.com/p/ps3mediaserver/), Play-Fi would crash on me unexpectedly.  I thought nothing of it the first or second time, but it keeps happening.

Even worse, it appears that the music available for me to see from my Plex server has gone from all of my music to about the first 20.  It goes from artists starting with “A – C” and then doesn’t display anymore.  I have tried restarting the Plex server, restarting my actual server, clearing cache on the app on my phone and it still isn’t solved.  I might have do more drastic measures or it could simply be a bug. For now, my only work-around is to use the PS3 media server, which is fine as long as it doesn’t crash.

So, while I do see a slightly better app, I also see slightly worse performance.  I’m hoping the Play-Fi team can get their act together before summer, as that’s when I see myself having to use this app on an almost daily basis in order to get ‘tunes on my deck.  Hope you guys see this…

2 thoughts on “Review of the Phorus PR1 Receiver”

  1. I purchase both the PR-1 and PS-1. The selection of music is somewhat limited as you stated in the comments. I am able to stream music to one device and use the other as additional speakers. The quality is fantastic. I used my Acer Iconia tablet as a media server. My recommendation is to stream FLAC files if you want to truly enjoy the experience of this audio selection.

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