A Raumfeld review

Over a year ago we decided it was time to invest in a proper hi-fi system. After some research we decided to buy one from Raumfeld, the streaming system made by Berlin-based company Teufel. Our reasoning was:

  • They get good reviews for sound and quality
  • They offer a long guarantee time and a no-questions-asked returns policy
  • It’s good to support local businesses

So I sent the folks at Raumfeld an email asking them what they would recommend to get decent sound in a large (60 square meter) room. They suggested getting:

  • Impaq 7000 speakers
  • a Raumfeld Connector (for the speakers)
  • a standalone Raumfeld One

We ordered that and the package duly arrived in three large boxes.

After setting up the system I noticed a problem: the Impaq 7000 speakers are very powerful. There was no way I was going to be able to turn them up beyond 20 percent without the neighbors upstairs and downstairs hearing, and possibly feeling, our music. It seemed a shame to pay money for speakers we’d never be able to fully enjoy, so taking advantage of the no-questions-asked returns policy I sent them back, along with the Raumfeld Connector, and instead ordered a set of Raumfeld Cubes, at a lower price.

Over the past year they’ve served our purposes fine, but I would hesitate to give the system more than 6/10. Here’s why:

  • The sound is decent, but the Raumfeld Cubes are too weak for the room. This is our fault. We should have stuck with the original Impaq 7000 order and accepted the fact that we were never going to enjoy them at full volume. A Ferrari is still a great car, even if you never go full throttle. My advice: listen to Raumfeld’s salespeople when it comes to technical questions.
  • Raumfeld seems to require systems to be set up using a master-slave principle: the master must be configured first, and unless it’s turned on the rest of the system won’t work. But why should I have to turn on the speakers in the living area if I only want to listen to the radio in the kitchen?
  • The app looks nice and has a load of good functions, but it’s slow to load and often ‘forgets’ our entire music library, necessitating an annoying wait while it restores the library
  • Streaming Internet radio (via TuneIn) is OK, but even with major stations we experience dropped connections. This is frustrating and I don’t think it’s due to our broadband. There seems to be a buffering issue that Raumfeld struggle to solve. One solution would have been to put a small DAB+ chip into the Raumfeld devices so we could at least pick up the local stations without intermittent lag.
  • TuneIn lacks several podcasts. This isn’t Raumfeld’s fault, but it would be good to be able to program specific streams as favorites. Surely it can’t be that hard to add this function.
  • The preset buttons on the Raumfeld One work about 50 percent of the time. It’s frustrating to turn on the radio in the morning, press a button to get my favorite radio station, and get an error sound. Fix it, Raumfeld.
  • The same goes for one very simple function that should be available in the app but isn’t: turning off the system. Many times I’ve been lying in bed or running out the door and found that while I can stop the music, I can’t turn off the system. In order to stop it draining unnecessary electricity I have to get up and press a button on each component, which surely defeats the purpose of having such a fancy 21st century piece of gadgetry. Likewise, would it not be possible to set a timed shutdown, e.g. automatically after midnight if no music is playing, or after half an hour of no music? Simple things like that would really make a difference.
  • This brings me to my final gripe, and it’s one I had with the Morphy Richards Internet Radio a few years ago: why not let users create little scripts for their device. This would be so easy to do through the app. Just an idea, Raumfeld…

I hope you found this review helpful. Everyone has different tastes and the purchase of a new hi-fi system needs to be carefully considered. I’m satisfied with our Raumfeld system for now, but if we decide to expand in a few years time (e.g. to put music in the bedrooms or up the power in the living area) then we’re stuck with Raumfeld. That’s usually the problem with streaming systems (they try to lock you in). If I were to do it over again I might get a ‘dumb’ system and stream via something simple like Chromecast Audio.

Goodbye Ads

I’ve decided to remove Google Ads from my site. They were the only ads I ever really published, and over the course of a decade they hardly earned me €100.

I don’t think it’s worth defacing my site with ads and helping Google track my readers with them for a measly €10 a year, which is what this site costs me each month.

The best thing is that I can now safely claim that the only cookies you’ll get on this site are those that record whether you’re a member or not (necessary for the commenting function). No more annoying ‘cookie consent’ pop-ups.

It’s IFA time!

Panorama of Sony presentation at IFA 2015
Panorama of Sony presentation at IFA 2015

The Internationale Funkausstellung, better known as IFA, is upon us. It’s an annual gadget fest billed as the biggest in Europe and a regular source of pre-Christmas goodies for tech enthusiasts.

So you might think that covering IFA as a journalist would be fun. No, it’s a nightmare. Here’s why:

1) It takes place in Berlin’s labyrinthine Messegelaende, or fairground. The place is a 1960s concrete jungle and nobody can tell you for sure how to get from A to B, especially on the press days when stalls are still under construction and entire hangars are strewn with palettes and cardboard boxes.

2) Those big name manufacturers that do come (Apple doesn’t) often stage their own pre-show launch elsewhere in Berlin. This year, Samsung, Asus and Lenovo shuttled people away from the Messegelaende, presumably because it’s just not suitable for a really cool event.

3) Because so many events are scheduled simultaneously, journalists wanting to cover IFA are often left watching the live-stream that could be viewed from anywhere (especially places with better Internet connection).

4) While many bloggers hoover up the swag, anyone with a set of journalistic ethics has to turn down the freebies lest it compromise their judgment.

And still IFA is worth covering, because it provides an insight into consumer trends and shows you what companies are betting big bucks on. If you want to know what the average European consumer wants _ or at least what major corporations think s/he wants _ IFA offers a fantastic periscope into the world of technology six months from now.

[this post was completely rewritten on Sept. 12. 2015]