the closest attempt at making a music synchronization app that we actually want
Ever since we started our company, we had a vision to create a social experience through portable audio. One of the pieces of technology we have been trying to develop is a way to synchronize audio across multiple mobile devices to enhance our portable speakers with ad-hoc networks. We’ve seen a number of apps come through that attempt to do it, and Seedio is probably the closest we’ve seen so far. The Seedio full version allows one person to play DJ and create a local broadcast over a Wi-Fi network.
Seedio’s user interface is pretty simple. There are two modes (seed and receive). To “seed” a song, pick a song stored locally on your device (you can also pay an extra $.99 if you want to use Youtube or Soundcloud as a content source). This creates a channel that will pop up on anyone set up on the “receive” mode on the same network. The range is basically as big as you can make a single Wi-Fi network. I used a good length podcast (DnBRadio Drum and Bass to be exact) and my first attempt broadcasting was successful. My broadcasting was being done on my iPhone 5 and the receiving on an iPhone4S. The channel quickly popped up on the 4S with my phone I.D. and the song that was being played. The first time I attempted to jump on the channel, the songs were a little bit off sync. I stopped and restarted the broadcast and the second time, the songs went into sync pretty nicely. I rounded up three phones to get a set of Boombot REX speakers synced up and it sounded pretty rad.
On the iPhone4S, you can pull up a list of previous sessions. This is kind of cool because it offers receivers a convenient way to purchase the content that was being streamed to them. The list remains on the device so that even after the broadcast is done, you can still go back and locate the content…possibly even download it if it’s that awesome.
Seedio has several shortcomings. It is not yet truly mobile while using Bluetooth devices. The app claims that you can use the tethering from your iPhone to create a network (which you can). This worked fine when we used speakers or headphones on line-in modes, but not while connected to a Bluetooth audio device. I’m not quite sure why Bluetooth would interfere with the song buffering. On some occasions, I got a song to start on the receiver device, but the performance was off sync and short lived. The tethering Wi-Fi signal off a phone not only guzzles phone battery, but the range is relatively short (less than 30 feet) This doesn’t exactly solve our music synchronization conundrum for biking, skiing, flash mobs, or silent discos, but it does enable some functionality anywhere we have a good WiFi spot. The other issue is that if you use music streaming over a tethered connection, be prepared to rack up some data usage.
limitations with music synchronizing audio over bluetooth and wifi
There are limitations to music synchronization on Bluetooth. The bandwidth is too small to handle streaming music to multiple devices. We’ve seen some speakers use CSR’s True Wireless Stereo protocol for getting a single device to pair to two speakers, but it takes three to make a party. Bluetooth on most devices is also pretty limiting in distance (30-40ft in most Class 2 Bluetooth devices). On WiFi, when you use a public network, there is actually a lot of noise on the network that results in latency and poor sync performance. This is perhaps where 4G/LTE networks might actually be even better.
Overall, I’m stoked that other people are looking at this type of tech. We still don’t see anyone on iOS doing this type of music synchronization function over 3G/4G/LTE, so I guess we’ll have to do that ourselves.