Powered by Blackfire: The Pioneer Elite SC-LX502

Powered by Blackfire: The Pioneer Elite SC-LX502


At CEDIA 2017, high-end audio manufacturer and Blackfire Research partner, Pioneer, announced the latest models in the brand’s Elite Receiver line. One network A/V receiver in particular has caught a lot of attention, and that’s the SC-LX502.


The SC-LX502 is a 7.2 channel Direct Energy HD Network A/V Receiver that supports many high-resolution audio formats and PCM files like FLAC, ALAC, WAV, and AIFF at a max 24-bit/192kHz resolution. The receiver includes several built-in streaming services, such as Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, and Pandora, as well as built-in Google Chromecast technology, with support for both 2.4Ghz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands.


And of course, the SC-LX502 features multi-room audio thanks to FireConnect by Blackfire. FireConnect mirrors network audio and external analog sources connected to a master component (from streaming services to vinyl records) to any Blackfire-compatible speaker (like the Pioneer MRX-3 wireless speaker) in any room, all over standard Wi-Fi. Music selection, speaker grouping, and playback management across the home are built into the Pioneer Remote App for iOS and Android. Now, your favorite music can follow you from room to room.

The SC-LX502 retails for $999 – get yours today!

Re-Broadcasting Spotify Connect With The Harman Kardon Omni+ Series

Re-Broadcasting Spotify Connect With The Harman Kardon Omni+ Series


Blackfire Research partner, Harman Kardon, recently released an updated version of their Omni Wireless Speakers, which they are calling The Omni+ Series. Like the first generation, the new series features the same lightweight, portable design of the Omni 10 and Omni 20, but this time, they’re trading in the glossy exterior for a more sophisticated matte finish (in both black and white.) Additionally, Harman Kardon has added another speaker to the series: The Omni 50+, a wireless HD indoor/outdoor speaker with a rechargeable battery, perfect for your next backyard BBQ. And of course, all speakers in The Omni+ Series feature Blackfire wireless multiroom technology built-in, so your favorite song can follow you from room to room.


One of the most exciting updates in the Harman/Kardon Omni+ Series is the addition of built-in Spotify Connect which lets you play your Spotify library through the Omni+ wireless speakers directly from the internet – freeing up your phone to take calls and do other things. But what if you have one or more of the first generation Omni wireless speakers and want to play music from your Spotify account throughout your home? With the addition of one or more Omni+ wireless speakers to your home, re-broadcasting Spotify Connect to your existing Omni collection is as easy as pressing a button. Literally.


Whether you have an Omni 10, an Omni 20, or Adapt, the process will be exactly the same. After you add any speaker from the Omni+ Series to your collection, initiate normal setup (make sure you have the latest version of the Harman/Kardon App first):

  1. Place the speaker in your desired location
  2. Connect it to a power source
  3. Open the Harman/Kardon app and follow the easy setup instructions
  4. Make sure you have added the new speaker to the same Wi-Fi network as your other speaker(s) and your source device(s)


Now that you have chosen a location, a name, and the correct network for the new speaker, you can begin to re-broadcast Spotify Connect throughout your home!

  1. With all your Omni and Omni+ wireless speakers on and connected to the same Wi-Fi network, open the Spotify App from your phone, tablet, or desktop
  2. With the Spotify App open, click on “Devices Available” at the bottom of the pageHarman Kardon
  3. Find the name you’ve given to your new Omni+ Wireless Speaker on the list of available devices. Since the Omni+ speakers all have Spotify Connect built-in, it will show up as an available device on the Spotify App automatically
  4. Choose your Omni+ Speaker from the list as your playback device
  5. Test the connection by choosing a song to play from your Spotify account – music should now be playing from your new Omni+ speaker


While music plays from your new Omni+ speaker, you have two options of how to re-broadcast Spotify Connect from you Omni+ speaker to your Omni speaker(s). You can either:

Press and hold down the “Slash Button” on the top of your Omni+ speaker until all of the Omni speakers in your collection start playing the same song




Press the “Slash Button” on each individual Omni speaker so you can control which specific speaker(s) to re-broadcast to (in case you don’t want to re-broadcast Spotify Connect to all of your wireless speakers.

These same steps apply if you want to stop re-broadcasting Spotify Connect to your Omni speakers: simply press and hold down the “Slash Button” on your Omni+ speaker, or, press the “Slash Button” on each individual Omni speaker to stop the re-broadcasting.

And that’s it! Re-broadcasting Spotify Connect from an Omni+ Wireless Speaker to your first generation Omni collection is as easy as pressing a button. Now you can enjoy music from your Spotify account played from any speaker, throughout your entire home. Did someone say “Party?”

Getting the Most out of your Router

Getting the Most out of your Router


In my two previous blog posts, I recommended purchasing either the ASUS RT-AC56U or the ASUS RT-AC68U; explained why I chose the ASUS RT-AC68U router for my own home; and walked you through the setup of 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for best performance. In this post, I’m going to show you how to tune your router to avoid wireless network traffic from other routers near by.

First off, how do WiFi frequency ranges and channels work?

The 802.11 standard allows wireless devices to be backward compatible, interoperable, and to work internationally. After WWII, the radio frequency spectrum in most countries was strictly controlled by the government, and was mostly allocated to police, military, and emergency service use. By the 1990’s, gradually, some of the high frequency (or “microwave”) spectrum was being derestricted. The 2.4GHz band became available in most countries around the world, and so it was adopted for several wireless technologies, including cell phones, Bluetooth devices and of course – WiFi. Now, nearly 30 years later, 2.4GHz band has become a very busy part of the spectrum indeed. The newer 5GHz WiFi band still has the advantage of much less data traffic – but due to physics, has the disadvantage of having a shorter signal range, meaning, the rooms in your home furthest from your router will have a noticeably weaker signal.

Both WiFi bands (2.4G and 5G) are divided into individual channels, each spaced a few megahertz from the next. By default, your router will automatically jump to the first channel it finds. However, you will get the fastest WiFi performance if you first check which channels have the least traffic and then manually set your router to that channel.

Avoiding the Busy Channels

First you’ll need to download a WiFi Analyzer app. If you have an Android smartphone, there is a free WiFiAnalyzer app that works very well. Unfortunately, there is no convenient free app like this for my iPhone, so I used my Windows 10 laptop to download an equally effective WiFi Analyzer app from my browser, free from the Microsoft App Store.

Once you download an app, you can see which channels are currently being used. Let’s start with the 2.4GHz band.

Here is the WifiAnalyzer app screen for the 2.4GHz band. My router is the one called BFRX-BUTTERS (the SSID I chose for the 2.4GHz band):


The ASUS router had auto-selected Channel 3, which is right on top of two other routers – probably my neighbors’ WiFi. As you can see from the image above, the channels above 6 look much clearer. So I opened up the ASUS router Configuration Page, which you can find by typing this local address into your web browser:  http://router.asus.com


Under Advanced Settings, I selected the “Control Channel” pull-down menu, and instead of “Auto,” I selected “Channel 11” to force my router to operate in the clearer part of the spectrum:


which means my router is much less likely to conflict with 2.4GHz band signals from other routers:


Next I checked the 5GHz band, which is much less busy; it looks like my neighbors have not yet taken advantage of newer routers like mine:


In the image above, my router (BFRX-BUTTERS_5G)  has been auto selected to Channel 161 which is in a clear part of the band (note that the channels between 48 and 149 are not available for WiFi). To make sure it doesn’t auto select another channel, I decided to change the 5 GHz band setting from “Auto” to fix it at “Channel 161” anyway, using the same method as before:


Once you’ve switched your 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands to clearer channels, you’ll experience less interference from other networks – meaning that you can seamlessly stream music or videos throughout your home, wirelessly, with much less chance of pesky dropouts.

Setting up a new 5GHz WiFi Router

Setting up a new 5GHz WiFi Router


In my previous blog post Blackfire Router Recommendations, I recommended the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U as the two routers that will best support whole home wireless streaming at the latest 802.11ac WiFi standard. I also explained why I chose the ASUS RT-AC68U to upgrade my home WiFi from 2.4GHz to 5GHz. In this blog, I’ll explain how to set up these ASUS routers.

The first thing you’ll want to keep in mind before set up is that devices work differently on 5GHz and 2.4GHz WiFi bands. 5GHz capable devices on a 5GHz Wifi channel give you the best data rates from your router. The problem is that 5GHz WiFi has a shorter range than 2.4GHz (meaning your laptop might actually get a better connection on the 2.4GHz band than 5GHz if you are a couple of walls away from your router). Also, any older devices you may have in your home will only work on the 2.4GHz band. The reason why I’m mentioning the differences between 5GHz and 2.4GHz is because this router gives both bands. It also gives you two choices for setup: have one SSID name that covers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands OR create separate SSID names for each band. Of course, all the devices on the router will still work together whichever band they use to connect.

So, one SSID or two?

If you set both SSIDs to the same name, and with the same password AND with the same encryption method (e.g. WPA2), then you and all your household will only see one WiFi network to join. Your devices will then join whichever band it sees first, and dynamically switch to 2.4GHz if you get out of range of the 5GHz band. The advantage of using just one SSID is that it’s simplest for all your household users – no further decisions need to be made. The disadvantage of this, is that your high speed 5GHz capable devices might end up joining the slower 2.4GHz network. Further, the switchover from 5GHz to 2.4Ghz is not always seamless: if you are listening to music or watching a video, you will experience a glitch or drop out.

If you set up two separate SSIDs, you will have to manually choose the right band for each of your devices. The advantage for going down this route is you can be sure that 5GHz devices near your router can operate at the max data rate at all times. The disadvantage is that you need to know which band your devices can operate on, and decide upfront whether you want to trade max data rate potential for long-distance roaming throughout a larger home.


For an uninterrupted streaming experience, we’d recommend the following:

  • You’ll get the best performance with devices positioned near the router
  • To optimize a Blackfire-powered wireless 5.1 audio system, position the router in the same room
  • To optimize a multi-room music system, position the router centrally in your house, and high up – to get the best range.
  • Connect to the 2.4GHz SSID for most of your devices most of the time
  • Connect to the 5GHz SSID for devices that are known to be 5GHz capable and have high data bandwidth requirements (like a SmartTV, Set Top Box, Blackfire capable speakers, or a laptop used for streaming)


How to Set Up an ASUS RT-AC68U or RT-AC56U:

  1. Use an ethernet cable to connect the WAN socket to a cable modem
  2. Plug in your router and switch it to “ON” (If your router is not brand new, make sure to push the “Reset Button” on the back panel to restore it to the factory defaults)
  3. Look for blue LEDs lights to appear indicating that “Power,” “5GHz WiFi,” “2.4GHz WiFi” and “WAN” are all on
  4. Either connect another ethernet cable directly from your laptop ethernet port to your router LAN port OR use WiFi to find an SSID called “ASUS” on your Laptop. (You can also download the ASUS Router app to your phone, then connect to the “ASUS” SSID.)
  5. Open your browser – a setup app should appear
  6. Set your Admin password:WiFi
  7. Decide on your SSID Name(s) – I called mine “BFRX-BUTTERS” for the 2.4GHz band and used “BFRX-BUTTERS_5G” suffix after the name to show the one on the 5GHz band.
  8. Decide on your new password(s):
  9. Hit “Apply” then reconnect to your new SSIDWiFi
  10. Congratulations, you’re now live!


In my next blog post, I’ll discuss how to get the best performance out of your new router.



WiFi Router Upgrade Recommendations

WiFi Router Upgrade Recommendations


If you’re like me, setting up your home router is as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist. Maybe that’s why I have a toothache and my home network is struggling with the 2.4GHz router that I installed 7 years ago. It was a pretty good router in its day, however, 7 years is more like 50 when it comes to technology. It’s currently running well below its optimum due to advances in WiFi standards, improved router technology and increased demands on WiFi from almost every new device I buy. I’m giving in and setting up a new router for my house. But which router should I get? At Blackfire Research, we are often asked for recommendations on which routers will best support whole home wireless streaming. I must mention that technology changes rapidly, so by the time you read this blog post, there may be an even better router on the market. With that in mind, reviews at Tom’s Guide and CNET are my two go-to references.


We do quite a lot of wireless demos and testing at our Blackfire office in San Francisco, which require high performing routers operating at the latest 802.11ac WiFi standard. Netgear and Linksys/Belkin make very fine routers, and the Apple AirPort Extreme is a popular choice, but, we’ve grown particularly fond of two from ASUS that are not only high performing, but reliable, easy to set up, and are now available at a much lower cost than when they were first launched. Those two routers are: the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U.


The more cost effective of the two is the ASUS RT-AC56U, but the ASUS RT-AC68U will give the highest performance. Here’s what we like about both of these routers:

  • Default settings out of the box are good for most situations
  • Subjectively cope with noisy environments better than other routers we’ve tested
  • Relatively low cost (for an 802.11ac router)
  • Mobile phone app simplifies both setup and maintenance
  • Mature design (launched in 2013) which is very reliable
  • Large user community, offering plenty of online advice.


The ASUS RT-AC68U has all the features of the 56U, but adds:

  • 1.3Gb/s (vs. 900Gb/s) data rate at 5GHz
  • 600Gb/s (vs. 300Gb/s) data rate at 2.4GHz
  • External antenna (for more flexible adjustment, tweaking and positioning)


We recommend that you upgrade to the 68U version if:

  • you have a big home
  • there are several walls between your router and your living space
  • you have lots of family members all connecting at once
  • your home internet connection is greater than 200MB/s


You can purchase both the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U on Amazon.

Further, here’s a breakdown of the tradeoffs between 2.4GHz and 5GHz:



  • supports most WiFi devices; better range; less attenuation by walls and objects
  • congested band due to Bluetooth, cellphones and lots of other non-standard wireless devices



  • Fastest data rates; relatively uncongested frequency band at the moment
  • Not suitable for many devices due to antenna, range limitations and power consumption


For my home, I purchased the ASUS RT-AC68U for the extra capacity for multiple users and flexibility in antenna positioning. For my next blog post, I’ll walk through how I setup my new router.