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AmpMe links phones and tablets to turn them into a giant, distributed speaker

The AmpMe app syncs streaming music across as many mobile devices as you like, effectively creating a “giant, distributed speaker that surrounds the users.”
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Published onSeptember 25, 2015

ampme

For listening to music around the house, probably everyone knows the old toss-your-phone-into-a-bowl trick that makes your phone’s puny speakers sound a little bit better, but one developer has a new, innovative solution to this problem. Their app AmpMe, which shares its name with the company, syncs streaming music across as many mobile devices as you like, effectively creating a “giant, distributed speaker that surrounds the users.”

The idea is pretty ingenious, but the current version is a little bit buggy. The inherent problem with the concept is that ten crappy speakers don’t really create better sound quality than a single good speaker.

Functionality is pretty straightforward. One device is established as the host and provides a four-digit PIN. If anybody else wants to use their smartphone or tablet to add to the music, all they have to do is boot up the app and enter that code. Devices don’t necessarily need to be on the same network, and rather than using Bluetooth, AmpMe uses a high-frequency sound to sync the streaming music.

There are several downsides to AmpMe. Music aficionados familiar with Chromecast’s queue feature will be disappointed that only the host can pick music with AmpMe. Also, the app currently only supports Soundcloud, so users of music services like Google Play Music, Spotify, Rdio, or Pandora won’t have access to their favorite playlists or radio stations. AmpMe CEO Martin-Luc Archambault has announced that their team is working to bring functionality to these services in the future.

Another problem, as previously indicated, is that more sound doesn’t necessarily equal better sound. Stringing together a bunch of tiny speakers doesn’t bring back the bass that’s lost by using cell phone speakers. For the right tech-savvy house party, this app would be pretty cool, but serious music connoisseurs won’t see anything more valuable than a gimmick here.

What seems to be AmpMe’s biggest struggle, however, is that the music syncs up almost perfectly. Unfortunately, almost perfectly just isn’t good enough, since having one of the devices play even a split-second behind is distracting and discordant. The concept relies on all the devices being able to stream music in tandem, but think about how easy it is to catch a weak signal and end up buffering for just a moment. There is a button that helps the devices re-sync, but having to do that all night long during your aforementioned tech-savvy house party would be a pain.

It is, however, free and cool, and it demonstrates a lot of interesting uses of the technology that may foster future developments. The app is still in its infancy, so who knows how it will improve as it grows. Might as well give it a shot.