AmpMe app lets users link handsets to play music together as one speaker

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

All the phones at the party become one sound system with AmpMe.

He wanted to listen to music, but realized the A/V situation wasn’t up to the challenge. “I brought a bottle of champagne and we wanted to listen to some music, but she didn’t have her speakers unpacked,” Archambault explains. “So I just put my phone in the middle of the table, and it sounded pretty bad.” We’ve all been there: maybe it’s on a back porch or a campsite or at the lake, when you realize no one remembered to bring a Bluetooth speaker.

Of course, that also equates to an added expense for something you may or may not use all that often and it’s yet another gadget you’ll have to haul around. A new app called AmpMe appears to offer a compelling alternative that won’t cost you any money and doesn’t require you to lug around extra hardware. That means iPhones and Android phones can join forces to save the day. “Music was never meant to be enjoyed by a bunch of friends crowding around a single, maxed-out speaker, but we’ve all done it,” said AmpMe founder Martin-Luc Archambault. “It’s a terrible experience, but sometimes it’s all you have when the party starts.” Technology companies are trying to make digital music a more shared experience by adding some sort of social component. The app syncs streamed music across any number of mobile devices to create a “giant, distributed speaker that surrounds the users.” And it’s a pretty clever idea, even if the current execution is a little sloppy. AmpMe allows an unlimited number of smartphones and tablets to play tunes in sync, effectively creating what its makers describe as a giant, multi-room speaker setup.

Granted, it won’t provide extraordinary sound, but at least each person will be closer to their own smartphone instead of relying on the sound of a single device placed in a certain spot. Unlike some speakers that create a similar effect using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology, AmpMe works by making the devices “listen” to what the Host is playing, so even some speakers with microphones could work.

The host controls the playlist, but for now, that playlist can only come from the SoundCloud music service (other streaming services will eventually come to the app, according to the company). Anyone who wants to add their phone or tablet to the mix just can type that code into their own app, and the host’s phone will emit a high-frequency sound that syncs the music being played. There’s no Bluetooth involved, and the devices don’t have to be on the same network — they all just have enough of a connection to stream the music. That lets you beam your music to their phones—provided they also have the app installed—perfectly in sync with the music coming out of the host device. While SoundCloud is great for independent artists, remixes, and other miscellany, its catalog can’t compete with paid music services like Spotify, Apple Music, or Rdio.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party members are left with a simple interface showing the album art and information about the song, a button to leave the party on the top left corner and a Resync button on the bottom left corner and a volume button on the bottom right corner. While the technology is no doubt impressive, keep in mind that it’s simply creating a chorus of smartphones – most of which don’t exactly rate very high on the audio quality scale. Archambault gave me a demo in our office, using a few iPhones, an iPad, a Samsung Galaxy S6, and a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. (AmpMe will also work with Bluetooth speakers that have a microphone.) When it worked, it sounded okay — good enough that, in the right setting, I could see it being useful, but definitely not great. After all, syncing them together doesn’t magically unlock the ability to produce the low- or mid-range sounds that you lose when you’re blasting sound through speakers that small.

The first iteration of the app is very limited—it only works with SoundCloud, and it only works with devices running iOS or Android—but Archambault says you can expect two or three more supported services to be added in the next six months. Each device must be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or cellular service for the app to work, but the syncing between devices isn’t handled by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

While the company is certainly pushing the “dance party with your friends” angle, it’s easy to see that the app’s value might truly materialize from the proprietary technology that makes it all work. (Archambault said during the demo that his company’s lawyers were particularly interested in it for teleconferencing, for example.) The best thing about AmpMe is that it’s free, so it won’t cost you anything to try it. The SoundCloud song is loaded and send to the various devices, and at the same time this fingerprint technology makes sure the stream lines up so you don’t have any sort of echo effect. “We initially thought we’d use Bluetooth to connect phones together,” Archambault explains. “We explored it, we tried it, and it worked. Archambault, who stars on the French-Canadian version of Shark Tank, didn’t seem too worried about it, and hinted that the money could someday come from licensing AmpMe’s tech or even in-app purchases.

But creating a Wi-Fi network is hard, and if you have a lot of devices it slows it down.” The high-frequency fingerprint method has other benefits, too.

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