What is DTS Play-Fi?

DTS Play-Fi offers up wireless multi-room audio and more.

DTS Play-Fi Logo and Lifestyle Image
DTS Play-Fi Logo and Lifestyle Image. Image provided by DTS/Xperi

DTS Play-Fi is a wireless multi-room sound system platform that operates via the installation of a free downloadable app to compatible iOS and Android smartphones and sends audio signals to compatible hardware. Play-Fi works through your existing home or on-the-go accessible WiFi.

The Play-Fi app provides access to select internet music and radio streaming services, as well as audio content that may be stored on compatible local network devices, such as PCs and media servers.

After download and installation, the DTS Play-Fi app will search for, and allow linking with, compatible playback devices, such as Play-Fi enabled wireless powered speakers, home theater receivers, and sound bars.

Streaming Music With Play-Fi

You can use the Play-Fi app on your smartphone to stream music directly to linked wireless powered speakers no matter where they are located throughout the house, or, in the case of compatible home theater receivers or sound bars, the Play-Fi app can be used stream music content directly to the receiver so you can hear music through your home theater system.

DTS Play-Fi can stream music from the following services:

  • Amazon Music
  • Deezer
  • iHeart Radio
  • Internet Radio
  • Juke!
  • KKBox
  • Napster
  • NPR
  • Pandora
  • Qobuz
  • QQMusic
  • Sirius/XM
  • Spotify
  • TIDAL

Some services, such as iHeart Radio and Internet Radio are free, but others may require an additional paid subscription for total access.

Play-Fi is also capable of streaming uncompressed music files, which is generally better quality music streamed using Bluetooth.

Digital music file formats that are compatible with Play-Fi include:

  • MP3
  • AAC
  • Apple Lossless
  • Flac
  • Wav

Also, CD quality files can be streamed without any compression or transcoding.

In addition, higher-than-CD quality hi-res audio files are also compatible when streamed through a local network. This is referred to as Critical Listening Mode, which provides the best possible listening quality by eliminating compression, down-sampling, and unwanted distortion.

Play-Fi Stereo

Although Play-Fi can stream music to any single or assigned group of wireless speakers, you can also set it up to use any two compatible speakers as a stereo pair. One speaker can serve as the left channel and another the right channel. Ideally, both speakers should be the same brand and model so that the sound quality is the same for the left and right channels.

Play-Fi and Surround Sound

Another Play-Fi feature that is available on select soundbar products (not available on any home theater receivers yet) is the ability to send surround sound audio to select Play-Fi enabled wireless speakers. If you have a compatible soundbar, you can add any two Play-Fi-enabled wireless speakers to your setup and then send DTS and Dolby digital surround sound signals to those speakers.

In this type of setup, a soundbar has to serve as "the master", with two compatible Play-Fi wireless speakers that can serve the role of surround left and right, respectively.

The surround "master" needs to have the following capabilities:

  • Be able to decode a 5.1 surround stream (such as Dolby Digital or DTS),
  • The correct software/firmware support has been installed.
  • Support Play-Fi functionality for accessing audio through analog or digital optical/coaxial inputs and able to distribute that audio to the appropriate speakers.

You need to check the product information for the soundbar or home theater receiver to determine whether it incorporates the DTS Play-Fi surround feature or if it can be added via firmware update.

Play-Fi Headphones App

In addition using Play-Fi with select wireless speakers and home theater receivers, you can use Play-Fi to stream any audio source connected to a Play-Fi wireless speaker, home theater receiver, or sound bar using the line-in option (HDMI, digital optical/coaxial, analog) via WiFi to any compatible Smartphone via installation of the Play-Fi Headphone App (iOS available, Android pending) and listen on headphones. However, for best audio synchronization (especially from audio for video sources), it is best to use plug-in headphones (if that option is available on your phone) rather than Bluetooth headphones.

DTS Play-Fi and Alexa

Select DTS Play-Fi wireless speakers can be controlled by the Amazon Alexa Voice Assistant via the Alexa App. A limited number of DTS Play-Fi products are smart speakers that incorporate the same type of built-in microphone hardware and voice recognition capabilities that allow them to perform all of the functions of an Amazon Echo device, in addition to DTS Play-Fi features. Music services that can be accessed and controlled by Alexa voice commands include Amazon Music, Audible, iHeart Radio, Pandora, and TuneIn radio.

DTS is also planning to add DTS Play-Fi to the Alexa Skills library. This will allow voice control of DTS Play-Fi functions on any DTS Play-Fi-enabled speaker using an Amazon Echo device. As more information becomes available, this article will be updated accordingly.

Product Brands That Support Play-Fi

Product Brands that support DTS Play-Fi compatibility on selected devices, which include wireless powered and/or smart speakers, receivers/amps, sound bars, and even preamps that can add Play-Fi functionality to older stereo or home theater receivers include:

  • Acer
  • Aerix
  • Anthem
  • Arcam
  • Definitive Technology
  • Dish
  • Pioneer Elite
  • Fusion Research
  • HP
  • Integra
  • Klipsch
  • MartinLogan
  • McIntosh
  • Onkyo
  • Paradigm
  • Phorus
  • Pioneer
  • Polk Audio
  • Rotel
  • Sonus Faber
  • Thiel
  • Wren

The Bottom Line

Wireless multi-room audio is exploding, and, although there are several platforms, such as Denon/Sound United HEOS, Sonos, Yamaha MusicCast, DTS Play-Fi provides more flexibility than most as you are not limited to just one or a limited number of branded playback devices or speakers. Since DTS has provisions for any product maker to license its technology for use, you can mix-and-match compatible devices from a continually growing number of brands that can suit your needs and your budget.

The DTS Brand: DTS originally stood for "Digital Theater Systems" reflecting their development and licensing administration of DTS surround sound formats. However, as a result of branching out into wireless multi-room audio and other endeavors, they changed their registered name to DTS (no additional meaning) as their sole brand identifier. In December of 2016 DTS became a subsidiary of Xperi Corporation.