Tech Rap: Ask Como Audio
I am devoting this month’s Tech Rap to what will be the first of several Ask Como Audio articles. Here at the Como Audio office in MA, we field a lot of emails and calls every day with great questions about our products. As you can imagine, we get asked a lot of the same questions over and over. We have included some of these in the FAQ section on our website and some of the information can be found in our user manuals. Knowing most people do not read the manuals (I try not to take it personally since I author all of our manuals), I thought it would be useful to round up some of the questions we’re asked most often, in no particular order.
1. Can I add additional speakers to my Como Audio system?
The Ambiente and Amica speakers are wired speakers designed specifically for Solo and Amico respectively to turn those models into stereo systems. As Musica and Duetto are already stereo, there is no way to connect those speakers to those models, nor is there a way to connect traditional wired speakers directly to any of our models. You could run an audio cable from our stereo headphone out to the Aux in of a receiver, amplifier, or integrated amplifier that has traditional speakers wired to it, essentially using our model as an outboard tuner for Internet radio, Spotify, etc. Our output accepts a 3.5mm connector, and assuming your component uses RCA inputs, you will need an adapter to convert your RCA cable to 3.5mm to connect to our headphone input.
You can wirelessly pair and connect a separate Bluetooth speaker by connecting a Bluetooth transmitter to the stereo Line output of our models (our models include a Bluetooth receiver, not a Bluetooth transmitter). However, there might be an audio delay coming from the Bluetooth speakers. Learn more about using a Bluetooth transmitter in this blog article.
The best way to add wireless speakers is to get another Como Audio model…Solo, Duetto, Amico, and/or Musica. This will allow you to conveniently group and control them using our app without any latency (audio delay). We have a few videos on our website that help explain multi-room audio and grouping. Just scroll down and select from the list. By the way, you can also use two Solos or two Amicos and set each as dedicated right and left speakers using the rear panel switch and our free app for true wireless stereo.
Another option is to use powered speakers but you would need to run an audio cable from your Como Audio system’s Line output to the speaker’s Line input.
You say you don’t need a display, just an extra wireless speaker? Even if we offered such a model, the price difference would be insignificant, as removing the display wouldn’t save very much cost. And the only way to set it up and control such a speaker would be through our app which not everyone uses. Besides, the whole point of our models is to offer an alternative to wireless speakers with no display that rely entirely on an app to use them.
2. Do your products integrate Pandora, Sirius/XM, etc.?
All of our models support Spotify Connect. Our Musica model also supports Tidal, Amazon Prime Music, Deezer, and Napster. If you don’t subscribe to the paid version of these services you can still use the free versions but you would stream them via Bluetooth from your phone except for the free version of Spotify which will work similar to the Premium version. In the case of Pandora, they were engaged during development and we were unable to reach an equitable agreement. But that does not mean you cannot enjoy them.
If you listen to a service not supported, such as Pandora or SiriusXM, you can wirelessly stream from its app to our models via Bluetooth. Not a fan of Bluetooth for some reason? Connect a Google Chromecast for Audio dongle to the Auxiliary input and stream the service (if it’s supported by Google) via Wi-Fi. Yet another option is to connect an Alexa device via an audio cable to the Auxiliary input or wirelessly via Bluetooth and access the music service via voice command after linking it in the Amazon Alexa app and hear it through your Como Audio system.
We would love to integrate more premium streaming services, but there are costs involved. Como Audio does not get these services for free. We have to pay for the software development for all of our models and our iOS and Android apps, a licensing fee (typically 5 figures), a per-unit royalty, and required certification which runs into the thousands of dollars for each service we add. Hardware changes might also be required which would mean existing units would not support the new services. All of this represents a very significant cost for a small startup like us. On top of that, we have no way of knowing how many of our customers would actually use any one of the services. And there is no way to update specific units based on what a particular customer wants.
Please also see item #16 below.
3. Can the display backlight be adjusted?
At our previous company we made a couple of models that included a light sensor that automatically adjusted the display backlight based on ambient light conditions. Most customers didn’t like the results and we received lots of emails from users who wanted manual backlight options. That’s why all of our models include a backlight menu. We have since added more backlight options based on your feedback, from very low to completely off. To have the backlight dimmer when the unit is in standby, go to System settings > Backlight > Timeout > 10 seconds > Dim level > Off (or whichever setting you prefer). Ten seconds after you turn the unit off the new backlight setting will occur.
You can also toggle the backlight on and off when the unit is in standby by simply double pressing any remote control button (except Power and Alarm).
Another tip- The display is at its brightest when looking directly at it. If you position the unit at an angle, the display looks dimmer when looking at it from an angle.
4. Do your models include HD Radio (primarily North America only) and do they include AM?
Our models include Internet radio and FM radio. The FM is primarily included so you’ll have at least something to listen to (in addition to Bluetooth) in case your Wi-Fi network goes down or otherwise becomes unavailable. AM is not supported, but as with FM, many AM stations can be tuned using the Internet radio source without reception limitations and with meta data and station logos (where available). If the AM station has a free app and you prefer it, you can stream from the app wirelessly via Bluetooth to the Como Audio model. The AM band was not available during development and we are unaware of any product like ours that includes an AM tuner, as the competing wireless technologies included in such models can cause reception issues with AM.
HD Radio was and is not available on our platform or from the major solution providers we’re familiar with, and we are unaware of a product such as ours with integrated HD Radio. As with question #2 above, HD Radio carries substantial costs for the manufacturer including a licensing fee, a per unit royalty, and test equipment costing upwards of $10,000 USD. The good news is many HD Radio stations broadcast over the Internet and can be accessed through our Internet radio source, and without the reception drawbacks of terrestrial radio. In fact, for our USA models we even have a specific option in our menu called “HDi” (HD Radio on Internet) that lists the available HD Radio stations in our data base.
The other advantage of receiving an HD Radio station via one of our models is should you ever move outside of the HD station’s signal area, you will still be able to listen to that HD station anywhere in the world! You’ll also get the same great sound quality since the Internet supports the same frequency response as HD Radio if not better.
If an HD Radio station is not listed and it broadcasts over the Internet and is not an iHeart station, you can request it get added to the station data base by opening a ticket with the station aggregator. Alternately, if the station has an app or a website that allows you to play the HD station, you can stream it wireless via Bluetooth to your Como Audio system.
5. The display on my Como Audio model is stuck on “Loading” or “Connecting” or is exhibiting other odd behavior, yet my other devices are okay. What do I do?
This does happen on occasion. The good news is it’s usually fixed quickly and easily by simply rebooting your router/modem. These devices have a reset button on the back, or you can just unplug it and plug it back in. In most cases this clears up any gremlins. Sometimes, just pressing a different preset button will do the trick. You can also try a System reboot in the System settings menu of your Como Audio model.
As a last resort, you should perform a Factory reset in the System settings menu, but this will require you to repeat the setup process and resave your presets, so you should jot them down before you do it.
6. Can I get the large clock to show on the display while the unit is playing? How can I make the clock larger in standby?
You can change the clock that shows in standby from the round analog face to larger digits in the System settings menu under Time/Date and Standby format.
When the large clock display is selected, it will be shown when the unit is in standby mode and during alarm snooze mode. When the unit is on, the digital time is shown in the upper right corner of the display in a reduced size. During development we tried to have an option to display the large digital clock while the unit was playing, but the processor was unable to keep the unit operating while simultaneously maintaining accurate time, resulting in intermittent audio or causing the unit to reboot, so it is not an option.
7. What about iTunes and Airplay?
You can play songs from a computer wirelessly via Bluetooth or UPnP. As Apple doesn’t support UPnP, there is 3rd party software available. For Airplay, connect an audio cable from the audio output of an Apple AirPort Express to a Como Audio system’s auxiliary input and use Airplay as you normally would. Be sure your Como Audio system(s) and iOS device are connected to the Express’ network. This setup will also allow your music to be multi-roomed by grouping all of your Como Audio systems and controlling them via the free Como Control app. If your current Express is not easily accessed to connect a cable, a second AirPort Express can be set up in “bridged” mode, then connect a cable from its audio out to your Como Audio system’s aux input.
8. What inputs and outputs are available?
All of our models include stereo Headphone and Line outputs, Auxiliary input, Optical input (except Amico), DC input (for use with an external adapter instead of the power cord), Bluetooth with aptX audio, and USB (for charging a smartphone and for USB thumb drive music playback). Amico and Solo also include a speaker output for use with Amica or Ambiente to create two channel stereo. Musica adds a wired Ethernet input option. Though there is no dedicated Phono input, you can connect a turntable. See my blog article for more information.
9. Why are your models called “wireless” if you have to plug them in with a power cord?
The wireless description doesn’t refer to the power (although our Amico contains a battery), it refers to the ability to connect wirelessly to a home Wi-Fi network and access 40,000 internet stations and other features.
10. Is there an alarm? Can I set the alarm without turning the unit on?
All of our models include dual independent alarms with adjustable sleep and snooze timers. You can select the source you wish to wake to, set the alarm volume separate from the main volume, and schedule the alarm once, every day, weekdays, or just weekends. To turn the alarm or off with the unit in standby, simply toggle the alarm key on the remote control. You’ll see the alarm status change at the bottom of the display. To engage snooze after the alarm sounds, simply press the center menu knob or the Mute key on the remote. For Sleep, the Musica remote has a dedicated sleep key on its remote. Otherwise, it’s accessed in the Main menu. Although alarm functionality is included, it’s worth noting our models were designed first and foremost as high-fidelity music systems.
11. Can your models be used as sound bars/TV speakers?
All of our models include an optical input (except Amico) allowing you to connect the audio from your TV. See our video tutorial on how to do this. If your TV is older and doesn’t have an optical output but does have an analog audio output, you can use an audio cable from the TV to the 3.5mm Aux input.
12. Do your models work on 220 Volt? Can I use a USA version overseas and vice versa?
All of our models use a 100-240V, 50-60 HZ switching power supply, so they can be used in most any country. However, there are differences between US & EU models. The North American models do not include DAB/DAB+, come with a UL power cord only (UL adapter in the case of Amico), and the FM tuner uses the USA FM de-emphasis and tuning step.
13. Do your products work with 5G Wi-Fi networks?
All of our models are compatible with 802.11 2.4/5G b/g/n routers. A broadband service which is capable of 1Mb download speeds is best.
14. Is the battery user-replaceable on Amico and is the charger included?
Amico’s battery is proprietary but can be easily replaced with a replacement pack available from Como Audio directly. Please avoid “copycat” battery packs since these could pose a fire hazard to you or the Amico and any resulting damage would not be covered under warranty. The battery charger is integrated into the Amico and the external power supply is also included.
15. Will your other models eventually integrate one or more of the premium music services the Musica has?
Each premium service has a significant cost associated with it…a licensing fee (typically 5 figures), software code must be written, testing and certification must be conducted, and a per-unit royalty must be paid. These costs were already factored into the Musica during development, but not our earlier models. Also, we have no way of knowing how many customers would use each service, and there is no way to enable only certain units…it’s all or nothing. It’s certainly possible one or more services could be retroactively added to one or more of our legacy models in the future, but as of now there are no firm plans to do so. You can, however, connect an outboard Alexa device (not included) via an audio cable to the Aux in, or wirelessly via Bluetooth, ask Alexa to play Amazon Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, Tidal, etc., and it will play through Solo, Duetto, and Amico, provided you are a paid subscriber to that service.
16. What are the main differences between models?
Generally speaking, the differences have to do with the inputs/outputs, the size, and whether the unit is mono or stereo. Our Musica model has the most inputs/outputs, has the best bass response, and will fill a larger space. It’s our only model with an integrated CD player and has more integrated premium streaming services besides Spotify: Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, and Napster, plus 8 preset buttons instead of 6. Musica (and Duetto) use a larger color display than Solo and Amico, so the time, meta data, and album art are easier to see. The Musica remote also features a couple of functions not found on the standard remote, namely dedicated preset keys and a Sleep key so you don’t need to turn the unit on to activate the Sleep timer. Musica is also only our only model that includes an Ethernet connection.
Although Solo and Amico are mono, you can add an optional right channel speaker to make them stereo. The speaker cannot be added to Musica or Duetto since those models are already stereo.
Amico is our only portable model and includes a battery pack that yields about 8 hours of playback at moderate volume. It’s also our only model with a teak wood veneer.
All of our models support Internet radio with 66,000+ free stations, Spotify Connect (both free and Premium versions), multi-room (with additional Como models), FM, Bluetooth, tone controls, 30 WPC digital amplifier, 2-way speaker system, and alarm features, and include a 2 year warranty (when purchased from an authorized reseller) and free lifetime tech support.
17. Can I use a powered subwoofer with your models?
We engineered our models to have very good bass response for their size, therefore, we did not include a subwoofer output. You could use the Line output, however, this will require you to adjust your subwoofer’s volume every time you adjust the Como Audio’s volume. If you try this, be sure your subwoofer’s Low Pass Filter (LPF) is set to 70 or 75Hz.
Note our models have adjustable bass, Loudness, and in the case of Amico and Solo, an “Enhanced EQ” option which adds ½ octave of bass.
18. What else am I required to buy after I buy one of your models?
To take advantage of what our models are capable of, you’ll need a Wi-Fi network which will cost you a monthly fee that varies by provider. Most people already have this for their computer, smart phone, printer, smart TV, Voice Assistant, etc.
If you plan to use one of the integrated streaming music services such as Spotify Connect, you’ll need the premium/paid version which usually starts at $9.99/month. Most of these services typically offer a limited free trial of their paid plan. You can always use the free version by streaming via Bluetooth. There are no other additional costs involved.
19. How do your models sound? How do they compare with competing models?
We spent a lot of time and effort equalizing our products during development with various genres of music at various volume levels. We think our products sound great, but you’re not buying it to give to us. We have amassed a goodly number of very favorable reviews from end users and the independent media alike. You can find the press reviews on our website.
The best listening test is performed in your own home with your own music, which is why we provide a generous 60 day return window when purchased direct from our website. We also include a chart on our website providing a basic comparison against a couple of other brands.
There are many choices available and we’re truly honored every time someone chooses Como Audio.
20. Bonus FAQ: Are the exterior housings made from solid wood?
The hand-crafted cases use a real wood veneer of walnut, hickory, or teak (Amico only), or a multi-layer piano black or white gloss finish, while the substrate is nearly ½” thick medium density fiberboard (MDF).
21. Bonus FAQ: Is there any difference between buying direct from Como Audio vs. Amazon?
Amazon will give you free shipping if you’re a Prime member. Como Audio has a 60 day return window as opposed to Amazon’s 30 days. Other than that, there is no difference. You get the same two year warranty and free technical support regardless.
We love showing off our great customer service skills which we believe is one major thing that distinguishes us from others. We encourage you to contact us with any questions or issues at any time. We realize the plethora of features can be overwhelming and we are happy to provide as much guidance as we can. We usually respond very quickly, even on weekends and holidays. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org and our office phone is 1.844.644.8606 (Weekdays 9a-5p ET). We have a small but experienced staff eager to help. In addition to these Tech Rap articles, you will also find numerous basic “how-to” videos on our website you can access any time without the need to register. We are passionate about making your music sound good with our products. In the end, it all comes down to helping you enjoy the music.
Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development in 2016. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. He can be reached directly at email@example.com