Linking Up Your Tunes at Home Wirelessly, Courtesy of Linksys
When we moved into our suburban Philadelphia stone center-hall Colonial home in 1996 we were delighted that it came with so many bells and whistles: an in-ground sprinkler system, alarm system, work-out room with cable TV hook-up, energy efficient heating/cooling system, finished lower level (fancy talk for finished basement) with full bath and a fireplace.
But what really knocked me out and sold me on the place was a whole-house stereo system (wired of course) that pumped music everywhere from speakers built into the ceilings—from the main floor and upstairs in the master bedroom and into the “lower level” where there were hook-ups in four corners for small external speakers. Music was playing in the background as we walked through the house for the first time, and heck, I liked it so much that I was even willing to overlook some hideous pink dolphin wallpaper in the guest room because of this feature.
Unless you are building a custom house from ground up and specifying whole-house wiring for Internet and similar purposes, it’s not likely that you can get a whole-house music experience without considerable effort and cost. And if you like to stream music from Internet music services, a networked storage device or just don’t want to have to sit in front of your PC to listen to your tunes or share your iPod tracks with friends all over the house or in designated rooms (or just annoy your teenage kids), the new Wireless Music System from Linksys by Cisco just might be for you.
Linksys has a pretty sleek set of components that make up its multi-room audio system-- a fairly simple,, do-it-yourself set-up that lets audiophiles get access to digital music in any number of rooms, from any number of sources-- PCs, the Internet or a networked storage devices-- quickly and easily—and not too expensively. It works with your standard wireless routing technology-- 802.11n and 802.11g routers, so placement can be in any room in the house. Start with a standalone system or a portable unit, or combine them to have a customized solution for your home. You can even connect to your existing audio systems – because isn’t it time your digital music met your awesome sound system?
Extending the emerging content principal of “What I Want Where I Want It” for digital music, the Linksys wireless home audio (WHA) system is a flexible system that is built on three core elements: the Director, the Player and the Controller, with the ability to add on other components.. The Director
: Equipped with a 3.5-inch TFT display screen, it has an integrated 50-watt per channel amplifier that delivers sound to existing stereo audio system and any existing tower or bookshelf speakers. This component can also power standalone speakers. The Director synchronizes music files for your entire house.
It’s designed to let you search and access music from digital music libraries stored on networked PCs, or other storage devices, create playlists, set up and play music in different rooms. It is priced at $449 and comes with an IR Remote. The Player:
This component is a music extender that connects directly to an existing stereo/audio system or any powered speakers, including PC speakers. It has no display screen The Player lists for $299.99 and comes with IR Remote. The Player gives you access to digital music libraries and Internet music via a Wireless-N router. The Controller
: A wireless 4.3-inch touchscreen remote with a color display. Priced at $349 this device lets you control music from anywhere in the house from any originating source --PC, Internet, and network attached storage or server device, or iPods. A really nice control feature is the ability to send different music to different rooms or play the same music throughout the entire house.
Future products include the Conductor
, an all in one portable device, coming later this summer. It will receive and play digital music streams wirelessly and features a 7-inch screen, built-in speakers, a CD-player, and will be capable of playing video.
Also available: a Docking Station for iPod
that cradles an iPod and connects and streams IPod tunes to the rest of the networked audio system ($79.99). When attached to the Director or Conductor, it’s possible to control the iPod from any room in the house.
The good news about this system is its flexibility and adaptability: so long as a digital audio device has an RCA output jack, such as a CD player or satellite radio receiver, you can connect them the wireless audio system. And even analog audio devices aren’t left stranded: so long as they have an RCA output, turntables or cassette tape decks can join in the fun.
As for price, there’s a nice mix and match thing going on: you can buy the Director ($449) to start with and add Players later on to extend music to additional rooms. You can also start with the Player at $299, but there’s no display and no amplifier but a non-display IR Remote, so you may also want to consider adding the Controller.
I like the fact that you can stream Internet music channels wirelessly—Philadelphia is a particularly lousy radio market, surprising given the size of its DMA—the local public radio station has a part-time classical/part-time jazz format, so not only isn’t there’s a dedicated jazz station, there’s no variation on that theme, and certainly you’d be hard pressed to find a blues station here either, so what’s a gal to do? Read the Fine Print
Here’s the catch though: The audio components work with the wireless-N or wireless-G routers, so you have to make sure your broadband wireless router is up to date in terms of compatibility to these versions of the 802.11 standard.
Also, and the fine print warns you of this: if multiple users are sharing numerous media files or if there’s a lot of simultaneous bandwidth-intensive applications going on over your home network, they recommend using a Dual-N Band Wireless Router. Good advice for families with lots of PC users and teens (and boomers too) who download or stream video on their laptops.
In terms of supporting Internet or other music services Linksys WHA system supports Rhapsody and RadioTime, a free service that streams international radio and talk stations Unlike Sonos, the Linksys system doesn’t yet support streaming of satellite radio such as Sirius, or online/Internet music services Pandora, Napster, Audible, etc. These are apparently in the works in future versions.
So, 13 years later, as my wired whole-house speakers start to sputter, hiss and die, I now have lots of options to continue my love affair with whole-house music.
Patti A. Reali-Directing Analyst
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