Like most good ideas, thereís more than one party competing. Over the past few weeks, Iíve had a chance to test both the Belkin TuneStage and the Logitech Wireless Music System, and because of superior sound quality and future-looking design, Logitech comes out the hands-down winner.
The idea is straightforward: you connect an adapter to the top of the iPod, cue up a song, and it automatically beams the music to its receiver, which is connected to your sound system. Since itís not sending audio over FM like those in-car transmitters but rather a 2.4GHz Bluetooth signal, it can maintain a nice full sound at distances up to 30 feet. You can hear a little bit of digital hiss at the high end, but only when youíre nearbynear enough to just plug your iPod directly into your stereo. This is for the times when you are, say, working in the kitchen. You want full control over your tunes but canít be hovering around the living-room sound system playing DJ.
If you read my review of Logitechís wireless headphones for iPod, youíll notice that the adapters are nearly identical. In fact, if you already own the wireless headphone system, you can save $70 and just pick up a receiver for $80. After fiddling with a few buttons, youíll be able to use it for your home stereo and your headphones. You can also put receivers in different parts of the house, so as you walk from room to room your music follows. Since the adapter itself consists of only a stereo plug, like the ones on typical headphones, it can be used with any iPodincluding the Shuffle, the Nano and the new video-capable editionand even with other audio sources like a portable CD player or some satellite radios.
Although its sound quality was noticeably inferior, Belkinís TuneStage did get one thing rightit drew juice from the iPodís own battery, so its streaming adapter was smaller and didnít need to be charged. The Logitech adapterís universality has a drawback: it has its own battery, which must be charged. You get around 8 hours of life per charge, though, and you can charge it while playing, so itís not the kiss of death.
Products like this will make it easier to use your iPod in the home, and control it the way you want to. Itís hard to imagine going back to the simple Play/Pause remote control. Just remember to keep those chargers handy.