I’ve been trying to find a solution to my wife’s request to have music in our family room without installing 5-foot high speaker towers in each corner, and a rack of stereo equipment on the coffee table (I really don’t see the problem with any of that, but that’s a story for another time…). Anyway, my first solution a few years ago was the purchase of an original Bose SoundDock. I strategically positioned it in the corner between the wall and the couch, and plugged in an iPod or iPhone when I wanted to listen to music. This has worked fine, but now that all of my music is in iCloud, and with the availability of Apple AirPlay, I figured there’s got to be a wireless solution that will work better for me and than shuttling iPods and iPhones in and out of the SoundDock…
Yesterday, I stumbled across an article that seemed to indicate that you could hook up the original usb-driven Harman Kardon SoundSticks to the usb port on the Apple Airport Express wireless router, and share the speakers over AirPlay. Since I have both of these products already, I was excited to give it a try. Nope, doesn’t work. I tried it and confirmed that the Airport Express will not see the usb speakers, only usb printers. Bummer.
Now the good news is that Harman Kardon has, since their release of the original 2.1 Channel SoundSticks, come out with the SoundSticks III. The new SoundSticks come equipped with a standard 3.5mm audio-in jack rather than usb. Now I love the sound coming out of my original SoundSticks, so it seems like the perfect solution would be to simply purchase the new SoundSticks III, and connect them to my Apple Airport Express wireless router, and enable AirPlay. This way, I can walk into the room with my iPhone or MacBook, play a song and have it stream wirelessly to the SoundSticks. The other bonus about this setup is that it’s portable. I can pick it up and move it to any room in my house, or even out to my deck, and I will have all of my music wherever I want it.
I did some research on alternatives to the SoundSticks III (which have a current street price of about $140.00), and the recommendation that keeps coming up is the Logitech Z623 Speaker System. They are a bit less expensive than the SoundSticks ($125.00 street price), but for me (and my past enjoyable experience with the SoundSticks), I think I’d stick with Harman Kardon.
Taking this all to the next level, I’ve been looking into purchasing an AirPlay-enabled speaker. I’m also a fan of Klipsch, and they have their G-17 Air AirPlay Speakers (street price of $550.00). This product eliminates the need for an Apple Airport Express, and leaves you with only one cord to plug in—the power cord. I haven’t heard the G-17, so unfortunately I can’t report on it’s sound quality.
For the very latest on AirPlay-enabled speakers, Samsung has just announced their DA-E750 & DA-E670 Audio Docks. These new units are built with vacuum tube amplifiers, and include built-in AirPlay streaming. It looks like pricing will be announced in a few days at CES. These are very nice looking units that would blend in quite nicely to my family room decor, and with two speakers, an integrated subwoofer and a total of 40 watts of power, they should be powerful enough to rock the room.
Tom, what was your solution to this problem?
I went a different route with a synchronized music system that works in several rooms in my house. I’ve been pretty happy with my eos speaker system. It comes with a dock, which I connect to my mac (and iTunes) through a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. I can also dock and ipod in the base, but haven’t had the need to do this because it’s connected to my Mac. I have 5 eos speakers positioned in various rooms, so I can fill my whole house with music. The speakers are wireless and plug directly into the outlet, which keeps them out of the way (big plus, no wires showing!).
The slight downside to this is that I have to manually adjust the volume on each speaker. The upside is that I can control the music using my ipod, iphone or ipad with Apple’s Remote app.
I’ve had this set up for about 3 years, so the technology is somewhat outdated (ok, three years is ancient), but it still works and is infinitely upgradeable. It runs on the 2ghz spectrum, so I do get some interference from time to time, the range is solid for about 100 feet (multiple floors aren’t a problem), it’s a bubble of coverage).
I haven’t completely wrapped my head around airplay, in theory, I don’t need to worry about this because the speaker system is connected to my mac, which is the hub for all of my music.
If I was going to replace this and I just needed music in a single room, I’d probably go for a Jambox made by Jawbone.
It’s bluetooth, can run for several hours on a single charge (or keep it plugged in with a usb charger) looks cool and would fit in nicely with the decor of any living/family room. It’s also portable so you can take it out on the deck for those warm summer evenings… I haven’t heard the sound on these yet, but every review gives them a thumbs up.