I've wanted to be able to play music in the house in most rooms from a centralised source for some time now, there's a dead easy way of doing that, but it would more than likely make me very unhappy with the neighbours and that's to buy a really loud stereo and just put it on full blast day and night.
The alternative I have chosen though to keep neighbourly relations on an even keel is to centralise my music on a Network Attached Storage (NAS) Server and stream the music to various HiFi kit I already own situated in the various rooms in my house.
To do this I did quite a bit of research and there are lots of proprietary vendors who have systems that will do this, but it would mean either replacing the kit I already have (Philips Streamium) or augmenting it with costly wireless bridging devices (SONOS).
In my research I stumbled across a small black box that talked a good game about providing a streaming endpoint that you could connect to pretty much any existing audio equipment that had an auxiliary input.
This box supports streaming music from UPnP/DLNA CertifiedTM digital media server and to test it's functionality I used the following products.
- Media Server (centralised music source) - Asset uPNP on Windows 7 serving an iTunes Music Folder.
- Control Point (software for queueing music and managing playlists) - Linn Kinsky iPhone Version
- Renderer - Arctic Audio Relay
On delivery of the device I was surprised at how small it is, it is well packaged and has a glossy black plastic exterior. I plugged it into my network following the instructions that came in the box and it picked up an IP via DHCP from my router straight away.
I followed the instructions to get the device up and running on my home wireless network then moved it to it's location and plugged it in. Initially when wired into the network I could see the device no problems but once moved to the new location I could no longer see it, after some experimentation I found that the wireless range of the box in my house (and your mileage may vary here as I have stone and brick internal dividing walls) was not adequate for it to connect to my network.
I thought this may be an issue so I am planning on adding a wireless access point on that side of the house as the wireless coverage isn't great and often drops even on my iPhone or Laptop.
I set the box up within range and connected it to an old iPod Dock using a twin phono to 3.5mm jack plug, fired up the Linn Kinsky App and there was my target device ready and waiting to be used.
Browsing through the library on the Asset Media Server installed on my laptop was quick and easy on the Kinsky App and I fairly quickly had songs streaming across to the dock using the Arctic Box as the middleman.
I'm very happy with how it has turned out and with the addition of the new Access Point I should be able to add a few more of these devices to I can control my music from anywhere in the house using the app on my phone.
One of the things I have read in other reviews but not tested is that the technology has the capability to stream different music to different rooms concurrently, so this is something I hope to test in future when I buy a NAS to complement the devices.
There are quite a lot of products out there that do similar things, it really can be as simple as choosing a vendor and replacing all your existing kit, but if you have invested in kit that more suits your needs and the proprietary systems don't do things in just the way you want there seems to be very little choice other than to build a home multi-room system to your own specification using the Arctic Audio Relay as the device that connects your HiFi to your Music.
The price was good @ £70 delivered considering a similar box from SONOS is closer to £300, it does exactly what I wanted it to do in a very simple no frills way. Configuration was easy and out of the box and with a little troubleshooting of wireless connectivity problems I had it up and running in about an hour, that includes downloading and installing a uPNP Media Server, figuring out how to work the Kinsky App and configuring the Audio Relay itself.
The box documentation mentions that the audio relay only supports MP3, AAC, WAV and WMA however it also says it only supports WiFi b/g standards but other reviewers have found it also supports the wireless n standard so again your mileage may vary in what you can get it to play.
With phono outputs and a toslink output it gives decent flexibility for hooking up to various HiFi systems and with both wifi and ethernet you can have your cake and eat it with regards network connectivity. This device also comes with a two year warranty from Arctic for piece of mind.
All things taken into account, this is a great bit of kit at a very competitive price.