Linksys Music Bridge links PC and stereo

My notebook PC would make the best jukebox imaginable if not for its tiny speakers. That's why I tried the US$100 Linksys Wireless-G Music Bridge (WMB54G), which lets me stream music from my laptop to my stereo. It worked like a charm--that is, when it worked; unfortunately the product doesn't play well with all recent Wi-Fi routers.

Controlled by a simple desktop utility, the Music Bridge wirelessly diverts all PC audio from your networked Windows computer straight to your home stereo.

When I ran the screenless device on a network outfitted with a standard 802.11g router, wizard-based adjustment of the Music Bridge's Wi-Fi settings went smoothly. After hooking up the device to my stereo receiver using the supplied cable, I was soon streaming everything from Windows alert sounds to iTunes tracks from my 802.11g-equipped notebook. The audio was mostly great, though I had occasional and irritating brief outages--particularly when I tested with an 802.11b adapter.

This shipping version of the Music Bridge worked poorly with my Belkin Pre-N Wireless router based on Airgo Networks' original MIMO technology. No fix exists at this time, but Linksys says that newer Airgo-based products, such as Linksys's SRX400 router, don't have this issue.

Also, to switch between PC and stereo-system sound, you must first shut down all music player software on your PC or you risk disabling all Windows audio--PC and stereo. Linksys says it is adding a warning to future releases.

Still, if you survive the setup and don't demand flawless playback, this clever device provides an affordable means of enjoying digital music on your home stereo.

Linksys Wireless-G Music Bridge (WMB54G)

PCW Rating: 80, Very Good

This affordable music-streaming device doesn't work with all recent Wi-Fi gear.

Price when reviewed: US$100

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