SoundBlaster Wireless Music

The SoundBlaster Wireless Music combines an MP3 player with a wireless network, allowing you to listen to your tunes wherever you want. No matter how big your music collection, an MP3 player gives you access to any track you want at a push of a button. Even with the biggest capacity players on the market, though, you'll eventually run out of space.

Network players provide a solution, separating the player from the storage, but connecting the two parts together can cause problems. It's okay if you've already got a wired network in place, but most homes tend not to have one. Wireless is a far better solution for the home - no wires, no mess. While the limited 11Mbps bandwidth of 802.11b may not be sufficient for video, it's more than adequate for audio.

The SoundBlaster Wireless Music con-sists of two parts: a base station that you hook up to your stereo, and a remote control. There's no display on the base station, bar a couple of LEDs to tell you when it's on and communicating with the network. It has both analog and digital outputs so connecting it to your stereo shouldn't prove a problem.

All interaction is via the remote control, which includes a 5.5-line LCD display. The advantage of this approach is that you can hide the base station out of sight (since the remote control uses radio frequency to communicate with it) and access everything from the remote. The display is in your hand, rather than on the other side of the room, so navigating the menus from the sofa is simple.

Setup is easy. If you're running a wireless network without any encryption then simply install the software, tell it where your music files are and switch on. If you're running an encrypted network then there's an additional step of connecting the base station to the PC via USB and entering the encryption settings.

To listen to a track, simply browse your collection from the remote control and press the play button. The base station streams tunes from your PC over the wireless network and plays them through your stereo.

Navigating the menu is simple enough, especially if you're familiar with Creative's range of Jukebox MP3 players. You can set up playlists or use the built-in smart playlists, which cover things like music added in the last 30 days or tracks you listen to most.

The device is slated for possible launch in Australia in early March. At press time, no planned pricing details were available (although it retails for $US249 in the US).

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