Apple’s family of iProducts—the iPod, iPhone and iPad–not only have revolutionized the way people enjoy music on a personal level, they’ve made possible relatively easy transportation and distribution of music all over the house—and we don’t mean walking around the house with headphones on.
There are several ways to open up your iPod etc to the rest of your house and your family. Some options require custom installation, while others are plug-and-play. You can plant your iPod in a speaker dock, a home theater dock or connect it to a whole-house audio system. What works for you will depend on your budget, the kind of audio experience you want and whether you want to spread the music around the house or just around the room.
Big box electronics outlets and department stores are loaded with simple, low-end speaker systems made for iPods, but those sacrifice audio quality for price. You might not think that something as small as an iPod is capable of producing good sound outside of earbuds, but when coupled with a high-end system, the results can be impressive.
Stand-along speaker systems have the advantage of being easy to install—take it out of the box and put it on a table. If you want to take your music to another room, simply pick your portable device off the dock and plug it into the speaker dock in another room—even outside. Speaker docks are great solutions for bedrooms office/dens, kitchens and patios. Some make your music even easier by incorporating Apple’s new Airplay technology, which allows a wireless Wi-Fi connection between the device the speaker system.
B & W introduced the world to high-end iPod speakers when it introduced the Zeppelin a few years ago, and this year the Zeppelin received a few audio upgrades plus the ability to stream music wireless from your device via Airplay. Its innovative shape not only makes it look cool, it also contributes to its exceptional good sound.
A new product from Arcam, called the rCube, not only allows for playing directly from your iDevice, but it also can stream music from a PC. But more than that, the rCube can be a basic multiroom audio system. One rCube can stream music to another, your you can stream the same PC files to four rCubes at once.
Speaker docks are wonderful as supplementary audio systems for your iProduct, but what if you’ve already got a good audio system, and you just want to play your iTunes over your home theater speakers?
A very basic solution is to plug an adapter cable into the headphone jack of your device and then plug the Y ends into your receiver. You won’t receive the high fidelity you’d get from a better integrated method, but it works in a pinch.
A better solution is to use a home theater receiver that includes iPod/iPhone cradle. Both Integra, Pioneer and Sony offer several models that allow iDevice connections. With this kind of integration, you get basic control of your iDevice via the home theater remote and you get the benefit of the receiver’s audio processing power and your speakers reproduction capabilities. Some systems include on-screen display of videos and album art on the TV connected to the receiver, just like if you had a dedicated music server.
Another interesting solution comes from iPort, the same company that manufactures Sonance in-wall speakers. The iPort IW-2 series lets you place your iPod/Phone into a flush-mounted dock in a wall, which connects via Cat5 cable to your home entertainment system. Depending on the model, your device can be 30-feet away from your music system or as much as 500 and allow distribution all over the house.
Automation and control companies such as Control4 and Savant also integrate iPod/Phone/Pad connectivity, and make it easy to play your music anywhere you go, even outside to weatherproof outdoor speaker.
In fact, Savant’s home control system in based on Apple, and allows you to use multiple iPod/Phone/Pads as the primary control interfaces for your home, so you can seamlessly go from controlling your home theater or adjusting the lights to browsing your iTunes collection, all on the same device. The system includes an integrated iTunes-based music server, which will display all your music’s album art on screen for easy access. If a guest shows up and wants to let you listen to his or her iPhone, just plug it into the system, and it becomes available for the whole house to enjoy.
by Grant Clauser