Using an iPod as a primary music source at home has become more commonplace as new accessories allow for different ways of hooking portables into home stereos. iCast is a new system that wirelessly transmits iPod music from room to room in your house, where it can be played on an existing stereo or amplified speakers.
The iCast includes a transmitter and receiver that have small footprints, and the system can be expanded with an extra receiver to transmit to multiple rooms simultaneously. I set up iCast in several different locations around our office, and it performed flawlessly throughout, even from about 100 feet away through four walls; it can operate anywhere within 350 feet, according to the company. The sound quality is very good, and doesn’t suffer from break-ups or interference in the stream. In the past, one of the problems with wireless audio transmission has been interference from other household devices using the 2.4 GHz band—microwaves, cordless phones, Bluetooth and WiFi devices—which causes clicks, pops, and dropouts. The iCast solves this problem by using Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology that dynamically switches to open channels during transmission in order to avoid interference.
On the top of the iCast receiver are buttons to advance and pause tracks, and if you advance past the album you’re listening to, it will continue to the next artist in line on your iPod. This brings up a critical difference between iCast and other wireless music systems on the market, notably Slim Devices’ Squeezebox. Squeezebox streams music from a PC to its receiver, which has a very nice VFD display that can be seen from across the room, and tracks can be advanced using a remote control. By contrast, the iCast has no remote and no display. However, it does have one advantage over the Squeezebox—the ability to play iTunes DRM-protected AAC tracks. The iCast is a convenient, reliable, and versatile system for playing iPod music at home over wireless but could use some refinements to make it a more userfriendly system. TPV