The new and improved Belkin TuneStage isn't slated to hit stores for a few weeks, but got our hands on an early unit and give it a test run. Right out of the box, we had the TuneStage II up and running in less than two minutes. Plug in the base station, run a connecting cable to any stereo or powered speaker system, and you're ready to use your iPod as a wireless music box. The new and improved transmitter dongle uses the standard iPod 30-pin connector, so unlike the original TuneStage, the TuneStage II is compatible with latest iPod models, including the 30GB and 80GB video-enabled iPods and the iPod Nano.
Once the dongle was plugged in to our 30GB iPod, it automatically synced up with the base station. Seconds later, we were hearing our tunes on the big speakers of the stereo across the room. In addition to the wider iPod compatibility offered by the dock-friendly dongle, the TuneStage II lets you recharge your iPod with an included USB cable (drawing power from the base station) without the need to disconnect the dongle. The TuneStage II also uses the latest Bluetooth 2.0 standard, including the so-called EDR (enhanced data rate) upgrade that should deliver better sound quality. Moreover, the TuneStage II goes beyond the iPod universe. Other Bluetooth devices equipped with the A2DP protocol can stream audio to the base station as well--we successfully paired the TuneStage II with a Motorola Q smart phone and played a few songs from it without any trouble.
We'll soon have an in-depth of review of the TuneStage II. In the meantime, anyone who has asked Santa for the previous version of the TuneStage might want to hang on to that receipt: the TuneStage II ($150) is slated to be released on January 25, 2007.