Listening to your iPod doesn't have to be a solitary experience. The Logitech Wireless Music System (WMS) uses Bluetooth technology to wirelessly stream audio from your iPod--or any portable player with a headphone jack--to your home stereo. At $150, it's on the pricey side, and it suffers from an annoying design quirk, but its simple operation, excellent range, and impressive sound quality more than make up for these transgressions. Plus, unlike products that stream audio from your PC--such as the
The Logitech Wireless Music System's package consists of a rectangular, iPod-white transmitter and a small, black receiver about the size of an Altoids tin. We tested the transmitter with an iPod Mini and a Creative Zen Vision:M and connected the receiver to a home-stereo system and (later) a pair of Altec Lansing computer speakers. The receiver comes with the RCA cable needed for a stereo connection, but it also has a 3.5mm jack for plugging in powered speakers. Armed with this kit and a pair of speakers, you can turn your iPod into a poor man's , effectively bringing your music collection to any room in the house. The receiver also has its own playback and volume-control buttons, but these won't control your portable player; rather, they're for use with other Logitech home-audio products. The previously promised remote control accessory has been dropped; it didn't serve much of a purpose, though, since the wireless transmitter is always attached to the source of your music.
The transmitter plugs into any standard 3.5mm headphone jack; its sliding, two-position plug caters to players with centered or right-side jacks. There's a slide cover to lock in the jack's position, but owners of multiple MP3 players should be aware that it's nearly impossible to remove. Obviously, the transmitter was designed with Apple's players in mind, but it looked equally at home atop our Zen. In fact, it seemed to fit the Zen a bit better: It didn't spin loosely, as it did when plugged into the iPod. It's too bad Logitech couldn't engineer a way to keep the transmitter from flopping around. The unit has its own rechargeable battery (good for 8 to 10 hours, according to Logitech), so it doesn't squander your player's juice. On the other hand, it doesn't charge your iPod either, so now you have to keep your eye on two power levels when using the Logitech Wireless Music System and worry about yet another AC adapter when recharging.
We couldn't help admiring the Logitech Wireless Music System's plug-and-play simplicity. After you've connected the receiver and the transmitter, just press and hold the Connect button on the latter. After a few seconds, a blue light appears to indicate a successful connection. Press play, and presto: Your tunes are streaming to your stereo. There's no software to mess with and no special interface to learn; just use your player like you normally would.
The Logitech Wireless Music System performed better than we expected in two respects. First, it managed to reproduce our music with no distortion, static, or noticeable loss of fidelity. Indeed, to our ears, songs came through with the same quality as when we wired our player to our stereo; the sound quality is head and shoulders above that of all the static-prone FM-based iPod transmitters we've tried. Second, we found that we could use our iPod or Zen even further away than the 33 feet Logitech says is the maximum range. It worked between walls, closed doors, and even floors. When we did eventually get out of range, the sound just faded away instead of crackling or turning to static.
Initially we were disappointed with the relatively low maximum volume we could get from our player and stereo, even when both were cranked up. But upon reading the troubleshooting section of the quick-start guide (the kit's only documentation), we learned of the receiver's tiny Fixed/Variable switch. Ours was in the second position, which is intended for speakers that lack their own volume control. We switched it to Fixed, which produces a "full-strength, line-level" signal, and enjoyed a big boost in volume.
The Logitech Wireless Music System works as advertised, but it's the second such Bluetooth-based iPod-to-home-stereo transmitter on the market. The first was the ($180 list, less online), which offered nearly identical performance across the board. In a head-to-head competition, the Logitech model has the edge, simply because it works with a wider variety of products (anything with a headphone jack) and because its built-in rechargeable battery doesn't drain your iPod. But those with compatible iPods may very well prefer the Belkin model, simply because of its more petite and less obtrusive snap-on transmitter. But no matter which one you pick, the concept of kicking back on your couch while music streams to your stereo from the iPod in your hand is a winning one.