Soundcast iCast Wireless Transmitter review: Soundcast iCast Wireless Transmitter

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Soundcast iCast Wireless Transmitter

(Part #: Ict-111) Released: Jun 20, 2006
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Robust signal range and clean, static-free sound; aesthetically pleasing design; can stream DRM-protected tracks; iPod can be controlled using iCast receiver; includes input jack for other audio devices.

The Bad Dock works only with dock-connector iPods; expensive; no dock connector pass-through.

The Bottom Line The Soundcast iCast has good, clean wireless sound, but its cost definitely outweighs its utility as an iPod transmitter/receiver for the home.

6.7 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 5.0
  • Performance 8.0
Soundcast's iCast system ($299) transmits audio wirelessly from an iPod to a receiver up to 150 feet away. The attractive two-piece system is designed for dock-connector iPods, though you can connect other audio devices. While both transmitter and receiver need AC power, the audio signal strength and quality were excellent in our tests. Our only question is, would you spend this kind of money for something you didn't really need?

The iCast system is easy to set up and use. The plastic white transmitter dock has a contemporary curved shape and can accommodate any dock connector with the help of modular inserts. The backside includes a power port, audio line-out/line-in, and a 3-channel switch; the dock charges the iPod. The transmitter searches for up to two receivers (the system ships with one; an additional one costs $129) on a single channel. After our transmitter located the receiver, which was hooked up to our Specktones audio system, within a few seconds, we were streaming audio (including DRM AAC tracks) across the room, and it sounded nice and bright with zero dropouts.

The receiver has a similar design, with a black top, and includes a power input; an RCA audio output; a channel selector; and play/pause, forward, and reverse buttons that control the iPod. Not surprisingly, the iCast uses the crowded 2.4GHz band but is able to frequency-hop to find an open channel (Soundcast calls this FHSS technology). Our tests were static-free, even at 100 feet away and through a thin wall. The advantage of this receiver is that you can control the iPod remotely (without a screen, of course). The receiver comes bundled with a power adapter, one set of RCA cables, a mini-to-RCA cable, a mini-to-mini cable, and a mini gender adapter. The transmitter also ships with a different AC adapter, mini-to-mini and mini-to-RCA cables, and iPod inserts.

But why would you transmit wirelessly when you could simply hook up your iPod directly to a stereo? The standard (and a bit cheaper at $249) Audiocast version of this product makes more practical sense--that is, it wirelessly beams music from your computer (or any other audio device, including the iPod via line input) to your receiver. (Or you could just beam your iTunes music to an AirPort Express.) The iPod is portable, so there are multiple ways to listen to it over speakers.

Naturally, there are reasons to use the iCast. You can select music without having to walk across the room. Of course, you can get a wireless remote like the Airclick that does the same thing, though you wouldn't be able to browse your music collection and navigate your iPod. You can also pipe music out to your local speakers and drench your room or house with sound, though the transmitted music has a half-second delay compared to the local audio output. Here's the best use for this thing: add another receiver (maximum of two) and send music to different parts of your house. What the iCast provides over the Audiocast is remote iPod control and recharging. We do appreciate the iCast's ability to stream DRM music at will, to transmit the audio of other devices, and to use your iPod as the controller, but overall, this product has a narrow audience, especially for $300 (and up to $430 with the second receiver).

If you'll use your iPod as the control interface, a product like the $150 Bluetooth-powered Logtiech Wireless Music System for iPod makes sense since it allows you to move freely about the house with an iPod, though the transmitter requires battery power and the range isn't as good. Other notable iCast observations: there is a two-second delay when you control your iPod remotely using the receiver, and the transmitter has no extra dock connector port, so you can't sync with iTunes.

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