As always, we'll reserve judgment until we get a review sample, but there's a lot to like about the concept. The TuneStage--and the iPod dock, it's a lot more convenient--and cooler--to go wireless. Moreover, in stark contrast to the competing network streaming devices, the Belkin and Logitech products don't require you to deal with a computer, they play back any and all audio files from the iPod (including copy-protected songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store), and they offer true plug-and-play setup., which is its primary competitor--essentially turn your iPod into a wireless remote. Just snap a Bluetooth transmitter on to your iPod, and your music is wirelessly streamed to a nearby stereo or speaker system that's connected to a matching base station no larger than a VHS cassette. Yes, while you can always attach your iPod to your stereo with a $3 patch cable or a $40
We rated the Logitech Wireless Music System a bit higher than the original Belkin TuneStage mostly because of its more flexible design--it works with any portable device that has a headphone jack, including every iPod model--but both of them offered solid wireless performance. Of course, if you have a compatible iPod, the TuneStage definitely has the edge in the looks--though we'd like to see a black one, too--and convenience: the tiny Belkin Bluetooth transmitter just snaps on and draws power straight from the iPod, while the larger Logitech version has its own battery and needs to be recharged separately.
Belkin's release talks up the fact that the Bluetooth dongle is also compatible with other Bluetooth devices that support A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile), such as some recent wireless headphones and car stereos. We'll be sure to test that compatibility along with all the basic functionality when we get our review sample of the Belkin TuneStage for iPod Nano in July. It carries the same $180 list price as the previous TuneStage, though the older model is now available for less than $130.