Wireless music sharing isn't a new concept--just take a look at the Microsoft Zune, which lets you beam songs to other Zune owners with the press of a button. The problem with the Zune is that everyone you want to share with must have that specific brand of MP3 player. Aerielle is offering a different take on music sharing with the i2i Stream, a device that connects to any MP3 player and headphones. Each i2i Stream acts as a transmitter and receiver, allowing the user to either broadcast music or tune in to others' "stations"--and either one is extremely easy to do. No doubt, the concept isn't for everyone, but for those who like to rock out in groups, it's a great solution. Aerielle sells a pair of i2i Streams for $99.95, so you'll always know someone who has one, but the price needs to come down quite a bit before we'll consider it a value. (Single add-ons can be purchased for $69.99.)
Given its function, the i2i Stream's design and usability are perhaps the most important factors. First, since you must wear the device in a prominent location (namely, around your neck), it's important that it be light and compact. Aerielle succeeds at this, though it would be nice if the unit were a little thinner and shorter. It measures 2.5 inches tall by1.2 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick and weighs just 1.3 ounces. The i2i Stream is encased entirely in black plastic, which helps it remain light and relatively inconspicuous, with the exception of the LED on the front, which needs to be clearly visible (more on this shortly). Silicone cases ($5.95each) in a variety of colors are available for adding a touch of personal style if desired. Out of the box, you get two lanyards, two USB cables, two 32-inch stereo patch cables, and two 12-inch stereo patch cables. The cables have 2.5mm plugs on one end, which attaches to the i2i Stream, and 3.5mm plugs for your MP3 player on the other.
Each i2i Stream unit, which acts as both a transmitter and receiver, features a variety of controls. A jog knob on the upper right corner powers the device on or off, while the three main function buttons reside on the face. The setup really couldn't be simpler. The top key is a send button that turns the device into a transmitter for broadcasting music from an attached MP3 player, while the bottom key puts the unit into receiver mode for picking up on another unit's broadcast. (In receiver mode, you need not have an MP3 player connected.) The circular center button, which protrudes from the device and is surrounded by an LED ring, acts to change channels. The channels are indicated by the LED, which glows one of seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white. To listen to a broadcaster's channel (which will be flashing), you simply "tune" to the color that is displayed on the person's i2i Stream unit.
Frankly, great sound quality is not Aerielle's advertising point on the i2i Stream, and you're not going to get it. Although music sounds fine piped through the unit of the broadcaster, receivers complained that audio sounded hollow and slightly muffled. However, the devices pair simply and work exactly as advertised with no hassle. Despite the fact that sound quality is not top notch, it's still a fun concept and neat in practice, though certainly not for everyone. The battery life of 5 to 7 hours isn't exactly impressive, but adequate given the application. The 30-foot wireless range seems like plenty.