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Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music review: Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music

Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music

David Carnoy
David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
3 min read

Creative's Sound Blaster Wireless Music (listed at $250) is the first digital media receiver to offer music-file navigation via a remote control with a large LCD. The idea is that once you've configured the small, modem-size base unit to work with your Wi-Fi network, you'll be able to stream music over the system to any stereo or even a set of powered speakers (think party in your backyard). The remote features a 132x64-pixel, blue-backlit display, and since the control uses RF rather than infrared technology, you can hide the receiver and still command it.


Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music

The Good

Compatible with 802.11b/g networks; RF remote with a built-in LCD for navigation; fairly simple setup; robust software package; optical digital output.

The Bad

No support for AAC and secure WMA music files; no MPEG or JPEG video support; music-management software could be more integrated and user-friendly.

The Bottom Line

A remote with a built-in LCD for music navigation gives Creative's wireless music solution a competitive edge.
Review summary

So is this wireless music system all it's cracked up to be? Yes, especially if you're an MP3 aficionado with a large and well-organized digital-music collection. Setup is fairly easy: you install some software on your central computer, hook it up to the Sound Blaster with the included USB cable, follow the wizard's instructions, disconnect the machines, and attach the receiver to a stereo or powered speakers. Once you've imported your MP3 and nonsecure WMA files into Creative's music-management program, you're ready to stream. Your network can also include multiple receivers with their own names so that you can place units in different rooms.

The product ships with a robust software suite that includes Wireless Music Media Server; Wireless Music Console; Wireless Music Network Setup; and Creative MediaSource, which should be familiar to owners of Creative's Nomad portable players. But if there's a knock on the system, it's that it makes you deal with too many programs; one well-integrated application would be preferable. Digital-music veterans won't have too much trouble sorting through all the features and figuring out how to best set up their music collection, playlists, and smart playlists, but less-savvy users might initially be intimidated.

Having accurate and complete ID3 tags is critical. When those audio-file attributes are correct, remote-based navigation and playback are really flexible. It's easy to search for and play albums, tracks from a particular artist, and genres (disco or techno, for example). You can also create playlists, and the system automatically generates smart playlists based on songs' playback frequency, import dates, ratings, and various other criteria that you specify. For instance, you can pick out the music you added in the past month.

All in all, we were impressed with Creative's first foray into the wireless-music arena. We hooked up the Sound Blaster to a Denon receiver via the optical output (the only provided cable is analog). The sound was rich and vibrant for MP3, and when we changed tracks or launched new playlists, the lag time between our button-presses and music playback was minimal.

At a list price of $250, the system isn't cheap, especially when you compare it with competitors, such as the Prismiq MediaPlayer, that also stream images and video. But an RF remote with a built-in LCD offers a lot of flexibility, making the Sound Blaster an attractive solution for those who want to access and listen to their PC-based music collections in multiple rooms and beside the backyard pool.

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