After a CNET reader asked us to figure out a solution to get laptop audio streamed wirelessly to a receiver, we came across the Sound Blaster Wireless System for iTunes and Receiver. While the system worked well, we were disappointed to see that the included remote control was only fully functional with PCs. Just like with most devices, the 2.4GHz-dependent system also occasionally interfered with our Wi-Fi router.
To even the playing field, we're now taking a look at the Eos Converge line of products, a group of devices that aim to accomplish the same basic function as the Sound Blaster system. The Converge is easier to set up, has a better range, but is much bulkier than the Creative offering.
Even though this is the review for the Wireless Transmitter, we'll be discussing other components that must be present in order for the system to work. Eos offers four separate devices as a part of the Converge line, each one available for purchase by itself.
The Wireless Transmitter and the Wireless Receiver both retail for $100. You'll need a minimum of these two products in order for your system to work, so it's safe to say you'll be spending a minimum of $200 on your Converge setup. Also available are the Amplified Receiver (for $150) and a set of bookshelf speakers (for use with the Amplified Receiver) for $100. The Eos Converge line can be mixed and matched according to your personal preference.
The Eos Converge Wireless Transmitter is about the size of two iPod docks stacked on top of one another. The device is also wider than an iPod dock and has a power and source toggle button on top. Two blue LEDs indicate source, as you can switch between USB and auxiliary mode for streaming.
The device feels solid and sturdy and has a rubber pad on the bottom to ensure that it stays put. A 2.5-inch antenna rests atop the transmitter, which will glow blue when connected with the receiver.
Setting up the Wireless Transmitter is simple. Using the included USB cable, you attach the device to an open port on your PC or Mac, desktop or laptop. The transmitter uses power from the USB port so there's no separate power connection required. Also included with the Wireless Transmitter is a 1/8-inch patch audio cable to make use of the "audio out" port on the device.
You will need power for the Wireless Receiver (the standard and the amplified versions) so it can receive and then pass the signal along to your desired player (don't worry, you can switch it off when not in use). We hooked our standard Wireless Receiver up to a stereo system using left and right RCA analog audio cables (which are included with the Wireless Receiver). The receiver also has play/pause and skip forward and back buttons on top, which will work with iTunes and most other media players you have on your computer.
If your computer does not switch sound over to the transmitter automatically, you'll have to manually change this depending on your operating system. Windows users can navigate to Control Panel < Sounds & Audio and select Eos; Mac users need to head to System Preferences and select Eos under the Sounds settings.
During our testing we were impressed with the range at which the transmitter was able to broadcast. Eos claims a 150-foot range, and our testing definitely flirted with that measurement. Even better, the Eos was able to work through numerous walls and even two floors.
Like all devices that operate on the 2.4GHz spectrum, we did experience some interference with our wireless router. We recommend setting your router to a separate channel to avoid drops in performance.
Among our few complaints with the Eos Converge system is that the transmitter is larger than we would have liked. Ideally, we would have liked to have seen a USB dongle (like we saw with the Sound Blaster), but the range would have suffered as a result.
Also, we think the Converge system is missing a remote control. Even though the Sound Blaster system has limited Mac functionality with its remote, it does provide plenty of control when using a PC. The Sound Blaster can be had online for around $150, but the Eos will cost you a minimum of $200.