A Wireless Wire
The NetPlay Radio transmits from an audio source (such as your PC) to an FM frequency, letting you listen in on any radio within about 100 feet. For instance, you could set an MP3 playlist on your PC and play it on your stereo system in another room. You could also tune in to streaming Net audio and listen on a boom box in the backyard, while your friend on the front porch tunes in on his or her Walkman. The same technology is used in health clubs to let some members sweat in peace while others listen to TV on their own personal headsets.
Designed with functionality in mind, the plain black NetPlay Radio is a basic device that performs a simple task. Installation consists of nothing more than sticking one end of a cable into your PC's sound card and the other into the back of the unit. There's no software to install and no configuring of your PC. In fact, you don't even need a PC to use this device. It can be used to transmit audio from any device with stereo outputs to any device with an FM tuner.
What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
You do need to select an unused FM frequency for broadcasting, however, and that's where things can get a bit tricky. A tuner with a digital dial is essential to finding an appropriate frequency, because analog knobs make it hard to land precisely on a specific channel. Once you find an area of the FM band that's not in use by a strong signal in your area, set the NetPlay Radio to the same channel to test it out. This process may take a while, especially if you live in an area with many radio stations, and will likely involve a good deal of running back and forth between the stereo tuner and the PC. But once you find a channel that works, you're up and running.
Once set up, the system functions well, providing the sound quality you? expect from a strong FM station. It's not quite as good as if you connected your PC directly to your stereo with a wire, but the system was not designed with the audiophile's needs in mind. The NetPlay's range was also quite good in our testing, near the manufacturer's promised 100 feet, although results may vary depending on the layout and construction of your house.
Perfect at What It Does
The NetPlay Radio works as advertised, turning your PC into your own private radio station. However, it can't control your PC remotely to change playlists, songs, or Internet radio stations, which is a big drawback if you don't know ahead of time exactly what you want to listen to. Products such as the Sonicbox offer a better solution for most users, providing much more flexibility at a lower price than the $189 NetPlay Radio.