Digital life: There's music, music everywhere...
Music in every room in the house -- that's the promise of wireless audio systems such as Sony's S-AIR technology.
The S-AIR resembles an iPod dock on a heavy dose of steroids. Composed of three separate units, the small and slim central device houses the iPod and an AM/FM tuner, while the two others are the stereo speakers, each the size of a loaf of bread.
Each of the three must be connected to an electrical socket but otherwise require no wires and no set-up to send audio anywhere around your house, or at least within a range of about 50 feet.
You might keep one speaker in the kitchen and one in the bedroom, but because they're so portable they can easily be moved anywhere in the house with a socket.
You can add up to 10 additional speaker units at a cost of €120 each.
The main unit does not have any speakers itself but can be hooked up to your hi-fi, giving you a third source of music in addition to the two satellite speakers.
The clever part is that you can tune into the radio in one room while your dearly beloved listens to the iPod in another.
If you're throwing a party, all three units can play the same source, meaning you don't have to blast the roof off volume-wise in the lounge just to reach other rooms.
Each unit comes with its own remote so that you can play, pause and skip through the tracks or change radio stations no matter where you are in the house, as long as you're within sight of a unit.
Frustratingly, though, only the main unit's remote can navigate through the iPod's menus while the others which need it most can't. Sony shoots the S-AIR in the foot by restricting the satellite remotes to just play, pause and skip: no choosing of playlists or browsing artists.
Unfortunately, too, the tiny one-line display on each satellite leaves much to be desired, showing only a few characters of the artist or track name at a time.
Sony developed its own wireless standard to squirt audio through the air. That means sound quality is better than you'd expect but, alas, it's also prone to occasional but short break-ups.
Similar wireless systems from the likes of Sonos cost considerably more than the S-Air, but offer far more elaborate features.
For once, Sony has the price advantage, and the S-Air offers a decent starter package for sound without wires around the house.
- Sony S-AIR SA20PK, €350