Arctic Living Audio Relay Wireless Media Extender Review
Andy Ruffell / 9 years ago
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The modern home environment is awash with audio visual systems which independently shape the way we lead our lives. With over two million UK residents installing Wi-Fi in their homes in the last 18 months, ARCTIC has seen a gap in the market for a bespoke wireless multi room system.
The new Audio Relay, wireless media extender allows users to listen to music anywhere in in their home, utilising smart phone technology to control your personal jukebox. The system allows intuitive control over preselected music libraries which are stored on your home PC or DLNA server.
Independent multi room systems can come with a hefty price tag and integrated hard wired installations are still in the realms of the serious AV enthusiast.
ARCTIC have stripped back the confusion and refined the installation process to create a plug and play device that utilises your home Wi-Fi network to send media from your computer playlist to a chosen output location within your home. What makes this product even more exciting is the dedicated control application that will allow media browsing and song selection.
Looking at the product off the shelf, the packaging is simple and clean with a large graphic of the receiver on the top of the box.
The key features are identified in smart phone style graphics along the front flap of the box. This gives an initial suggestion of the devices compatibility and functionality. There is also a reference to the downloadable App controller and the URL for ARTCIS’s home site.
On the rear of the packaging there is a schematic diagram for the device setup accompanied by a product description and package contents breakdown. Additionally there is a photograph of the product which identifies the physical connections including analogue output, optical output, USB and Ethernet RJ45 input.
When you open the box you find the components neatly packed leaving little room to spare. The device is wrapped in a cushioned pouch for added protection, with the connection leads and USB power plug separated by a cardboard division.
Once unpacked it is hard to miss the high gloss black finish on the product. The device is a made from a thermosetting plastic that has been manufactured to a high quality finish. The relay is ergonomic in its design with the only features being the on/off button and the Arctic logo.
It is clear from initial inspection that ARCTIC has tried to make the device user friendly to simplify its installation and subsequent operation.
The shape of the unit has also been thought about with its discreet size and light weight at only 0.4 kg allowing multiple installation locations with minimal visual impact.
When installing the device for the first time, the quick start guide provides the option for both Ethernet and Wi-Fi installation. This allows you to install the device in the way that best suits your applications.
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Following the simple setup guide I was able to connect within minutes to the Audio Relay and the device was shown on my computers network display in the explorer window. Once the device was recognised on the network it was simple to access connection settings by simply right clicking on the icon and clicking “view device webpage”. This opened a web user interface that allowed me to check for firmware updates, configure a connection mode and view Wi-Fi settings.
On closing the user interface streaming could begin straight away. To do this was as easy as the installation process, I simply had to open my media player and right click on the media I wanted to stream and select play to Arctic wireless speaker. This opened a second media player window ready to output my selected track.
The Audio Relay uses an IP address to stream the music to the correct device, this is like a unique reference number to ensure that the data is sent to the right place and is assigned automatically by your computer during the installation process.
The ARCTIC remote application for this product was released into the Android market in October last year, soon followed by the App store in early December. The device uses Wi-Fi standard 802.11b/g and is compatible with Windows Vista and above.
In addition to this a minimum system RAM of 1Gb is required and a standard 10/100Mbps Ethernet connection. The standard audio formats that are supported include MP3, AAC, WAV and WMA. This makes the device compatible with both downloaded media and ripped music from windows media applications.
The power is supplied through a USB power plug connector into the rear of the device. Running at 5 volts the relay only draws 600mA’s and is therefore relatively economical compared to various other receivers on the market. With the lower power that the system draws, its performance has not been compromised in the slightest, with impressive signal strength and clarity when tested on a standard wireless home router.
ARCTIC has been working hard to design a product that can hold its own in the multi room entertainment market. One feature that I feel really sets this device out above the others is the concurrent music playback which allows multiple users to play music in different rooms at the same time.
Using one central library, the media can be streamed through your router to the networked devices, allowing a true multi room experience. With the price of most multi room systems running into the high hundreds ARCTIC have entered the market with a competitively priced product. Retailing at $132.60 USD or €102 EUR from ARCTIC directly, this product could be seen as a cost effective solution for multi room applications when expensive hard wired alternatives are not an option.
It is most defiantly a serious contender in this market with plenty of room for expansion through its versatile use of home Wi-Fi networks. We look forward to seeing what ARCTIC are going to come up with next as home entertainment networks become more accessible to us all.