We're often commenting upon how modern computers have become full multi-media systems, capable of doing everything from your accounts to gaming to watching high-definition films.
Unquestionably the most common media task is that of audio. Since the advent of the MP3 format we've all found our hard-drives stuffed to the gunwales with our music collections. The convenience of having any of our songs available to us without having to hunt through our CD collection is a tempting one that is tough to ignore.
Because we have all of our music available at the click of a mouse, the ease of creating our own versions of "Now that's what I call music" (except without 30 of the 32 tracks being unlistenable tripe) has meant most of us own a ton of mix CDs and playlists.
Wouldn't it be cool if you could have the handiness of your MP3 collection at your fingertips, yet with the sound quality of your HiFi, or even in whatever room you care to use? That's exactly what the Audio Relay from the "living" brand of Arctic Cooling offers.
We managed to get through the whole of the introduction without mentioning the iPod... damn.
As you'll see on the next page the Audio Relay is exceptionally light. It has all the necessary inputs and outputs, as well as wireless DLNA support.
|Dimensions (Packaging)||240 (L) x 75 (W) x 61 (H) mm|
|Audio formats||MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA|
|Power||DC 5V 600mA (USB cable & adapter included)|
|Connectivity||Stereo RCA x 1|
Optical out (SPDIF) x 1
USB host for WCN configuration x 1
Mini-USB x 1
Ethernet RJ45 x 1
Wi-Fi antenna x 1
|Dimensions (Product)||152 (L) x 70 (W) x 24 (H) mm|
|Net Weight||118 g|
|Gross Weight||0.7 kg|
Thanks to the compact nature of the Audio Relay itself, the packaging is extremely compact. It's about the same size as the packaging on an average-sized cloth mouse mat. The AR is so easy to setup that you could get away with just looking at the diagram on the box.
As well as the Audio Relay itself we have a USB power cable and plug, a wireless antenna and some good quality phono cables to connect the AR to whatever audio option you wish to use.
Piano black is the order of the day, guaranteed to pick up all the dust and fingerprints it can find. On top is just a power button, which glows blue when on. Round the back is where the action happens. From left to right are the phono ports for the audio output, an Optical out, the USB power input, a USB port for firmware upgrading, Ethernet (needed for initial setup), and the WPS button and antenna port for the wireless if you choose to utilise that.
Even if you want to use the Wireless option you need to connect the Audio Relay to your network with the ethernet cable to begin with. This brings up a browser window with a few screens. Once you've selected your language the next screen shows the IP and firmware of the AR.
Next you can choose what it appears as on your network. Although the default name is clear enough. After that you can either leave it as it is, or (as is more likely) if you wish to use the wireless just select the wireless option.
The final screen offers the wireless networks the device has recognised. You can connect by choosing it here and inputting the password, or by utilising the WPS buttons on your router and the Audio Relay. Once it's all connected just choose your audio in WMP or compatible program and stream it to the AR.
Of course it would be pointless to have a wireless receiver if we didn't have a way of controlling it remotely too. Having the flexibility of changing song to suit the mood, or even take requests, is a nice option to have. You can control the Audio Relay with either a iOS or Android app available for free (search AR Remote). It's as easy as it looks. Pick your computer, pick the output, pick the song, play.
Such is the simplicity of setting up the Arctic Audio Relay and such is its single-purpose focus, it's very easy to sum up. If you want to stream your music from your computer to an alternative set of speakers, there are few easier options around.
It's well built, comes with all the bits and bobs you need and, if you'll forgive the cliché, it's so easy to use that even your Gran could get it up and running in minutes. If you're one of those people who gets sick at the thought of lining the pockets of the Apple Corporation then this allows you to combine things you most likely already own to do something that would otherwise require a hefty investment.
The only thing we can really criticise would be that the App is nice to use but it would be even better if we could stream the music from our Android/iOS device via the Audio Relay to our sound system. We do have to point out that Arctic Cooling never claim this is something that it does, and so we're not marking it down, but it is rather strange to have a smart device that can play music, an App that can 'push' music and yet be unable to combine the two.
This is one of those products that offers a particular talent and performs it flawlessly. You will be up and running in moments. Although there are a couple of features we think would really tip it into the territory of truly awesome, we can't knock it for not doing something it never offered and for the pure simplicity of getting music from your PC to wherever you want it, we have to award the Arctic Audio Relay our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to Arctic Cooling for supplying the Audio Relay for review. Discuss our findings in the OC3D Forums.