Now that apple iPods have become the principal repositories for many households’ music collections, the options for spreading the sound from a single unit throughout the home have proliferated. The best of these new products feature interface devices that connect an iPod to a sound system—typically a multiroom audio system—controlled by in-wall keypads or touchscreens.
The pioneer in this burgeoning field is Sonance, which made its name with in-wall speakers and multiroom audio. A Sonance spin-off company called iPort makes two basic models of iPod interfaces: one that fits flush in a wall and another that sits atop a table or shelf. But each of these basic models comes in several variants. The simplest iPorts extract the sound from an iPod and ferry it through cables to a stereo system. However, the more complex models, priced at about $1,000, provide a computer-style RS232 interface, which allows external devices to read the display information from an iPod and show it on touchscreen remote controls or in-wall keypads. With these models, you can tap a flush-mounted Crestron touchscreen in your kitchen and view a list of the artists, songs, and playlists stored on your iPod. Tap the title of a song and music instantly will play from hidden speakers. The iPort also allows you to view on any TV set the photos and video stored on an iPod—although the video quality will be poor, because iPod video is intended for viewing on a tiny screen.
Most of Sonance’s competitors also offer iPod interfaces. One especially interesting model is the iBase from Audio Design Associates, which is priced from about $800. The iBase’s acrylic back can be illuminated in one of six colors, and its heavy-gauge metal base makes it so sturdy that you easily can insert or remove an iPod using only one hand. The iBase interfaces with any of ADA’s extensive selection of in-wall keypads, and also with touchscreens. But the product’s most intriguing feature is its ability to connect as many as eight iBases (and eight iPods) to a single system, enabling family members to access each other’s music.
The sound quality of these systems is as good as the speakers to which they are connected, and those can include $500,000 audiophile towers. But the most appropriate choice is a high-quality ceiling speaker: Having the sound rain down from nearly invisible speakers, at the touch of a tiny in-wall keypad, seems the most appropriate way to enjoy this diminutive sonic wonder.
Audio Design Associates