The double-ended 3.5mm cable has always been a personal favourite for solving a common problem: playing music through something else. It might not be the most sophisticated solution, but it is quick, simple and reliable as a temporary solution. But it does mean you are encumbered with wires. The i2i Stream conveniently solves this problem, effectively giving you the same solution, but wirelessly.
The i2i Stream system centres around a clever little device that will allow you to either send or receive your audio signal and then doubles up on it, so in the box you get two of everything: two “Streams”, two sets of cables (in both 12-inch and 28-inch lengths), two USB cables, two lanyards and two belt clips.
So let’s start with the Stream itself. The small box (63 x 33 x 15mm) features an internal battery and needs charging via the Mini-USB on the side. Inside is a send and receive unit, which is controlled via the buttons on the front – you simply click one or the other to designate the unit as a sender or receiver. The idea here is that you have one sender connected to your source and you then designate other units as receivers to listen to the music being broadcast.
The central button allows you to click through seven different channels. As you do so the ring around this button changes in colour, making it really easy to check you are all on the same channel. Unfortunately there is a fair amount of rattle from this button, which detracts from the overall quality feel.
The unit works on the 2.4GHz frequency, as do many wireless devices. Changing channels allows you to avoid any potential conflict you might encounter, or operate various different i2i Stream units in the same location (or simply pick your favourite colour).
Up to three broadcasters can be within the same 30ft range, although strong Wi-Fi hotspots can apparently reduce this to two. We found no conflict with our home Wi-Fi network, or with other 2.4GHz devices.
The top of the Stream has a standard 3.5mm jack which lets the music out, whilst the bottom features a 2.5mm jack which is the music input. All you have to do is plug one of the supplied cables into the headphone socket of your music source and into the bottom jack of the Stream and press the send button. This is then your broadcast unit and the central button flashes to indicate it is broadcasting.
At the other end, press the receive button and plug into the 3.5mm jack to listen to your music. This is fine if you want to listen with headphones, but if you want to connect up to another device, such as a Hi-Fi, you’ll need an additional 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, which isn’t supplied in the box. Volume can be changed on the receiving device for the listener, but you do still get volume control from the source – so if you wanted to make a quick speech, you could dip the volume from the MP3 player in your pocket.
Power is supplied by an internal battery, and both the send and receive units will need charging before you get started. The supplied USB cables are specifically for this purpose and charging is a bit of a bore, meaning you have to have two free USB slots. Battery charging takes about 5 hours for the first charge. A red LED flashes to indicate charging and remains on once it is complete.
Battery life thereafter gives you about 6 hours before it needs to be charged again. The battery life and necessity of charging does single this out as something of a temporary solution, rather than something that you can permanently incorporate into your audio setup.
For parties where you want to send the music from the iPod in your pocket to your Hi-Fi, or to watch TV/play games with headphones without the cable across the room, then this is great and works really well. We also found ourselves using it to ride on an indoor bike trainer, whilst listening to music on the PC – the lanyard or belt clip makes it easy to plug in your headphones and have the freedom to do what you want.
Cleverly it also features a pass-through feature, so you can plug into the broadcast unit to listen on headphones, meaning you can share your iPod on the move with several people.
The packaging boasts “CD quality” audio, and we have to agree, certainly there was nothing to complain about. Of course this isn’t the best quality way of listening to your music and audiophiles will most likely be repelled by the suggestion, but it does work really well. It just works out of the box without any need for set-up (bar that missing cable).
You also get a decent range from the i2i Stream, the claimed 30ft range seems about right, but depends on your location - outdoors it works really well, with some break-up as you start to get out of range.
Overall, a neat little solution that will give you the option of making anything wireless. Whilst the same could be achieved with various other solutions, we like the flexibility of the i2i Stream system, making it easy to make your music wireless.