Hands-on with WiFi2HiFi
There's no shortage of ways to get your music from Point A to Point B on a home network, from UPNP/DLNA server software and suitable clients to proprietary solutions such as Apple's AirPlay.
I’ve had good results using Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil software, which is available for both PCs and computers running Apple’s OSX.
It costs around $25 (or about £20 once the VATman’s had a snap at it), and is able to ‘hijack’ any application – including web browsers – and stream their audio to a device running either Airfoil Speaker software (in the case of another computer) or a similar free ‘app’ (for all those iThings).
It works extremely well: within minutes of coughing up the cash (PayPal is dangerous in making these things so easy, and the free trial version of the software overlays noise after ten minutes) I was able to stream both the Gramophone Player and the BBC Radio 3 web audio to my iPodTouch, plugged into my NaimUniti using the standard USB cable. And very good it sounds, too.
And then there's AirPlay, which will do much the same trick, but in an Applecentric kind of way, and only if you have hardware that's compliant. OK so this could be something as inexpensive as an Apple TV, but in most cases it's going to mean one of a small, but growing, range of devices from the likes of Bowers & Wilkins, Denon and Marantz.
In the case of B&W, AirPlay's going to come as standard on the new Zeppelin Air, but for most of the suitable Denon and Marantz units it'll be a £40ish add-on. However, if you buy the Marantz NA7004 streaming tuner at the moment, AirPlay comes as standard, free.
However, what happens if you don't want to invest in AirPlay or spend the £20 required for Airfoil?
Well, the latest variation on the theme provides an even less expensive way of sending music wirelessly from your computer to an iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad. It comes from the appropriately-named Swiss software firm Clever & Son, and it goes live on the iTunes app store tomorrow, February 21st.
WiFi2HiFi is an almost free iTunes ‘app’ – 59p/99c at the time of writing – which works together with a free software download, available for PC or Mac, to do much the same as Airfoil. Or if you like, almost like AirPlay in reverse.
You load the free software on your computer, and this then becomes the 'base station', broadcasting sound over your home network from whichever application you choose to link to it. For example, you could instruct it to send sound from iTunes, or another music player, or even just from a web browser.
With the WiFi2HiFi software running on your computer, and the app loaded and running on your portable Apple device (also on your home wireless network), the two find each other, and suddenly you have to sound from your computer coming out of your iPhone or whatever.
Hook the portable device up to suitable audio system – drop it in a speaker dock, connect it digitally to one of the many receivers and systems now able to take audio direct over the standard white USB dock connector lead, or even at a pinch run a '3.5mm stereo to two phonos' into a spare line-in on your amp – and you're in business.
I've been playing with a pre-release copy of WiFi2HiFi for a week or two, and can report back that the whole thing is ridiculously easy to set up, cheap as chips, and works entirely reliably, more than which one really can't ask.
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