Logitech Wireless DJ Music System
From Sonos to Apple's AirPort Express, there are lots of ways to get music from a PC hard drive to a home theater system. One of them is Logitech's Wireless DJ Music System. It does not have all the features of Logitech's recently acquired Slim Devices line, including the latter's versatile connectivity and support for lossless formats. But it is simpler and a little less costly. It's also more functional than Logitech's step-down move, the Wireless Music System for PC, and has a far more functional remote control.
The DJ uses the 2.4 gigahertz band to transmit from your PC to your audio system with a maximum data rate of 360 kilobits per second, enough for pretty much any compressed file format. It does not require a wi-fi router; in fact, the manual says that device may cause interference. While the documentation uses the term "stream," some say the term "bridge" is more appropriate, because the DJ works in tandem with PC music applications such as iTunes, the Windows Media Player, and MusicMatch. Anything supported by those programs (file formats, podcasts, Internet radio) travels via DJ. In practice, therefore, DRM does not restrict the function of the DJ. It also has a PC control mode that picks up audio from other applications, so you might for instance stream a YouTube video soundtrack from your browser. Because the DJ is so dependent on applications, it does not work with the PC off. The version reviewed here transmits to one location. Extra receivers cost $80.
The DJ consists of three hardware components plus software. There is a transmitter that plugs into a USB jack on your PC. The receiver, of course, plugs into your main audio/video system, though only through stereo analog jacks (no digital jacks). It also requires an AC connection and serves as a charger for the remote. The remote, befitting the company that gave us the fabulous Harmony remotes, is a beauty. A rounded enter button sits amid a rotating scrollwheel surrounded by four flat nav keys. Above are three transport buttons. Below are three volume and mute keys. A 1.5-inch backlit blue liquid crystal display crowns the top, just below a power button at the top right corner. The remote is .63 inches thick around the rechargable-battery compartment and just a quarter of an inch thick above that point. It feels good in the hand.
Installation was simple. I put the Logitech StreamPoint software CD into an IBM desktop PC running Windows XP. (Sorry, Mac not supported.) The setup program told me to plug in the transmitter, and detected it within a few seconds; then told me to turn on the remote, and detected that; then told me to connect the receiver to both my surround receiver and a power source, and detected that. The longest part of the setup was the indexing of my music library. To shorten it, I told it to index only Windows Media Player (not iTunes). Looking back on it, I needn't have done even that, since I also had it index the PC's main music folder, where all the goodies really live.
Once the system was set up, using it was as easy as hitting the power button on the remote control, finding music, and hitting play. The interface was generic portable-player stuff: artists, playlists, genres, albums, songs. Once I'd fooled around with it for a few minutes, I started looking for ways to trip it up.
One thing I discovered is that the USB transmitter needs to be plugged in before you boot up your computer. If you power up the PC, then plug in the transmitter, it won't connect. Plugging in the transmitter and rebooting solved the problem. This shouldn't be an ongoing issue unless you're running short of USB jacks. Installing a USB hub would solve the problem.
Beaming signals through my apartment's hard plaster walls didn't even make the DJ break a sweat. I carried the receiver to the location farthest from my PC, the kitchen, and plugged it into the Sony mini-system serving that room. Due to my apartment's odd layout, this forced the signal to travel through two sets of hard plaster walls, one of them filled with plumbing. It sounded perfect and I had no trouble using the remote in the kitchen to operate the PC in the livingroom.
Then I carried the remote into the hallway outside my apartment. It still worked. However, when I climbed up or down one flight of stairs, the system stopped accepting commands. Apparently the DJ is better at hard plaster walls than it is at steel-reinforced concrete. Fair enough. If you live in a wooden-frame house, you probably won't have a problem, as long as you don't exceed the rated range of 150 feet.
Other reviewers have cited a limitation on multi-zone use: The transmitter can send only one signal at a time, so if you have multiple receivers, they will all get the same signal. You can't send different signals to different rooms. I was delighted, however, to find a loophole: It is possible to play one thing through the PC speakers and another thing through the DJ's transmitter and receiver. Having gotten Haydn going in the kitchen via the DJ, I was able to return to the PC and make it play the Beatles through the Windows Media Player. In the kitchen, Haydn played on. Was the DJ using iTunes? I booted iTunes and started a song by Audra McDonald through the PC speakers. In the kitchen, Haydn still played on.
The Logitech Wireless DJ Music System worked well for me. If you think you may be stretching the range, best get a money-back guarantee. Otherwise, this is a very simple and highly functional way to open the PC's prison door and let your music out. Free your music library and your mind will follow.
Price: $249.99 from logitech.com and other retailers.
Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.