Review: Micromega AirStream WM-10

It has long been axiomatic that Apple changed the world forever when it unveiled the iTunes online Music Store. (At least the computer-savvy, mainstream music-listening, iPod-toting part of it.) But where does that leave the rest of us-the freaks, geeks, and old-folks who still rely on to physical media, because it just doesn't feel right to drive an expensive audio system, replete with digital processing power greater than the Apollo moon lander's and speaker cables as wide as a fire hose, via a toy-like portable device?

Micromega, a French firm best known for high-end two-channel components like CD players and turntables, has created a solution for the likes of us. Its AirStream WM-10 is a slim, plain, knobless box with analog-stereo and coax-digital audio outputs, but no physical inputs whatsoever. A hooped bulge concealing a wireless antenna on its rear-panel throws out a wireless network under the universal Wi-Fi standard (Micromega cutely calls it "WHi-Fi") to which any compatible device-typically, a laptop or desktop computer - can connect. This lets the WM-10 stream any audio content under the aegis of Apple iTunes, whether running on Mac OSX or Windows hardware. If this sounds to you, functionally, a lot like Apple's own Airport Express (but without the latter's data-net and USB print-server capabilities), take a bow, 'cause that's exactly what it is.

In fact, Internet chatter suggests that the AirStream uses the same core chipset as the AirPort Express. The presumption is one of superior sound, due to AirStream's more costly, and putatively superior, analog and digital supporting circuitry and audiophile-grade power supply-not to mention Micromega's care and coddling of assembly and finishing. (While the Airport Express resembles a wall-wart, the AirStream looks like a regular hi-fi component.)