Kevin Hunt: How To Stream Music (And More) At Home

It doesn't take extraordinary tech savvy, expensive equipment or even a home network to stream music in your house.

Here's a starter kit:

No home network

Are you among the 22 percent of Americans without broadband Internet access at home? Here are two options: a wireless audio link and — assuming you own a computer, smartphone or tablet (but no Wi-Fi?) — a Bluetooth adapter.

Wireless audio link: The Audioengine W3 ($149,

audioengineusa.com) is a wireless transmitter-receiver set with a built-in digital-to-analog converter that streams audio up to 16 bits and 48 kilohertz, or CD quality, with no compression.

The transmitter sends audio from a computer through a USB hookup or any device with a 3.5-millimeter minijack or RCA audio outputs. That includes delivery from an iPod, smartphone or tablet to the receiver connected to an audio system.

Both transmitter and receiver need a power source such as a computer or, when connected to an audio system or powered speakers, a USB charger (available for less than $10).

The W3's range extends up to 100 feet, depending on obstacles. When I tested Audioengine's first wireless link several years ago, it sent music from inside the house to the garage without interference. The W3 transmits in the 2.4-gigahertz range, a spectrum jammed with phones, microwaves and even some car alarms. The W3 limits interference, however, by using a closed protocol created for audio transmission.

Bluetooth adapter: For less money, shorter range and lesser audio quality, a Bluetooth adapter will turn an audio system into a plaything for any Bluetooth-equipped device within 30 feet or so.

The Harman Kardon BTA 10 ($59.95, harmankardon.com), reviewed here earlier this year, is a nondescript box that connects to an audio system with either 3.5-millimeter or RCA cables. Once powered up, the BTA-10 is ready to link with any Bluetooth-enabled device. Any device can play this game, not just Apple, as long it has Bluetooth.

Other Bluetooth adapters: Logitech Wireless Speaker Adapter ($39.99, logitech.com), Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver ($39.99, belkin.com) and the Yamaha YBA-11 Bluetooth Wireless Audio Receiver ($69.95, usa.yamaha.com).

Home network

A few ways to use your home's wireless powers to stream music (or even video):

AirPlay: Apple's streaming technology brings music or movies from an iPhone or iPad to a home entertainment system with one of two accessories: Apple TV ($99, apple.com/appletv) or AirPort Express ($99, apple.com/airport-express).

AppleTV handles audio and video from an iPhone or iPad. AirPort Express is audio only, though it also can turn a conventional printer into a wireless printer when connected by a USB cable. An AppleTV placed near an HDTV and audio system becomes a hub for movies (Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go among the sources), iTunes Radio and music stored on a computer or hard drive.

DLNA: The Digital Living Network Alliance, the streaming technology for everyone in the non-Apple world, shares music and video from Windows computers, home media servers, smartphones, tablets and camcorders.

Smart TV: Though not particularly smart, an Internet-enabled HDTV handles routine streaming audio-video tasks. If your TV has no Internet capabilities, your newly purchased network-connected Blu-ray player is a good substitute.

Even better: a PlayStation or Xbox gaming console.

Set-top boxes: Apple TV isn't the only little-box streamer. Here are three alternatives:

•Roku 3 ($99.99, roku.com): A new, slicker interface and a wireless headphone jack built into the remote control. AppleTV's biggest rival.

Google Chromecast ($35, bit.ly/15Jgb62): A plug-in stick that, when inserted into an HDTV's HDMI port, adds basic Netflix-YouTube-Pandora features, but no streaming from your own music or video library. A Chromecast app also makes the device compatible with Apple devices running iOS 6 or higher.

Western Digital TV Play ($69.99, wdc.com): A clumsy interface and limited streaming services (no HBO Go or Amazon Prime Instant). Its strength is the file formats it supports, from basic MP3 to high-resolution FLAC and AIFF audio. It will play Dolby TrueHD soundtracks, too, though not DTS. Good for Android devices; terrible for Apple devices.

Still scared of streaming? There's always the old-fashioned way of mating a computer or portable device to an audio system or HDTV: Give up streaming and plug 'em into each other.

 

khunt@tribune.com

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