October 21, 2011
| by Steven Castle
If you’re like many of us, you have a lot of tunes stored on your computer and are looking for either a one-room or multiroom streaming solution. Wireless would be good. And better if it could expand into several rooms, or be used in conjunction with a whole-house wired audio/video system, or have a kid take to college. But what out there is affordable, expandable and flexible like that?
Legrand believes it has the answer with its wireless airQast speaker system, due in December. The two-speaker system sells for just $329, under par to Sonos’ Play:3 with wireless bridge ($350 total).
AirQast connects to your Wi-Fi system and is expandable to six zones. It can also be used with Legrand’s more advanced lyriQ Multiroom Audio System.
I saw the system in action last week in a two-story New York City penthouse decked out with whole-house gear by Legrand and sister company Vantage, including Vantage whole-home control, lighting control and its very cool Energy Management Solution.
The airQast system sat in a corner home office and was easily controlled with an iPad interface, via a free app, showing music stored on the Apple Macintosh PC. The sound of the speakers was smooth and nicely punchy. The speakers felt solidly built, with some heft. The sound wasn’t audiophile-grade, but that’s not to be expected.
Legrand says airQast can offer up to six different streams to the zones, which is a big plus. One speaker features control on its top, and only one is active, featuring two 40-watt (35-watt RMS) amps. The other speaker is wired to the active loudspeaker. Drivers are polypropylene, and the cabinet is ABS plastic with a UV protectant
AirQast supports just one server, which must be on. Zones can also be linked to play one song throughout the home. Users will also have the ability to create as many as three groups for sharing streaming audio sources throughout the home. Android and iPhone control is available.
AirQast can also play audio from either a conventional analog source, or up to six digital sources, including iTunes, as well as popular Internet radio and online music services such as Sirius XM, Pandora and Last.fm.
For the custom market is airQast Main Source, which consists of a single Wi-Fi module designed to feed Legrand’s more advanced lyriQ Multi-Room Audio Systems. This provides more control options, including Legrand’s renowned lyriQ High Performance Keypads or 7-inch LCD Consoles. Music delivery options run the gamut from the company’s Single Stereo Rock Speaker for outdoor music systems to evoQ 7000 Series in-wall, on-wall, and standalone speakers for more traditional multi-room audio applications.
AirQast may not be an ideal whole-home music solution, but it appears to be a nice starter solution and one that you can add on to. It’s also nice that it can work with Legrand’s whole-house lyriQ music system. Perhaps most interesting, though, is that an affordable solution such as AirQast works alongside uber-high-end Vantage control and lighting system in a $16.5 million Manhattan penthouse.
We know from experience that it’s not that unusual for millionaires to deck their homes with both high-end and affordable gear. And the folks at Legrand and Vantage appear to be marketing to a broad spectrum, while enabling such systems to work together in a high-end, mid-market and affordable balancing act.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates