Autumn in New England is beautiful. The weather is crisp, but ideal for outdoor activities. The leaves change colors to create a breathtaking canvas. The chimneys waft an unmistakable fall aroma into the night air. This year the Red Sox also brought October baseball back.
But those leaves ... their colorful brilliance follows with a barrage that falls down on my lawn (and everyone else’s—and I don’t even have trees actually on my property, only from the neighbors). Raking and bagging leaves is a seemingly never-ending task each October, one that cries to be put off until the last minute.
Only this year was going to be different. I was looking forward to an afternoon of leaf raking and bagging, because I’d arranged for a review of IAV LightSpeaker’s AudioRock system. I’ll get to a full review later, but consider this a preview of what I found to be an incredibly easy wireless music system to set up—and make the leaf tasks an enjoyable one. It takes whistling while you work to new heights, when you can hum along with just about any song you want.
IAV LightSpeaker makes wireless music systems in the form of lights and weatherproof rock speakers. They’re an easy way to add a music zone, and actually they support multiple zones plus accommodate multiple lights or rocks.
I simply set up one AudioRock to find out just how easy or difficult it would be ... and that was answered pretty quickly.
The key aspect of having a wireless music component is that you don’t have to worry about running wires to the speaker in that particular zone, especially helpful for the outdoors. Of course, you could always just bring out a boombox or other portable music source, but that also could come with issues such as range of sound coverage, lack of weatherproof construction (watch out for those flash thunderstorms) and overall sound quality. I used to bring an Internet radio outside for leaf raking, but the occasional buffering of stations sometimes became more than occasional, and more than annoying. So why not try a speaker that 1) blends in with the yard, 2) can be kept outside in all seasons, and 3) allows me to play a range of music.
The speaker itself does not need to be plugged in either. Of course, you could take your chances with a battery-operated boombox as well, though they might not run as long as you can get with the lithium ion battery that comes with the AudioRock. IAV says three to four hours’ worth of charge will get you eight to 10 hours worth of playback. I didn’t charge it nearly that long before the status indicator light turned green and I was good to go for powering it up.
Now for the setup, which took about two minutes. I put the transmitter unit in our small office room that has a window facing our backyard, and plugged it into a standard wall outlet. I could have gone further away, as the range on the proprietary RF transmission is said to be about a 250-foot radius from the unit. I put the battery into the AudioRock and followed the instructions for pairing it with the transmitter—basically you have to power up the transmitter first and hit the pairing button on the back, then quickly turn on the rock speaker and press another button to pair. Another green light success.
Using the left/right analog inputs on the transmitter I connected my laptop via a Meridian Explorer DAC and adapter, and used the Zone 2 setting (to soon add the LightSpeakers for Zone 1 in the same unit). I fired up the Media Monkey music manager to make sure the transmission was indeed a success, and presto, the music was coming through loud and clear out of the AudioRock’s speaker. I brought the speaker outside, planted it in a rock bed and had tunes accompanying my work for the next hour, which quickly went by rather than the eternity it typically seems to take.
For a relatively “set it and forget it” type of device, it’s great. Conceivably I could have just thrown on Pandora on the laptop and gotten the same streaming channels that I can tap into on other devices; I could queue up a Spotify playlist if I wanted; I could find a full-length concert on YouTube and have it piped through the wireless transmission. You get the point. As long as you can I didn’t test the range of the rock, but the music itself sounded fine and I didn’t have to deal with buffering issues. The transmitter has inputs for two sources, and you can use the included remote to switch between them and control volume.
Even more impressive, when my wife got home and heard the sounds emanating from the rock, she was quickly on board with this addition to the backyard. What did I do, dock my iPod into the back of it? No, I explained, telling her about the wireless transmission and battery power. “Awesome!” How did she like the rock-shape look, which of course won’t be everyone’s cup of tea? “Love it!” So it passes the spouse approval test, it seems, too. With the first wave of leaves having fallen, I’m ready for those branches to start shedding some more.
Also Check Out:
Wireless Audio System Basics
Planning Your Outdoor Audio and Video System
22 Outdoor Speakers for a Sizzling Summer
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.