CES: Micromega’s AirStream WM-10 Wireless Digital Music Player

Music servers and computer audio
CES: Micromega’s AirStream WM-10 Wireless Digital Music Player

Traditional audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts alike have been influenced by the buzz surrounding the concept of using computers as audio source components, and it is easy to understand why. When we compare source components, and with all other things—most particular sound quality—being equal, wouldn’t most of us choose the most convenient and/or cost-effective solutions available? There’s just no denying the convenience or cost effectiveness of storing large quantities of digital audio data (in some cases, hundreds or even thousands of album’s worth) on computer hard drives—or on NAS (network attached storage) devices that are connected to our computers.

The only remaining questions, then, involve ease of use (as in, “Can I easily configure my traditional audio or home theater system to play computer audio files?”) and sound quality (as in, “Can a computer-based audio system deliver sound quality that is as good or better than that produced by a high-end CD player?”). By of offering affirmative answers to both these questions, the French firm Micromega announced at CES 2010 a new product called the AirStream WM-10, which is billed as a 21st century, wireless digital audio source component.

Before we talk about what the AirStream WM-10 is and does, however, there are several pieces of background information readers may need or want to know.

  • The WM-10 can be used to play digital audio files from any Wi-Fi enabled PC or Mac that is equipped with Apple iTunes software (which Micromega argues is “the most intuitive by most commonly used music software program in the world.”).
  • The WM-10 supports Wi-Fi (802.11x) connections to computers, but uses those connections purely for music reproduction; for this reason, Micromega calls its Wi-Fi implementation “WHiFi”.
  • The WM-10 can be controlled directly from the iTunes interface on the user’s computer, or via iPod Touch or iPhone devices, using a “Remote” freeware application available from the Apple Web site.
  • The WM-10 is, by design, already prepared for expected Apple upgrades to the iTunes system—upgrades that will allow iTunes to play better-than-CD-quality, 192kHz/24-bit digital music files.
  • For those not willing to wait for Apple’s high-resolution audio upgrades, the WM-10 is already compatible with iTunes systems that have been augmented with Amarra software, which allows playback of high-res 192/24 files in the here and now.
  • The WM-10 claims to demonstrably outperform high-end CD players in (or above) its price class (MSRP for the WM-10 is $1595), in part because Micromega’s WHiFi data transfer process is not affected by mechanical vibration problems, laser read-error problems, or AC line noise as CD players typically are.

What exactly is the AirStream WM-10? It is an exceedingly simple “black box” device that serves as a Wi-Fi enabled digital audio data receiver/data transfer device and as a 192kHz/24-bit DAC. Accordingly, the WM-10 provides a rear-mounted Wi-Fi antenna and can present digital audio in SP/DIF format via a coaxial digital audio jack; alternatively, the WM-10 can convert inbound digital audio data into analog signals that are presented via a stereo pair of RCA connectors.  Predictably, the DAC/analog audio section of the WM-10 leverages Micromega’s extensive experience in building high-end CD players. But whether used as a digital or analog audio source, the WM-10 neatly solves the problem of having computers located in one room and audio and/or home theater systems in another.

Representatives of Micromega’s US distributor, Audio Plus Services, told AVguide representatives that in their own internal side-by-side comparison tests, the AirStream WM-10 easily held its own relative to high quality, multi-thousand-dollar CD players--a . One important tip the Audio Plus Services team offers is that, for the possible user experience, the WM-10 ideally should be used in conjunction with iTouch or iPhone devices equipped with Apple’s elegant “Remote” app—advice Playback will certainly heed when it comes time to review the AirStream WM-10.    

For more information, visit: www.audioplusservices.com

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