Logitech Wireless Music System for PC

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INTRODUCTION

    When the Sonos music system was released, it was a terrific concept executed well, but in a very pricey package. What about the rest of us that want to stream our PC music to another room without breaking the bank? Logitech seems to have the answer with their affordable Bluetooth Wireless Music System for PC. Can it offer good audio quality, range, and performance? We’ve got the answer ahead!



    
So, this system promises to have a simple setup, and
we all love that, but Bluetooth is not known for
very long ranges.  How will this system do? 
How will it handle multiple locations for audio
output?  Let’s sit back and listen.

WHAT’S HOT

    Here’s a run down of what’s hot with this product…


  • Wireless Stereo Audio anywhere in your house
  • Easy
    setup with little to no fuss
  • High
    Audio Quality
  • Long
    Range (up to 330 feet) with Bluetooth1.2 using A2DP Profile
  • Frequency: 2.4 GHz
  • Works
    with or without optional software

SETUP

    Box contents include

  • USB
    Music Transmitter for PC
  • USB
    Extension & Desktop Stand (for USB Music
    Transmitter)
  • Music
    Receiver & AC Adaptor for listening room
  • Stereo
    RCA interconnect cables
  • Software CD
  • Quick
    Start Guide

    The system has two forms of setup that
you can take.  The first and most simple
requires no software installation on your PC, the
second and only slightly more complex, uses the
included optional software.

Option 1: Just
Plug it in…

    
In this option, assuming you’re running Windows
XP or later, all you have to do it plug it in
and sit back and listen.  It really is that
simple.  Here are the steps:

  1. Plug the
    USB Music Transmitter into an available USB
    port on your PC. 
  2. Plug the
    AC Wall adaptor and connect it to the Music
    Receiver
  3. Plug the
    RCA Stereo cables into an input on your
    stereo receiver, or simply connect
    headphones or powered speakers to the back
    of the Music Receiver.
  4. Launch
    your favorite audio player on your PC and
    sit back and enjoy.

Option 2: With
the included software…

  1. Complete
    same steps from Option 1, then install the
    included Music Anywhere Software.
  2. Use the
    software settings to configure where your
    audio plays (more about this later

PRODUCT FEATURES

     Bluetooth audio is not new anymore,
and we’ve reviewed various Bluetooth headsets with
USB dongles to listen to music from your PC. 
These systems have proven that Bluetooth stereo
audio can be high quality, but most have focused on
short range where portability is key.  The
Logitech Wireless Music System for PC takes a
different approach, it doesn’t assume that you are
sitting directly in front of your PC, and it also
doesn’t focus on pure portability, it focuses on your
house.  This creates a need for greater range
and for remotely controlling your media player, which is
likely in a different room.  Let’s take a look
and see how the system accomplishes these goals.

(all images link to higher resolution)


    
The first component to look at is the USB Music
Transmitter.  This device gets plugged into an
available USB Host port on your PC.  Upon
plugging in the transmitter, you’ll see that your
computer enumerates it as two devices.  The
first is a standard USB Audio device, which is used
by the PC to stream audio content via USB. 
The second is a USB Human Interface Device, which is
used by the transmitter to convey remote control
signals to the PC, much like a keyboard.  Both
the USB Audio device and the USB HID device are
standard supported components of Windows XP, so
they’ll work with no additional software required. 
The transmitter has a button and small LED on it. 
The LED lights RED when not connected to the
receiver, and BLUE when it has an active connection. 
If the connection is not currently made, pressing
the button will cause the connection to be made.


    
Optionally, instead of inserting the transmitter
directly into an open USB port, you can insert it
into the Desktop Stand.  This stand has a long
USB cable on it, so it allows you to position the
transmitter for easier access, and better broadcast
location.


    
Most Bluetooth audio systems to date have assumed
that the transmitter and receiver are fairly close,
and for most of the Bluetooth headsets we’ve
reviewed, that’s a fine assumption.  In this
case however, the assumption is that the transmitter
is in one part of your house while the receiver is
in another.  This means more range is required. 

     As seen in the picture, the Logitech transmitter is
not only larger than the other examples, but it also has an external
antenna.  Of the 3 Bluetooth A2DP transmitter devices pictured above, the Logitech system
easily has the longest range.  (From left to
right: i.Tech 3.5mm Audio Adaptor, Logitech Music
Anywhere Transmitter, i.Tech Multimedia Dongle)  My computer
lives at one corner of my house, my master bedroom
in the exact opposite end of the house.  I
didn’t measure distance, as there are walls and such
in the way, but here is a relative listing of the
ranges.  The audio from all devices was high
quality and stable when in the same room.  As I
went into the next room, both the USB Dongle and
3.5mm Dongle maintained connections, but sporadic
breaks in the audio were heard, while the Logitech
system continued to have stable high quality audio. 
As I proceeded into the next room, both the USB and
3.5mm dongles dropped the connection and ceased to
stream audio anymore.  The Logitech continued
to maintain connection and stream audio as I tested
different positions in my house.  The Logitech
worked well in all rooms of my house with the
exception of one (located in the attic).  Great
range, especially for a Bluetooth device.


    
While most Bluetooth audio products to date have
been transmitter to headphones, this system is
transmitter to receiver base.  This allows you
some flexibility, as the base can be
connected to a standard stereo system via included
RCA cables, or to standard 3.5mm headphones, or to
powered speakers (using 3.5mm plug). 
The base itself is very small, about the size of a
deck of cards, so it is easily placed just about
anywhere.


     On the back of the base are; 1)
External Antenna, 2) 3.5mm Stereo Jack 3) RCA Stereo
Connectors 4) Power Plug for AC Adaptor and 5) a
fixed/variable volume switch.  On the front of the base is a small
window for the IR sensor used with the Remote Control. 


  

     On top of the unit are buttons to control the
playback, from your remote listening location. 
The base and the Remote Control both have the same
buttons as follows; 1) Play/Pause, 2) Forward, 3)
Backward, 4) Stop, 5) Volume Up, 6) Volume Down and
7) Mute.  The base also has one additional
button, not found on the remote control; "Connect". 
This last button initiates a connection between the
transmitter and the receiver should the connection
be lost or dropped due to inactivity.  All the
other buttons should be obvious in their function. 
Just like on the transmitter, the receiver base also
has a single LED on it which lights RED when not
connected and Blue when it is.  One difference
however, is that the LED will Flash BLUE when muted,
to let you know you’re still connected and that the
audio is still streaming.  Nice touch.

    
Using the buttons on the Receiver Base or the Remote
Control worked flawlessly out of the box.  I
tested with Windows Media Player 10 as well as
RealPlayer and all controls functioned properly. 
The volume controls did control the volume, but did
not affect the settings on the remote player, so it
appears the receiver base was handling volume levels on
it’s own.

Ok, we’ve
introduced the components, now let’s see if it all
works…

    
In my first test setup, I opted to not use the
included software and just use the system out of the
box.  This setup worked perfectly, the
transmitter and receiver almost instantly connected,
audio streamed and the remote control worked fine. 
I couldn’t ask for much simpler, and the sound was
great.  At this point, I was about as happy as
can be with this setup (can you tell I’m going
somewhere here?).  The drawback with this setup
is that –all– audio generated from your PC
gets redirected to the Remote Receiver.  If
your PC is typically only used by one person at a
time, this is fine.  If however your
PC is shared by more than one, this can be an issue. 
As an example, my PC is a Media Center PC, and it
runs the TV and entertainment system.  While
testing this product, I was in my garage listening
to my music collection when suddenly, I heard the
audio from the latest episode of "Lost" start
playing as well.  While I was somewhat amused
by this, the person trying to watch "Lost" was less
impressed with the new silent version in the living
room.

    
If only there were a way to control the audio
playback on a more precise level, so that only some
of the audio gets redirected to the Remote Receiver,
and other audio stays at the computer…  Wait,
there is! 

    
The included software promises to do
exactly that.  Let’s see if that helps, next
test is to run with the optional Logitech Music
Anywhere software.  This software claims to be
able to route audio from certain media players to
the Logitech Music Anywhere Transmitter, while other
sounds from your PC stay at your PC and play over
your standard audio, your desktop speakers or
whatever your normal setup is.  This would be a
great feature, as it would allow someone to listen
to tunes or audio books in another room, while
someone else uses the PC and both could enjoy their
own audio.  Great feature most of the time, but
seems to conflict with some security software. 
More about this below.

    
The software installs with a basic windows
installer, with few options.  Once installed, I
was prompted to reboot, which I did.  After
rebooting, the Logitech Music Anywhere applet was
visible in the Windows tray.  A few quick tests
and the system seems to be working.  Now let’s
check out the software.

The Logitech Music
Anywhere Software is
organized into a simple UI with 4 tabs. 
Nothing flashy here, but simple to use and
understand.

Devices Tab:
This tab allows you to manage the wireless audio
receivers that are part of the system.  This is
great, as you can have audio receivers in many
rooms, or even connect Bluetooth stereo headphones
as part of the system.  I attempted to add my
i.Tech Bluetooth Stereo Headphones to the system, and
it quickly detected them and added them to the list. 
It however, failed to give me an option to enter the
required PIN to pair with them, and thus could not
connect and stream audio to them.  It did
continue to list them in the list of paired devices,
but could not transmit to them.  Unfortunately,
the Logitech system assumes that devices have a PIN
number of "0000", and will work if they do.  If
they have something else, the Logitech system
provides you no mechanism to enter the PIN number. 
My i.Tech stereo headphones have a PIN number of
"8888", so I’m out of luck.  Of course, other Logitech devices
will work fine.  That
aside, in general the functionality offered on this
tab worked well during testing for this review. 
Management options for your Bluetooth audio
receivers are as follows:

  • Add new audio
    receivers
  • Rename
    existing audio receivers (to something useful
    like, "Bedroom", "Garage", "Living Room")
  • Remove paired
    audio receivers
  • Select a
    paired audio receiver to stream audio to (Only
    one at a time is allowed)

Media Players Tab:
In this tab, the software shows you a list of
media players that it has found, and
allows you to configure where audio output goes from each
player.  This feature only works on what the
software refers to as "Fully Integrated Players",
such as Windows Media Player or WinAmp. 
Standard players, such as iTunes and Real Player
assume your audio will go to your currently set
default audio player, and as such, do not benefit
from this precise audio control.  In my setup,
I’m running Windows Media Player, iTunes, and Real
Player.  The software correctly detected each
of them.  Once you select the audio player you
want to control the audio output from, you simply
select the "Edit" button and the software will
present you with the available options.  For
Real Player, the software informed me that this
feature was unavailable.  For Windows Media
Player, I was presented with a list of audio devices
on my machine, the internal hardware audio, my other
bluetooth audio device, and the Logitech Music
Anywhere Transmitter, very simple.  This is an
invaluable feature, because it allows someone to listen to tunes in
one room, while someone else watches a movie or
works on the computer in another, both with the
correct audio.  As an example, I could be in
the garage working on my car with WinAmp is playing
my ‘CarTunes’ playlist, while someone else might be
upstairs watching the latest episode of "Lost" in
the family room, both off the same computer. 
(NOTE: This feature works well on most computers,
but on some test machines running high security, it
had troubles and was disabled from modifying the
audio settings.  If this happens, see
workaround below).

Default Audio
Device Tab:
This tab is an easy way to modify the
default audio device settings on your PC.  It
serves the same function as diving into your
control panel and making manual changes there, but it simplifies the
interface and takes you right there.  This is a
nice thing, so you don’t have to dig through all the
audio settings in control panel. 

Workaround
-If the Media Players Tab "Edit" button fails to
configure the media players on your computer,
you may have security software or PC policies
blocking the Logitech Music Anywhere Software. 
If this happens, here is a simple workaround
using the Default Audio Device Tab to get the
same functionality manually.  This
workaround is somewhat of a kludge, but it
works.  Here’s how.

  1. With no media
    players running, change the default audio device
    in this tab to be your desired remote audio
    receiver.
  2. Start your
    media player of choice, such as Real Player.
  3. Select your
    playlist and hit play, your audio is now playing
    remotely to your Logitech Audio Receiver.
  4. Go back into
    this tab, and change the default audio device
    BACK to your normal settings
  5. Now start up
    your other media player of choice, such as Media
    Center or Windows Media Player

    • At this
      point, Real Player will continue to stream
      to the audio device that was default when
      you launched it.  This will continue
      until you close that player.
    • Also at
      this point, your other media player such as
      Media Center or Windows Media Player will
      continue to play audio through your normal
      settings.
    • This
      allows one person to listen to music or
      audio books in a remote room, while the
      other watches the latest episode of "Lost"
      on the PC and TV.

The Other Settings
Tab:
This tab allows you to make settings
for the Logitech Music Anywhere software interaction
with your System Tray.  There are only two
options:

  1. "Allow
    configuration of Media Players on tray menu"
  2. "Show icon in
    system tray"

The first option is
a shortcut to make the same configurations as is
done on the Media Players tab.  The second option simply adds the
software icon to the System tray, but this is a nice
thing.  From here, you can quickly set the
default audio device (useful for the kludge I
outlined above) that you want to use, and launch the
full tabbed UI if you want to, or configure your
media players.  When the
Logitech USB Audio transmitter is not inserted, the
program icon goes away automatically.



HELP SUPPORT

    The included quick start
guide is clear and useful in setting up the system
and getting going.  If you opt to run the
system without the optional software, this is all
you need.  If however you opt to install the
software, you may find that you need more help. 
The application itself includes help, which describes most
terms and items you’ll need to know.  It covers
the basics, and provides simple procedures for most
tasks such as adding or removing Music Anywhere
devices. 

OPTIONS

    The system is
expandable, so you can have multiple receivers all
over your house.  The system will also work
with other Logitech Music Anywhere products, so not only
are additional receivers available, but so are
wireless headphones. 

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

    Windows XP or 2000 (SP3
or higher) and an available USB Host Port.

BUGS AND WISHES


    
When adding new devices, the system assumes it will
be a Logitech Music Anywhere device, or at least
have a PIN number of "0000."  While this
assumption takes complexity out for the user and
simplifies the pairing operation, it also
effectively cuts out some other potentially
compatible audio devices.  There are more and
more Bluetooth audio devices out there, so why not
enable them?  The system was smart enough to
detect my i.Tech Stereo headphones, and even added
them to the list of available receivers.  When it
tried to pair however, it never gave me the option
to enter the required PIN number, thus they were
excluded from working with the system.  Simply
adding a PIN number entry to the pairing sequence
would enable this, as both are using the A2DP
profiles.  The ability to use A2DP devices,
other than just those from Logitech, would add value
to the system and make it more appealing. 
We’re all speaking A2DP, why can’t we just get
along?

    
Many wireless headphones include a microphone, so
they can double as a handsfree device or headset.  If
the included software enabled these profiles on the
PC, in
addition to streaming audio, you would be able to
use this for Skype or other VoIP calls.  I use
an i.Tech USB Bluetooth dongle and Bluesoleil
software on my PC, and this enables me to use my
i.Tech stereo headphones for music, as well as Skype
calls.  The Logitech Wireless Music System for
PC is intended for music, but
the addition of this feature would extend the
usefulness and value of this system.


PROS

  • Plug and play
    simplicity
  • Great range
  • Solid audio quality

CONS

  • System
    expansion limited by lack of PIN number entry
    (Logitech Music Anywhere products work however)
  • No
    handsfree or headset profile support, so cannot use
    it Skype/VoIP
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?


OVERALL IMPRESSION

     For simply getting wireless audio
up and running in your house, this works very well. 
The audio quality is high, and the range is
fantastic for a Bluetooth device.  In a single
user environment, where only one person typically
uses the computer, this product works well.  In
an environment where the computer is shared by
multiple people, it could use some help in better
controlling the audio output from players to audio
devices.  In my setup, my Media Center PC is
often used by someone in the family room to watch
something, while I might want to listen to tunes
somewhere else.  In this setup, we sometimes ran
into audio conflicts, but nothing that couldn’t be
worked around.  This may not be an issue
for you and your setup.  It’s a nice product as it is, and shows lots of
potential for the next version.  My garage
never sounded so good, now I need to get a few more
receivers for the rest of the house.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.