September 04 2010
Is it cheating to recommend a piece of techie deliciousness on a promise that it’s exactly what you need, only you don’t know it yet? Well, yes, no, whadevah, that’s the joy of rhetoric – no need to answer your own question. So just trust me, you need this: the AirStream WM-10 hi-fi music streamer from Micromega of Paris.
Being French and ineffably chic in both the shiny silver finish illustrated and a sleek black, it’s not the cheapest way of wirelessly porting music from computer to hi-fi. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive. But it’s custom-made to work with Apple iTunes (the music programme for clever, busy, stylish people), a lot of audiophiles believe it delivers superior sound to anything else – and it has just one sheet of instructions, so is simple enough to be set up by any imbécile. (OK, full disclosure: I had a slight problem, due to some dufus snarling up the software on the first sample, but the production model is an actual joy to set up.)
So, comment ça marche? OK, you perch the AirStream on your hi-fi stack, where it fits perfectly, connect, plug in and turn it on. It then creates its own wireless network, rather than using tricksy Bluetooth or piggybacking your existing Wi-Fi. Micromega has honed Wi-Fi for high-quality music to such a pitch that it has patented its own version of it as WHi-Fi.
When you turn on your computer (Mac or PC, up to 300ft from the AirStream), you select the AirStream network, go into iTunes, select AirStream again as the output – and beautiful, mellow, top-quality music will then proceed to flow invisibly into your hi-fi. You can even control the music with your iPhone if you’ve downloaded the free Apple “Remote” app.
If you want to use the base computer for internet at the same time, you need a more complex twiddle – best your dealer does that. And he will, for simple as it is, this is a pretty rarefied piece of kit and does cost 12 times as much as the Apple Airport Express streamer on which it’s partially based.
Neat and convenient as the AirStream is, though, can the music you get possibly compare with a CD playing directly into your hi-fi? Well, strangely, there’s a credible school of thought in high-end audio that music streamed to this standard from a computer hard drive can actually be better than CD quality. A bit of a win-win, that. AirStream, je t’aime.