|At a Glance|
|Product||Sondigo Sirocco Wireless Audio Bridge (Sirocco)|
|Summary||Easy-to-use wired/wireless audio adapter with 5.1 Dolby and SPDIF support, but no control features|
|Pros||• Plays any digital format including DRM'd files
• Easy to set up
• Good sound quality
• Supports 5.1 Dolby Surround
• Analog and SPDIF output
• Some audio dropouts due to buffering method
• No ability to remotely control music selection
Over the last few years, a number of network multimedia players have been introduced. While they are designed to enable you to send multimedia files from your computer to your entertainment center using a home network, a couple of hitches always come up when you're dealing with music files.
Encrypted music files such as those purchased from the Apple iTunes Music Store cannot be played on most network multimedia players since the players aren't authorized to decrypt the files. In addition to this limitation, not every multimedia player supports every type of file in which you could store your music.
All the multimedia players that I've reviewed have had these limitations, so when I heard about the Sondigo Sirocco Wireless Audio Bridge, a new device that claimed to handle all encrypted files and in all formats, I wanted to check it out and see how it worked.
The Sirocco gets around DRM issues by acting as a "normal" Windows sound card. This approach lets applications such as Microsoft Media Player, iTunes, and others handle the DRM duties. The Sondigo driver only has to do is encode the audio for network transmission and the Sirocco handles the decoding on the other end. Sondigo says they use lossless encoding that results in around a 1 Mbps rate for stereo content.
Obviously a big benefit for the Sirocco method is that it is able to play any audio that your computer supports such as encrypted music, video soundtracks, games, and so on. But the bad news is that you have to use a Windows PC as part of the loop whenever you feel the urge to listen to music. This means no using media server equipped NASes or other streaming server appliances. You also don't get any form of remote management interface, which means a trip back to the computer providing the audio content whenever you want to change what's playing.
The Sirocco, shown in the figure above, is the size of a paperback book with a single antenna for an 802.11 b/g wireless connection. Along with a 10/100 Ethernet port and a power connector, the Sirocco contains a number of ports located in the back (rear) panel for audio connection: analog, optical, center, surround, plus a reset button (Figure 1). If you appreciate LEDs, you will be pleased with the seven different lights that are located in front, which signal the status of the LAN, power, audio, and so on.