Abit iDome and AirPace Music
We tested the AirPace both as a standard network device and as a wireless audio system. When used as a wireless access point, the AirPace performed admirably and we observed similar range, signal strength, and connection speed as other entry level wireless access points. The AirPace supports in-browser web administration and offers a rudimentary set of administration options like a DHCP server, MAC address filtering, and support for WEP, WPA and WPA2. Overall, we thought it was a pretty typical entry level wireless access point, which isn't necessarily a bad thing since access point functionality is merely a bonus feature.
In order to stream audio, the AirPace must be in client mode. Once in client mode, the AirPace can connect to your existing wired or wireless network and will appear as a standard network device. You will also need to install the AirPace client software on any computer on your network that you want to stream audio with. The client software includes a special sound driver and UI interface to control the audio streaming process.
To start streaming audio, you must first select "wireless audio" instead of "PC speaker" in the AirPace client software. By default, this effectively routes all the audio to the special AirPace sound driver and it also means that your sound card is now deactivated. Luckily, switching back and forth is quick and painless. Once you've routed audio away from your sound card, you need to select from a list of available AirPace units on the network (yes, you can have as many as you like) and connect to the desired one. When you've established a connection through the network, all the audio generated by your computer will be played by the AirPace unit you're connected to.
Although it is really that simple to get up and running, there is some room for tweaking your experience and the AirPace client software offers two option windows called "Buffer Setup" and "Advanced Setting". The buffer setup window lets you choose the size of the audio buffer and there are two available presets; "movie/game" and "music". A larger buffer means more transmission delay, but you get a more stable connection and the chances of broken audio due to wireless signal interference are reduced. During our testing, we found that the "music" mode gave us perfect audio, but at a very noticeable half second delay. This means that there is a half second difference between what we hear and what is being played. While this isn't an issue for music, it is a huge problem when the sound needs to be in sync with video such as in games and movies. Setting the buffer to movie/game mode decreased the delay enough that we weren't able to notice it but we would occasionally experience a momentary drop in audio due to wireless signal interference.
The advanced setting window has a couple of interesting options. By default, using wireless streaming means that your computer's sound card is no longer active so there is no local audio. If you want to stream audio to the AirPace and hear it locally, there is an option to do so in this window. Another default behavior of the AirPace unit is that it can accept multiple audio stream connection at once. This means that if I am listening to music on my computer, and someone else is watching a movie on theirs, and we both connect to the same AirPace unit, then the AirPace unit will simultaneously play both of our audio at the same time. You can force the AirPace unit to only accept one connection at a time from the advanced setting window. Lastly, the AirPace client software is launched automatically when windows starts, this behavior can also be toggled from this window.
Overall, the AirPace performed well as both a wireless access point and as a wireless audio system. The software and drivers did not give us any trouble and everything worked as it should. The performance of the AirPace as a wireless audio system was quite good. The sound quality of the streamed audio was perfect and streaming audio created no noticeable network traffic congestion. We set up the AirPace unit right next to our computer and with the help of a splitter, we connected both our computer and the AirPace to the same set of speakers. We were unable to notice a difference in sound quality between a direct connection and streaming the audio through the AirPace.