Arctic Audio Relay Wireless Media Extender Review

 

 

In order to unleash their ever growing media collections, many PC enthusiasts are repurposing their machines into home media servers. Combined with the powers of DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) protocol, these setups can stream content over a network at the user’s will. Arctic’s Audio Relay aims to meet their customer’s needs for affordable multi-room entertainment with hassle-free setup and control from anywhere in the house.

 

Overview

Audio Relay is the simple way to go for multi-room entertainment! Audio Relay and its dedicated remote application are a smart and intuitive multi-room system that allows you to listen to your music anywhere with one centralized library from your PC / any other DLNA servers.

Multi-Room Music Entertainment

Multi-room entertainment cannot be more simple and easy with Audio Relay. Your PC/DLNA server will act as your centralized jukebox—you can use your smartphone to browse it, create your playlist and play it in your room. Meanwhile, your spouse/roommate can do the same concurrently. Thus, there is only one library to organize and maintain and everybody can enjoy it anytime.

Remote App

Audio Relay comes with a dedicated remote application - Remote AR. You can easily choose your favorite song from your PC or UPnP / DLNA server and select where it should be played. Most importantly, you and your family members can access the same library at the same time.

*Remote AR is available in the Android Market

Wide Compatibility

Audio Relay is compatible with all mainstream audio formats including MP3, AAC, WAV and WMA to make your music entertainment with this compact multi-room system a seamless experience.

Quick and Easy Setup

The installation of Audio Relay is refined and simplified. Just connect Audio Relay to your home Wi-Fi network, you can sit back with your smartphone and enjoy the fun of browsing your favorite music at your fingertips.

 

 

Design

The design of the Audio Relay meshes nicely with Arctic’s new line of sleek PC hardware and accessories for home living. A glossy enclosure with curved sides and minimal branding gives the Audio Relay an upscale look that won’t look out of place next to the latest in slim screens or minimalist subs. Finer details include a plastic bezel sporting a brushed appearance and a power button illuminated by an attractive blue LED. At about the size of a laptop power brick, the Audio Relay is small enough to fit just about anywhere within your entertainment system. The device is capable of standing on its own vertically, although an included stand would have been a nice touch. Almost the entire bottom of the Audio Relay is covered in anti-slip padding for secure footing on a variety of surfaces.

 

 

The back of the Audio Relay is covered in a wide array of ports including Stereo RCA, Optical, Ethernet, and USB. A sturdy hinged antenna threads onto a gold WLAN port to bestow Wi-Fi connectivity. The provided Stereo RCA and USB cables are extremely sturdy with a dose of visual flare thrown in for good measure. Being big fans of cable management, we felt a little short changed upon unwrapping the 4 ft USB power cable. That amount of cable can quickly run out while negotiating the twisty routes taken by most cable sleeves. For those who share our passion for clutter-free systems, we would definitely recommend picking up an extension.

 

Functionality

Setup over Ethernet was a cinch. Within seconds, the Audio Relay appeared within our list of media devices. A quick driver install was all that stood between us and audio streaming bliss. Right clicking on a title within our Windows Media Player music library and selecting “Play To” gave us the option to stream that track to the Audio Relay. After feeding the Audio Relay its first song, it adopted its own playlist window where we could dump additional tracks. We’re happy to report that the device is capable of playing  both ripped and downloaded music as it covers the full spectrum of MP3, AAC, WAV and WMA formats.

 

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Connecting to our network over  802.11b/g Wi-Fi was also quite straightforward. Arctic’s instructions spell out three different approaches to wireless setup, but using the Audio Relay’s web configuration page is by far the easiest. Switching to the antenna will require a reboot, followed by selecting your network SSID and entering a password if necessary. We received no indication of whether or not we had entered the correct network password. Only the vague message “DONE” appeared once we had entered our credentials. This lack of information caused us to waste a little more time troubleshooting than we would have liked. Connectivity was quite consistent  and we never had any issues with signal strength while operating the Audio Relay within 15 ft from a router. Arctic also gives users the bonus of being able to connect to the router via the 2.4 GHz n band. One thing that makes the Audio Relay an even more justifiable addition to your home entertainment system is the way it sips just under 4 watts of power. Not only does this save on energy bills, it also gives users the option to run the Audio Relay from a powered USB port.

 

 

Android App

The Arctic Remote AR application for Android and iOS has the ability to control media playback over a home or office network. Once we pointed it to a media source, the app took a few minutes to index our music library. The app also allows users to set “targets,” meaning someone could have several Audio Relays spread throughout the house for a customized listening experience in any room. The playback window is tastefully laid out with large album art and simple controls for play/pause, advance, shuffle, and looping of tracks. Music playback functions much like it did on Windows Media Player, with users having to keep the song queue stocked with music to keep the stream flowing.

 

 

Final Thoughts

The Arctic Audio Relay provides anyone interested in DLNA media streaming an easy way to get their feet wet. The device is quite reasonably priced at $139 and we’re glad Arctic has given buyers a great deal of flexibility in the setup process. We have reviewed several well-rounded devices from Arctic, and the Audio Relay is no exception. It delivered all the performance that we were expecting from a DLNA digital media renderer, along with the added bonus of low power consumption and smartphone control. Will we be showing this off at our next house party? You bet!

 

 

Pros:

  • Understated styling and small footprint
  • Many options for setup and connectivity
  • Low power consumption enables operation from powered USB
 

Cons:

 
  • Cables could use an extra 2 ft of length
  • Web interface could do a better job of reporting connectivity status

 

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