Wireless streaming of audio is a must for most any home as consumers move towards custom music lists and collections vs spending all of their time with repetitive radio stations. However, not every sound system supports wireless streaming. Sure, just about everything you buy today does, but what if you’re not looking to replace what you already have? What if you can take what you have and make it wireless?
We have covered a number of these devices and they just keep getting better–and now, smaller. The new AudioCast M5 audio streamer happens to be the smallest that we have tested, and it works great for delivering music from all of your favorite devices. All you need is an app for your iOS or Android device and you are ready to stream your entire MP3 collection and then some. You can even stream to it using any computer or laptop on the same network.
You start off by plugging the M5 into a power source using the micro-USB cable provided in the box. If your receiver or alternative speaker configuration doesn’t offer a powered USB port, you can try your TV or use a wall adapter from your smartphone or tablet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with it’s own wall adapter, so you will have to provide your own if you don’t have a USB port nearby.
In our demonstration of the unit, we had it plugged into an older Yamaha receiver that doesn’t support any wireless connectivity. Right above the receiver was a TV that sported a 5V USB port, so we tapped into that for power.
Next, you take the 3.5mm (standard headphone jack) cable (provided) and plug it into the M5 unit. Both ends of the cable feature the 3.5mm male connector. So if your speaker solution doesn’t support an input for this, you will have to purchase an adapter (ie, 1/4″ or RCA). We used a 3.5mm female to RCA male adapter to adapt it to the receiver properly. It doesn’t come with any adapters, so keep that in mind when buying the M5 (you may need to buy something on the side to complete your audio journey).
Once power and the audio cable are connected, you go to http://audiocast.io/get-apps/ and download the app to your iOS or Android device. The app will guild you through connecting the M5 to your WiFi network. All you have to do is hit the WPS button on the side of the M5 and hit next on your phone and follow the screens. The process takes only a few seconds, which is nice. After it has been added to your network, you are ready to go. The app will allow you to stream all of the music on your device and select from various online streaming sources–such as Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
If streaming music from your device isn’t good enough, you can also stream music from any laptop or computer on the network. Depending on your operating system, there are different options given to you to stream a given file to a device on the network. When making use of this option, you will see the AudioCast as one of those available devices.
Range isn’t an issue at all as we walked around the entire building (for the most part) with a connected iPhone. We reached distances of 50-100ft+ from the unit without losing connection to it. This was quite impressive for it’s size.
Speaking of size, this thing is small! The AudioCast M5 fits easily into the palm of your hand, it completely made out of plastic and has nearly no weight at all to it. This makes it easy to hide it behind your electronics somewhere, in case you don’t want it to be seen (for whatever reasons). Hide it behind the TV or the receiver, and no one will know it even exists. It is shaped like a small hockey puck, and the top has a design similar to that of a record.
They also support multi-room streaming. If you buy multiple AudioCast units, you can spread them around your home or office and stream to all of them simultaneously from the same device. When setting them up with your network, you get a chance to name every one of them, making it easy to determine where you are sending your audio to. You can stream to all at the same time, set two up as left-right stereo, send a different stream to each one (using the same device) or control each one separately using different devices. Great for just about any user’s needs.
In the settings you can control which online apps you want to see in your menu and control the audio quality (bitrate) of your stream (in case you are using a limited data plan). You can stream up to 320kbps using the app. If streaming from your computer or laptop, then it simply depends on the quality of the file itself (or desktop application being used to stream to a network device with).
You won’t be able to get fancy with FLAC or DTS music since it only supports 3.5mm output. There isn’t an option for optical, so stereo analog music is what you are left with. Most likely, they weren’t able to include digital-out in order to keep it as small and light as it is.
The AudioCast M5 is a great device for wireless music streaming. The app for iOS and Android devices is extremely user friendly and gets your through settings things up in a matter of seconds. Range is wonderful and your options are endless for music sources and setup of multiple units (if you want to go that route). The only trouble is the lack of a wall adapter for the USB cable and it doesn’t come with an RCA adapter. Bouncing it between various devices in the building, we found that most required RCA. So you will most likely want to buy a 3.5mm to RCA adapter in case you need it. It would have been nice to include these adapters, and would have resulted in a excellent to perfect score for the unit. Regardless, it still rated high with us as we loved it.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
Compatible with Airplay Streams (from Mac OSX,iOS and iTunes)
Compatible with Laptops/Computers
Play from NAS
Play from UPnP
Play from Online Services (ie, Pandora, iHeart, etc)
Music Alarm Clock
Standard Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
Multi-Room Expandable System (Synchronous playback)
Multiple Streams from Different Sources
Left/Right Stereo Speaker Pairing
WPS Quick Connection to Router
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.