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Soundcast has embedded its wireless iPod streaming technology inside a fantastic battery-powered, self-amplified outdoor speaker. It’s pricey, but building a good wired outdoor system would cost as much—even if you do the work yourself.
The system includes an iCast transmitter, which captures the analog output from your iPod and streams it to the OutCast on the 2.4GHz frequency band. If you rock with an MP3 player other than an iPod, or if you want to stream music from your PC, the 1/8-inch headphone jack on the back of the iCast automatically becomes a line-level input when there’s no iPod in the dock.
Membrane switches on the top of the speaker enable you to control a docked iPod, although you’re limited to track forward/back, play/pause, and volume (there’s no way to control any other source). There’s no display, so you’ll want to build a playlist or leave the iPod in shuffle mode. You can also get around the display issue by plugging any player directly into the OutCast and stashing it in the cradle built into the handle.
A 100-watt amp delivers plenty of volume to the four 3-inch high-frequency drivers arranged around the top of the columnar device, while an 8-inch down-firing woofer delivers lots of beefy bass. The speaker sounded great on our enclosed patio, only slightly less so when we moved it out into our yard (where it was deprived of walls and a ceiling to provide natural reverb). The system delivered impressive range, too, streaming audio outside within a 135-foot radius of the transmitter inside the house. But the amp doesn’t like to be pushed; it distorted badly long before we reached its maximum output.
The OutCast is thoroughly weatherized, as long as you don’t leave anything plugged into it. Soundcast says the NiMH battery pack will deliver 10 hours of audio on a charge, but we were able to squeeze out 15 hours playing at lower volume (and leaving the cheesy mood lighting turned off). We dig it, but the price tag denies it a Kick Ass award.
Dead simple; plenty of volume, good streaming range. Weatherized.
Controls are iPod-specific (but it does accept line-in); no display; expensive.