Audio Bug Connects Worlds Wirelessly
By Jim Bray
Wireless is everywhere these days, from cellphones to computer
networking but what if you want to play your tunes on a device that
isnt compatible with your other listening devices.
Theres actually quite a wide selection of wireless music
transmitters around, as you can see the next time you visit your local
electronics store, or if you're looking on the web for a music set-up to use whether you're in the kitchen or playing games on poker.de on the living room sofa. I was curious to see how these things perform, and Aerielle
Inc. happened to get in touch offering their new AudioBug AB-250, so it seemed
like the perfect chance to try out the technology.
The $40US AudioBug AB-250 transmits audio wirelessly from such
devices as MP3 or portable CD players to FM radio tuners. It uses the
little-exploited lower FM frequencies of around 88 MHz, and in my tests it
worked quite well.
The AB-250 is switchable through four frequencies in the 88
89 MHz range, to better give you a chance to find a free frequency, and this
came in handy not so much because I had other devices or radio stations
using those frequencies but because some of the FM radios on which I tried it
refused to go down right to 88 MHz and I had to switch around to find one that
theyd deign to play.
This isnt a shortcoming of the AudioBug; its a
shortcoming of some of the dinosaur FM radios I tried to use as torture
The AudioBug is a cute little bugger that looks kind of like one
of those small, portable mouses that are becoming so popular with notebook
computers. It isnt a mouse, of course, its a bug and as such it has
two big blue bug eyes that light up when its fired up looking
neat but not really adding anything to the process. But it is cute.
Anyway, you plug the end of the bugs tail into
the headphone out jack of your portable device, tune your FM radio to the
channel you select, press play on the portable music device, and
Presto! you have stereo audio coming from your system (assuming the
FM tuner system youre using offers stereo and most do).
Now, you only have range of about 15 feet, so you cant for
example set the AudioBug up in your living room and send the signals to your
big home theater in the family room (or wherever), and thats a shame. On
the other hand, it did a wonderful job in a couple of applications I tried.
Firstly, sometimes I like to stream Internet audio into my home
theater and Ive been doing it using a Stereo Link unit that interfaces
with the PC via USB, and with the stereo via conventional stereo audio jacks.
It works fine, but it means you need an extra power plug and have to run wires
across the room.
The AudioBug changes all that. It lets me send the streaming audio
(or whatever) directly from the computer to the stereo receivers FM
tuner, accomplishing exactly the same task while freeing up an AC power plug,
USB port and stereo input jacks on the receiver.
And it worked fine!
After Id messed around with the AudioBug trying out various
FM radios in the house, with a variety of results, I tried it in one of my
cars. I own a 1991 Infiniti Q45 I bought used and which, alas, didnt come
with Infinitis optional CD player. So to play my discs I use a portable
Sony Discman hooked into the cassette player by an adapter.
It works, but at the cost of squeaking and grinding noises from
the cassette adapters mechanical moving parts.
Enter the AudioBug. On a recent weekend road trip, I unplugged the
cassette adapter and replaced it with the Bug, then tuned the Qs FM radio
to pick up the AudioBugs signals.
And it worked fine as well, even though I had in effect tripled
the distance from the Discman to the stereo head unit. Think about it: in order
to get the CDs output to the radios head unit (a distance of about
two feet), the AudioBug sends the signals outside the car to the radio antenna
on the rear quarter panel. The antenna picks up the signals and sends them back
to the radio, which plays them through the cars speakers.
It wasnt perfect. At times there was a little bit of
interference and some noise, but on the whole the audio quality was better and
more consistent than what Im used to from the cassette adapter.
So guess where the cassette adapter is now. Right, a junk drawer.
The AudioBug, obviously, is battery powered and uses one CR2
battery which is included. I have no idea how long a battery lasts, but
I havent yet gone through the first battery not that I use the
AudioBug that much, to be fair. Aerielle says you should get over 40
hours from a battery, which doesnt seem like much.
On the upside, the unit features an instant on/auto off feature to
ensure you arent wasting battery life. Aerielle offers a replacement four
pack of batteries on its website for $12US.
Okay, so this is no cure for cancer, but its a nifty little
gadget that works as advertised and really does let you catch up on your tunes,
or your streaming broadcasts, with no strings attached.
And thats fine with me!
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think