In recent years, networked music streaming devices from Sonos, Philips and Logitech have transformed multi-room audio, transforming it from something that took a lot of work, expense and cabling into something within reach of the average household. However, in the last few months we've begun to see an alternative approach, using the ever-popular iPod as a source instead of a PC or hard disk base station.
With the Altec Lansing Octiv Air M812 it was possible to connect up to six wireless speaker units up to single dock, giving you multi-room audio from a single iPod (albeit with the same music playing in every room). Now EOS - a new face on these shores - brings us its own spin on the idea, fitting a fairly normal looking iPod speaker dock with a wireless transmitter, with the potential to pair it with up to four wireless speaker units.
The core system reviewed here comprises of a base station with one additional wireless speaker, giving you a basic multi-room system in a single package. The wireless technology used is a proprietary spin on 2.4GHz dubbed Gigawave, which EOS claims has twice the range of bandwidth of a comparable Bluetooth setup, with more effective interference and error correction technology to boot.
There's no encryption or manual channel switching on offer, but EOS speaker units can be registered to specific base stations. So if your middle-aged, MOR-loving neighbour buys one, you won't be left listening to Michael Ball and Barbara Streisand instead of Mastodon and Bat for Lashes.
In terms of style, the EOS Wireless base station looks like, well, your average compact iPod speaker dock; the sculpted cradle sitting square between the twin 1.5in neodymium speakers, with the bass driver pointing out through the base of the unit. A glossy piano black finish and blue LED lighting makes a stab at class, the overall effect isn't particularly exciting or distinctive and certainly won't be giving B&W, BOSE or even Logitech a run for their money.
The docking cradle itself is also as basic as they come, with just the connector, a recess big enough to take an iPhone or iPod touch, and a range of standard-issue plastic adaptors to go inside it. On the positive side, build-quality is generally decent, the speakers are protected by heavyweight metal grills and there's a distinct shortage of unnecessary clutter and controls.
An LED display keeps you informed of which wireless units are currently connected, and there's also a button to mute the built-in speaker if you just want sound from the outboard speakers. There's a 3.5in auxiliary input at the back to handle other players, and you can quickly switch between sources using the Source button at the front.