Assuming that you already have a Wi-Fi-capable computer running iTunes, AirStream inauguration is about as difficult as setting up a new toaster. You simply unbox, plug in, wait for your computer to find and shake hands with the Micromega's default network (named, unsurprisingly, "AirStream"), and press Play on the iTunes screen. You also have to set iTunes' pulldown speaker menu tab to the AirStream option, which is cryptically labeled "wm10-00001." (Computers; gotta love 'em.) AirStream is spec'd as incorporating the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi version, but it scaled back and ran perfectly on my 802.11g network.
And that, pretty much, is that. Oh, you want to know how it sounds? Better or worse than an AirPort Express, maybe? Since I don't have an Airport Express, I don't know the answer, but I doubt that the difference, if it exists, is dramatic. (Over the years I've heard surprisingly good sound emanate from Airport Express links via friends' systems.)
What I can say is that I compared the AirStream to my outboard D-A/A-D conversion hardware, a semi-pro 24/96-capable rackmount unit—a component that I consider to be just about perfectly transparent—that retailed for a sum similar to the Micromega a couple years back. I heard no appreciable difference, via either headphones or speakers; none at least that, short of a double-blind test under controlled conditions, I could reliably repeat to my own satisfaction.
I realize this doesn't make for particularly good copy, but as Pogo might have said, it is what it are. Even beautifully recorded material like the new Livingston Taylor CD Last Alaska Moon, crafted by Chesky Records to that label's usual reference standards, sounded unscathed by its wireless journey via the AirStream. Tracks like "Walk Until It's Heaven" sounded just as present, nuanced, and detailed, especially the intimately and superbly recorded vocals, via the AirStream as they did during direct CD playback—and this is a great-sounding (if musically unadventurous) record.
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