Review: Eos Wireless iPod Speaker System
With the Eos Wireless iPod Speaker System, you can wirelessly transmit audio from your iPod to a remote speaker. It’s a system that uses proprietary 2.4GHz wireless spectrum technology to distribute music throughout your house. The Eos is available in black or white as a $250 Core System with a base station and one speaker.
The Eos has two components. The first component is the base station. It looks a lot like many iPod speaker stands, with an iPod dock between a pair of tweeters and a downward-firing subwoofer underneath. The controls on the base station are sparse; there are volume controls, a mute button for the base station speakers, a button for turning on/off the wireless connection to the speakers, and a source button that you use if you have another audio device connected to the base station’s rear auxiliary port. It would be nice if bass and treble controls were available, though you can use the iPod’s limited sound controls. The base station doesn't have video out for older iPods, nor does it have a way to connect to your computer for syncing your iPod.
The second component is the remote speaker. The speakers are large, measuring 5.8-by-9.0-by-4.0 inches, and, like the base station, hold a pair of tweeters and a subwoofer. A power/volume knob sits atop the speaker. The power adapter clips into the back of the speaker, and you can leave the power adapters attached to the speakers and plug them directly into the power outlet. Or you can detach the power adapter, plug it in, and place the speaker on, say, a bookshelf—but the adapter cable is a measly 3 feet long and you’ll probably need an extension cord. Also, it can be difficult to attach and reattach the power adapter to the speaker; a label on the rear of the speaker says to “Press Down Hard” to remove the adapter, and that’s no lie. When reattaching the adapter, I broke a plastic panel that keeps the adapter cable hidden, but that’s more a reflection upon my lack of touch than the overall solid and sturdy construction of the Eos devices. Additional speakers are $130 each.
Power up and play
Setting up the Eos couldn’t be simpler. Plug in the remote speakers where you want them and turn them on. At the base station, the LED lights on the front of the device will light up if the remote speaker is within range; if not, you need to try moving the speaker that can’t be reached, or you can try using the base station’s Range Extender feature by flipping a switch on the back (although this feature has its own drawbacks, noted below). Then dock your iPod at the base station, select a song or playlist, and play. There’s no need to configure any intimidating wireless settings; it’s about as plug-and-play as you can get.
I set up the Eos with four remote speakers in my house. Three of the four speakers worked well, including a speaker that I set up on a floor below the base station. The speaker with the longest distance from the base station—about 70 feet, with several walls in-between—had problems. The audio from that particular speaker would cut out intermittently, even with the Range Extender feature on. Simply moving the speaker to an outlet in the same room but a few feet closer to the base station fixed the problem.
IntelliTouch claims coverage of 150 feet indoors (300 feet outdoors in an open space), and though I had problems with a distance under that specification, my testing has to be put into perspective; the base station was set up near my Wi-Fi router, and even my Wi-Fi signal in that far room is very weak. Different variables can affect wireless signals, and in my case, the layout of the walls in my house drastically affects the signal’s reach. Testing in that far room was a known challenge that the Eos passed after switching the outlet.
According to the manual, the Eos uses “an advanced proprietary error correction scheme,” and to perform this, there’s an almost imperceptible delay of 20 milliseconds between the base station and the remote speakers. With the Range Extender feature on, the delay is a longer 64 milliseconds, because the base station is sending more audio packet data to the speaker. You’ll notice a very slight echo if you stand in an area where you can hear both the base station and the speaker. If you try different speaker placements, you can minimize how much you notice the echo effect. For example, you might not want to place speakers near doorways, where audio can leak out into other rooms, making the echo effect more perceptible.
I didn’t notice any inference with Wi-Fi. My Wi-Fi signal maintained its strength, and network accessed wasn’t hampered at all. I saw no difference in the Eos’s performance with the Wi-Fi network on or off.
The included infrared remote control has basic controls: Volume Up/Down, Select Down/Rewind, Select Forward/Fast Forward, Play/Pause, and a Speaker button to mute the base station. The remote works only with the base station; you can’t, say, be in a different room and use the remote to skip to the next song.
The Eos uses SRS Wow to create a surround-sound effect from left and right speakers too closely spaced to provide true stereo imaging on their own. The effect does make audio feel like it’s coming from around you, rather than straight on, at times even making you feel as if you’re in an auditorium. But sometimes, with more intimate audio (such as spoken word, or even acoustical music), I'd rather not use SRS Wow, and unfortunately, you can’t turn this feature off. It’s on all the time.
Audio quality is clear, with crisp highs, and there’s no noticeable static or hum from the wireless transmission. On the other hand, midrange tones were not very warm, and vocals often seemed muted—I wanted to turn up the volume on just the vocals. Adjusting the EQ settings on the iPod helped, but it was annoying to walk across my house to adjust the settings for different music types in a mixed playlist. Upper bass is strong, but sometimes too strong, resulting in distortion. Overall, the sound quality is acceptable for general use or for background music at an event.
Macworld’s buying advice
If your goal is to simply distribute your iPod's music through your small to medium-sized location with minimum effort, the Eos system is a good way to do it. It’s a breeze to set up and get running, and your house will be filled with decent sounding music in almost no time at all.
[Roman Loyola is a Macworld senior editor.]