|Image taken from the Apple store.|
For a while, I used my TiVo HD and some open source media server solutions. The quality of the interface was just lacking for me, so I moved on. Since I have a couple of other systems connected to my receiver - a Wii and a Playstation 3, I decided to try my luck with one of these. I purchased an application called MediaLink for my mac to stream to the PS3.
This definitely went better than my TiVo, but I still wasn't happy. The stream would get mucked up when my time machine backups to my time capsule would kick off over the air, and my music would get choppy. The interface was clunky. And, by then, I'd rediscovered last.fm. I wanted a better interface and an ability to scrobble.
My good friend Skadz suggested a dongle from Audio Engine that sends all audio from the computer over to the receiver, but this didn't quite fit my needs. I wanted to be able to be selective, to only stream from iTunes. My answer came in the form of a product that has existed for years: Apple's Airport Express.
The Airport Express has done everything I wanted and more. It's improved my user experience by simply letting me play music through iTunes (and sometimes control it using Remote on my iPhone). It's receiving only my iTunes audio, ignoring everything else. It lets me scrobble (because I'm really playing music on my computer). And one more unexpected bonus - the music just sounds better. I had wondered why I wasn't hearing it the way I felt I should, and it turns out it's because the TiVo and the PS3 have their own little equalizers inside. The Airport Express seems to use the iTunes EQ, so I have more control over my experience and quality.
If it sounds like I'm a commercial, maybe I am in a way. When there's a product out there giving me an extremely positive experience, I like to tell people about it. It's in my own best interest - other people buying it will help keep it around and evolving.