Another new toy. Bought on eBay for $55. Let me first tell you why I wanted this because why influenced my decision to purchase this particular item rather than any of the more expensive media servers now available.
Radio has become the same everywhere. Every station sounds much like every other. There’s some small variations in programming but thanks to conglomeration and low wages radio has become the vast wasteland of the airwaves, the tabloid rags at the checkout counter and the crumpled candy wrappers cluttering your front lawns. There’s just not much there, and there’s not much intelligence or stimulation either.
Sure there’s a few reasoned voiced in the mist of the Rush Limbaugh wanna-bes. There’s some good music on occasion. But overall it’s a vacuous experience.
So that’s what the story is behind this purchase. I wanted something that I could put in any room and listen to play lists of my choice from my computer (talking books, music, whatever) and Internet radio stations. Being able to take the device from room to room or outside required that it had its own speakers. That excluded almost all the devices which are designed it seems to be hooked up to a stereo system or entertainment centre. The ability to program it (to make selections) from the device itself rather than having to go back to the computer when the mood or moment wants a change in play list ruled out things like USB FM transmitters from the computer. I wanted something as close to the simplicity of use as a portable radio, and that meant the Linksys Wireless B Music System. (WLM11B).
Just to be clear, the WML11B is not a battery operated device. I have outdoor outlets so that’s not an issue for me. It’s also limited by your Wireless router’s usable distance (though it can be run from a wired Ethernet connection instead of wireless).
The WML11B (which I’ll now refer to as the system for brevity and ease of typing) can play MP3 and WMA (Windows Media Audio) files. It does this by running media server software on one or more PC’s. MusicMatch Jukebox is the software provided. It works OK but is nothing special. Mostly the media server portion runs quietly in the background. You tell it which directories to host music from. It tries to categorize the music from tag info. It’s pretty basic. It includes a play and the ability to sign up for an enhanced version for a one-time fee that offers extra features and the ability to stream extra radio stations from MusicMatch. The software can also burn CDs at a slow rate. The enhanced version burns at faster rates. For the record, I have not bought the enhanced version nor do I plan to. I just don’t need it.
Other Media Server software such as Windows Media Connect should work with the system.
I’ve seen some older reviews in which some complained about the sound. Either this was fixed in newer versions or people were expecting way too much for a $100 or so product. It’s not as good as your stereo system but then you didn’t you pay $125 for that, now did you. Using the included speaker it’s sounds like a good quality radio. If you want better then connect it to your stereo system using RCA connectors or the optical link.
The device includes a remote control but even with that the display/programmability is still much like using an iPod. You scroll one by one through menu items and selections. There are twenty favorites settings but only twenty. In my opinion these are best used for Internet Radio stations. You can use the MusicMatch software to create play list (m3u files) on your PC host to better organize your music sections by mood or holiday or time of year, or event or whatever. Create a play lists for picnics, and one for xmas music and one for parties and another for romantic evenings. It’s not much work at all.
So far I have had no problems playing music. The only difficulty happened when trying to install software on the host PC. Normal use of the PC for browsing, email, even photo editing did not interfere with the music being played.
The Internet Radio Stations do not require your host PC. They operate directly off your broadband router. The current list is over 2,000 stations (supplied by vtuner.com). There’s a wide variety of selections but a few I tried never worked. The CBC, for example. The BBC is notably missing. For stations not listed you can manually add them to your favorites.
One thing the advertisements don’t tell you is that the Internet Radio streams are limited to MP3 streams only, no ASF/X or RM/A files.
There are a couple of problems. The favorites can not be saved as a backup file, nor can the device configuration. If something goes badly wrong and requires a reset to factory defaults then you must hookup the device via Ethernet and rerun the setup CD to reconfigure it. Simple but an annoying step that one must go through.
A little tip: to save your favorites just go to the device’s built-in web server and go to the favorites page. Then save a copy to your PC. If you ever need to restore your favs then you can start that page and copy and paste the info from the saved page into the device’s favs. page.
I have experienced one problem so far. One afternoon the stations in my favs would not stream. If I selected them from the list of available stations then they would stream. A reset solved that problem and so far it has not returned.
Overall I’m happy with the device. For the price of around $100 i can recommend it. But as with any device that is so tuned to one;s needs and tastes as this, you should shop around for what best suites your needs and ears.