Creative Xmod Wireless

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At A Glance

Ray Smuckles
Great sound quality at a great price. Stylish
Bensington Butters
No display on remote or receiver; no independent streaming; can't stream Internet radio.

Creative is a little late to the wireless music-streaming party, but the company comes with a gift its competitors can’t match: the X-Fi Crystalizer technology lifted from its X-Fi soundcard line.

The Xmod Wireless base station captures your PC’s audio stream and transmits it to a remote receiver. The system relies on your PC’s media-player software (we tested it with iTunes, MediaMonkey, Rhapsody, Yahoo Music, and Windows Media Player), which means it can stream any track your media player is capable of playing, including WMA Lossless, FLAC, and DRM-protected songs.

The transmitter receives power and audio from your PC over a USB cable, but it’s also equipped with line-level RCA jacks. A 1/8-inch stereo jack enables you to plug in a set of local speakers. The receiver is powered by an AC adapter and has line-level RCA and 1/8-inch outputs. Both modules have buttons for play/pause, track forward, and track back as well as a large volume-control knob, so you don’t need to hunt for the simple included remote to control the devices.

The Xmod Wireless costs $120 more than Logitech’s Wireless DJ, but it can’t match that player’s awesome remote (which displays your track list and current tune on its LCD). On the other hand, the Xmod sounds considerably better than Logitech’s product and it can stream to multiple receivers (a feature Logitech promised but never delivered). The Xmod wireless costs $70 more than a Squeezebox, doesn’t rely on your wireless router, and is much cheaper to expand to a multizone system. But it lacks that device’s excellent display and it can’t stream Internet radio.

And then there’s the Sonos Digital Music System. For its price, you could buy three additional Xmod receivers and have $160 left over to buy music. But all the Xmod receivers will play the same music, the system can’t be expanded beyond four zones, and each receiver must be within 100 feet of the transmitter. The Sonos comes with that brilliant remote control, supports up to 32 zones (and can stream independently to each), and operates on a wireless mesh network that delivers substantially greater range.