For those of you old enough to remember, the Sound Blaster name evokes memories of Creative's glory days. It also reminds us of the days when a sound card was needed to enjoy "proper" sound. Nowadays, onboard audio chips have improved to such an extent where a separate audio card is more of a luxury for most users. Despite that, Sound Blaster remains the sound processing arm of Creative, though it has since taken markedly different forms.
This is the latest Sound Blaster product, the Creative Sound Blaster Wireless for iTunes. First off, the name is a bit of a misnomer. While it does enable wireless music streaming, it is not limited to Apple's iTunes application alone. In fact, it streams whatever audio is playing on your PC or notebook. Therefore, to be more specific, it works like an external USB sound card that doubles up to stream audio too.
The way the Creative Sound Blaster Wireless for iTunes work is via a transmitter and a separate receiver. The transmitter broadcasts signals via a 2.4GHz connection and is effective up to 30 meters. To begin streaming audio, all one needs to do is to plug the USB transmitter, which incidentally looks like an oversized thumb drive, into your PC and just sync it together with the receiver and you're set. The process is identical to that of syncing a wireless Xbox 360 controller to an Xbox 360.
To add, you can pair the transmitter with as many receivers as you want, but the bundled software lets you control playback only up to four specific rooms. The receiver unit can output via a standard 3.5mm stereo jack or via RCA audio line-out jacks. It also has control buttons, but it only allows you to play, pause and skip tracks. Fortunately, a remote control with all the necessary functions is included.
On the package, you'll notice that Creative claims the Sound Blaster Wireless for iTunes supports both PC and Mac, but that's actually not entirely true. If you are a PC user, you will able to enjoy all the bells and whistles of the Sound Blaster Wireless, which includes X-Fi audio enhancement, CMSS 3D, EAX 4.0 and remote control functionality. Mac users, on the other hand, are stuck with just the audio streaming functionality; X-Fi and even the remote control won't work. If it's any consolation, Creative has promised to enable these features on Macs via future software updates.
In terms of audio performance, X-Fi does go some way in cleaning up the audio slightly, making tracks sound somewhat more bright, clean and sparkly. So that's definitely a plus.
All things considered, the Sound Blaster Wireless for iTunes is one of the simplest, fuss-free ways for users to start streaming music in their homes. It certainly won't replace dedicated music servers, but its ease of use and relative affordability makes it an enticing option for those looking for a simple music streaming solution, as long as you are not on a Mac.