Thanks to services like Spotify, we’ve now got the ability to take our entire music library and have it on hand at any given time. The problem is turning streaming audio into something we can enjoy. The speakers on your mobile phone just don’t cut it a lot of the time, and there are some situations where a Bluetooth speaker isn’t suitable.
DLNA, while not a particularly popular term, is more commonly known as the technology that make Google’s Chromecast tick. There are a few key reasons why you might want to use this type of system in place of a Bluetooth connection. For starters, DLNA is uncompressed. You’ve got much higher bandwidth, and the quality is much better than what you’d find with standard Bluetooth audio devices. Then you need to consider the range. Wi-Fi tends to cover an entire house, while Bluetooth only covers a small area.
The Riversong Audiocast is one of the cheapest ways you can get into DLNA streaming. Taking a few subtle design hints from Google’s chromecast, they’ve added a few unique twists to the design that you won’t often find. It looks, on paper, to be a very competent device. But we had to test it for ourselves to see if it was worth the money.
The first thing you notice about the Riversong Audiocast is its stylish design. Looking a lot like a pint-sized hockey puck, this plastic little gizmo doesn’t look like much at first. But underneath the tiny shell, it’s packing some pretty impressive hardware. The case itself is very modern, and tasteful. The top features a set of textured rings that look very similar to the grooves of a record. The center is the same smooth matte-black finish as the sides and the back, although on the face it’s been tastefully decorated with the Audiocast logo.
Aside from the top, the main case of the unit is actually crafted from a solid piece of aluminum. This gives it a solid, well-made feel that puts it well above all other electronics in its price class. But looks can only go so far. To really test this unit, we had to determine the real-world performance.
Getting the Audiocast up and running was a simple procedure. The first step is to plug it in. The box contains a standard Micro-USB cable and 120V converter, so it’s very quick to plug in. Then, you’ll need to go to the app store on your phone and download the Audiocast app. If you’ve plugged your Audiocast into your speakers, you’ll probably have heard the device announce that it’s searching for a network. If your network is unsecured (which we do not recommend) then you can start using it right away. But most people will need to use their phone to find the network. You can just tap the name of your Audiocast from the main screen, and it will ask you to select an SSID and enter the password. Once it’s set up, you’ll never have to repeat the process. You’re ready to stream!
Using the Audiocast is very easy. If you’ve used Bluetooth headphones before, the process is almost identical. With the Audiocast app installed, you’ll have synced it to your local device. At any time, you can open this app and turn it on, and the device will now become your primary audio output. This makes it compatible with every single app on your phone.
Even if you don’t have the app installed, there are still many other software solutions that are directly compatible with DLNA. When there is a device detected on your network, you’ll get an icon in the corner of many applications, including Spotify. All you have to do is tap this icon, and you’ll see a list of DLNA compatible devices available. Just tap the icon and select the Audiocast, and that specific app will output to it instead of your headphones.
If you have multiple Audiocasts, switching is just as easy. All you have to do is bring up the app, and select the one you want. The Audiocast can only handle one input at a time, so connecting to it will cancel whatever stream it’s currently playing.
There are quite a few options that can be found in the Audiocast application, giving you a lot more control over how your device performs. The main thing you’ll want to change is the name of the Audiocast. We recommend labeling it for the room it’s in. Since the range allows you to connect to it from anywhere in your house, any family using multiple Audiocasts could get confused as to which is which. By naming them, you’ll never have to worry.
You can also set which model is your preferred, so your phone will (by default) connect to the one in your room. It’s still easy to change at a moment’s notice, but it’s nice when your phone defaults to the most commonly used one.
The software lets you select a password, so nobody can connect to your Audiocast without authorization.
One of the most unique features of the Audiocast is the Alarm clock. You are able to set it to begin playing music at a specified time, giving you the ability to wake up to your favorite music. Once you’ve been able to wake up to something you enjoy every morning instead of the blaring of another talk show radio host, you’ll never want to go back. And the Audiocast gives you more options than ever. It can source audio locally (from your phone, computer, or laptop) or even from the Internet.
We personally recommend using Youtube as your audio source. This way, even if your device isn’t synced with the Audiocast, you’ll still get your alarm. If you want a little more variety, then we recommend choosing an online radio station. There is only one small warning we can give you about this option – do not choose your favorite song. After one too many mornings, it won’t likely be your favorite anymore.
For any audio device, this is the defining thing. No matter what the cost, if something produces poor quality audio, it just isn’t worth it’s purchase price. That’s why we were so surprised when we heard the Riversong Audiocast for the first time. The sound quality was perfect. There was absolutely no degradation from streaming, and audio sounded as if it was coming straight through a wired connection. For the price, there are very few streaming technologies that can offer the same.
How far away can you walk before you’ll get dropouts, distortion, or delays? With the Audiocast, it’s really quite far. We managed to walk through almost every part of our 2000 square foot home without ever having the signal cut out.
There is only one small trade off, and that’s the Wi-Fi network. With a Bluetooth audio device, you’ve got a direct connection from your phone to the speaker. With Wi-Fi, your connection is being middle manned through the router. If you’re trying to use the Audiocast in an area where you typically don’t get very good wireless signal, then you’re going to be disappointed with the performance.
For many people, the Riversong Audiocast is a great choice. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and has incredible sound quality. It’s compatible with almost every device on the market. Both Android and Apple phones work, as do PC and Mac computers. But that’s not to say that there aren’t some disadvantages. You do need to have a Wi-Fi network that it can connect to.
If you’re just not getting enough range, you might want to consider upgrading your router to one of the new high range models. We can’t recommend the Netgear Nighthawk enough, although this might be a little out of range for most. A simpler solution would be to go with a Bluetooth audio receiver. These are great for short range use in the home, but there are also Bluetooth FM transmitter kits available for the car, somewhere that you won’t commonly have a wireless network.
But with all the options out there, nothing can compare to the sound quality of the Riversong Audiocast. Thanks to DLNA streaming, it’s completely uncompressed. This makes it the perfect choice for anyone who already has a high-end audio system, and wants to make it wireless without replacing the whole thing. For the price, you won’t find better value.