Putting a CD in your home stereo is fast becoming an antiquated way of listening to music.
These days, you're more likely to have a hard drive full of downloaded music, whether you grabbed them from
iTunes store or ripped them from a peer-to-peer sharing site. And gadgets like the iPod have allowed you to take that massive music library on the go.
But what happens when you want to leave behind those tinny laptop speakers and sub-par earbuds and hear your digital library cranking out of your home stereo? Fortunately, an army of audiophiles is way ahead of you, having developed a number of high-tech and easy-to-use solutions to the digital music quandary. Here are some of the best products to help you enjoy your favorite artists, be it Stravinsky or Soundgarden, without being tied to your computer.
Hooking this small, glossy black box to your home stereo is as easy as connecting a CD player: Plug in a power adapter and connect audio cords to your receiver. Then, a few clicks of the remote will connect the
to your home's wireless network. Once that's done, just download the SqueezeCenter software to your computer and start scrolling through your music library from your home stereo. And if nothing in your digital collection grabs you, the Squeezebox offers access to thousands of Internet-based radio stations and supports subscription-based streaming music services such as Rhapsody and Pandora. (My favorite:
, cool jazz straight from Paris.)
Sonos Bundle 150,
offers an easy way to bring your digital music library into multiple rooms. The bundle includes two base stations, a sleek color controller with iPod-like controls and a charging cradle for the controller. The base stations can be placed in different rooms. For example, plug the ZonePlayer 90 base station into your home stereo and attach the ZonePlayer 120 -- which includes a built-in amplifier -- to a pair of bookshelf speakers in your kitchen. Best of all, the system can handle up to 32 base stations, which sell separately for $349 for the ZonePlayer 90 and $499 for the ZonePlayer 120. (The one drawback, however, is that though the system works wirelessly, at least one of the base stations must be plugged in via an Ethernet cable to your home network.)
The Sonos Bundle 150 offers an easy way to bring your digital music library into multiple rooms.
Roku Soundbridge M1001
Similar in many ways to the Squeezebox Classic, the
is a tube that connects easily to your stereo and wirelessly to your home network. But it has a few neat features: One is the Roku Radio Snooper, which Roky describes as a "lightweight application" that runs on your computer. When you listen to an Internet radio stream on your computer, the Radio Snooper will determine if that stream is compatible with the Soundbridge. If so, you'll have the choice to make that station a favorite preset on the Soundbridge.
If you're not the kind of music lover who relishes settling into the easy chair for a night of Coltrane, here are a few on-the-go products that will let you take your digital music library wherever you're going without sacrificing sound:
Bose SoundDock Portable
, which costs $359 and looks like a small wall of speakers with a handy iPod dock. The
runs on AC power or a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, allowing you to rock out on the beach, in the backyard or in your kitchen.
Meanwhile, the cheapest, easiest way to play your digital library is the decidedly old-school
, which costs $7.49 from
. It's a
with a plug for your iPod or other digital music player. Just find an old boombox, pop in the tape, plug in your iPod and you're ready to rock.