Review: XtremeMac AirPlay Boost
It seems like around this time every year, we’re bound to check out a new version of AirPlay from XtremeMac. This year is no exception and for the last few weeks, we’ve been playing with the newest iteration, the AirPlay Boost, a $50 product that offers a more controlled idea of FM transmission.
Most other FM transmitters work in the same way—they take some sort of audio signal and then send it out over some FM frequency over a short range. The problem is that the signal goes in all directions, which sometimes can be a good thing, but with the limited power such devices are allowed to use, it makes more sense to channel it into one direction. Because of this, the AirPlay Boost was born.
The AirPlay Boost is available in black or white to match fifth-generation iPods, and attaches to the bottom of an iPod just like almost any other accessory these days. Once in place, the antenna can be repositioned within a 90° radius to provide the best signal for whatever you’re shooting your tunes to.
Without getting into all the basics of FM transmitters, since that topic has been rehashed multiple times ever since we first reviewed Griffin’s iTrip and XtremeMac’s first AirPlay, the AirPlay Boost works as expected. Unlike the AirPlay², the Boost works on all FM frequencies, including 87.9. Obviously, crowded radio markets will cause more trouble to find a free “spot”, but it usually can still be done.
Tuning the AirPlay Boost is a rather interesting process because it does not feature any sort of display on the device itself. Instead three buttons adorn the front and that’s it. The left and right switch frequencies and the button with the XtremeMac logo brings up a menu with various settings, presets, and more. By utilizing the iPod’s screen, the AirPlay Boost was able to be made smaller than its predecessor and offer easier navigation. Unlike the original iTrip which tried this, the AirPlay Boost does not require special files loaded onto the iPod—it just works.
Besides that, there’s a blue LED on the end of the antenna that can be turned on or off just to indicate if, in fact, the AirPlay Boost is “broadcasting”. A pass-through Dock Connector is located on the bottom, allowing you to use your favorite AC adapter or car charger. It would have been nice to see a car charger thrown in with the AirPlay Boost, but it is still rather competitively-priced.
With this version of the AirPlay, there’s a lot to love, and nearly nothing to hate. It works really well, due to the directionality of its transmission, and offers a number of features in a compact design.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
The AirPlay Boost is a huge improvement over its predecessor and might be a good choice for those areas where many FM transmitters don’t work well.
Pros: Compact design, good signal quality, easy-to-use, 87.9FM, Dock Connector pass-through port
Cons: Somewhat pricey compared to competition,