You may not be old enough to remember the dawn of the portable audio age, which happened in the early 80s (1979 to be totally accurate) with Sony’s original Walkman. It was an exciting time let me tell you. Everyone was walking around with headphones on, listening to their favourite tunes – albeit one cassette tape at a time – while tuning out the rest of their environments. Pumping your tunes to the whole world with a ghetto blaster was suddenly very uncool, unless you were hell-bent on making people angry, or into break-dancing.
The solitary nature of the walkman hasn’t changed much even though the device itself has undergone the most important evolution in consumer electronics. People are still wandering around, usually with little white earbuds, privately enjoying their music. If you’ve ever wanted to break down that virtual wall, your choices have been limited: the good ol’ headphone jack splitter, an iPod-compatible boom box, or jamming as many friends as you could fit into a car. Talk about 1980.
Almost 30 years after the first Walkman hit the store shelves, we’ve finally got a music sharing solution worthy of the social networking era. The i2i Stream is a simple device designed to do two things really well: share your tunes from any audio source wirelessly with friends, and listen to those who are doing the same.
The i2i Stream is a 2.4Ghz transceiver, which means it can operate in two modes: Transmit and Receive. It can do that transmitting and receiving on 7 different channels, which means that if you and six friends were all hanging out together, each with your own iPod (or Walkman, FM Radio, satellite radio etc.) you could take turns playing DJ. While listening to the first person’s music, the next person in your round-robin could be cueing up the next track. When the first song ends, everyone switches to the next channel and the session moves on. And since the "streamer", as i2i likes to call it, is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery, you can listen in for up to 5 hours before calling it quits. Of course there are other creative ways to use a streamer, since it can be hooked up to a pair of powered external speakers (patio party anyone?).
The unit is dead-easy to use. To charge it, simply plug it into any powered USB port on a PC, Mac, or wall-outlet based adapter. Don’t use a non-powered hub like your keyboard. Once charged, disconnect it. Plug your iPod or other audio source into one end using the included cable, and your headphones into the other end. Then choose to use the included neck-lanyard or fabric-clip to carry it around.
The volume and power switches are combined into a single clickable "rocker". Push it to cycle the power, rock it up or down to control the volume. The round button in the middle lets you select the channel you want (it even glows in 7 different colours to let you know which one you’re on), while buttons on either side let you choose between transmit and receive modes.
Frankly I’m not sure why these needed to be two separate buttons, but maybe the folks at i2i thought having one button would be too confusing.
My only other criticism is that you can’t leave the streamer plugged into USB power and use it to transmit, although it will still "pass through" your tunes to your headphones if they’re connected.
You can pick up the i2i stream as a pair for $99 USD.
Oh, and – to quote Steve Jobs – one more thing…
The folks at Arielle kindly provided us two pairs of streamers to give away. Nice, huh?
If you want to be the first on your block with a set of i2i streams, drop in a comment below telling us why you need one. Make us laugh, make us cry, heck – make us worry for your social life. The two most creative responses (as judged by us of course), received over the next 9 days will win. Just make sure you use a valid email address when you post, or we won’t be able to contact you. Please don’t put any personal info in your comment (email etc.), we wouldn’t want you to get spammed. Good luck, and just in case you’re curious, here are the official rules.
Update 1: Thanks for all the comments(entries)! On the off-chance that you entered, don’t get picked, and live in the U.S., check out the random3ss blog for another chance to win a pair of i2i’s.
Update 2: The contest entry period is now over. Winners will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond, otherwise we’ll choose another commentor. Thanks everyone!
Update 3: Congrats to Yin and Shelley Gross, our winners. To everyone else, thanks for entering. We’ll be trying to do more giveaways in the weeks ahead, so keep us bookmarked or subscribed. Rick, I’m sorry about the banana – I really am – I don’t like them either.