After resisting for a while it had to happen.... I've now got another lovely Apple logo'd white box to add to the collection.
A shiny new Airport Express (AE) has pride of place, um, well, hidden out of the way down behind the TV and Stereo where no-one can see it.
Like all good technology it's totally invisible in day-to-day operation as well as use. Turn on the PC, crank up the stereo and hit Play in iTunes... and you don't even need to reach for the headphones (and no nasty thin sound from desktop speakers).
Setup and installation.... well, it probably took longer to get it out of the box and admire the design than it did to actually get it connected to the network here. I love my Billion 7500G DSL / Wireless router - it's robust, reliable and really easy to manage, but the setup just isn't quite as slick as for the AE.
In the current setup the AE is part of a network and dutifully picks up it's IP address and fits into the security profile better than some clients I've seen. I also tested getting it set up as a stand-alone secured network and compared to some budget and premium solutions I've had to configure the AE beats them all.
Couple the AE with a Keyspan Express Remote and you have the perfect set up - no matter which computer is providing the music (The Windows tower with a very eclectic collection or the PowerBook with the higher BPM collection) a simple remote can be used to remain in control. The Infrared receiver plugs into the AEs USB socket and from there can be used to control iTunes on any computer (PC or Mac) that's connected to the AE. You can also connect the receiver directly to the computer and control any application (DVD player, other music player etc) but sadly no-one has worked out how to get the AE to send that info back to the connected computer just yet.
While the AE and Keyspan remote solution is not as user friendly as, say, a Roku SoundBridge it has the added advantages that the AE brings to the equation - a fully functional, very portable wireless base station ideal for getting a couple of computers sharing a DSL connection in a hurry.
It wouldn't surprise me if later versions of the AE (hopefully with firmware updates for this one) support Video streaming (although as the TV doesn't have a USB or Cat5 input I'm not sure how we'd connect ! I'm surprised the unit didn't include Firewire as that is becoming more common on, especially, Sony AV equipment) and allow other applications to stream audio to it (although SlipStream from Rogue Amoeba promises to bring that to light sooner) and maybe Bluetooth to facilitate other remote control options...