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Streaming Audio in Your Home

Here are new devices that work with iPods, iPhones and Androids

En español | Streaming Audio: What Is It?

Streaming audio on the Web is the new FM radio. In the past decade, many commercial radio stations and private individuals have taken to the Web as their primary platform for distributing music, news, comedy, talk radio and almost any genre of audio imaginable. As long as you have an Internet connection and a computer or Web-enabled device, you'll most likely be able to tune into literally hundreds of thousands of Internet radio stations, regardless of where you are in the world. A few examples of websites that help you find music and other audio you may like are SHOUTcast.com and Pandora.com.

Digital Music

— Magictorch

Orb Music Player
While the Sonos system delivers exceptional audio, reliable wireless performance and smart apps to control it all, it's a premium-priced product that might be out of reach for some.

An inexpensive but effective alternative for streaming music around the home is the new Orb Music Player from Orb Networks ($69 each). This product, however, requires an existing stereo system.

The aptly named Orb is a small, round gadget about the size of a hockey puck. When connected to your stereo or speakers, it can wirelessly pull music from your computer's iTunes library or favorite online radio service, and — like the Sonos — it's controlled via a free app for iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, as well as Android-powered smartphones.

Setup takes about five minutes. After downloading and installing the Orb Caster software, you'll first be prompted to connect the Orb to your computer's USB port. Then you can take the Orb anywhere in your home, plug it into the line-in jack on your stereo system or speakers, and also connect it to an electrical outlet (all cables included). Note: You also have to have a wireless (Wi-Fi) network. The last step is to install the free app to control your music remotely.

An intuitive iTunes-like interface on your smartphone, media player or tablet lets you use a fingertip to switch between songs stored on your computer's hard drive, or you can stream from various online services, such as Pandora, SIRIUS Satellite Radio and others. The Orb Controller app also lets you control volume, pause tracks and access programmed playlists from iTunes.

As with the Sonos, you can connect multiple Orbs to as many stereos or speakers in your home as you like, and stream different music to each room — all at the same time, if desired.

This affordable and easy-to-use device is an ideal bridge between your computer's music — whether stored on your hard drive on from an online service — and your stereo.

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