One of the best things about summer is enjoying the great outdoors. For my family, that means evenings on our back patio, grilling out and taking pleasure in what nature has to offer. Unfortunately, unless we hook up a portable device, we often have to do this without one of our other great pleasures, music.
No one should be limited from enjoying their music by the confines of their house. Fortunately the engineers at Soundcast could not agree with me more and they have created the OutCast model to help it.
Includes iCast transmitter dock for use with the Apple iPod
Allows connection of other audio devices using the auxiliary input/output jack
Transmits signals up to 350 feet outdoors
Features pause/play, track forward/backward buttons to remotely operate iPod
One 8â€ downward firing woofer
Four 3â€ high frequency drivers in an omni-directional array
100 watt digital amplifier
Made of water resistant plastic
Operates for up to 10 hours on the built-in, rechargeable NiMH battery pack
Internal AC power supply that can recharge the NiMH battery pack and operate the system at the same time
Transmitters constantly searches for open channels in the 2.4GHz band to avoid interference
Power Cord (for OutCast Receiver)
AC/DC Adapter (for iCast Transmitter)
3.5 mm Mini to RCA cable
3.5 Mini to Mini cable
It became obvious at first sight of the box, the Soundcast OutCast is not a small device. Unloading the unit from the box, my first impression was confirmed, the OutCast receiver stands at approximately 26 inches tall.
The height was not my only surprise. The receiver is heavier than I expected too. Weighing in at just less than 30 pounds, you can definitely get a workout by lugging the unitâ€™s receiver around.
The height and weight combination can make it difficult to move. If you have ever picked up a keg of beer, that is what I am reminded of when moving the receiver, although thankfully it is not quite as heavy. Still, I think the receiver is very portable.
In terms of looks, the iCast transmitter is predominately white in color and has a nice, futuristic look to it and a small footprint that allows it to sit nicely on table space.
The receiver is light gray in color and has a cylinder shape to it. The shape slightly tapers from a circumference of approximately 37 inches at the bottom to 32 at the top. It is not terribly eye-catching but then again, I think it is design to be as inconspicuous as possible.
The iCast transmitter has no user functions available but does have two lights, one to indicate it is receiver power, while the other light illuminates when it is transmitting to the receiver.
The OutCast receiver has seven buttons on top. The buttons from left to right are:
On the side, towards the top are the input jack and the channel switch, both protected by a connected rubber cover.
At the bottom, the connector for the power cord is located on the side. Again, a rubber cover is connected to protect the component when not in use.
The receiver is supported by four, rubber covered legs on the bottom. They elevate the device more then an inch off the floor and provide great support.
The initial set-up is very simple. The most difficult piece is installing the battery in the bottom of the receiver and I doubt that will cause you to break a sweat.
Speaking of battery the NiMH battery is supposed to provide up to 10 hours of operating time. I stopped my test satisfied with 8 hours and 21 minutes on constant use. One of the nice things is that, using the power cord, you can use the receiver while you are charging the battery.
Ok, with set-up complete I placed the iPod Nano in the iCast transmitter, which was located in my study towards the front of my house, took the receiver out back on our patio and let the music play.
I was immediately impressed by the sound quality emitted from the wireless connection from the transmitter to receiver. Ranging from low to high, the sound is extraordinary.
Speaking of high, the OutCast receiver will definitely allow you to rock the neighborhood. I know that I did not hit the max volume level but I did get it loud enough to know that this device can shake the foundations. The combination of the four omni-directional speakers, 100 watt digital amplifier and 8â€ downward firing woofer deliver great sound.
I never experienced any issues with the wireless connection, no hiccups or interference with other wireless devices. I found the wireless strength to be great and even though, you have the option to change between three wireless channels, I found no need.
The system uses Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology to keep the 2.4GHz signal strong and without interference. FHSS is also used in Bluetooth devices. Besides keeping the signal strong and clear, it also allows as many as three systems to co-exist without disruption.
I put the transmitter in the front of my house and took the receiver to my backyard, about 250 feet away with two walls (one an exterior) in between, and experienced no issue. I cannot imagine requiring much more space between the two devices but the product specs state a range of 350 feet.
The only issue I had with the controls on the receiver was with the previous and next track buttons. Sometimes I pushed too hard and skipped multiple tracks, other times I did not push hard enough and it failed to register. Overall the controls on the receiver work pretty well. You do have to push the buttons pretty hard but I attribute that to the weatherproofing incorporated by the manufacturers.
Speaking of controls, the light feature on the receiver is pretty neat. A blue light, emitted from the bottom of the receiver, shines towards the ground. The light has two levels and it adds nice ambience to those times on the patio after the sun has set.
The one complaint I found in testing the Soundcast via the wireless transmitter was the fact that there is no display screen accessible on the receiver. So if you are using the next and previous track buttons on the receiver, you have no way of knowing what the next track will be until the music starts to play.
The iCast transmitterâ€™s functionality extends past just docking your iPod to charge and play music. You can connect it to your computer, amplifier or home audio system.
After I sufficiently tested the wireless connection, I plugged in the iPod Nano via the input jack and found that not much changed. Sound quality was equally great. The buttons used to control the transmitter no longer work, which makes sense, because you are not using the transmitter and the iPod is right there.
In conclusion, I found the sound quality of the Soundcast system to be great. The strong wireless connection between the transmitter and receiver, plus the ability to move the receiver gives the user a great amount of flexibility in extending listening options to the outdoors.
At $700, the price of the unit is the largest negative, but at least Soundcast is offering some deals on their website, including no sale tax, 30-day money back guarantee and free shipping. Every little bit counts.
That said I could definitely see getting a lot of use out of the Soundcast system while relaxing by the pool, grilling on the patio or tailgating at your favorite sporting event. Plus, nothing says that you are restricted to using the device outside the house. You can use it to extend your music to the 2nd floor or in your basement. Wherever we go, it is great to be able to take our music with us.