Often when a client posits adding a new area of music, the custom installer’s mind fills with all manner of complex possibilities: amplifier requirements, retrofitting speaker wiring inside walls and through the attic, which control option to utilize, and programming time. This generally results in hours of labor along with equipment costs and sometimes puts the kybosh on what the client thought was just a simple, “I’d just like some audio in my patio” request.
While this approach is often the correct route, other times the solution can be both ridiculously simple and good, which is certainly the case with Russound’s new AirGo Outdoor speaker ($399).
Russound’s AirGo Outdoor is a simple, one-package solution for adding a new zone of music, utilizing Apple’s AirPlay wireless music streaming technology.
The AirGo Outdoor is a stupidsimple, one-package solution for adding a new zone of music, utilizing Apple’s AirPlay wireless music streaming technology. Instead of reinventing the wheel or embedding an AirPlay chip into new technology, Russound merely mated a high-quality, stereo-summing, weatherproof loudspeaker with an amplifier in a case with a sealed housing designed to hold an Apple AirPort Express (sold separately). Once the AirPort Express (APX) is installed and configured, you have AirGo Outdoor, which is a fully portable, weatherresistant, self-contained AirPlay speaker.
Installation revolves entirely around installing and configuring the APX. Removing the AirGo’s back panel reveals a weather-tight, gasket-sealed area designed to hold the APX, with power and mini-jack audio connections on hand to ease installation. The APX offers a variety of configuration options, but essentially it can be configured as a standalone–where it does not have internet access but creates a point-to-point network that could work anywhere–as a client, or as a repeater on an existing WiFi network.
Once configured, the AirGo Outdoor is ready to rock. And I do mean rock, as this thing can play loud. The housing allows you to tilt the speaker and–as it is presumably going to be sitting on the ground or a table–Russound recommends angling it toward listeners. There is no provision for mounting the speaker, but because it’s designed to be mobile, this is probably no big deal. Though no flyweight at 16 pounds, it’s easy to imagine people toting it around with the integrated handle and temporarily adding music where they want. (Until you sell them a second or third one that is.) Besides pool and backyard parties, the AirGo would make a perfect companion as you wash the car, not having to worry about any errant suds or spray killing your tech. Or, with the AXP configured in point-to-point mode, AirGo can provide an awesome addition to a tailgate party (provided you had a power inverter). It does require a power connection–no battery option–which will limit some of its mobile entertainment uses.
I streamed music from both my iPad and PC using iTunes with no problems, save typical occasional AirPlay “drop outs.” (Non-iTunes, PC users could also use programs like AirFoil to broadcast tunes.) The AirGo appears in your list of available AirPlay devices, you select it, and then music starts playing. It’s really that simple, meaning clients will understand and love it. And since it utilizes well-known iOS interfaces, clients will be immediately at home.
I could also broadcast Pandora and YouTube audio to the AirGo from my iPad, which added to the cool. As my Marantz pre-pro is also AirPlay enabled, I could enable a rudimentary “multiroom” music distribution system, selecting both devices and beaming the same content to them simultaneously. In “multi-speaker” mode, you are given independent volume control with no discernible sync delay. While I would have liked a local volume adjustment on the speaker, there is a soft-touch mute button on the front that glows green during normal operation or red when muted. One thing I didn’t like is if I muted volume at the unit, I couldn’t un-mute it from my iPad or computer.
As a product designed to fuel outdoor parties and the like, the AirGo needs to pump out the volume without distorting or running out of gas to be successful, and this it delivers with no trouble. The dual voice coil 6.5-inch woofer and two threequarter- inch tweeters produce a surprising amount of audio that is not only loud, but has bas depth that sounds far lower than a single speaker of its size should produce and didn’t strain even at neighborbothering volume levels. (Surely the scant 6 inches of wire from amp to speaker helps.) For a single speaker, it also produces a nice, wide “wall” of sound that works well in the great wide open of the outdoors.
The AirGo Outdoor is proof that sometimes the simplest route between two points is a straight, wireless one. It also delivers so much performance and flexibility that it will likely “close” additional sales on the project after it’s installed. “You mean, I just add one of those, into any room that I want music? Really? It’s that simple?” Yes, really. It’s that simple.
Makes it amazingly simple to add audio to any area; full, rich sound; utilizes wellknown iOS interface
No local volume control; no provision to run on batteries
• Requires Apple AirPort Express (sold separately)
• Weatherproof speaker and amp housing designed to withstand the elements
• 6.5-inch woofer and dual 3/4-inch tweeters play stereo signals from single speaker
• Dimensions: (H x W x L): 12.6 x 12.9 x 10.9 (inches, H x W x D); 16.25 pounds w/o APX installed