Wirelessly stream Internet radio and your digital music collection to your hifi
The Noxon 2 from Terratec aims to handle all your audio needs by streaming both your private digital music collection and the thousands of free Internet radio stations currently available direct to your hi-fi.
The rather odd design combines a Mac Mini style case with a large LCD display that hangs rather ungainly over the front.
Terratec tells us it will soon be releasing a speaker attachment for the Noxon 2 that will sit directly under the main unit - this will also give it a slightly more conventional appearance. Pricing and a release date for this optional extra aren't available as yet.
An antennae pokes out from the rear and, should you prefer a wired connection, an Ethernet port is also available. Both analogue and digital (optical) audio outputs are provided, along with a headphone socket and USB port for hooking up a portable audio player or USB key full of music.
As far as ease of use goes, the Noxon 2 excels. Thanks to the intuitive menu system and installation wizard, we had it hooked up to our wpa-encrypted wireless network in a matter of seconds.
With the supplied Twonkyvision software installed on your PC, the Noxon 2 will be able to access any mp3 and wma files stored on your hard drive - this includes those wma files with DRM (digital rights management).
The Noxon 2 is a UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) device and will therefore also talk to any UPnP NAS (network attached storage) drives on your network.
The advantage of using a NAS is you don't have to have your PC constantly switched on to provide the Noxon 2 with content.
Along with locally stored music files, the Noxon 2 is also able to access the plethora of Internet radio stations available. A huge collection of stations are pre-loaded (around 2,500), but you can also add any others you might know of.
With so many to choose from, it's a good thing the Noxon 2 lets you search through the mass of stations by genre and country.
Audio quality obviously depends on the bit rate of the station. It's also worth remembering that if you're listening to Internet radio all day it will start eating up your broadband package's usage cap (should you have one).
The included remote is reasonably easy to use. A nice touch are the smiley face (this adds the current playing track to your favourites) and the sad face (for those songs you've grown out of) buttons.
If you temporarily lose the controller, track and menu navigation buttons are located on the top of the device.
We tried out the Noxon 2 with Iomega's Storcenter and although it worked, we did find it a fair bit slower than when using it with the Twonkyvision software running on a PC.
There was no problem in terms of playing audio, but browsing through the music library often involved some frustrating 10 second pauses.
The Internet radio feature worked well - being able to listen to stations from all over the world is quite an experience. However, you're at the mercy of the chosen bit rate of the station you're listening to and, of course, the reliability of their servers.
One final point worth making is that Terratec has obviously gone to great lengths with the user manual.
It isn't often you get such in-depth printed documentation with a device such as this and it goes much further than just describing the basic features. You'll find a guide to wireless networking and how to resolve any problems you might have.
If you want an easy way to listen to Internet radio and the ability to stream your own music collection to your lounge stereo, the Noxon 2 is definitely worth considering.
Pros: Easy to use; works well; good documentation Cons: Use with a NAS can be slow; Internet radio quality varies wildly Overall: The Noxon 2 gives you great way to listen to Internet radio and your own music collection through your hifi
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