Mint 220 transmits music wirelessly up to 45 feet


November 04, 2008|By KEVIN HUNT | KEVIN HUNT,Hartford Courant

Just what this country needs to bring it together: a bipartisan music system that will not turn its back on a single iPod yet still address the nation's need to stream audio wirelessly from a computer.

The Mint 220 Wireless Digital Music Station begins with an everyman iPod dock fronting two speakers.

The Mint marks a new generation of speaker docks by adding a USB transmitter that mates with a PC or Mac for streaming audio up to 45 feet. This means you can connect the little USB transmitter to a computer in your den and stream music from your iTunes library to the Mint on a kitchen counter.

The 220 uses name-brand Peerless speaker drivers - a pair of 3.5-inch, full-range models - proprietary 2.4-gigahertz wireless technology called Di-Fi and two highly efficient 30-watt amplifiers-on-a-chip with Texas Instrument's PurePath Digital technology. The 220's compactness and wireless feature should prove inviting.

You won't need a thinking cap to get the 220 working. The dock has three basic mode pushbuttons: iPod, line-in (when connecting non-iPod music player, television or game console) and wireless. The remaining controls reside on Mint's side panels. A tiny remote also selects the mode and performs basic functions like skipping a song or play/pause, but it cannot access playlists or even turn off an iPod.

A PC will automatically recognize the Mint's USB transmitter. If it can stream Elvis' cover of "Fever" from a way-over-the-hill Windows 98 machine, it'll work with just about any computer and any media player. On my MacBook, I only had to select the Mint as the sound output in System Preferences. The USB transmitter, however, was almost too wide to fit next to another USB cable on my Macbook.

For its size, less than a foot wide and 3.5 pounds, the Mint sounded extremely good at moderate volumes. At higher volumes, sibilant vocals were too much for me. But if the stridency doesn't annoy, then the Mint will play as loud as you like: I measured it, at close distance, at 90 decibels.

Music delivered wirelessly lost maybe the slightest in the higher frequencies, but otherwise sounded identical to the original. Digital Signature says the Mint has a range up to 45 feet. With the transmitter moored downstairs in my MacBook, maybe 15 feet away, the 220 suffered occasional signal breakups. In a large room or even on the same floor of the house, the Mint will come much closer to its 45-foot range without breakups.

Usually, this wireless feature carries a substantial premium. The Mint 220, however, packages an iPod speaker dock and wireless streaming audio for $160. (The $100 Mint 200 is the same system without the USB transmitter.)

This Mint might not be made in America, but it's made for America.

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