Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review: Roku Soundbridge

After the prior disappointment with the Logitech Squeezebox, I decided to give the Roku Soundbridge a try.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much. The vacuum fluorescent display looked cheesy, even on Amazon's web page, and the remote definitely wasn't the snazzy WiFi-compatible one that the Squeezebox had.

The good news is the packaging is very nice. Not nice the way Apple defines it, where unboxing is supposed to be an experience in itself, but nice in the way that I like it --- the plastic box snaps open, pieces aren't wrapped in fancy packaging, and it comes with all the cables I wanted. Even the power plug plays nice with my power strip.

Unlike most dedicated audio systems, there aren't RCA jacks but instead there's just a 3.5mm mini plug. That didn't bother me, since I already had one of those plugged into the receiver for MP3 players, phones, etc. I already had a Firefly server running on my NAS, so I plugged it in and turned it on.

The setup process is intuitive and easy, and really short. Select language, region, time zone, and the wireless network. Then the system reboots itself, and automatically picked up my Firefly server! Sweet! Streaming 320bps VBR MP3s, it sounds great, and I can't complain. It even displays the Japanese song titles on my Miyuki Nakajima tracks!

The downside is I have to create playlists on my Firefly server instead of just importing it from iTunes or Media Monkey. I can live with that. I paid $165 on Amazon's web-site just 2 days ago, but it looks like the price has gone up. Even at $199, though I'll give this little machine an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up. Highly recommended!

Yes, I'm aware that the Soundbridge is an orphaned product, but seriously, if I got 3-5 years out of it, it'll be money well spent. Maybe someone will steal the design and make a clone. Something this good deserves a second chance.
[Update: Greg says you can buy the Soundbridge at Roku's store for $130. At that price, it's a steal.]
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