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Ever since Sonos entered the marketplace we've all seemed to accept, if begrudgingly, that wireless streaming adapters for your existing stereo should cost $350. Even Samsung adheres to that pricing with its forthcoming Link Mate.
But why should it cost so much? This is the question that Rocki asks with its new Play device: a Wi-Fi music dongle that connects to your existing hi-fi system for only $49 in the US, £40 in the UK and AU$68 in Australia.
You'd expect something this cheap to be a little rough around the edges, and from a hardware perspective you'd be right, but the software is surprisingly slick and easy to use. The main downside is that the Rocki is still very limited in terms of the music you can actually play through it: basically, the songs on your phone's internal memory. No Spotify or Pandora support, nor is there any DLNA support available yet.
But as far as competition at this price is concerned, the Rocki doesn't have any: the closest devices available in the US are the Beep and the Phorus Receiver, both of which run $150 and are underwhelming at best. Its next closest competitors are Bluetooth dongles that cost about the same, offer basically universal music compatibility, but suffer from short range and poor sound quality.
If you're looking for a cheap and easy way to get multiroom music happening in your house, there is currently nothing better than the Rocki Play.
If this was a beauty contest, the Rocki would come dead last, even if it managed to kill off all the other competitors. This is a small, rock-shaped device that comes in a rubber shell -- with a truckload of different colored skins to choose from! -- but underneath, it's a fairly nondescript plastic blob. The upside is that it's easy to put out of sight; just dangle it off the back of your stereo if you want.
The device features only three ports: a 3.5mm output, a Micro-USB for power, and a boot/reset button. All the hardware you'll need are included in the box: a USB power adapter and two audio cables, a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm jack as well as a 3.5mm-to-stereo RCA cable.
The Rocki features an onboard battery that the company says is good for up to four hours of playback, though that will presumably depend on the complexity and size of the files you send through it -- MP3s will last longer than WAV files, for example.
The single LED located by the power inputs indicates connectivity and battery level.
While the dongle isn't much to look at, and neither really should it be, the accompanying app is very easy on the eyes. The Rocki Android app -- iOS is yet to come -- features a slick user interface and is very simple to operate.
At present there are two apps in the Rocki offering: Soundcloud and Last.FM (scrobbling only)--but the company promises there will be more to come, including Spotify.