Motorola Simplefi review: Motorola Simplefi

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Wireless connection without compressing audio; easy to set up and use; upgradable firmware; nice price; solid documentation; plays streaming and downloaded music.

The Bad Requires live connection with computer; lacks built-in controls; small display; no WMA or Mac support; lacks hard drive; doesn't amplify audio.

The Bottom Line This digital audio receiver makes it simple to play computer-based MP3 files and Internet radio over your home stereo.

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Many digital audio receivers (DARs) add excessive complexity to the basic task of connecting a PC to a stereo. Motorola has addressed this with the design of the Simplefi, a streamlined DAR that's both user-friendly and powerful. As a smart twist, the Simplefi is wireless, enabling you to listen to Internet audio on your stereo system without introducing more wires into the home or degrading sound quality, as previous DARs have done. Many digital audio receivers (DARs) add excessive complexity to the basic task of connecting a PC to a stereo. Motorola has addressed this with the design of the Simplefi, a streamlined DAR that's both user-friendly and powerful. As a smart twist, the Simplefi is wireless, enabling you to listen to Internet audio on your stereo system without introducing more wires into the home or degrading sound quality, as previous DARs have done.

Design
The Simplefi is about the size of a typical hardcover book at 2 by 11 by 6 inches and sports a sparse design. On the front panel, there's a three-line screen that measures 3.75 by 1.0 inches and displays white text against an attractive, bluish-purple backlight. Unfortunately, song titles are hard to read at a distance of more than four feet--a drawback since you'll probably set up the Simplefi in your home-entertainment rack.

Oddly, there are no built-in front-panel controls. Instead, the small, slightly flimsy, 12-button remote control snaps onto the front of the Simplefi, where it functions as the device's control panel. While this helps keep the cost of the product low, a corner-cutting decision such as this has one main drawback: if you misplace the remote, you can't operate the unit.

Connectivity
Motorola took a basic approach to connectivity, including only the following rear-panel connections: a DC-power jack, a headphone minijack, and a stereo analog RCA output. We'd prefer to have a digital-audio output option as well, but luckily, the analog output sounds clean. Also, a TV output would have helped immensely with display readability since, as mentioned above, the LCD on the unit is too small to read at a distance.

In terms of setup, this unit is easier to attach to your computer than most DARs. First, we connected the supplied USB RF (radio frequency) transmitter for wireless connectivity to our PC--sorry, Mac users--and plugged the Simplefi into our stereo system. Then, we used the included SimpleServe Console software to set up a few Internet radio stations and add MP3s to the PC-based Media Manager library.

Features
Navigating channels, playlists, and tracks with the remote is no problem, provided you've configured the SimpleServe software and the song library properly. Media Manager organizes songs into playlists and playlists into channels, which is great for setting up longer listening programs. Online Guide offers Internet radio options--currently, MP3.com and Shoutcast stations. My Tags lets you flag songs as you listen (more on that below). Finally, Add Device manages the PC/Simplefi connection. All software features are exceptionally well designed and almost fun to use. But if you want to sort music by genre or album, you'll have to set up your own playlists since the Simplefi doesn't generate those tags automatically.

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Where to Buy

Motorola Simplefi

Part Number: 48575700100
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Connectivity wireless
  • Functions network audio player
  • Type network audio player
  • Supported Digital Audio Standards MP3