Rocki Play review: Knockout bargain Rocki punches up your audio system with Spotify

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MSRP: $49.00

Rocki Play (black)

(Part #: RCK-P101-02)
4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

5 stars 1 user review

The Good At only $49, the Rocki Wi-Fi music dongle is a ridiculously good value with sterling performance and ease of use. It's one of the cheapest ways to get Spotify Connect, so you can stream directly from the Spotify app on your Android or iOS device to an existing audio system. The onboard battery means you can take the Rocki on the go. The device is even easier to set up than Sonos, and the Rocki app is unexpectedly slick. It offers better range and audio quality than a Bluetooth dongle.

The Bad No Internet radio; compared to Sonos' mesh system the Rocki's Wi-Fi is more susceptible to dropouts; no speakers, so it requires a separate audio playback system with a 3.5mm or RCA input; iOS app currently not as robust as Android app.

The Bottom Line It's no Sonos, but the Rocki Play is an incredibly affordable and user-friendly wireless streaming device, and the most cost-effective way to add Spotify Connect to your system.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Sound quality 7.0
  • Value 10.0

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 Link Mate multi-room adapter.

But why should it cost so much? This is the question that Rocki asks with its Play device. It's 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.

As of January 2015, Rocki now supports the excellent Spotify Connect feature, which means you can use the Spotify app on your Android phone or tablet to play music wirelessly on your home audio system. Add in DLNA and mobile streaming, and you have a very talented device for the money.

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.

As far as competition at this price is concerned, there is only the $49 Gramafon Spotify streamer (normally $89) which appears to offer better build quality but lacks Rocki's depth of features. Apart from that, the Beep and the original Phorus Receiver both run $150 but are underwhelming at best. Meanwhile Bluetooth dongles cost about the same, and offer basically universal music compatibility, but suffer from short range and poor sound quality.

If you're looking for an easy way to get wireless, phone-controlled Spotify or DLNA music happening in your house, there is currently nothing better at this price than the Rocki Play.

Editors' note: This review was updated January 29, 2015, to account for the addition of Spotify Connect. The sub-ratings for Features and Value have been increased, improving the the overall rating from 7.7 (3.5 stars) to 8.2 (4 stars).

Design

rocki-play-product-photos08.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

If this was a beauty contest, the Rocki would come dead last, even if it managed to kill off all the other contestants. 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.

rocki-play-product-photos07.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The device features only two ports -- a 3.5mm output and a Micro-USB for power -- plus a boot/reset button. All the hardware you'll need is 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 has 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 may preserve the battery longer than WAV files, for example.

rocki-play-product-photos01.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The single LED located by the power inputs indicates connectivity and battery level.

Features

While the dongle isn't much to look at, nor should it be, really, the accompanying app is very easy on the eyes. The Rocki Android app features a slick user interface and is very simple to operate.

While there is also an iOS app it lacks the streaming services (below) offered by the Android version, though Rocki tells us an updated app is coming in the next month. Spotify Connect did work using an iPhone in my testing, however, making it a good choice for Spotify subscribers with iOS devices who don't own an AirPlay device like an Apple TV.

rocki1.jpg
Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

At present there are four apps within the Rocki application: Deezer, SoundCloud, Last.FM (scrobbling only) and Danish service Familystream.

Third-party support also exists for Spotify Connect, and that's how most people will now probably use it. Just open up the Spotify app in Android or iOS and connect to the Rocki directly (here's a walkthrough). Just be aware that if you want to use Spotify Connect you'll need to be a paid subscriber, not on a free account.

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