Over the past few years, we've seen a new product category emerge for music lovers who hate the fact that their music is seemingly locked to a laptop or desktop computer. Sure, a wire can patch audio into that big sound system, but the ideal situation will always be a wireless one.
We've already taken a look at various efforts from a diverse mix of manufacturers, all of which explore the wireless options for getting audio from a laptop to an AV receiver. The latest, from mobile media pioneer Orb, approaches the concept from a different angle. The MP-1 Music Player not only lets the user stream audio from a laptop to a receiver, but also to a cell phone anywhere.
While the setup is incredibly easy and the mobile software support is admirable, the MP-1 has its fair share of frustrations. But because it's priced affordably at $70, it may be the most logical and carefree option currently available on the market.
The Orb MP-1 Music Player boasts a minimalist design. The player itself is about the size of a hockey puck, just a bit thinner. On it are two connections, a mini USB for power (which we had no issues connecting to an open port on our cable box), and a 1/8-inch headphone jack for use with the included breakout RCA stereo audio cable.
That about covers design; in the box you'll also find a USB cable and power adapter
Where the Orb MP-1 wins has to be its astonishingly easy setup process. In less than 10 minutes, we had our iTunes music library streaming to our AV receiver.
After downloading and installing the Orb Caster software for Mac or PC, a one-time USB connection must be made with the MP-1 and the computer hosting the media to be shared. An initial handshaking process completes and the MP-1 is ready to go.
Of course you'll need to enter your Wi-Fi security settings in the Orb installation wizard, as the system will use your home network as a bridge for streaming. Here, you can also assign what you'd like shared and accessed by the Orb Controller--the mobile software that will control your media.
The Orb Controller software is available for iOS and Android platforms. We tested both out and will comment on their respective performances below. Frustrating as it may sound, there is no Orb Controller software available for OSX or Windows computers. This means that you cannot use a computer to control your music. After a healthy amount of research and a few phone calls, we learned that Orb is indeed working on a native application to do such a thing, but it's currently only in the works.
In order for your media to be streamed locally and anywhere in the world, the host computer must be left on and connected to the Internet. This is the case with all server-based products, so it's a good thing to take into consideration when purchasing systems like the MP-1.