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Orb MP-1 Music Player review: Orb MP-1 Music Player

Orb MP-1 Music Player

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
5 min read

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.


Orb MP-1 Music Player

The Good

Wirelessly streams audio using home Wi-Fi network; affordable; easy to use and set up; good sound quality; Sirius and Pandora support; mobile access to media; iOS and Android, Windows and Mac OSX platforms all supported.

The Bad

Source computer must remain on; Orb Controller apps occasionally sluggish; software limits playlists to 100 tracks; strains home network bandwidth; no Orb Controller app currently for Windows or Mac.

The Bottom Line

For the price of $70, we're not sure there's an easier-to-use or more practical device out there that will give you local and mobile access to your media like the Orb MP-1.

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.

The complete Orb MP-1 system is simple to set up and only requires one permanent wired connection.

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.

Performance and features
Aesthetically speaking, we couldn't discern a noticeable difference in sound between the MP-1 and any other wireless laptop-to-receiver solution we've tested. We immediately put the MP-1 up against similar functioning devices like the Creative Sound Blaster Wireless System and Aperion Home Audio Link, in which sound quality remained strong across the board.

Because there is no line-of-sight to deal with as with other products we've tested, we never had any cutout unless we extended our source laptop from the range of Wi-Fi coverage. That said, there was a healthy amount of lag on our home network when using the Orb streaming service.

The MP-1 system can also stream audio to DLNA devices like certain HDTVs, Blu-ray players, and other media players. We had no problem getting our Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 gaming consoles to recognize the feed as well.

The Orb Controller can also access your Pandora account and direct its feed to the MP-1. If you have a Sirius satellite radio account, the same can be done with that service as well.

Software and mobile access
Both the Android and iOS versions of the Orb Controller software are nearly identical in terms of look. Performance-wise, we did have an easier time loading and navigating through the app on our HTC Evo. At times, our iPod Touch felt a bit sluggish and occasionally became unresponsive. Of course newer hardware may run the software better, so your mileage may vary.

Regardless, the software does suffer from a few frustrations no matter which platform. For instance, playlists are limited to 100 tracks. No matter how many songs are queued up, the Orb Controller will automatically chop the list down to 100.

Also, while switching tracks occurs within 2 seconds, we experienced up to five times that for the track information to update onscreen. It's by no means a deal breaker, but it would be nice to be able to see what track is playing right away rather than waiting for the system to catch up.

What the Orb MP-1 system offers that no other one we reviewed does is mobile access to your entire music library. If you sign up (for free) for an Orb account, the service will create a personalized URL at Mycast.orb.com that can be accessed via a mobile browser.

For the price of $70, we're not sure there's an easier-to-use or more practical device out there that will give you mobile access to your media like the MP-1. Controlling media locally with an iOS or Android device is mostly a breeze and is certainly more convenient than lugging a laptop around. While iTunes-only users may want to look back at the Apple AirPort Express Base Station, the MP-1 will still allow for more flexibility.

The MP-1 won't replace expensive master systems like what Sonos offers, but is certainly worth a look for the music fan who wants to cut the cord that's tethering their music to their laptop.


Orb MP-1 Music Player

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7