The SoundBridge Home Music's body reminded us of nothing more than a rather silvery box of Pringles. Perhaps we're just hungry. That being said, it's still an excellent way to describe how the unit itself looks; it's a thin tube with an embedded LED display. It comes with a small rubber stand -- as it would otherwise naturally roll away. Simple connectors on the back are provided for audio, headphones, power and a single SD card slot. As such, the SoundBridge Home Music rates highly with us for ease of setup, as on the hardware side you'd have to be doing something monumentally stupid to get things wrong.
The remote control that ships with the HomeMusic is on the basic side, and it relies almost exclusively on printed pictograms to convey button usage.
The HomeMusic is primarily a home music server, although it does also offer streaming Internet radio. How you stream the music to the HomeMusic is up to you; it'll support streaming from compatible UPnP enabled storage devices, as well as Rhapsody, Slimserver, Firefly and MusicMatch Jukebox streaming. Once you've set up a music library, it's a fairly simple procedure to point the connected HomeMusic device to it and begin playback. iTunes libraries are supported, but as with most non-Apple products, there's no facility to stream protected AAC files. What does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, it means that any music purchased from the iTunes store won't play back on the HomeMusic. It's hardly alone in this category for music streamers, but it's a limitation that's well worth bearing in mind.
While the physical setup of the Soundbridge HomeMusic was simplicity itself, the same cannot be said for connecting it to a wireless network. There's no hardwired ethernet port -- and arguably, for a device that's only going to stream music, that's fair enough -- but wireless mode only works with a maximum of WEP level security. There's no provision for WPA, and entering a WEP password is a torturous procedure that cost us a certain amount of torn hair. Undoubtedly, it would be simpler to omit wireless security entirely, and for the purposes of our review we did this briefly, but it bears saying that running a wireless network with no security is a very, very bad idea indeed. We did it, so that you don't have to.
Once we'd sacrificed our wireless security, the HomeMusic performed quite well. The LCD display is quite small; if you were going to integrate it into a home A/V setup you'd need to be reasonably close to it in order to make anything out at all. Internet radio browsing was quick and painless, but as always with Internet radio, your experiences, even with the same stations, can vary quite widely depending on the connection and playlist.
At AU$259 the SoundBridge HomeMusic is a cheaper alternative to some of the flashier home music streamers we've seen such as Logitech's excellent (but hardly cheap), but it's also a significantly less useful one, especially given the severe limitations it places on your wireless security.