The arrival of the Roku SoundBridge model M500 was delayed due to last week’s freak snowstorm. Friday’s deliveries were postponed till Monday. But on Monday it was delivered.
Very First Impressions.
- It’s small and light.
- It’s unobtrusive and basically attractive.
- There’s no massive powerbrick, a small one instead.
- The end caps direct the wiring out the back effectively hiding it.
- The small wireless card has both advantages and disadvantages.
The First Oops!
The cable to connect the audio output of the SoundBridge to the AUX input of in my case`the TEAC radio were RCA Phono to mini-plug. I fully, and dare I say naturally expected RCA to RCA cables, but none were to be found in the package. In fact, the manual said they would have to be purchased separately. Not a simple task in an announced state of emergency where unnecessary driving was forbidden. At least I had electrical power so I persevered and dug up an A/V cable and used the audio connectors on that cable to hook-up the SoundBridge to the Teac.
Plugged the unit into the power and inserted the wireless B card as well a plugging in a 25 foot Ethernet cable. The cable was already there from the Linksys Wireless B Music System. I figured I could switch between wired and wireless mode as needed – for example, when using the laptop with a wireless G card I could switch to Ethernet to not slowdown the laptop’s connection.
Well, it doesn’t work that way. If the wireless card is inserted into the SoundBridge then wireless mode is used, no questions asked.
When you power up the unit for the first time it asks for language of choice, default is English, and your time zone so it can correctly set the time.
On the plus side when you first turn on the unit it searches out available networks and lets you select from what it finds. Other than password setup there’s really nothing more involved in connecting to the network. Entering say your WEP key is a bit awkward at fist but becomes quite easy after the first time you do it. You use the up and down keys on the remote (batteries included) to select between character sets (such as numbers, lower or upper case letters, special character, etc). The left and right keys scroll through the elements of each set and the select key on the remote enters the character. In one set of characters you find ‘OK’ to finish and enter into the system the key.
The advtage of the small wireless card is that it can be replaced by a wireless G card if Roku sells one. The disadvantage is that if you don’t plan on using it you have to mke sure you don’t lose it. Keep it in a safe location that you will remember.
Looking For Updates
Once you are network connected it will connect to the Internet and check for a software update. This is a nice feature since who remembers when to manually check for yourself. It found an update, downloaded it and asked if it should install it. The update went smoothly and the unit rebooted itself as needed.
At this point you are`presented with a list of music servers running on your network as well as some additional choices such as system configuration menus that let you change and/or view various settings.
I connected to the SlimServer running on my XP Pro desktop with all the media files located on it. Was given the option of selecting by artist, genre, playlist, etc. I tried a few songs and an audiobook paylist and had no problems. The sound quality on the Teac was great, that will be limited by your sound system, of course.
Supposedly Apple’s iTunes can be used as a server but after setting it up I could not get it to work. With iTunes being a bit of a resource pig I wouldn’t want it running constantly anyway.
I haven’t tested this fully yet but the sound is generally quite good. With the software update the unit can play both MP3 and WMA streams. It comes with a list of default streams that you can select from. There’s a good variety there, but you can modify those via a web browser on your computers after you enable this feature in the system configuration. You can always disable it again after making any changes. The unit itself is not password protected.
When testing some of the streams such as the built-in BBC stream or a WMA stream of Air America Radio that I added, the unit’s display would say "Trying stream 1… Trying stream 2…" and never find a stream it could play. I’ll find other streams that do work with the device and manually add them. Things like the built-in NPR streams played very well. Once I find some streams I really enjoy I’ll report back with more on this feature.
The Remote and Oops 2
The remote is nice and not too large. It is curved for hand comfort which means it’s not as stable as it could be when lying on a table or headboard of a bed. Otherwise fine.
Oops 2 is that that I just haven’t been able to figure out fast forward and rewind. The manual only mentions next and previous. More on this when I do understand it.
Btw, if you lose the remote due plan on purchasing a new one. There are no controls on the unit itself. Everything is done via the remote.
I’m pleased with the unit.