This cost-effective range makes distributed audio available to all, says James Vesey
Music around the home has long been a dream for many but until relatively recently it’s meant either having separate systems in each room or running cables all over the house. Wireless technology such as the excellent Sonos system has made distributed music much simpler, while just about every hi‑fi manufacturer is adding wireless music equipment to its range.
However, for many people, the need is for a rather simpler set-up than these separates and systems offer. Many just want a way of getting music from Point A to Point B without running cables or – even simpler – fancy the idea of a surround-sound system but without the need to run cables round the room. Responding to those requirements is a range of wireless music components from Rocketfish, a “house brand” of Best Buy – the US-based electrical/electronics retailer now opening huge stores here.
There’s a wireless sender unit, able to take up to four channels of input at either pre‑out or speaker level, a two-channel line-level sender/receiver, a stereo wireless receiver/amplifier with 2x45W output, and a 22W active outdoor speaker.
A Wireless HD Audio Starter Kit, comprising wireless sender and receiver/amp, sells for £160, and extra receiver/amps £100. The line-level sender/receiver is £50 and the outdoor speaker £180 complete with sender.
You could use the Starter Kit to make rear channels wireless in a 5.1 system or add on a second receiver/amp and run all four surround speakers in a 7.1-channel system wirelessly. You don’t even need an AV receiver with pre‑amplifier outputs for the rear channels.
For multi-room audio, the kit can deliver audio to up to nine receiver/amps, or line-level sender/receivers if you have an existing amplifier or system where you want music. You could connect two stereo inputs to the sender and switch between them at the receiver end: perhaps you could have TV sound on one stereo “channel” and the output from a tuner on the other, and flick between them wherever in the house you’re listening.
The Rocketfish system transmits on the 2.4GHz band and claims “HD” sound quality, plus resistance to interference from other wireless and domestic appliances. The range of the sender in the starter package is around 15m but the line-level sender/receiver extends that to up to 50m: I had no problems with signal quality or interference, despite there being a lot of other wireless equipment in use.
The sound quality is more than adequate for the job. I wouldn’t choose the receiver/amplifier as my main “serious listening” source of music in a room, as the sound is slightly clouded and lacking in the frequency extremes, but, as a means of delivering background music or surround channels, it does the job very well and is more than good enough for a kitchen or other “occasional listening” location.
The drawback is in the amplification. Using the unit at line-level into another amplifier puts the spark back into the sound and makes the virtues of the system much more apparent.
I tried the components in a variety of configurations, even braving the winter chill to have a brief listen to the outdoor speaker in the garden – verdict: not great but, again, good enough for some gentle background music in the summer – and whether feeding audio in from a computer headphone socket or via the tape outs of my main system, found the presentation entirely enjoyable, and the system both simple to set up and reliable.
I really think Best Buy could be on to something with this highly affordable and very effective range.
Rocketfish Wireless Music System
Type FM/DAB/internet radio tuner/streaming client
Price Wireless HD Audio Starter Kit £160, Receiver/Amplifier £100, Sender/Receiver £50, Outdoor Speaker £180 (with Sender/Receiver)
Inputs Four channels at line/speaker level (Wireless HD Kit sender), stereo line level (sender/receiver)
Outputs Two channels at speaker level (receiver/amplifier), stereo line level (sender/receiver)
Output power 2x45W (receiver/amplifier),
22W (outdoor speaker)
Accessories supplied Power supplies,
all connecting cables
Dimensions (WxHxD) 21x6.5x15cm (sender), 23x6.5x15cm (receiver/amplifier), 12x2.5x8.25cm (sender/receiver), 23x40x23cm (outdoor speaker)
Made by Rocketfish, Richfield, MN, USA
Distributed by Best Buy UK, PO Box 361, Southampton SO30 2LX
Tel 0333 777 7777