Roku SoundBridge M1000

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Roku SoundBridge M1000
  • Roku SoundBridge M1000
  • Roku SoundBridge M1000

Pros

  • Stylish industrial design, outstanding functionality

Cons

  • Display can be hard to read from a distance

Bottom Line

Universal plug and play support, wireless and wired networking, and both analogue and digital outputs combine to make the Roku SoundBridge M1000 a top-notch network music player.

Would you buy this?

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Roku's SoundBridge M1000 is a snazzy piece of industrial design, built for piping digital audio from a PC (or Internet connection), to a home stereo. The M1000 itself is an aluminium cylinder 24.5cm long, and 6cm in diameter. Part of the cylinder is cut away at the front to house a VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) and infrared sensor, and plastic caps at each end hide cable and network connections.

It has an unusual shape, but the Roku looks great and works beautifully, with neat cable routing straight from the plastic end caps to the rear of the device. It also ships with a small rubber stand to help keep it from rolling around on a shelf, but the cylindrical design means it can sit with the display at any angle. Clever.

The right side has gold-plated RCA audio connectors, along with S/PDIF and coaxial digital outputs. The left conceals an Ethernet socket and CompactFlash slot that can be used to house a bundled 802.11b wireless network card if you'd rather go wireless. It should be noted that, at the time of writing, Roku was planning on updating the SoundBridge M1000, and the new model (the M1001) features integrated wireless support, fixed end caps and cable routing from the rear of the machine.

The Roku device doesn't ship with any software. However, it offers UPnP (universal plug and play) connectivity and is supported by Windows Media Connect, MusicMatch, and Windows Media Player. Roku has also taken the step of licensing the device to work with iTunes. These are hands down the most popular players on the market today, and the company has done a great job of getting the machine to work with them straight out of the box. You can browse the music databases stored on a PC (or Mac), and even search by keyword to help find tracks quickly.

Its elegant interface makes ample use of the two-line display. Though the user can scale the font size, the only real criticism we had during testing is that the display is hard to read from a distance. (Roku also offers a SoundBridge M2000, which features a display roughly double the size of the M1000, but it's more than double the price.)

The M1000 supports most common audio formats (WMA, AAC, MP3, WAV and AIFF), and will even play back DRM-enabled Windows Media 10 files. An AAC decoder is built into hardware, and the unit will pick up Internet radio stations. The bundled black plastic remote control is used to drive the machine, and the 14cm display offers plenty of detail on what's playing. A number of different display modes are available, and the unit can even be set to show visualisations while playing music.

Sound quality is outstanding, thanks to the gold-plated RCA connectors and digital outputs, and we found no playback glitches during testing. Roku has designed a simple, efficient device for piping music from a PC to a home stereo system. It looks good, is easy use, sounds fantastic and ships with a one-year warranty.

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