Elana is all but sick of hearing my content refrain of “Have I told you how much I love our Sonos System?” It is at that point that she reminds me that, while she enjoys the music when it is on, the Sonos system is definitely my baby. She’s right. It is one of the best purchases I have ever made. Here is the thing though: the Sonos system worked for me for two reasons. First, at the time I didn’t have a serious music system in the house and, second, I was willing to make the investment to set up Sonos in a bunch of different rooms. And believe me, getting the entire house Sonos-ified is an investment.
Which leads to these two questions. What if I already had an awesome stereo (or a not-so-awesome-but-I-really-liked-it stereo)? And, what if I wanted to get streaming music on the existing system without it costing an arm and a leg? That’s where the Orb Music System can come in quite handy. For just $79 Orb lets you turn your stereo into an internet connected music player. It even lets you use your smartphone as the remote.
Orb Music turns your stereo into an Internet connected device so you can stream Pandora, iTunes, Sirius and more! Best of all, use your smartphone as a remote. With Orb you can play all your music on any stereo in your home
Select Your Music: Using your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad as a remote control, Orb lets you browse your entire music collection, as well as your favorite content from Pandora, SiriusXM Internet Radio and hundreds of Internet radio stations.
Pick Your Stereo: Orb streams your music to any stereo connected to your Orb music player. Put a player in each room and start amazing people with your DJ capabilities!
Size and weight: Diameter: 3.28 inches (83.3 mm); Thickness: 0.79 inches (20.0 mm); Weight: 3.25 ounces (92 grams)
Wireless: Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
Input and output: USB 2.0, 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack
Audio formats supported: MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, 4), AAC, Lossless, WMA, WAV
User configurable maximum volume limit
What’s In the Box:
Orb MP-1 hardware
External USB power adapter
iPhone/iPad Controller free download at iTunes App Store
Android Controller (beta) free download at Android Market
In order to get things working the Orb disk needs to be connected to your Wi-Fi network. In addition, there needs to be software running on your computer so that the computer files or Internet music can be streamed from the computer to the Orb hardware. This, in turn, feeds the signal into your stereo.
The first step is to download the Orb Caster software. It is, “a powerful media server software that runs on your PC or Mac. Orb Caster indexes all the media files on your PC or network drives and streams the media to your work device.” You then need to download the Orb Controller application to your iPhone or Android smartphone. This software, once connected to the Orb Caster software, allows you to easily control the music that is being streamed. As the company explains,
Orb Controller is an app for your iPhone or Android* smart phone that lets you control your music from anywhere in your home. Use the easy touch interface to choose your music, playlist or internet radio station, and the Orb device you want it to play on.
So long as your computer, the Orb hardware and your smartphone are on the same Wi-Fi network they will all work together seamlessly. Of course the Orb Music Player needs to be connected to your stereo, or powered speakers or other music playing device that has a line in input. This device is definitely BYOS (Bring Your Own Stereo).
In order to get things going you need to connect the physical Orb hardware directly to your computer. From there the setup wizard walks you through the process of connecting the Orb hardware to a password protected Wi-Fi network. If you want to use more than one Orb device you simply repeat the process and give each disk a unique name.
I went through the set up process of connecting the physical hardware to my computer, connected the device to my Wi-Fi network and, in the process, had an available update to the firmware. All of this occurred seamlessly and didn’t take more than a few minutes. After that I disconnected the hardware, connected to one of the stereo systems I have here at home and, within moments, the music was playing.
There is no question that setting up and using the Sonos system is a little bit more seamless but the principle is the same and the end “product” actually functions in a rather similar manner.
All in all the Orb Music Player delivered on its promise. It let me take a non-Internet connected stereo system and make it an Internet enabled device. It gave me many of the aspects of the Sonos system that I love while letting me use existing hardware and doing so at a relatively low-cost. I didn’t find the experience to be quite as polished but that’s neither here nor there. For very little money I was able to transform old music players into something for 2011. That’s pretty impressive.
You can learn more about Orb Music and order yours here on the company website.
MSRP: $79.00 (The Orb Video disc is $99.00)
What I Like: Delivers exactly what it promises; Easy to use once it is set up; Relatively easy to set up
What Needs Improvement: Requires a computer to be running at all times; BYOS- Bring Your Own Stereo