Rocki: Revive the stereo [Review]
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Credit: Roy Latke

The Kickstarter project promises to take our old stereo system and give it Wifi capabilities. Will the company be able to fulfill its promise?

Credit: Roy Latke

Credit: Roy Latke

Before iPods or iPhones came into our lives we had the home stereo system, often integrating CDs and tape decks. Although much of the industry is now dominated by cloud based services and mobile devices many of us haven’t thrown away our mobile devices, if for no other reason than nostalgic look it offers the living room.

A certain Kickstarter project launched in November of 2013 expressed a desire to combine these two elements: The awesome looking stereo system of the 90’s with the capabilities found in the minimalist play packages of todays music systems. The result is Rocki, a small dongle that can turn any speaker into a WiFi connection, streaming music to any room in the house, directly from your smartphone.

An old soul

One of the key bedroom features of any 20 and up pon of today was the stereo system. It was a right of passage when we hit the teenybopper years. But those days are long gone replaced by less personality and smaller devices.

However, those massive pieces of equipment remained in many rooms, apartments and houses, despite their outdated and dust-collecting status. The battles we fought with parents to spend the money to get them and the wonderful times we had with them since then, proved too powerful a sentimental force to just discard. It’s no wonder then why many of us were so excited to hear about the project Rocki , designed to make relevant our old stereo systems once again.

Ar surpassing its target amount, Rocki began sending out their first product version to users this past January. The product is designed to be a small dongle that looks kind of like an elongated hexagon with cuts and chops. Alongside its unique design, the company offers users the option to choose the appropriate color cover them (red, green, white, black, etc.), in order to correspond with his or her system.

Unfortunately, despite its unique design and range of coverage, there is no doubt that the company did not think the process through well enough. For example, the LED that indicates whether or not Rocki is connected can not be viewed unless you remove it completely. This may lead one to forget that Rocki is running or weather it connected to the system in first place.

cover and LED

cover and LED

In order to reach all of the systems available on the market, Rocki connects via a 3.5 mm jack or RCA system or speakers and actually streams the music between devices to make it wireless. However, it’s important to clarify that while your speakers are becoming wireless, they still must be connected to electricity, as well as connected to Rocki itself. That means you’ll have to work hard to hide all those wires, especially if you choose to connect the device to the front of the system.

Alongside the physical device, the microUSB connection, which enables control of the music selection played, is currently available only for Android users. For iOS users, AirPlay can be used to control the music, but the company intends to dedicate an app for iOS users in the future. In order to support the rest of smartphones and handsets on the market, the company is also working on an HTML5-based app, but it is still unclear when this will hit the market.

First of all, the installation

To start using Rocki, you must first set it up and connect it to the network. The installation process is supposed to be simple especially if you have an Android device. All that is required is to plug the dongle into the system, open the app and run the installation process.

We must admit, the company’s Android app has managed to confuse even us. There are several different steps to the installation process and we had to click on a few different things to understand how we could begin listening to our music.

For other users, the Rocki can be manually connected to your smartphone and a dedicated site. There, you can set the name, as well as connect the wireless network to the speakers. It is important to clarify that the manual process may take some time, but now the company offers a detailed guide with images in order to help all users.

Wires connected to the product

Wires connected to the product

Given that the product is still classified under the label of beta, we were not surprised when the installation process on our Android device crashed. On the positive side, the manual setting was easy to understand and operate, so within a few minutes the device was connect and we could begin listening to our favorite music.

The handset comes with a battery capacity of 900 mAh, which offers seven hours of continuous music. If you love music and love to listen to it all day, you must remember to charge your device otherwise you will find that on your busiest day you will compromise the quality of your background music.

The stereo comes back to life

After the installation process, all you need to do is select the songs that are on your phone and listen to them. The Rocki app allows access to all the songs, but as mentioned you can “send” the songs via AirPlay from Apple or AllCast from Samsung, so you do not have to use the dedicated application.

The good news is once all was up and running we were pleasantly surprised at the old, high quality sound we got from our latest playlists blasting out of our classic stereo system. But the fact is that streaming audio by using WiFi means walls and columns may interfere with reception, and our music will depend on our internet connection.

The company notes that several devices can be connected to a system and the music playing in each room can be controlled by different mobile devices. Alternatively, you can allow guests and other family members to choose their favorite music, and it will be streamed directly from their smartphones.

Power button, 3.5mm and microUSB connection

Power button, 3.5mm and microUSB connection

Not everything is connected

As this is just a beta product, it could come with a variety of problems. From surfing forums it appears that the product does not always works smoothly and sometimes it does not work unless users are willing to spend a good few hours to figure out what went wrong.

For example, the Rocki may refuse to connect to the WiFI of users, requiring them to connect to the internet directly. This means that users will have to choose between listening to music and internet access, which can lead to the impressive dongle being thrown in a drawer until further notice.

On the other hand, the Rocki creates its own WiFi network, enabling creative users to listen to music in the car. If not yet upgraded to your current system and you are looking for a creative solution on how to stream music directly from your smartphone, the Rocki will allow you to do this easily – as long as you are willing to give up the Internet while driving, of course.

Another problem that arises in the current product is the fact that as of now it only supports two online services, SoundCloud and Last.fm. While the company has signed a number of partnerships with streaming services, including with Spotify, Deezer and Google Play, it may take time until they are carried out.

This means that if you consume most of your music from the cloud, you will need to wait some time before it is available fro Rocki from your service. However, already beginning to emerge are a variety of applications that offer interim solutions that allow listening to music from the cloud from third-party applications.

It is important to remember that this is the first step of the Kickstarter project, so there are likely to be some bumps along the way. Fortunately for the company, it operates a customer service feature that responds quickly to requests and questions from users.

In addition, the company offers a wide range of solutions to these problems in its forums, where hundreds of users encountered the same problems that we did. While it took us several hours to find the solutions to a variety of problems that have cropped up, you may consult other users and know you are not the only ones who experienced problems with the ongoing operation of the product.

The back

The back

The fate of the Kickstarter project

The company behind Rocki proudly proclaims that this is a product that our mother can operate. We must admit, this is not the most accurate statement, especially in light of the range of problems that arise when using the product. At this stage, the company should look to understand the needs, demands and problems of users before declaring that its product is for everyone.

While we managed to listen to music, there is no doubt the current product requires a lot of work as well as relevant partners that will enable listening to music from a variety of sources. Currently, the product is used as a solution to conveniently listen to music that exists on a smartphone, but hopefully soon it will be able to offer much more than that.

Given that this is a Kickstarter project, we are willing to forgiving and remain understanding. Because it is not a huge company, we hope it can solve the problems soon, without having to compromise on quality or stopping distribution of the product.

While there are many solutions on the market that offer users the possibility to stream their favorite music on quality speakers, in most cases users have to purchase a docking station and speakers, which can get expensive . Rocki, for its part, does not require the purchase of new accessories (other than the product itself) and will cost you less.

Rocki Play, an the advanced version of the product that was included in the Kickstarter campaign, sold to all users for $50. While the idea behind Rocki sounds good, we still recommend you wait for the next version of the product and hope the company can solve at least some of the problems that exist today, as well as provide a more comprehensive answer for the demands of users.

Video: free your music

ROCKI – free your music from Harro Heijboer on Vimeo.

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Henn Idan

About Henn Idan


Lover of gadgets, apps and technology in general. Somehow among her many activities, which include, destroying cellular devices for the sake of science and an obsessive preoccupation with social networking, Idann finds time to write an article or two for Geektime on new applications, promising startups and product reviews for pretty much every new gadget that has ever hit the market – ever.

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  • lam

    thanks for useful review, but there’s so many typos in your post

  • Michael

    There is a way to make the Rocki use Airplay and still have data access like 3g/4g when away from the home or in your car.

    Yes. If you go into your wifi settings, and set your iDevice with a static IP (can be the same one that your router gives you), set the subnet mask (again to the same), but make sure the Default Gateway IP is BLANK, then the phone will connect to your wifi for airplay, but continue to use cellular data to access the internet 🙂

    You may need to reset both your phone and the Rocki to make it work but it does!!!!

  • Joe

    “But the fact is that streaming audio by using WiFi means walls and columns may interfere with reception, and our music will depend on our internet connection.”

    Not fact. WiFi =/= Internet.

  • Audiohelp

    If I connect the Rocki to my surround sound will it broadcast what is
    playing to other wif speakers? Or will it only play music from my phone
    to the speakers it is connected to? I want to stream my stereo music to a wireless speaker outside on the patio. Would this work with only 1 or would i need 2?