Orb MP-1 review
An appealingly simple and discreet way to play your music wherever you want it
The Orb MP-1 is a wireless audio streamer, allowing you to beam music from your PC to any speaker system in your home. There's no official UK distributor yet, but you can have it shipped from the US for $70. With shipping and import tax taken into account it works out at around £65, which undercuts the likes of Creative’s Sound Blaster Wireless system by around a third.
That comparatively low price is reflected in the sheer simplicity of the device. It’s a dinky disc, measuring just 83mm across, with no buttons and a dual-colour LED to indicate network status. At the back there’s a single 3.5mm stereo jack, and a mini-USB socket. When you first set up the device, this connects to your PC so you can provide network settings, and thereafter provides power via a supplied mains adaptor.
The clever part is the interface. Rather than giving you a dedicated remote control, Orb provides a free jukebox application for Android and iOS, so you can browse your music and control the device from a smartphone or tablet. You can also pick from an extensive list of internet radio services, and stream the audio from YouTube videos - a nice touch.
It’s an ingenious approach, and gives you a superb degree of control, but it suffers from network latency. We found scrolling through our music library on an Android 2.2 smartphone was a rather jerky experience, and when we hit play or skip there was often a pause of a second or two before the Orb responded. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it cheapens it.
Oddly, there’s no PC-based control application, so you can’t directly control the Orb from within Windows. That’s a shame, as no matter how sophisticated the mobile app may be, it's easier to use a mouse with a large monitor. Plus, it can be a pain to have to dig out your smartphone, wake it up and launch the control app just to pause or skip a track.
Still, if you just want to launch a playlist or radio station and leave well alone, the Orb does a great job. And the sound quality’s very good. We’d hesitate to call it an audiophile device, but to our ears MP3s beamed across the airwaves sounded every bit as clear and punchy as when played directly from the PC.
The only sticking point is the price. It’s cheaper than other wireless audio streamers, but the price still feels high for a gadget that could, broadly speaking, be replaced by a long cable. Still, if you’re willing to pay for a wireless device to provide background music for parties, or to stream internet radio into a home workshop, this is the most elegant and affordable solution we’ve seen.
|Price ex VAT||£60|
|Price inc VAT||£70|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||4|
Software and OS support
|Operating system Windows 7 supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||yes|
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||no|
|Operating system Linux supported?||no|
|Dimensions||83 x 83 x 20mm (WDH)|
Audio format support
|Other audio codec support||Audible, Apple Lossless|
Video format support
|Other video codec support||N/A|
Ports and communications
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Wired adapter speed||N/A|
|RCA (phono) outputs||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|