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About the Roku/Pinnacle SoundBridge

I use a Roku SoundBridge as a music streaming client. It is a very flexible client that doesn't come with a proprietary music server software of its own but supports a variety of existing servers like Windows® Media Connect or Apple iTunes®.

The SoundBridge isn't only good at playing music - it also looks good (at least for me :-):

Roku Soundbridge M1000

The first generation of SoundBridges came in three flavors: M500, M1000 and M2000. These only differentiate by their display (technology and size). I have a M1000 as can be seen on the picture above. It has the same kind of display as the M2000, only smaller but therefore it is less expensive. The M500 uses a different kind of (non graphical) display.

Now the first generation is slowly phased out. The M1001 is the successor to the M1000 (and M500 as well). Unfortunately Roku did initially promote it as an M1000 as well (it even was labeled M1000 at the front). So there might still be some early production M1001 that are labeled M1000. The M1001 looks almost the same as the M1000 but it has slightly different connectors that are now much more conveniently located at the back of the unit.

The other second generation SoundBridge is the SoundBridge Radio R1000. It is designed to be a stand alone player. Therefore there is no way to connect it to your amplifier. Instead it features high quality build-in speakers. The Radio has a set of great features including alarms, connector for FM radio, a SD slot for playing music directly from a memory card, hardware buttons for accessing presets and a high resolution display (with light-sensor control). Of course its clock is automatically updated using internet time-servers (all SoundBridges can display the time in standby).

Pinnacle was also producing SoundBridges under a license from Roku (outside North America) but seems to have dropped the product. The Pinnacle SoundBridge is mostly identical to the Roku ones with one difference: Pinnacle has no daapd license from Apple and therefore cannot connect to Apple iTunes® shares (or any other daapd server). But with Firefly there is a very good alternative available (not only) for iTunes®users.

Pinnacle offered three different types of SoundBridges:

The second generation SoundBridges (M1001,R1000, M400) are based on a different audio architecture than the first generation (M500,M1000,M2000) which was appreciated even by audiophiles because of its sound quality and its advanced high-end features like HDCD and DTS pass-through which the M1001 doesn't support anymore. Some users report that the sound of the first generations was better but most don't have any issues with the second generation for daily non-audiophile listening. The positive effect was that the price came down significantly making the M1001 (and M400) much more affordable. Additionally the second generation has a larger flash ROM that might be an advantage one day in the future and more important build-in WLAN support that since firmware V2.7 supports the much more secure WPA encryption.

With firmware V3.0 (available for free for all SoundBridge models through its integrated update mechanism) an online database for internet radio stations at with thousands of categorized radio stations that can be easily browsed on the SoundBridge (but also from your PC). Note that if the server is down (which happened a few times in the past) you won't be able to browse the radio stations directory but you are still able to play any radio station you have saved to one of the 18 presets in the SoundBridge.

The SoundBridge connects to a music server using a TCP/IP network which can be wired Ethernet or WLAN ('Radio' and 'Home Music' only supports WLAN). The connection to an amplifier (no direct output for headphones or passive speakers) is possible using analogue stereo cables or a digital connection (either optical or coax; not available on the 'Home Music'). Since I only use the digital connection I cannot say much about the analogue quality but from what I've read it is very good (but of course not good enough for real audiophiles). Listening to music using the direct optical link is of fantastic quality since now the quality only depends of your amplifiers digital/analogue converter.

Good to know: In case of problems Roku forums is the place to go! There Roku and especially the user community is providing really great support.

After all these years I still enjoy listening to my music using the SoundBridge. Unfortunately it isn't very likely that there will be significant development from Roku on the SoundBridge (it is more or less abandonned apart from minor fixes). NOTE: The future of the SoundBridge currently is quite uncertainI still think that the SoundBridge is a top music player better than most available, so if you are happy with what you get today (as I am) the SoundBridge is still a good choice.

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