Review by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday February 18, 2014.
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Managing home audio solutions through a smartphone can be great if you have a single station or money to create a large, interconnected speaker setup. Rocki, a successfully-funded Kickstarter campaign from a startup in the Netherlands has introduced a new solution that tries to merge the two. Music lovers would still create an interconnected speaker setup, but there wouldn't be a need to spend a great amount of money on new speakers with integrated Wi-Fi capabilities. Rocki uses a small piece of hardware that connects your existing speakers to Wi-Fi, offering a cheaper and easier way to create a linked home audio network.
The Rocki WiFi Music System is an ancillary tool that provides a Wi-Fi connection to any speaker with a line-in. It then links with a smartphone app capable of controlling one source or all of them. With a few connections, Rocki can unite all of the speakers, laptops, or phones on a Wi-Fi network. In a recent interview, Rocki Co-founder Dennis List told me:
"We don't want to sell just another replacement system for good audio systems you might already have. All of us have speakers in the house or sound docks that work very well. We like all the new systems; personally, I like the Sonos and Pure systems. But if you imagine a huge table full of speakers, we don't want to be another speaker on the table. We want to actually talk to every speaker on the table...our strength is to adapt to whatever speakers people already have in their house."
Rocki was actually born out of another effort to introduce a multimedia streaming service. Along the way, members of the team realized that music services are "too complicated" and not accessible to the average user. The plan evolved into something smarter: create a way to connect the devices that people already own and make the service available everywhere and to everyone.
A lot of work still needs to go into making Rocki a universal music solution. On the hardware side, it's well on its way because any device with a line-in input can be connected to the system. However, a Rocki app is still necessary to control the music, and the app so far only supports Android. List told us that an iPhone app is also in development, and an HTML5 app for Windows and other platforms will follow soon after. The next stage will be getting music streaming services on board. Rocki works perfectly fine for locally-stored music, but as consumers migrate to apps like Pandora, Beats, Google Music, and Spotify, there has to be a better solution. Spotify and Deezer are confirmed to support playback in the future, but Rocki still needs to take steps to build the apps.
Rocki is also partnering with speaker brands to have its technology included in newly produced speakers. In addition to the existing adapters, the hooks to connect to Rocki's app will be included in the hardware of some partners. In List's mind, that's right in line with the goal of making Rocki the way that people enjoy their audio.
"I love music subscriptions but the service usually gets trapped on the phone or you need a specific sound dock to put your phone in. But then you use the phone and you have to take it out. So we were [thinking] there's really nothing that comes close except for Bluetooth, which doesn't have the same capabilities to connect with everything around you. If we do this correctly, we'll definitely be where we want to be in a couple of years and manage a new technology platform integrated into a bunch of products."
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.