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Rocketfish Rocketboost Listening Tests and Conclusion

By Chen Fifely

For critical listening tests I hooked up the Rocketboost amplifier to my Martin Logan Theos speakers in my main theater, and my Martin Logan LX16 speakers in my bedroom. Although most people will likely be using the Rocketboost amplifier for background music, I wanted to see how it performed on a quality set of speakers. The amplifier was able to resolve fine detail in music and maintain clear separation between instruments. I drove the amp as loud as it would go but it never went into clipping. That's good. The one area the amplifier showed that it is a budget product was with dynamic swings. It simply was not able to provide the power needed for large transients; although it never showed any audible distortion, it did compress the dynamic peaks. I didn’t notice this on my LX16 bookshelf speakers, presumably because they are an easier speaker to drive than the large electrostatic hybrids. This shouldn’t be cause for concern when the amp is being used for background music, but if it is used to power large rear speakers in a surround sound system, it might be an issue. The overall power the amp could deliver was impressive for its price and weight. When listening to relatively compressed music, like mp3s or Pandora, I never had an issue with output on either set of speakers. The amp delivered plenty of power, but when I fed the amp lossless FLAC files, it couldn’t reach loud volume levels

During the listening tests I did have occasional sound dropouts and interference, but for the most part it was bearable. The wireless range seems suitable for 2 level homes, nothing larger, because Rocketboost is not a mesh network. In mesh networks, like ZigBee or Zwave, each additional device acts like a wireless extender, expanding the overall range of the network. With Rocketboost, like a typical wireless router, there is only one transmitter. The farther you are from the transmitter, the lower the signal strength and the higher the chance of audio dropout. To help counteract this, Rocketboost did include a signal strength meter in the software, which is a nice touch.

IR Remote

Both the transmitter and the amp come with an IR remote control. Many budget products have poor IR range, but both Rocketboost products worked well with the supplied remote. The manual states that the remote will work for up to 23’ away and a 30 degree angle. I never had an issue with being too far from either product that the remote wouldn’t work. I also found the 30 degree angle to be rather conservative, as I was able to move off to about an 80 degree angle and the remote still functioned. This may have been because the IR signal bounced off objects in the room or because I was not 23’ away from the device when I tested the maximum angle.

remote control

The remote has two buttons for volume. The “Device” volume button will only adjust the sound on the device it is pointed at. The “Stream” volume button will increase the volume of the actual stream, consequently increasing the volume on each device listening to that stream. I found these volume adjustments to be annoying for a few reasons. First, every time volume + or – is pressed once, the volume is adjusted between 2db and 4db. This is a large volume change, especially considering that most receivers can work in 1/2db increments. Second, the increment wasn’t consistent, at times the volume would adjust 1db, other times 4db, sometimes somewhere in the middle. This made it difficult to set background music to the desired volume level. This is likely a function of the default IR repeat setting of the remote.

Conclusion

Although both the RF-RBUSB transmitter/receiver and the RF-RBREC receiver/amplifier are both solid products, the poorly designed software and app keep the system from shining. Are there better wireless multiroom solutions out there? Yes, take a look at SONOS! Are there better wireless solutions for the price? I don’t think so. Overall, the system works reasonably well for the price. With a few refinements (READ: fix your software and app, and add a line-in function on the amp), this system could work amazingly for the price. As of this review, I would only recommend the system if you have some speakers lying around that you would like to use for music. If you want to build a solid wireless whole-home system, you should probably look elsewhere.

Rocketfish
7601 Penn Avenue South
Richfield, MN 55423-3645
800-620-2790

www.rocketfishproducts.com

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
PerformanceStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStar

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