Performance and features
Aesthetically speaking, we couldn't discern a noticeable difference in sound between the MP-1 and any other wireless laptop-to-receiver solution we've tested. We immediately put the MP-1 up against similar functioning devices like the Creative Sound Blaster Wireless System and Aperion Home Audio Link, in which sound quality remained strong across the board.
Because there is no line-of-sight to deal with as with other products we've tested, we never had any cutout unless we extended our source laptop from the range of Wi-Fi coverage. That said, there was a healthy amount of lag on our home network when using the Orb streaming service.
The MP-1 system can also stream audio to DLNA devices like certain HDTVs, Blu-ray players, and other media players. We had no problem getting our Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 gaming consoles to recognize the feed as well.
The Orb Controller can also access your Pandora account and direct its feed to the MP-1. If you have a Sirius satellite radio account, the same can be done with that service as well.
Software and mobile access
Both the Android and iOS versions of the Orb Controller software are nearly identical in terms of look. Performance-wise, we did have an easier time loading and navigating through the app on our HTC Evo. At times, our iPod Touch felt a bit sluggish and occasionally became unresponsive. Of course newer hardware may run the software better, so your mileage may vary.
Regardless, the software does suffer from a few frustrations no matter which platform. For instance, playlists are limited to 100 tracks. No matter how many songs are queued up, the Orb Controller will automatically chop the list down to 100.
Also, while switching tracks occurs within 2 seconds, we experienced up to five times that for the track information to update onscreen. It's by no means a deal breaker, but it would be nice to be able to see what track is playing right away rather than waiting for the system to catch up.
What the Orb MP-1 system offers that no other one we reviewed does is mobile access to your entire music library. If you sign up (for free) for an Orb account, the service will create a personalized URL at Mycast.orb.com that can be accessed via a mobile browser.
For the price of $70, we're not sure there's an easier-to-use or more practical device out there that will give you mobile access to your media like the MP-1. Controlling media locally with an iOS or Android device is mostly a breeze and is certainly more convenient than lugging a laptop around. While iTunes-only users may want to look back at the Apple AirPort Express Base Station, the MP-1 will still allow for more flexibility.
The MP-1 won't replace expensive master systems like what Sonos offers, but is certainly worth a look for the music fan who wants to cut the cord that's tethering their music to their laptop.
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