Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio Kit
Expandable Wireless Audio System
Wireless Audio Connectivity for the Home Theater
and Multi-room Home Entertainment
The first Rocketfish wireless audio delivery system appeared in 2007; it was an inexpensive system of superior performance that changed the way many look at wireless speakers. Five years later, that first Rocketfish system is still one of the best wireless rear speaker options presently available.
Two years down the line, Rocketfish presented the Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio, a more powerful yet affordable solution based on a new concept in home audio, that of an easily expandable wireless audio network capable of delivering multiple streams of CD-quality sound.
This Rocketfish wireless audio solution is still unique; rather, the Rocketfish HD Audio solution is still the only wireless audio delivery solution of its kind; it is suitable for use in both multi-room wireless audio and wireless surround sounds. Read here to discover more.
Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio Starter Kit
4-Ch. wireless audio sender unit complete with
one 2-ch. wireless receiver capable of
42Wrms/ch. in 4-Ohm speaker load
(available from amazon)
The Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio System:
A major step towards a seam-less home audio experience...
We dare say that the Rocketfish wireless rear speaker solution we reviewed in 2007 was the first to make CD-quality wireless audio an affordable reality. It used the same proven 2.4GHz computer wireless networking technology to send CD-quality sound wirelessly up to 100 feet away.
Two years later, we saw the Acoustic Research wireless speaker system that made it possible to ditch all cables in a full 5.1 speaker setup. Using 2.4GHz wireless technology, it delivered similar performance to the first Rocketfish rear speaker system except that the Acoustic Research solution had more audio power at the receiver end.
The Acoustic Research solution could have represented a solid option but despite being a good performer, it was soon discontinued after its release. You see, at $600 for a 5.1 wireless speaker solution, this Acoustic Research kit never made it in product sales. Instead, the Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio system represents a more affordable option; the Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio Starter Kit featured above comes at $200 and includes a four-channel wireless sender unit and a 2-channel wireless receiver amplifier capable of 42W RMS per channel in 4-Ohm speaker load. And additional system components cost even less. For example, extra 2-channelat $200 and includes a four-channel wireless sender unit and a 2-channel wireless receiver amplifier capable of 42W RMS per channel in 4-Ohm speaker load. And additional system components cost even less. For example, extra 2-channel wireless amplified audio receivers(RF-RBREC) come at under $70; within the same price bracket falls the convenient Rocketfish universal sender/receiver unit (RF-RBAUX).
Like the Acoustic Research solution, Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio system is modular in design and can expand as required while enabling customers to customize their wireless home entertainment experience to meet their specific needs. Like the Acoustic Research solution, Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio system is modular in design and can expand as required while enabling customers to customize their wireless home entertainment experience to meet their specific needs.
But the new Rocketfish solution provides added flexibility and more enhanced features no other wireless audio system within its price range provides. Above all, it let customers create the perfect audio delivery set up without the hassle of drilling holes into walls, whether it's in the home theater with 5.1 and 7.1 wireless surround sound, or in multi-room audio by playing music wirelessly throughout the home—inside and even outside.
The Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio line in detail...
The basis of the Rocketfish line of wireless audio is what is being referred to as Rocketboost technology. It is this that enabled Rocketfish to move along a whole new concept in wireless home entertainment, namely that of delivering a modular solution that transforms connected audio devices into a wireless home audio network.
It is a 2.4GHz wireless technology that renders the Rocketfish solution compatible with other Rocketboost certified products irrespective of brand or product manufacturer while utilizing standard connections for speakers and line level inputs, thus simplifying system connectivity with available consumer equipment and also during system upgrades.
Above all, it is an expandable wireless audio solution that supports multiple streams of uncompressed digital audio while delivering CD-quality 16-bit, 48 KHz uncompressed sound between sender and receiver devices in the wireless audio network.
At the same time, this Rocketboost wireless technology allows the user to configure multiple audio streams and listen to any of those audio streams at any Rocketboost receiver for complete system flexibility. And the real beauty of it all is that the whole system is very easy to setup and use, and much cheaper than less capable systems from the competition.
The whole Rocketfish line of wireless audio comprises the Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio Starter kit pictured above, the Wireless Amplifier Audio Receiver unit, a Wireless Outdoor Speaker, and a universal Wireless Sender/Receiver module which can operate both as a sender and receiver.
With all devices combined, the Rocketfish wireless HD audio solution can send up to five stereo CD-quality audio streams over a maximum of nine Rocketfish Rocketboost devices throughout the home—inside or outside—within a 150-foot broadcast range for a truly seamless, quality listening experience.
We look at each of these Rocketfish system components to get a better idea of what is actually on offer from what can be defined as the leader in wireless home audio.
Article continues after this advertisement.
Rocketboost Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio Starter Kit (RF-RBKIT)
The Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio Starter Kit represents the basis of a typical installation. It comprises a four-channel wireless audio sender unit and one wireless receiver with a two-channel amplifier. The receiver uses a class-D amplifier rated at 42W RMS per channel into 4-Ohm speaker load, 1% THD and 94dB S/N ratio.
42W RMS output represents a lot of power both in multi-room applications as well as in 5.1 and 7.1 wireless surround sound in medium size home theater systems. Some may argue that for a home theater, 42W per channel is on the low side but rest assured that with this sort of power output, the Rocketfish system can easily match surround sound receivers having 80Wrms per channel for the main front speakers. In other words, the 2-channel amplifier of the Rocketfish wireless receiver can easily fill up medium size home theater rooms with quality sound when used as part of a wireless surround sound setup.
We say quality sound. At 94dB signal to noise ratio - going up to 96dB when the HD mode is activated, sound quality is better than that of the average HTiB system or mid-level AV receivers.
Mentioning HD quality, it should be noted that activating this feature on the Rocketfish wireless HD audio system reduces the maximum number of stereo audio streams supported by the Rocketboost audio network to either three stereo HD-quality streams, or a mixture of HD- and CD- quality (1 HD stream + 3 CD quality streams or 2 HD and 2 CD-quality) links.
Each sender unit can handle up to two different stereo streams, with each stream being transmitted over the wireless audio network using uncompressed 16-bit 48KHz digital audio. Both sender and receiver come pre-matched which means that setting up the whole wireless audio kit is literally a plug and play matter.
But additional Rocketfish wireless HD audio components such as a second wireless amplified audio receiver (RF-RBREC) may easily join the starter kit network by a simple push of the power button on both the wireless sender unit and in this case, the second receiver. A second wireless amplifier unit would be required say when using the Rocketfish solution in a 7.1 rear and side wireless surround sound setup. In this case, one of the wireless receivers will serve the left rear and side surround channel speakers while the other will serve the right rear and side surrounds.(RF-RBREC) may easily join the starter kit network by a simple push of the power button on both the wireless sender unit and in this case, the second receiver. A second wireless amplifier unit would be required say when using the Rocketfish solution in a 7.1 rear and side wireless surround sound setup. In this case, one of the wireless receivers will serve the left rear and side surround channel speakers while the other will serve the right rear and side surrounds.
Interesting is that the sender unit on the Rocketfish wireless HD audio system comes with a 4-channel lock switch on the back panel to help synchronize the volume levels on all four inputs to optimize the different speaker volume levels in a 7.1 surround sound setup.
The wireless sender unit can connect straight to the AV receiver or home theater system speaker outputs as well as using line level audio such as when outputting music from an MP3 or a DVD player. This is rather unique and most welcome feature since most wireless speaker systems take only speaker level inputs.
Additional controls on the sender unit include buttons to enable or disable the different audio streams, an HD button which once activated results in improved signal to noise ratio of 96dB, and a Hub-enable switch. The latter is necessary as each Rocketfish wireless HD audio network requires the presence of one hub only. This means that additional Rocketboost elements in the network - whether these include a second Rocketfish wireless HD audio kit or a universal sender/receiver unit (RF-RBAUX), should all be set to Hub-disabled for a proper system setup.
The Rocketfish wireless receiver amplifier come with an integrated volume control, a source selection switch to select different audio streams being transmitted over the Rocketfish network, various status LED indicators, and speaker out jacks. Full control of the receiver is possible via the supplied IR remote control. The latter is a most welcome addition as it gives you the possibility to adjust the audio from your seating position - extremely important in the case of a surround sound speaker setup.
Expanding your Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio Network
We have already referred to the additional RF-RBREC Rocketfish Wireless Amplified Audio Receiver; this would service a purpose both to complement the RF-RBKIT starter kit say in a 7.1 wireless surround sound application or in multi-room audio, as well as an amplified receiver with the RF-RBAUX universal wireless sender/receiver unit.
As its name implies, the RF-RBAUX acts as a sender and a receiver; but as a receiver, it does not provide an amplified output. Its main purpose is to enable any audio device with a line-level output or input to join the Rocketfish wireless audio network.
However, the fact that it supports line-level connectivity gives rise to a number of options, from connecting your MP3 player, DVD, or home theater system as a stereo source, to wirelessly transmit this to a Rocketfish wireless amplified receiver located elsewhere in the house, a Rocketboost outdoor wireless speaker, or even a Rocketfish wireless stereo headphones.
As a receiver, it may be connected to a stereo amplifier or an HTiB aux input to play music over the wireless link from other sources present elsewhere in the house, in which case, the user can select from any of the audio streams present on the network by simply cycling through with the source button on the sender/receiver unit, or through the convenient remote control supplied with the unit.
Another unit within the Rocketfish Rocketboost line is the RF-RBWHP01 Rocketfish wireless stereo headphones
Like the universal sender/receiver unit, the wireless stereo headphones kit is a sender/receiver device. The headphones docking station includes inputs for two stereo streams and can be set to either hub-enabled in a Rocketboost network as well as Hub-disabled when joining other Rocketfish devices in the network.
The wireless headphones can receive any audio stream from either the docking station as well as from any other Rocketfish Rocketboost devices in the wireless audio network.
One final device in the Rocketboost line of Rocketfish wireless HD audio is the Rocketfish RF-RBWS02 Wireless Indoor/Outdoor Speaker with wireless sender/receiver (RF-RBAUX) unit.
This is capable of delivering up to 22W of audio power and supports battery operation as well as mains operation via the supplied DC-to-AC adapter; the adapter may also be used to re-charge the batteries inside the unit when rechargeable batteries are used.
It is possible to add a second external wireless speaker for stereo sound; just set it to receive the same audio stream as the first speaker. The whole setup would then enable the user to play in stereo mode after choosing which speaker to play the left and the right channels.
The Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio System Performance
We have only tested the Rocketfish wireless HD audio starter kit coupled with the additional wireless amplified receiver. However, we expect similar performance from the other products in the range as they all use the same Rocketboost technology.
As stated earlier on in this review, setting up the system is a simple plug and play matter; even joining additional system components is just a simple push button event. It is definitely an interesting expandable system with no real competition at this price bracket. So the whole issue is:
Does the new Rocketfish wireless HD audio delivery system lives up to the superior performance we enjoyed with the Rocketfish universal wireless rear speaker kit way back in 2007?
Interference and Range:
The user manual indicates a maximum range of 160 feet. That leaves quite a few options open when used as part of a multi-room wireless audio delivery system. We have only tested the system up to around 85 feet - with a couple of walls and a floor away between the sender unit and the amplified receiver. No problems were encountered; sound quality was as if the sender and the receiver were in the same room.
As indicated earlier on in this review, the Rocketfish wireless HD audio system uses 2.4 GHz wireless technology. We live in a rather crowded Wi-Fi neighborhood. In addition, we have a WLAN using 2.4GHz 802.11N gear; the sender unit was approximately 10 feet away from the main router (Rocketfish recommends to leave at least five feet). The use of the Rocketfish wireless HD audio system did not affect the performance of our WLAN, and the network speed when streaming HD video to a Samsung HDTV a couple of rooms away was up as usual.
The Rocketfish wireless HD audio delivery system did not show any signs of interference; it worked fine and audio was totally clean.
This is basically what we were expecting as the original Rocketfish wireless rear speaker kit we reviewed in 2007 was the first we ever tested that did deliver superior wireless performance.
It is interesting to note here that none of those who left reviews at the Best Buy website did complain of interference issues. The majority of customers were more than satisfied. One review mentioned that wired is still the best option and this is true; as we say elsewhere under this section, wired is still king when it comes to quality. But let's face it...
If you are looking for a wireless option, it is because you are left with no other option but to go for the added expense of a wireless setup. And if wireless is your only way forward, the new Rocketfish wireless HD audio solution would surely do a very good job in delivering your audio stream whether this being wireless surround sound or multi-room whole-house entertainment.
The Rocketfish wireless HD audio system under review did deliver exceptionally good quality audio for such an inexpensive wireless option; rather we would add that sound was very good irrespective of price. OK, nothing replaces a wired solution in the audiophile world, but with most home theater systems and CD sound mixes, it would be extremely hard to perceive any difference in audio quality between a wired setup and the Rocketfish wireless HD audio delivery system.
Audio quality is an area in which we have seen marginal improvement over the 2007 Rocketfish wireless rear speaker system - in particular with respect to the signal-to-noise ratio.
System Latency Delay:
Wireless audio delivery systems always introduce some latency (unwanted time delay) between the input and output. This is not an issue with multi-room audio but in the home theater, introducing additional delays other than those set by the home theater receiver for the surround sound channels may eventually unbalance the whole soundstage. Minimizing latency is therefore important when using a wireless delivery system in surround sound to ensure that all audio channels stay in synch.
The Rocketfish wireless HD audio system has a transmission delay of between 15 and 20msec; this is well within the typical delay settings normally applied for the rear and side surround channels. In other words, latency should not be an issue even in the home theater as long as you keep in mind that this has to be subtracted from the delay settings applied to the surround channels through your AV receiver to maintain the correct timing between the different channels.
The Rocketfish wireless HD audio system delivers what it promises: plenty of audio power, ease of use, expandability, superior audio and wireless performance, and enhanced features like the ability to simultaneously handle multiple audio streams; these features render the Rocketfish solution unique within its class.
Above all, it is capable of delivering very good quality sound over a wireless link at an inexpensive price. It represents the ideal wireless audio delivery system in whole-house entertainment and wireless surround sound when running cables is not an option.