Simple Audio Roomplayer II Review – Pt1

This is a first look at the Simple Audio Roomplayer I Network HD Audio Streamer.

Simple Audio is a new UK based company who have just released a range of Streaming Audio Transport/Players and are set to follow up with a Standalone controller. The two products to hit the market early in February 2012 are the Roomplayer I and Roomplayer II, the main differences being the Roomplayer I has onboard amplification and the Roomplayer II does not.

The Roomplayers pricing at £599 & £499 respectively fits in quite nicely between established entry level music streaming products from Logitech Squeezebox & Sonos, and higher end products from the likes of Linn & Naim. The obvious advantages over Logitech and Sonos are full 24bit Audio support up to 192Khz sample rate.

They also go a different route in terms of networking with ‘Powerline’ which allows network connectivity over domestic power lines using additional ‘HomePlug Av’ modules. Simple Audio’s Roomplayer concept is a tantilizing prospect as it provides HD Audio support at a fraction of the price of the likes of Linn and on paper looks like an obvious step up from a Logitech Squeezebox or Sonos user.

What’s in the box

Well the short answer is not a lot. The Roomplayer is accompanied by a power lead, a bag of cables, a small piece of paper with some safety information and a registration card. There is no Printed manual or even a CD containing a PDF, in fact no real instructions at all.

Simple Audio Roomplayer 2 Review

Simple Audio Roomplayer 2 Review

I was a little surprised that the included Audio interconnects are of such a poor quality, I suspect most owners, like myself, will be using better quality shielded interconnects anyway but for a £500 player this is a little disappointing.

Simple Audio Roomplayer 2 Review

Luckily the Roomplayer itself is a different proposition, being a solidly make an attractive piece of industrial engineering. It has a reasuring weight to it and looks at home in an AV rack, unlike products like the Squeezebox Touch which looks too much like a toy for my liking.

Simple Audio Roomplayer 2 Review

Simple Audio Roomplayer 2 Review

The front facia looks very clean and business like but there are a number of connectors and controls underneath the front overhang , including a Line in (for iPod or similar) & Headphone socket.

Due to the lack of manual, I can only guess what the two indicators to the right of them do, the first I believe is an indicator light so you can check with the included software, which player is which but I am not sure what the other one does or the button on the side although it maybe a factory reset.

The power indicator located in the small dimple on the right of the main fascia is refreshingly small and white, very nice.

Rear connectivity is very good, with the ‘cover’ hiding where the speaker terminals would be visible on the Roomplayer I, the only minor aesthetic blemish on an otherwise well organised rear panel.

Simple Audio Roomplayer 2 Review

The USB can be used to attach additional storage devices including iPhone/iPad and will allow the Roomplayer to index their Audio files. Analogue Audio outputs as you would expect are accompanied by analogue audio inputs to supplement the 3.5mm jack line input on the front. Unlike many audio devices you can control the signal gain of the analogue inputs to suit your system. The Sub output is a handy addition to those who wish to use a sub sat system but there is no variable crossover with it being fixed at 100Hz.

The digital output is something of a sore point at present as they are not actually activated, in fact a major Firmware update is apparently due in the next couple of weeks which will activate these and the 192Khz sample rate handling as well as a few other software and hardware enhancements.

At present I seem to be in possession of only half the machine I purchased and as such am loathe to delve too deeply into the software or hardware performance but it is in my opinion not a great way to launch a new product!

User Interface

Anyone who has used an streaming Audio transport will know the User Interface is an extremely important part of the product. In fact it for a lot of people the ease of use can be at least as important as the Audio quality. Whilst Sonos would appear to have the most stable UI, Squeezebox run away with things in terms of functionality, with a large online community providing numerous plugins and enhancements as well as 3rd party Phone App Controllers such as the fantastic iPeng. Even Linn have produced a plugin for their Players to utilise the Squeezebox Media Library functionality. They also feature complete control over every tiny facet of playback, organisation and sound quality, you can imagine. As you can probably tell I am a Squeezebox owner myself and whilst I question the stability of the hardware on occasion as well as the raw sound quality, I will be very impressed if the Simple Audion Roomplayer can better the Squeezebox user experience.

installation is painless enough and the PC based UI is nice and clean.

Simple Audio Roomplayer Review

Adjusting the Roomplayer Analogue inputs is pretty straightforward with just a few options to choose from to account for gain differences with different sources.

Simple Audio Roomplayer Review

Those used to the Plethora of settings available on opther products will be sorely disappointed with the one and only adjustment you can make to the player.

Simple Audio Roomplayer Review

Adding your music is very easy and you can add as many libraries as you like. You also have the ability to create users which again can have multiple libraries. This makes it easy to categorise your music, so for instance if you have a growing 24bit library you may want to create a ’24bit’ user for just accessing those files.

To add a library: System -> Music Libraries… and in the pop-up window click on the ‘+’ to add a new library.

Navigate to the chosen directory (note do not try to use a network share only a direct link to networked disk will work) and click apply. Simple Audio will then scan the disc for tracks and then add them to the library.

Simple Audio Roomplayer Review

Once complete you can view your library in a number of view modes.

Simple Audio Roomplayer Review

Adding your music library should be a simple enough affair, I say should because after navigating to my attached Network Drive, this is as far as it would get after numerous attempts. I tried copying the library locally but this did not help either. The only success I did have was creating a small test library with less than 396 tracks in it, which seemed to work ok. I am still waiting for feedback from support on what the issue is so can’t really comment further at this stage.

EDIT: It seems buried deep within my rather ancient music catalogue I had a number of albums in the .ape file format which is unsupported by Simple Audio and these caused the library scanner to crash. I am not sure if Simple Audio will be able to apply a tweak to prevent the scanner crashing in a later update but best avoid the file format if you can.

iPhone Application

The iPhone App seems to cover the basic functionality you would expect such as creating playlists etc.

Simple Audio iPhone App Review

Splash Screen

Simple Audio iPhone App Review

Artist List view

Simple Audio iPhone App Review

‘Slide to the right’ to open Playlist Menu

Simple Audio iPhone App Review

Song List view

Simple Audio iPhone App Review

Inputs menu

Simple Audio iPhone App Review

Radio menu Showing Favourites

Simple Audio iPhone App Review

Radio Station Selected

Simple Audio iPhone App Review

‘We7’ Audio Services

So far the iPhone App is ‘OK’ in terms of functionality, it can do the basics but it could be a bit more polished graphically in some areas, especially the Radio station artwork and the extra gesture required to add tracks to a playlist is a bit unintuitive when a simple icon or ‘Add All’ could be used as per Squeezebox.

Whilst I did have a few issues with the software and App, I think most could be helped with the release of the upcoming manual as it isn’t always clear exactly how things should work and perhaps comparing the software at launch to that of Logitech which has been refined over many years, is a tad unfair.

Conclusions (so far)

I have had a few issues with the Audio Player and the software in the few days I have had the product and it has been a bit frustrating but after a call from Simple Audio and a few emails back and forth, all have been cleared up and to their credit the worst was down to some of the files in my library causing the library scan to hang.

A manual is due out soon which should help enormously and I am looking forward to a firmware update so I can test the digital output and see if 24bit 192Khz files are really worth the space they take up!

After some more time to be come accustomed to the Roomplayer I will report back with more detailed feedback on the software, iPhone App and the all important Audio quality. Simple Audio’s excellent support today has really helped reassure me after a shaky start and I am looking forward to getting into some listening as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading.

Adam 🙂

7 Responses to “Simple Audio Roomplayer II Review – Pt1”

  1. I have just had a phone call from Simple Audio, who seem very determined to help with the issues I have outlined above and so far seem to be mine alone.

    I have to do a little research this end to help diagnose the problem but hopefully that will help everyone moving forward.

    Adam 🙂

  2. Hi Adam,

    Nice review. I saw these and did a feature about them a while back. I found it very interesting to hear a HANDS ON review about the product. Looks pretty swish.

    Thanks for the great article.

    S

  3. Thanks,

    It is just an early look so far. Once the manual is available, the App update is in and digital output activated, I’ll try and provide more meaningful feedback.

    Adam 🙂

  4. Hi,
    Here some comments on the ipad app
    (Simple Audio Roomplayer 1 networked to a Qnap NAS; installation accomplished by a laptop running on Windows 7; all software on NAS, Simple Audio Roomplayer 1 and laptop has updated till today, 10 may 2012)

    At first: the rpI gives excellent sound!
    (to Monitor Audio RX6 speakers)

    You can play flac files and 24 bit files without problems while laptop is disconnected. So easily giving commands on iPad from your lazy chair 🙂
    While playing with ipad app I noticed some serious missing funcionalities (mentioned in order of priority):

    1. The browse function is missing! (search field with magnfying glass symbol);
    2. multifuctionality with other Apps is not possible: when you start playing music and you doubleclick the ipad’s homebutton to start another app, the music continue withe playing. when returning to the SA App (e.g. to change volume level, or to play another track) the app has to start again (you enter the home position of the app!!)

    3. scolling in one track is not possible;
    4. manual how to use the SA and how to use the app; if needed, tell about Twonky requirements about how to install your music files/file names/ image types for album fronts
    5.
    – track forward while browsing in a specific album is not possible;
    – track forward IS ONLY POSSIBLE after selecting a album (press a right side), but then you see only the track-forward-button and not the tracklist of the album;
    – while playing full album:
    A.name album is not visable, you see “network Music” also when you play e.g. the 2nd or 3rd track.
    B. “back” button leads to homeposition and not to albumlist (so you have to search the specific album again to find out what’s the next album in your list. However this is not always the case (it depends on how your list is build up: maps/submaps/names. SA sould make a manual how to make your albumlist. Some Twonky definitions?)

  5. Hi Arthur,

    Thanks for that additional information. I confess being so used to iPeng on Squeezebox I found the Simple Audio software quite restrictive so I appreciate you documenting your findings here.

    I have no doubt SA will improve things as time goes by.

    Cheers,

    Adam 🙂

  6. Nuvo are looking to bring something similar out in the near future, I’m looking forward to playing with that. The future definitely appears to be in these modular multi room system rather than the old distributed audio (homerun of speaker cable and control cable to keypads).

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