Like competing products that we've looked at in the past, Roku's SoundBridge M1000 doesn't store music. Instead it streams tracks over your home network from a Mac or Windows PC running iTunes - just select the Share My Music option in the "Sharing" preference pane.
Soundbridge has black plastic caps on each end of its anodised metallic tube. You pop off the right cap to attach the power cord and RCA, coaxial, or optical audio cables. Behind the left cap are networking options: an Ethernet port and a CompactFlash slot for the included Wi-Fi adapter.
Plastic caps make it inconvenient to attach or detach a cable, but once you plug everything in, the SoundBridge has an undeniably clean-looking design. A small rubber stand keeps it from rolling away, or you can wall-mount it.
The M1000 is 25cm wide and has a 280x160 pixel screen on which it displays waveform graphics while it's playing music. The M1000 also comes with a simple remote control.
There's support for MP3, unprotected AAC and AIFF and WAV files. Plus, a forthcoming software update promises to add WMA files and Windows-based music servers to that list (but not iTunes Music Store when Apple finally launches it here). While the SoundBridge's onboard software currently lacks polish, it is a network-connected device so it can talk to the mothership at Roku and download any available software updates.
If you want to listen to digital music in a PC-free location, you should seriously consider a digital media adapter. With a uniquely clean design, built-in iTunes support, an infrared remote and a reasonable price, Roku's SoundBridge M1000 will fit well into your home stereo system. Jason Snell
Price: $499; Distributor: Playback Systems; Phone: (03) 9885 5888; URL: www.playback.com.au