Rocki: A Chromecast for audio?

Just as Chromecast, a $35 HDMI plug-in dongle from Google, is a simple way to stream video to a television, a little device called Rocki does the same for audio to analog speakers by turning them into WiFi-enabled speakers. Engadget notes that Manhattan-based Rocki has surpassed it Kickstarter goal, and will release the little WiFi enabler in December.

WiFi speaker systems liberate online audio from computers and phones. As such, they can be viewed as home radio replacements. If a speaker is communicating with your audio apps, you can, for example, listen to your favorite NPR programs via TuneIn whenever you want, timeshifted from their broadcast schedule. The app becomes the radio dial, and the WiFi speaker becomes the receiver. 

WiFi speakers (and their siblings, Bluetooth speakers) represent a fairly robust consumer electronics category, bringing mobile audio back into the home. The problem, though, is price. WiFi speakers cost hundreds of dollars … each. The Sonos Play:1 is considered a budget entry to the field, at $200 per speaker. If only there were a way to make analog speakers WiFi-capable.

That is the Rocki angle. The device plugs into speakers via the RCA jack. It works with studio monitors and boomboxes. The simplicity and versatility is attractive. Just as Chromecast threatens Roku and Apple TV, which can seem cumbersome and needlessly expensive by comparison, Rocki could grab some share of the WiFi speaker market — just in time for the holidays.

Brad Hill