The Rocketfish Wireless Rear Speaker Kit: A Viable Solution for Your Surround Speakers?
May 22, 2007 (Updated May 22, 2007)
Review by symbiosis
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Good quality sound, attractive design
Cons:Cheap included speaker wire, spring-clip speaker connections, buzzing sound when signal is not present
The Bottom Line: Recommended, with reservations. See Overall Below.
Recommend this product?
Since the advent of the new, higher definition digital surround formats, such as Dolby Digital and DTS, more and more people have started putting together their home theaters. One of the common challenges of home theater is having surround speakers without running speaker wires across the floor. Traditional options, such as in-wall speaker cable, are often expensive and require either a significant amount of work, or foresight and planning.
Older wireless audio devices all shared the same problem: interference. Since these devices broadcast via radio frequency waves, they are vulnerable to interference encountered between the sending device and the receiver. This interference manifests itself as distortion or more commonly static in the sound, and gets more severe with greater distance.
But wireless technology has made some huge improvements in the last few years, especially in the areas of phone and WiFi technology. So when I was recently presented with an opportunity to test a newer generation wireless speaker kit, I thought it would be interesting to see if wireless speaker technology has also improved.
What, exactly is a Rocketfish? Having never heard of the company before, I decided to do a quick search online. Apparently, Rocketfish is a private-label brand for Best Buy in the United States. Rocketfish focuses mainly on home theater cables and set-up accessories.
Rocketfish Wireless Rear Speaker Kit
What You Get
The speaker kit comes with a sender unit, a receiver unit, a stand for the receiver unit, and two really cheap 2-foot speaker wires. The speaker wires are of the red/black variety, and are probably either 16 or 18 gauge. This was my first (albeit minor) disappointment with the unit. A brand trying to make a name for itself in home theater cable could have done a bit better with the included cables. 12 or 14 gauge OFC cables would have been nice, and still economical.
The sender is pretty small. The receiver is significantly larger than the sender, although still not terribly large. The reason for the size difference is likely the amplifier which is housed in the receiver.
Setup is pretty easy. Unpacking the kit takes a few minutes. The sender attaches to your home theater receiver's speaker terminals. The sender requires electricity, via a normal AC plug. The (Rocketfish) receiver attaches to your speakers via speaker wire, and also requires hookup to an electrical outlet.
Attaching the speaker cables brings up my second minor complaint, the fact that the inputs on the Rocketfish receiver and sender are the cheaper spring-clip variety. This limits your speaker termination options to bare wire or pin connectors. I was able to use some 14 gauge Monster cables, brought forth from out of my past and my rarely used cable box. 12 gauge cables would probably work, but would be a tight fit in the spring-clips.
After that, it is just a matter of pressing the power button on both units. There is a LED on the front of each unit that will blink until they "find each other," after that, the LED turns solid red and you are in business.
The Rocketfish kit is intended for use for rear surround speakers. The manual suggests that it supports 4-16 Ohm speakers. The vast majority of speakers are 8 0hm. Rocketfish rated the power at 25W RMS into 4 Ohms. Since most people will be using 8 Ohms speakers with the kit, the real power rating is more likely in the 15W range. This is still more than sufficient power for surround sound use or even moderate main speaker use, at least for those of us who value our hearing.
In my experience, any speaker that sounds good for full-range music will be more than adequate for surround sound use. So I decided to really put the Rocketfish kit to the test, and hooked it up to my Denon stereo receiver and Paradigm Titan speakers, playing CD audio.
I tried the Rocketfish kit at 10, 14 and 27 feet distances. I imagine the 10 and 14 feet distances are what the kit is going to see in most common setups, with 27 feet being towards the extreme end of the range.
The sound quality, while obviously not the equal of a wired connection, was nonetheless good. I chose CDs with the full range of frequencies. From the low bass of a bass guitar tuned purposefully low and the largest drums, all the way to the smallest cymbals, there was a solid amount of sound and good definition. 15W is enough to fill a large room, although not to ear shattering volumes. I did not hear a noticeable difference in the sound quality between the 10, 14, and 27 feet distances.
I also had my lovely assistant move in front of the sender unit, then away while I listened for any changes. We did this for a few minutes, until she became bored and went back to watching television. I thought I heard a small amount of additional static or distortion when she was in front of the sender, although the difference, if it was there, was very small.
Later, I moved the Rocketfish into my home theater system to try it out with my surround speakers. I found that I had to adjust the output from my home theater receiver up significantly for the surround speakers to get an acceptable sound level. The surround speakers buzzed annoyingly when they were not receiving a signal, such as when the receiver was set to a television channel with only stereo sound. Changing the sound mode to Dolby Pro-Logic solved this problem.
However, the problem surfaced again later at the beginning of a movie, for which the menu screen and introductory trailers were in Dolby Digital Stereo. I had to make it convert the DD stereo into Dolby Pro-logic surround to stop the buzzing that would come from the rear speakers when they were not receiving a signal. This is something I would rather not do, as I prefer Dolby Digital stereo over having the sound converted to Pro-logic. I also had to turn off the Rocketfish receiver when I turned off the television, otherwise the lack of a signal would make the rear speakers start buzzing again.
In Dolby Digital Surround, the rear speakers sounded very good hooked up to the Rocketfish receiver. The sound was clear and clean, and of sufficient volume once I adjusted the output from my home theater receiver.
I have mixed feelings about the Rocketfish Wireless Rear Speaker Kit. I wish that they had included decent quality speaker wire. My desire for higher quality speaker connections is probably cost prohibitive, but would have made me very happy. I like the size and design of the kit. I found the sound quality to be very good for wireless, definitely an improvement over older wireless audio in this price range. However, I thought the buzzing present when the rear speakers were not receiving a signal was very annoying. Most modern subwoofer amplifiers have a feature that turns on the amplifier when a signal is detected and turns it off when no signal is present. Such a feature would have made the Rocketfish kit a lot more attractive.
In the end, I am going to go back to my original wired configuration for my rear surround speakers. I run the wires under a rug, and in a small living room it is not too obtrusive. If your situation requires a wireless solution, and you don't mind converting stereo signals to surround, and you don't mind turning off the wireless receiver when the home theater is turned off, then I would recommend this wireless kit.
I received this product from Hass MS&L for the purpose of providing a fair and honest review on Epinions.com.
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