Electric Jukebox is a dedicated audio streaming system that connects to your TV

Electric Jukebox
Credit: Electric Jukebox

I love tech and gadgets, but every so often I encounter a product that I just don't get. Electric Jukebox is one of them, though granted the whole point of Electric Jukebox seems to be that it's a gadget for people who don't like gadgets. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Electric Jukebox is a an HDMI stick, like the Chromecast, Roku Stick or Fire TV Stick. You plug it into an available HDMI port on your TV and it connects to your home network via WiFi. Unlike the other products I mentioned, Electric Jukebox isn't for streaming video, it's for streaming audio.

It plugs into your TV because it's a stand-alone system that comes with a remote. The TV provides the screen for the UI. You can send music through your home theater system or through a 3.5mm line-out port. The remote supports motion controls and voice search; features which are coming to be expected in this sort of device.

So far, so good. This is a streaming music device for people who can figure out a Roku but not much beyond that. Where the whole thing breaks down for me is the price. You can pre-order Electric Jukebox for $199 as a special early bird price until midnight on Oct. 21st (they don't specify a time zone). Once that expires it'll cost $229. That's a lot. It does include a one year Premium Music Pass subscription which is regularly $60. After the year is up you can continue to listen for free to ad-supported, curated content but you'll lose the ability to access on-demand content.

The hook is that a $60/year subscription is half the price of what you'd pay for Spotify, but that doesn't factor in the $170 ($140 until Oct. 21st) that you're spending on hardware and it also doesn't factor in the fact that you can only listen to it sitting in your living room (or wherever the device is plugged in).

If you have no streaming box in your house it's not a terrible idea. The cheapest 'stand alone' streaming device I know of is about $50 (either the Roku Stick or the Fire TV Stick; I'm not counting the $35 Chromecast since it requires pairing with a controller device and Electric Jukebox is designed to be super easy to use), and a Spotify Premium subscription for a year costs $120, so for that setup you're spending $170 compared to $229 in year one and saving $60/year after that first year. By the start of year three you'll be saving money.

But a Roku Stick or a Fire TV Stick both offer many more experiences than just Spotify. Additionally by subscribing to Spotify (feel free to insert any other premium music service into this argument) you can also listen to it on your PC in the office, or on your phone while running errands. It's just a much more versatile setup than Electric Jukebox and its support for their Premium Music Pass. (And what if there is something about their dedicated Premium Music Pass service that you don't like? You have to alternatives to choose from.)

Of course if you already own a streaming device then Electric Jukebox becomes an even harder sell.

I get it; this is a device for old people who just can't figure out technology. I'm just dubious that there are as many of those as the company thinks there are. Imagine the Venn Diagram of people with a reliable WiFi network, people that want to sit in the living room (and only in the living room) listening to music, people who don't already have a streaming device, and people who are willing to splash out $229 on one of these new-fangled gadgets. I have no real data and I suppose Electric Jukebox does, but it just seems to me like the intersection of all those circles of people is going to be pretty small.

If  you think I'm crazy and want to learn more about Electric Jukebox, Engadget has a nice write-up.

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