At the bottom of the Karma you’ll find a port to connect it to the supplied docking cradle. Just like with the Apple iPod, the Karma’s docking cradle allows it to connect to your PC for file transfer. The Karma also has a mini USB port on its base, so you can connect straight to your computer without the need for the cradle, and since the docking cradle also has a mini USB connector, you can use the same supplied cable whether you’re connecting via the cradle or directly. Also at the base of the Karma is a power socket for the supplied DC power adapter, so the unit can be charged without the cradle as well.
The docking cradle is the best I’ve seen and has pretty much every feature you could want and more. The design is stylish and the overall effect when the Karma is sitting in the cradle is very cool indeed. The frosted base that holds the Karma glows blue and you can decide whether it glows solidly, pulses continually, or pulses while the Karma is charging. At the rear is a power connector for the supplied DC adapter and a mini USB port for connection to your PC, all pretty standard stuff.
However, what isn’t pretty standard are the other connections on the cradle. First up you’ll find left and right phono sockets for connecting the Karma to your Hi-Fi. This means that if you want to listen to your whole collection of music that’s stored on the Karma while you’re in your living room, you can simply slot it into the cradle, switch your amp to the right input and set your favourite playlist going. Of course the problem with this setup is that your cradle is sitting in your living room and your computer is in your bedroom or study. So, if you want to get music onto the Karma you’re going to need to use the USB cable directly, but remember to place the unit back in the cradle to charge. Well, it might appear that you would need to do that, but Rio is way ahead of the game and has added one more connector to the cradle, an Ethernet port.
Now, the Rio Karma has some great features, but for me the inclusion of an Ethernet port in the cradle is the best feature of all. If you connect the cradle up to your home or office network, it will grab an IP address and be accessible to any computer attached to the network. When you install the Rio Music Manager software onto your PC it will find the Karma and allow you to transfer files to it over the network without the need for a direct USB connection. If like me, you have a wireless network at home you can simply buy a wireless bridge and plug the Karma docking cradle into it, effectively connecting the Karma directly to your network and allowing you to access the device from any computer on that’s connected. So, your Rio Karma can happily reside in your living room, connected to your Hi-Fi and still be accessible by your PC, no matter where it may be. Obviously with a 100Mbit/sec Ethernet connection it will take you longer to transfer music than over a USB 2.0 connection, and it will take even longer over wireless, but this is an ease of use feature rather than a performance one.