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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 8:43 pm 
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[quote="Linus"]The thing I don't like about this kind of setup is that the computer has to be on, relatively inactive but sucking power all the time. [/quote]

My hope is that another generation or two of chips will give us lower power consumption and make it easier to build media PC that are fanless and cool. Apart from the substantial audio benefits, just being able to put all the CDs into a hard drive would really simplify storage.

The high-quality audio future, I think, is something like the NHT Xd system (but with a digital input) tied to a hard drive and high-speed internet connection.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 10:51 pm 
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Linus wrote:
The thing I don't like about this kind of setup is that the computer has to be on, relatively inactive but sucking power all the time. As far as I know, they only make one of these 'media hubs' (think that's the accepted term now) that doesn't require installing a client on the computer, and that's the Roku PhotoBridge HD1000. With one of these, you could put all media files (including videos and pictures as well as music) on a 500GB NAS device and use a lot less power while you're listening or watching. It's probably less audiophile-friendly, but I have yet to be dragged into that world.


I believe the Squeezebox is compatible with one model of NAS, but you'd have to browse around the slimdevice.com forums, as I don't pay much attention to NAS stuff. (My computer's always on, which is why I'm reading silentpcreview in the first place...)


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 11:20 pm 
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Has anyone else noticed the very interesting and unusual ads in google banner spaces in the Squeezebox review pages? Like the one for the $32,500 Jantzen electrostatic spkrs!! And others for things like the Edirol compact flash based handheld digital audio recorder. Interesting stuff...

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 7:20 am 
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" but the emergence of SACD and DVD-Audio, along with the sheer number of high end CD players with 4 and even 5 digit price tags should be enough to cast doubts about perfection. Improvements on perfection don't make sense, and such expensive CD players would not exist if CD players provided perfect music reproduction at the start."

This logic is especially flawed in the audio-industry, I'm hard pressed to find a field with more sensational claimes about improvment thats BS, than the Audio-biz. I'm not saying that the formats are not better, but "Improvments" that people will pay for makes sense, real or not.

I'm a bit dissapointed with the 1 folder-restriction. Huge discs are expensive, and may be to small, and RAIDing is a security-risk.

AtW


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 7:25 am 
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MikeC wrote:
Reachable wrote:
I was especially fascinated (by the fact and the explanation) that the high-end analog turntable delivered better sound than the CD player. Is this using discs made from analog recordings or from digital recordings ? (Do they do that -- make analog phonodiscs from digital recordings?)

It's well accepted in audio circles that a good record + turntable still sounds better than the equivalent CD + CD player. There are many veterans audiophools here who can point you to huge stacks of info on this topic. Stereophile & Absolute Sound are two magazines (w/web sites) that pop into mind immediately, but there are lots of others.


Is it? Not in the audio-circles I freqvent, actually it's one of the most debated things of all :). What is it thats supposed to be better with vinyl? S/N or frequency-range?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 7:50 am 
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ATWindsor wrote:
Is it? Not in the audio-circles I freqvent, actually it's one of the most debated things of all :). What is it thats supposed to be better with vinyl? S/N or frequency-range?

Your last question already sets the tone. By conventional measurements, CDs are better, but the dynamics I've heard on the best LPs vs the best CDs are both very good. I also recall a very sophisticated technical discussion of why the dynamics on the best LP systems acutally measures better, but that's long lost in memory. No denying the advantage of no ticks and pops... but if you have ever heard a really good LP system, you'll already know how little they intrude. It's as if there is so much music that the random noise is pushed further back...

In any case, I really don't want to start any silly unresolvable debate here. (Any attempts to start one by anyone will be deleted swiftly, btw.) Suffice it to say that regardless of what I think about CDs, they've clearly won the war, as the new music available on LPs is barely a trickle. Whether you think/hear one medium as being better than the other is not really relevant (probably depends mostly on what you've been exposed to & for how long & maybe even the type of music you like); LPs are dead except for expensive audiophile pressings and used racks. I personally have not had that much interest in either of these... tho maybe I should do.

(BTW, properly done SACD and DVD-A DO apparently sound better, or so I've been told by people whose musical/sonic opinions I respect. But I still hold that TLC & dedication in the performance, recording, mixing, mastering & pressing tend to overcome any intrinsic advantage of any of these mediums.)

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:24 am 
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Superb article, Mike.

Bruce Ballslap wrote:
Very interesting. Where exactly do these modders come together with their ideas?

There is a very active audiophile community at Audio Circles. My SqueezeBox2 was hotrodded by Bolder. The following is my audio rig, no CD player, no preamplifier, very quiet PC as music server thanks to SilentPCReview (well, except for the keyboard :wink: ):

DIY computer (EAD/FLAC) --> wireless SB2 (Bolder analog & digital mods + Sonicap Platinum bypass caps + Deluxe Power Supply) --> Stello M200 monos --> ACI Sapphire XL/Sound Anchors/REL Storm III and JTM PPA headphone amplifier with custom bass boost --> AKG K501 and Etymotics ER-4S headphones.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 1:44 pm 
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ATWindsor wrote:
I'm a bit dissapointed with the 1 folder-restriction. Huge discs are expensive, and may be to small, and RAIDing is a security-risk.
AtW


RAID 0 maybe, but RAID 5 is a good choice for putting multiple drives together (as long as you don't mind the poor write performance). Lose any drive and your data is still intact!


MikeC wrote:
There is another more stand-alone digital media device I'm trying to get a sample of... www.olive.us Very slick. No need for a PC.


Another system I've been hearing quite a bit about recently is the Sonos. Here is a good review. A work collegue has one and is very happy with it, and is about to get delivery of an extra controller and more ZonePlayers.
It still needs to connect to some external storage, so the PC is still part of the equation, but it has 2 main benefits over the Squeezebox/Roku: 1) multiple zones and 2) the controller interface. It's similar to an ipod interface - very intuitive, and easier than browsing a directory tree structure.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 8:25 pm 
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A few observations:

Quote:
What if you could eliminate digital extraction from the optical disk as a source of jitter? You'd have solved half of the CD player's challenge. This is precisely what can be done by "ripping" CDs into digital files with a PC. Just about any CD drive will do, and just about any PC that's less than... say, five years old. Sub-$500 PCs, therefore, can be used. That's much cheaper than even entry level high end CD players, and just a fraction of what the best CD players sell for.


It should be noted that network jitter on IP-based networks is a very real thing. A cursory glance at RFC1889, which defines RTP, shows the great lengths to which people have attempted to overcome that issue within IP networks. Furthermore, it should also be noted that dealing with jitter within a CD player would be much easier than dealing with it over an IP network, where other clients on the network can adversely affect network conditions at any moment.

While IP networks provide very robust quality of service mechanisms, by definition they do not provide timely delivery--which means jitter is basically a given over any sort of IP network. Different mediums have more or less jitter--wired networks are decidedly better than wireless or powerline networks.

The 8 MB buffer on the squeezebox is more than enough to deal with any jitter issues--assuming they buffer properly--but it's just as easy for a CD player to incorporate the same feature to reduce/eliminate jitter. Removing the optical extraction step is probably the only realistic improvement; other than that, the same techniques need to be employed in either scenario.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 8:44 pm 
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Beyonder wrote:
A few observations:

Quote:
What if you could eliminate digital extraction from the optical disk as a source of jitter? You'd have solved half of the CD player's challenge. This is precisely what can be done by "ripping" CDs into digital files with a PC. Just about any CD drive will do, and just about any PC that's less than... say, five years old. Sub-$500 PCs, therefore, can be used. That's much cheaper than even entry level high end CD players, and just a fraction of what the best CD players sell for.


It should be noted that network jitter on IP-based networks is a very real thing. A cursory glance at RFC1889, which defines RTP, shows the great lengths to which people have attempted to overcome that issue within IP networks. Furthermore, it should also be noted that dealing with jitter within a CD player would be much easier than dealing with it over an IP network, where other clients on the network can adversely affect network conditions at any moment.

While IP networks provide very robust quality of service mechanisms, by definition they do not provide timely delivery--which means jitter is basically a given over any sort of IP network. Different mediums have more or less jitter--wired networks are decidedly better than wireless or powerline networks.

The 8 MB buffer on the squeezebox is more than enough to deal with any jitter issues--assuming they buffer properly--but it's just as easy for a CD player to incorporate the same feature to reduce/eliminate jitter. Removing the optical extraction step is probably the only realistic improvement; other than that, the same techniques need to be employed in either scenario.


The IP jitter issue would only come into play if the data were decoded/decompressed on the server to regular digital audio (PCM in this case) and then sent in realtime to the digital network player (in this case, the SqueezeBox) for either digital to analogue conversion and analogue output or digital output to a DAC. In the case where the compressed or encoded data is sent to the digital network player for decoding after transport, network or IP jitter is of no significance whatsoever.

The SqueezeBox handles the decoding/decompression (i.e. post-network transport) so IP jitter is not an issue here. This is part of my reason for choosing this device (the fact it handles FLAC was what caught my attention; the fact that some of its components were designed with audiophile use in mind and that it performs decoding post-transport is what helped me make the final decision).

Your one chance for jitter here is between the decoding device and the DAC; in the case where you use the analogue output of the SqueezeBox, that's somewhere within the SqueezeBox. If you use and external DAC, that's when the digital signal is sent out to the DAC. Benchmark's DAC1 is designed to minimize jitter at the input stage (higher-end clock-regenerating DACs do the same, but Benchmark's supposedly uses a different method).

-Ed

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 9:24 pm 
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Quote:
The IP jitter issue would only come into play if the data were decoded/decompressed on the server to regular digital audio (PCM in this case) and then sent in realtime to the digital network player (in this case, the SqueezeBox) for either digital to analogue conversion and analogue output or digital output to a DAC. In the case where the compressed or encoded data is sent to the digital network player for decoding after transport, network or IP jitter is of no significance whatsoever.


That's not exactly correct--network jitter happens regardless of whether you're sending compressed or uncompressed data. Network jitter can be induced by things other than bandwidth; in an IP based network, any number of things can introduce jitter or variance in arrival time, and it doesn't take much to disturb things. IP networks do not have any respect for the timeliness of delivery--period--so you can expect some degree of jitter streaming over any network.

I know this because my day job involves writing code to stream media around LANs--in some instances, compression actually makes jitter issues worse rather than better because there's often a disparity between sample sizes. With video, this is definitely the case, but less so with audio.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 9:43 pm 
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Beyonder wrote:
Quote:
The IP jitter issue would only come into play if the data were decoded/decompressed on the server to regular digital audio (PCM in this case) and then sent in realtime to the digital network player (in this case, the SqueezeBox) for either digital to analogue conversion and analogue output or digital output to a DAC. In the case where the compressed or encoded data is sent to the digital network player for decoding after transport, network or IP jitter is of no significance whatsoever.


That's not exactly correct--network jitter happens regardless of whether you're sending compressed or uncompressed data. Network jitter can be induced by things other than bandwidth; in an IP based network, any number of things can introduce jitter or variance in arrival time, and it doesn't take much to disturb things. IP networks do not have any respect for the timeliness of delivery--period--so you can expect some degree of jitter streaming over any network.

I know this because my day job involves writing code to stream media around LANs--in some instances, compression actually makes jitter issues worse rather than better because there's often a disparity between sample sizes. With video, this is definitely the case, but less so with audio.


I agree with you on this--it doesn't matter what you're sending over the network, that data will suffer jitter without a buffer to regenerate the clocksynch or to suppress the jitter; my point is that when the end device is decoding the data, it regenerates the clock of the data output to the DAC (this is assuming a well-designed product, and considering the intent of the SqueezeBox, I'm going to make this assumption), so whatever jitter there was entering the decoder is eliminated. If the decoding process were time sensitive, I'd agree with you, but it is not. Get my point now?

IOW, the SqueezeBox is most likely designed so that the input stage of the decoder is not time-sensitive. If it were, it most definitely would not sound as good as it does.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 9:48 pm 
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Sorry--I'm realizing we're really speaking about two very different types of jitter; they probably shouldn't even have the same name. One will affect the actual produced sound; the other may lead to the sound cutting out entirely.

Network jitter is strictly the variance in arrival times of packets on an IP network. This could lead to the decoder (be it a FLAC decoder, WMA, MP3, etc.) being starved for data, so you have a complete interruption of service (in other words, the music stops momentarily or cuts out).

If you have audio and video, it also can have adverse affects on synchronization. This is a normal thing in IP networks, and network jitter can be anywhere from milliseconds to seconds, depending upon network conditions.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 9:52 pm 
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Quote:
If the decoding process were time sensitive, I'd agree with you, but it is not. Get my point now?


At the risk of sounding nitpicky, all decoding processes are time sensitive, because AV data by definition is time-sensitive. And, depending on the decoder, starving/flooding has varied results depending upon who implemented it and how. Often times in audio, decoders will interpolate missed samples rather than wait for them to be resent (common in VOIP), but it depends totally on the application and codec.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:10 pm 
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Beyonder wrote:
Sorry--I'm realizing we're really speaking about two very different types of jitter; they probably shouldn't even have the same name. One will affect the actual produced sound; the other may lead to the sound cutting out entirely.

Network jitter is strictly the variance in arrival times of packets on an IP network. This could lead to the decoder (be it a FLAC decoder, WMA, MP3, etc.) being starved for data, so you have a complete interruption of service (in other words, the music stops momentarily or cuts out).

If you have audio and video, it also can have adverse affects on synchronization. This is a normal thing in IP networks, and network jitter can be anywhere from milliseconds to seconds, depending upon network conditions.


As Mike mentioned in his article, he did run into issues of cutting out from being short on bandwidth, and I wouldn't be surprised if that sort of jitter (the sort you're talking about), were it to be bad enough, would cause a similar problem if the unit didn't have such a large buffer.

-Ed

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Last edited by Edward Ng on Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:12 pm 
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Beyonder wrote:
Quote:
If the decoding process were time sensitive, I'd agree with you, but it is not. Get my point now?


At the risk of sounding nitpicky, all decoding processes are time sensitive, because AV data by definition is time-sensitive. And, depending on the decoder, starving/flooding has varied results depending upon who implemented it and how. Often times in audio, decoders will interpolate missed samples rather than wait for them to be resent (common in VOIP), but it depends totally on the application and codec.


When the decoder regenerates the data, it's also regenerating the clock on that data on the output side. Your concern is with regards to the ability of the decoder to handle serious timing issues on the input side, and considering the sizeable buffer on the SqueezeBox, as well as the close proxmity of the buffer to the decoder, I have no reason to be one bit worried about the issue you're describing. Again, if this unit were particularly susceptible to this sort of issue, it wouldn't sound as good as it does.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:24 pm 
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One thing they could do with the 8 meg buffer that I hadn't thought about is have a pretty large protection against network conditions--since their system isn't real time (as in, the data is already recorded--all of the stuff I work on at the office is being captured and encoded in real time, which makes things difficult) they could burst data to fill the 8 meg buffer while still feeding out samples at a constant rate on the other end of the buffer.

Not sure if they do that, but Microsoft's faststart (marketing term, sorry) stuff works sort of like that.

That being said, if Mike encountered issues with music cutting out, I doubt they're doing this. 4 megabytes (half of what the SB has) would hold roughly 23 seconds of uncompressed, stereo music at 44.1/16. For FLAC, I guess it'd end up being closer to 40 seconds of music. I find it almost impossible to believe that the LAN at mike's house fell asleep for 20+ seconds...

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:25 pm 
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Beyonder wrote:
One thing they could do with the 8 meg buffer that I hadn't thought about is have a pretty large protection against network conditions--since their system isn't real time (as in, the data is already recorded--all of the stuff I work on at the office is being captured and encoded in real time, which makes things difficult) they could burst data to fill the 8 meg buffer while still feeding out samples at a constant rate on the other end of the buffer.

Not sure if they do that, but Microsoft's faststart (marketing term, sorry) stuff works sort of like that.

That being said, if Mike encountered issues with music cutting out, I doubt they're doing this. 4 megabytes would hold roughly 23 seconds of uncompressed, stereo music at 44.1/16. For FLAC, I guess it'd end up being closer to 40 seconds of music. I find it almost impossible to believe that the LAN at mike's house fell asleep for 20+ seconds...


It's a bandwidth issue. You're not using 802.11b at work. I've had no such issues on my 802.11g network and the SqueezeBox.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:31 pm 
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No, I'm using a powerline network at the office, which gets about 6 mbit/sec in ideal conditions (roughly equivalent to 802.11b in terms of throughput and behavior).

Bandwidth isn't the issue with real-time data--the fact that it's real time is the issue. You can't burst because the data doesn't exist yet. Regardless, that's OT. my bad.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 10:53 am 
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Beyonder wrote:
That being said, if Mike encountered issues with music cutting out, I doubt they're doing this. 4 megabytes (half of what the SB has) would hold roughly 23 seconds of uncompressed, stereo music at 44.1/16. For FLAC, I guess it'd end up being closer to 40 seconds of music. I find it almost impossible to believe that the LAN at mike's house fell asleep for 20+ seconds...


There's almost no question that bandwidth was the problem. The first time we set things up, the connection between the wireless router and the Squeezebox was terrible — enough that there was permanent stuttering. Upgrading the firmware of the router and moving it to a better location fixed the problem. I have no problem believing that the bandwidth of the connection was in kbps, not Mbps the first time we hooked it up.

I don't follow your point about not being able to burst because the data doesn't exist. Decoding happens in the squeezebox, after the data has arrived. Whatever data needs to be burst through the connection exists from the time the CD is ripped to the host computer.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 10:59 am 
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"Just one folder" shouldn't really be a limitation.
You can use RAID or Logical Volume Management to combine several discs or partitions into something the filesystem will treat as one, or you can use symbolic links ("shortcuts" in Windows) so that the slimserver software will see an extra folder as being in the directory structure under your main folder (even if the extra is on another computer accessed over the network by NFS or SMB, say).


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 11:59 am 
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Bat wrote:
"Just one folder" shouldn't really be a limitation.
You can use RAID or Logical Volume Management to combine several discs or partitions into something the filesystem will treat as one, or you can use symbolic links ("shortcuts" in Windows) so that the slimserver software will see an extra folder as being in the directory structure under your main folder (even if the extra is on another computer accessed over the network by NFS or SMB, say).


Hmm, using shortcuts is a good idea if it works, as combning volumes and raid is a bit bothersome IMHO, especially if you already have a system in place (I have 3 discs with flac). But it's still a bit of an unescessary limitation IMHO.

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Devonavar wrote:
I don't follow your point about not being able to burst because the data doesn't exist. Decoding happens in the squeezebox, after the data has arrived. Whatever data needs to be burst through the connection exists from the time the CD is ripped to the host computer.


Sorry, I don't think I'm being clear--been working like crazy this weekend to get stuff read for CES, so I'm probably not as lucid as I should be.

You can't burst data that is being recorded in real-time, because the data doesn't exist yet. For example, in a Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) application, the source of data is a user's voice, and it's being compressed and sent over the wire in real-time. One cannot burst data simply because there isn't anything to burst--all you can do is send data as fast as possible in real-time.

Obviously, since the SB involves files on disk (thus, the data has already been created), bursting is definitely an option. The data already exists, so you can ship it over as fast as the network will allow.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 5:15 pm 
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Out of curiosity: do you think it was the firmware upgrade or repositioning of the router that made the biggest difference? Or undetermined?

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 9:33 pm 
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Probably the FW upgrade.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 8:46 pm 
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Hey MikeC (or anyone else with a Squeezebox) - would you mind measuring its power consumption (with a Kill-A-Watt?) while playing music? I'm curious.


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 Post subject: emperor's new clothes anyone?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 5:08 am 
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i dont want to put a damper on things - it's an interesting review for sure, but please, stay away from too much audiophile nonsense - it kind of makes a reader doubt the scientific objectivity of the rest of the site.

as someone who makes records, goes to london's better mastering houses lots and is friends with a few mastering engineers can i just say:

don't even mention vinyl. cutting to vinyl is a nightmare, there are sounds you can't cut, sounds that always come out worse, the inner grooves always sound rubbish and the treble gets mangled. the reason people think it sounds better is that the distortions that vinyl imparts (especially to the stereo image) are pleasing to the uneducated ear. i would rather hear what the artist intended their music to sound like though.

anyway, my squeezebox 2 goes through £150-worth of cheap amp and cheap speakers and i love it.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 7:51 am 
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That's all I need, another must-have gadget that I didn't even know about an hour ago!

Seriously, that is one neat device. I'm brainstorming at the moment and wondering how to cable some decent audio into my kitchen with satellite speakers, and have something that would prevent my having to keep coming through to the PC in the living room to adjust the volume.

At the moment I'm using an old Soundblaster 5.1 card with the rear Cambridge Soundworks speakers cabled through. To do this, the subwoofer needs to be connected as the speakers come out of that subwoofer box. So there's a constant rumble in the living room, and no bass at all in the kitchen.

I wonder how this device could be used to suit my requirements? I do have a wireless router. Could it be used to listen to podcasts through iTunes? I do that a lot in the kitchen.

Time for some brainstorming I think.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:55 pm 
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Location: Isle of Arran
Well, I've spent the evening doing some research on the Squeezebox 3 and Sonos. Imagine my surprise when I mentioned it to my wife and she agreed that it was a good idea! I was just about to duck for cover!

From what I've read of both, the Squeezebox wins in terms of price and formats; the Sonar doesn't do FLAC files. The biggest advantages I can see of the Sonar is the line-in feature and the fact that it also has a 50w amp built in. The control panel also looks really good in an iPod-esque way.

Squeezeboxes can be synchronised to play the same thing on each device, or seperate tunes from the same server. As to the single folder issue, the shortcuts do indeed work. This is from their FAQ:

Quote:
How do I use multiple folders or disks with my Music Library?

You can create links or shortcuts to other folders and place them in your specified Music Library Folder. The contents of the linked folders will then be part of your Music Library.


The Squeezebox should work okay with powered speakers from the headphone socket so that would solve the kitchen problem quite well. It also mentions something about working with iTunes in the FAQ but it needs expanding upon.

I might just go for a couple of these and give them a whirl. Many thanks for the review Mike and for bringing this device to my notice.

Cams

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 Post subject: LOGITECH Wireless Music System for PC
PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 8:46 pm 
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I wonder how the Logitech Wireless Music System for PC compares.

It has 3 pieces, a wireless USB transmitter, receiver with RCA and mini-plug outputs, and a remote. The track control buttons work with any media player that supports multimedia keyboard commands, including:
    Windows Media Player 9 (and higher)
    Musicmatch 9.0 (and higher)
    iTunes 4 (and higher)
    RealPlayer 10 (and higher)
    WinAmp 5 (and higher)
I have about 4,000 mp3s burned at 256kbps. This sounds like a great product. It costs $150.

My current home office setup has my PC connected via optical digital cable to my stereo. This could come in handy for the business office I am opening, and will allow me to play my PC's mp3s wirelessly on a stereo while controlling it from the PC with standard PC music players.

I've read, "The Music Anywhere system uses adaptive frequency hopping to avoid interfering with existing wireless services, and, since it doesn't use 802.11 frequencies, can't be used for other home-networking purposes."

Logitech claims it works with "any type of music: downloads, subscription services, and even Internet radio."

http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/products/details/US/EN,CRID=2416,CONTENTID=10855

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