DIY music server #4

This has been quiet for a while, partly because I rarely get a chance to actually listen though anything but cans most of the time.

As good as it can be (for cheap!)

Anyway, ASIOforAll is great, improving the sound, and using that to with FLAC ripping (CDEx plus FLAC.dll) for all my favourite albums means a pretty good quality sound via stereo (plus Sub).

Now added Airfoil, Spotify and Planet Rock (web player). So have ditched the DAB – superfluous now as its a better sound via the EEBox.

Airfoil gets me multiroom via wireless Airfoil Speakers on any of my iThings.

AlbumPlayer 5 update came with the Apple Remote implementation. Apple Remote is great, I now use it on the iPad to control Albumplayer most of the time, which means that Albumplayer is now properly multiroom in that I can control it from anywhere, not just listen.

So a recap on the setup:

  • EEEBox PC with a Lilliput 7in touchscreen (pressure) running XP.
  • 400 odd CDs on AlbumPlayer (touch mode) using ASIO4All to output via optical SP/DIF.
  • Airfoil to get multiroom wireless streaming. Unfortunately Airfoil is not compatible with ASIO, but then ASIO is for ‘Audiophile’ listening only really, in the lounge but it means I have to manually switch.
  • Denon 2900 DVD/CD/SACD/DVD-A player.
  • Venerable Sherwood 5.1 receiver, still doing the business until we go HD/3D/Bluray. Pretty meaty sound.
  • Ruark Sabre II main stereo speakers. Even after 16 years it would cost me a grand to get a better pair*.
  • Tangent Echo One centre/surround speakers.
  • Eclipse TD Subwoofer. A thing of beauty compared to most subs!

The Sherwood is set up to use the Sub with stereo but in a subtle way. For 5.1 movies it gets, er, unsubtle 8^).

So aren’t I done? Weeel…

Surround Sound ripping…

2 of my favourite albums are in 5.1 surround sound. Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing (DTS or DVD-A) and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (SACD). Its not about ‘quality’ of experience, its about a whole new experience – being in the ‘middle’ of a soundfield not limited to 2 sources. Which is amazing, when I get the quality time needed to actually listen! Except that I’m back to the days of sticking the disc into the machine… And the output is compressed DTS (optical) or Analogue direct.

What I find very odd is that many people are now used to listening to movies in 5.1 or more at home, and yet the demand for surround sound music remains in geekdom/progdom. Odd. I guess music has become portable thanks to Sony/Apple over the years and stereo is simple to do with headphones.

Anyway the point is that I wanted to rip these albums to play them direct from the PC. Not! Its likely that the Rolls Royce end of the market such as Naim might have sorted this, but elsewhere 5.1 digital music support is very uncommon. Partly its to do with bandwidth. SP/DIF can’t support lossless multichannel audio (Meridian apparently use 3 parallel SP/DIFs to do this). The HDMI cable is the first that can support this, but content is mostly limited to movies at the moment. My Eeebox is to old to have a HDMI out 8^( so it would have to be DTS (compressed) or a hardware upgrade. Anyway I thought it worth a try.

There appears to be nothing out there to make this easy. Nothing to automatically rip a multichannel source into a miltichannel-ready file for storage and playback. Albumplayer is stereo only too. The nearest I’ve come to it is in this post. While it sounds doable, when am I going to get the time!?

So there’s a challenge to some enterprising company – please help us rip and play our surround sound Prog Rock epics? DTS would be fine for now, and as HDMI becomes standard in audio, native or multichannel FLAC support would be awesome!

  • Ruark are doing OK, but I feel sorry for them in a way, such superb products that no one ever feels the need to upgrade! Thier ‘problem’ is that they don’t or won’t agressively market this issue, so they don’t break out of the hifi ‘niche’. Instead they are getting into the lifestyle arena to make bucks, and good luck to them.

#5-1, #dts, #dvda, #hifi, #ruark, #sacd, #spdif

DIY music server – finally brought my hifi into this century

Since most of my favourite CDs/tracks are now digitsed on my PC and phone, my hifi has been sitting there feeling a little out of the loop.  Last year I bought an Apple Airport Express, which allowed WinAmp to stream to my hifi over the wireless LAN. That’s been OK, but means the PC needed to be on, with WinAmp configured to send to remote speakers, to listen to any of it. Too much faff plus another A-D-A conversion in the path.

I went looking for other solutions, and really – they’re all too expensive for what they do – so I’ve put a simple ‘media server’ solution together for under £400.

Parts:

ASUS eeeBox (B202) / 160 Gig HD  (a very quiet mini server)  – £200

Lilliput 7in touchscreen monitor – £160

AlbumPlayer – touchscreen optimised player/library £30

Installed, this sits on my hifi rack for touchsceen use.

img_0874

Album player is designed for touchscreen use – there’s even an on screen keyboard.

My master store of mp3s and FLACs are on the main PC – I simply copy the files / folders I want over the wifi to the Asus. Album player discovers them in a ‘Picasa’ sort of way and off you go.  Can create playlists and custom libraries (very different ones for me and Zarina for instance!). Only glitch so far is that the album covers aren’t all being automatically sourced from the album folders.

No specific remote yet – waiting on an iPhone for that 8^).

Now I only have the problem of finding time to sit down and listen to music again…

#asus, #cd, #diy, #hifi, #media, #server