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Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Hi there,

I'm looking for an appliance that can access (wirelessly preferably) music on my home network, and be plugged to my stereo.

It seems that this generally can be achieved by 2 components:

1. software on a computer that acts as a server
TVersity is such a software, it looks cool, it does Musepack (my music collection is mostly in MPC) and plenty of other formats, and it's free. However, I'm open to suggestions for other software.

2. an appliance plugged into the stereo that can use the server

I found 2 products that seem to do the job:
* Roku SoundBridge (same product, but through another Brand [Pinnacle], which is sold in Europe)
* Logitec Products

I'd be interested in feedback from users of these products, especially on the topic of reliability and usability, but also if you've heard of other noteworthy products.

Thank you

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #1
Sonos.  Here's a description.

We keep all our music on our networked HD and Sonos plays all that, plus internet radio and online services such as Rhapdody and Pandora.  No PC needs to be running to do this.  It's all controlled by cool wireless remotes with big displays on them.  One remote can control every Sonos box in your house or you can have lots of remotes. 

Roku can do many of the same things but you have to geek out more.  Running off your networked HD without your PC can be done by installing a server on your NAS, but you're on your own doing it -  Roku does not officially support it so you have to rely on their user community to help you if it has any problems, whereas Sonos fully supports that model right out of the box.

I don't work for them; I'm just a satisfied customer.

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #2
I'll be the first to put in a plug for SlimDevices (Logitech).

As far as price goes, this falls between Roku and Sonos.  The Squeezebox can be used wired or wirelessly.  It supports any format you can throw at it (FLAC, APE, SHN, mp3, WMA, etc.).  It supports the gapless tags included in LAME encoded mp3s allowing gapless playback of LAME encoded mp3s.  There is also support for Internet radio, Pandora, Last.fm, Rhapsody, Live365, radioio, and others that I'm sure I've forgotten.

The server is written in Perl and is open source.  You can run it on Linux, Windows, Apple platforms, etc.  There are some great plug-ins developed by the user community that support things like displaying the current weather forcast on the display to updating your iTunes datase for track stats (last played, skipped, etc.).

You can use whatever software you want to manage your library, as long as the files are tagged properly.  The server will scan the files and build a database based on the tags.

The architecture is flexible which makes it a little complex.  It is not as straight forward to set up as Sonos (so I'm told, I've never set up a Sonos system).  However, it's not terribly difficult.

There is a very active community which is always helpful in answering questions.  There is also a new remote that is in development that will include a color LCD screen to display artwork, status, etc.

You can download the server software from www.slimdevices.com.  This software includes something called SoftSqueeze.  This is a software emulation of a Squeezebox.  You can use this to try everything out prior to purchasing a Squeezebox.

Which you chose depends on what is important to you.  If you are on a smaller budget, the Sonos is out of the picture.  If you want streamlined ease-of-use, Sonos is a better bet.  SlimDevices can run on a NAS and is actively supported in that configuration.

Good luck with whichever you choose.

(BTW, I don't work for Logitech, I'm just a happy owner of 2 squeezeboxes).

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #3
I have a Roku Soundbridge M1001, Pinnacle branded.
Note that when you want to buy one, there's two version, Soundbridge Homemusic, which is a simplier one, it doesn't have nice big display and doesn't have Ethernet port. The other, normal is the Soundbridge, without the word "Homemusic".

It's very nice and sweet little device, I like it very much, however it has some drawback, which was not obvious before I bought it.
- First, when using it with its native server, the Firefly server, doesn't support "folder browsing", so you cannot go through your folders and files as they are reside on the HDD. You only see the albums, based on tagging info. That mean if you don't use tagging, you will not see your albums (they will be just all together in the Songs section). Of course, you can use some other servers, which support folder browsing, like TVersity or Twonkymedia, so this might be not problem for everybody.
- It doesn't support FLAC natively, so the server must transcode FLAC files to WAV on-the-fly. Firefly Server does this wonderfully.
- Then there's a minor hardware related thing, which can problem for perfectionist audiophiles, that the M1001 model resamples everything to 48 kHz in the output.

But it has many advantages also, for example it can use many servers, which are UPNP compatible. Didn't tried it with any standalone NAS so far, but it worked nicely with the PC using Firefly/TwonkyMedia/Fuppes UPNP server.

I consider to buying a Squeezebox also, because it support native folder browsing, plays FLAC, and it's audiophile. But it can only use their own Slimserver. Sometime in the future, I plan to make/buy some standalone NAS which can run SlimServer without using the PC.


Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #5
Roku Soundbridge.

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #6
[quote author=Light-Fire link=msg=514442 date=1188957934]Roku Soundbridge.[/quote]

It would help a lot if the original poster would indicate his goals and constraints:

1.  What's his budget?

2.  How geeky does he want to get - is he prepared to install open-source software on third-part hardware or does he want something that works out-of-the-box?

3.  How many rooms/how many devices does he want to serve?

4.  How important is the remote?  Does he want to display/search all his music using the remote?

5.  How important is access to subscription services (Pandora, Rhapsody, etc)  and internet radio?

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #7
It would help a lot if the original poster would indicate his goals and constraints:

1.  What's his budget?
About 200 to 400 € at the very max
Quote
2.  How geeky does he want to get - is he prepared to install open-source software on third-part hardware or does he want something that works out-of-the-box?
Geeky I feel, eg I installed Rockbox on my DAP
Quote
3.  How many rooms/how many devices does he want to serve?
1 for now, _maybe_ more in the future
Quote
4.  How important is the remote?  Does he want to display/search all his music using the remote?
No, not really. A remote is only a plus.
Quote
5.  How important is access to subscription services (Pandora, Rhapsody, etc)  and internet radio?

Low. If I can listen to RadioParadise, it's a plus, but not the reason of purchase of the device.

An now, the winner is...?

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #8
The DIY way: Xbox with Xbox Media Center (XBMC) and a Wi-Fi adapter.
* RCA analog out or SPDIF optical out, resamples to 48kHz but it sounds very good to me
* can access free internet radio stations
* <US$150 but a few hours of initial setup required
* you can still play games (if that interests you at all)

A downside is that you would need either a video display of some kind (mini LCD's for the console are cheap) or a PDA with wireless to use XBMC's full-featured web interface.
My Sony PSP running a script written by member TREX6662k6 is my remote. It lets me browse my flac's stored on the PC and queue them for playback on the Xbox through the hi-fi system, from anywhere in the house or yard. 

I guess it might be somewhat expensive to implement starting from scratch. I have these components for gaming anyway, now they are working double duty! 

It's very fun and effective you are a "do-it-yourselfer" or a tweaker.

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #9

It would help a lot if the original poster would indicate his goals and constraints:

1.  What's his budget?
About 200 to 400 € at the very max
Quote
2.  How geeky does he want to get - is he prepared to install open-source software on third-part hardware or does he want something that works out-of-the-box?
Geeky I feel, eg I installed Rockbox on my DAP
Quote
3.  How many rooms/how many devices does he want to serve?
1 for now, _maybe_ more in the future
Quote
4.  How important is the remote?  Does he want to display/search all his music using the remote?
No, not really. A remote is only a plus.
Quote
5.  How important is access to subscription services (Pandora, Rhapsody, etc)  and internet radio?

Low. If I can listen to RadioParadise, it's a plus, but not the reason of purchase of the device.

An now, the winner is...?


Definitely not Sonos (my original suggestion) - out of your price range and fancier than you need.    The most basic Sonos system would set you back around 800€

Probably the Linksys.

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #10
An now, the winner is...?


Based on your requirements, I think the SqueezeBox is for you, especially if you enjoyed geeking out with RockBox.  You can start geeking out prior to spending a penny since you can download the server software along with a software emulation of a SqueezeBox to try it all out.  There are great discussion forums to be found here:
http://forums.slimdevices.com/

Here is where you can download the server/softsqueeze software:
http://www.slimdevices.com/su_downloads.html

It's really a great product - I'm quite happy with it.

Oh yeah, and the price.  It is $299 US, which according to an online currency converter is about 219 Euros.  With shipping and other taxes, I think it would still be well within your stated budget.

Have fun!

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #11
An now, the winner is...?


Based on your requirements, I think the SqueezeBox is for you, especially if you enjoyed geeking out with RockBox.  You can start geeking out prior to spending a penny since you can download the server software along with a software emulation of a SqueezeBox to try it all out.  There are great discussion forums to be found here:
http://forums.slimdevices.com/

Here is where you can download the server/softsqueeze software:
http://www.slimdevices.com/su_downloads.html

It's really a great product - I'm quite happy with it.

Oh yeah, and the price.  It is $299 US, which according to an online currency converter is about 219 Euros.  With shipping and other taxes, I think it would still be well within your stated budget.

Have fun!

Interesting, definitely. I'm jumping with both feet on the opportunity to test it with its emulator. And I lake the free software spirit around the software part of the system. Thanks !


BTW - this is for you.

EDIT: Icing on the cake, it can scrobble, too. How cool !

Looking for network-to-stereo appliance

Reply #12
Interesting, definitely. I'm jumping with both feet on the opportunity to test it with its emulator.

I am an enthusiastic Slim Devices user. (I have a Transporter and a Squeezebox2). I would just caution you that SoftSqueeze (the software emulator) is a little clunky in some areas. On my system (Windows 2000 Pro SP3, Softsqueeze 3.2, M-Audio AP2496 soundcard, Java JRE version 1.5.0), it definitely doesn't operate as smoothly as the actual hardware devices. (Of course, it could just be that the installation of SoftSqueeze on my PC is somehow broken). So when you're evaluating the emulator, if you experience the odd glitch here and there, bear in mind that the actual hardware devices don't exhibit these glitches.

 
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