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Hardware vs software and features

davarazzo

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So I have ripped my CD collection to my NAS and still buying new ones, downloading HD flac files, etc. I’ve been using my laptop with USB output to my DAC and that’s getting tiresome. Fine for the office, but in the 2ch media room, not so much. I’ve been saving some $$$ and wanting to give my system a facelift to the 21st century.

I have been looking at network audio players (bridges?) and while I have investigated the specs and features of many, it finally hit me that there is a software element I have not considered and honestly, precious little that I can find has been written about. Most reviews I have read on most of the hardware I am considering might have 3-5 sentences on the software platform. And what is written normally isn’t really about how I would use the software/device. It plays Tidal. ……..Okay. My big concern is what kind of experience will I have with my music collection. While I do enjoy streaming services, I primarily spend time listening to my favorite music on CD and flac files.

I looked at the ratings at the Google store and Apple store and noted the platform really didn’t make much difference. Some folks are spending what I consider to be big bucks for hardware that has a software platform that ………. Well, sucks.

I guess Roon seems to be the best thing going from what I can see, but paying a monthly/yearly fee to use your $1500 - $3700 device rubs me the wrong way. And if you pay $1500 plus $120/yr to have a network player, shouldn’t the software be a 5+?

Android Platform ratings:
Cambridge Audio’s Streammagic 2.8
NAD’s BlueOS 3.1
Volumio Prime’s 3.3
Arcam’s MusicLive 1.8
Primare Prisma App 2.7
Marantz/Denon’s HEOS 3.4
Roon 4.2

iThing Platform ratings:
Cambridge Audio’s Streammagic 3.6
NAD’s BlueOS 2.8
Volumio Prime’s 3.3
Arcam’s MusicLive 3.2
Primare Prisma App 2.7
Marantz/Denon’s HEOS 4.2
Roon 4.0

Am I missing something here? What software platform do you find best for your network bridge/player to play your saved digital music collection? Is it stable? You ready to give your device flight lessons?

I do have HEOS experience as I own 2 Marantz NR1200. One for the living room and one for the home gym. I primarily use it for watching TV (hdmi) and streaming services (Pandora and Tidal). For TV and streaming services, i'd give a 4+ most days. for listening to my flac collection, about a 1- HEOS will not go into my 2ch media room system.
 

BillG

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I use Emby for my multimedia streaming needs and find it to be very stable. While it's not strictly for music, I do use it in that way by maintaining separate libraries and user accounts to segregate my music from other media types.

I'm using it right now to stream some music to a Chromecast. That's Emby (Android) in the screenshot below streaming from Emby Server (Windows):

Download.jpg

In terms of streaming protocols, it supports UPnP/DLNA, Chromecast, and AirPlay. Most (if not all) network players, even those that include the manufacturer's proprietary protocol(s), support UPnP/DLNA.

As an added bonus, Emby's freeware version even supports remote streaming from one's home server - I use it frequently when out for a walk or commuting. From I understand, Roon doesn't support this currently.

Emby's cost is reasonable as well at $120USD for an outright purchase in the form of a lifetime license.

One disadvantage that Emby has opposed to Roon, it doesn't have any DSP functions other than format and bitrate conversion for network bandwidth restriction purposes. So if you need EQ or some other DSP functions at the endpoint, they'll have to be incorporated in another way.

All the best... :cool:
 
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davarazzo

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My biggest problem is I don't know what I don't know. Like UPnP/DLNA interfaces are not all great. Admittedly I have much to learn about it. HEOS supports it, and it sucks. You can't really configure how it works. Or at least I have not figured out how. And I have not located a user manual that goes over how to use it in detail.

It has grabbed everything in my NAS music folder. Every album is duplicated because I have mp3 copies that I use on mine and my wife's phone. This folder set up worked fine with my MediaMonkey on my workstation, laptops, and phones. So I guess I have to move my mp3 folders to another destination, in effect hiding them from HEOS instead of configuring HEOS to build a library based on the folders I choose.

@BillG Thanks for your input. So how does Emby work? It doesn't appear to interface with a network audio player else chromcast, which I do not know a lot about. You bluetooth it to a dac? Does the music have to always go through your phone/device?

Several network audio players claim to be compatible with chromecast but I have not been able to learn any real details about how it works. When I googled chromecast audio the other day I saw mostly this hockey puck thing with a 3.5mm audio connector ......... yeah, I don't think so. My gut feeling is chromecast is not really geared to the audiophile. I don't talk to my stuff either. But, I don't know what I don't know. My Sony TV has chromecast. I should take some time and see how it works. The Sony TV does an okay job on Tidal with toslink output to my DAC.
 

BillG

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@BillG Thanks for your input. So how does Emby work? It doesn't appear to interface with a network audio player else chromcast, which I do not know a lot about. You bluetooth it to a dac? Does the music have to always go through your phone/device?

As I mentioned above, it supports UPnP/DLNA, Google Cast, and Airplay, and it will connect and stream to any network players that support those protocols in the manner that they normally work. When streaming directly to one's mobile, it would support Bluetooth by default if the device does.

Perhaps you missed it in my original screenshot or on Emby's own website, but that little rectangular icon on the upper right is where the magic happens. Below is an example of what one will be presented with when pressing it:

tia7118876053958322570.png
 

BillG

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When I googled chromecast audio the other day I saw mostly this hockey puck thing with a 3.5mm audio connector ......... yeah, I don't think so. My gut feeling is chromecast is not really geared to the audiophile.


There are performance analyses conducted by @amirm of both the analog and digital outputs of the Chromecast Audio on this site. The performance is audible transparent.
 

Kal Rubinson

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One disadvantage that Emby has opposed to Roon, it doesn't have any DSP functions other than format and bitrate conversion for network bandwidth restriction purposes.
It has procedural, parametric and convolution filters.
I can no longer correct my post above but, clearly, I misread BillG's post. My comment, of course, refers to Roon and not to Emby, of which I have no knowledge. Sorry.
 

BillG

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My gut feeling is chromecast is not really geared to the audiophile.

By the way, attempting to judge an audio product based upon "gut feeling" is a very ineffective way of doing so and prone to cognitive bias.

Gut feeling is what leads some individuals into believing that a $500 per meter cable is better than a $10 Amazon Basic one. It's not when examined by an electricial engineer with the proper equipment to do so.

Gut feeling is what enables unscrupulous manufacturers like PS Audio and Totaldac to sell equipment for >= $10,000 that is demonstrably inferior to their $100 counterpart.

Gut feeling is what leads some individuals to believe that a $35 plastic hockey puck of a network player is inferior to >= $500 one in a metal case. Yet when examined with a lab grade audio analyzer they both produce the same audibly transparent/bit perfect output.
 
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davarazzo

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Good grief BillG. Do members need to be that careful when posting questions and conversing? I certainly don’t want to walk on eggshells just to discuss a topic.

Prone to cognitive bias – well stated for sure. You likely are much better at putting your thoughts to paper than I. Something I have struggled with my entire life.

You clearly have feelings, gut or otherwise, about the hardware you mentioned. That’s cool. Feel to your hearts content. It is what makes you human.

I don’t necessarily disagree with what you said, but it really isn’t the focus about which I am asking. Cognitive bias is kind of the focus. Many thousand people who use the software platforms mention above shared their cognitive bias. Thank you for sharing about Emby. I learned something. But how does Emby help you enjoy your music? I know exactly how BlueOS and its associated NAD hardware would get music from my NAS to my speakers. How does Emby do that? My understanding of music networking, DLNA, streaming is low. But in the ASR tradition, I am happy, I like to discuss audio, and have a strong desire to learn and share.

Please allow me to restate my point I tried to make above. I find it very interesting that the hardware manufacturers previously mentioned have developed software that receive such poor user ratings. What good is a bit perfect device if the software that support it makes you want to throw it out the window? I felt the objective nature of ASR members may have some experience and insight of an audiophile nature to share on the topic.

Ultimately, I want to sit in my comfy chair, pick up my tablet, and find my favorite Bob James CD and listen to my music. An "Easy" button for high quality music if you will. :)
 

BillG

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Good grief BillG. Do members need to be that careful when posting questions and conversing? I certainly don’t want to walk on eggshells just to discuss a topic.

You seem to be misinterpreting what I wrote, and I've lost interest in further conversation about it as result.

Emby is very user-friendly and easy to setup. If you're really interested in seeing it in action, discovering its pro and cons, etc., you know what to do.
 

nimar

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You didn't know @BillG is the official CCA (Chromecast Audio) spokes person? and as such can't let anyone say anything that could in any way be misconstrued as a statement against the holy CCA.

As for Emby, its more or less the new and improved Plex, or the Plex for people who are die hard FOSS believers.

Back on topic, using App Store ratings to make a pick is an interesting approach. Maybe it would be more fair to add up the ratings across platforms? As anything that exist on both should have a higher rating, and anything that works better or both ditto. Sadly the PC apps have no such ratings.

I've been a lifelong BSD Unix user and never before considered the idea of using paid software. I played with a bunch of open source solutions and ended up buying Roon. I justified the cost the same way I would buying a new amplifier or DAC. I think of it as an element in my hifi and doing so puts the cost in perspective.

Roon is software, and as such, not perfect, but after much trial and error and research it is what I picked. I entirely agree that it feels wrong to rent software to just listen to the music/hardware you already own there's probably an accountants argument that its cheaper to do so, or you can buy a life time subscription and be done with it ($699.99). The beauty of Roon is that its vendor agnostic, you pay your sub or by your life time license and that's it. I have four pi's acting as Roon endpoints, each cost me ~$50. If I want to add another its another $50, not another ~$500 that one of the vendor streamers is going to cost.

On top of this you get
- DSP: eq filters, auto volume levelling, upsampling, etc
- multi Roon sync
- Discovery, it makes listening to the music you own so much better.
- Streaming integration.
- An app on Ios/Android/osX/windows which anyone can get their head around and use.

But don't take my word for it, go get a free trial.
 
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davarazzo

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Thanks for your input @nimar

You didn't know @BillG is the official CCA (Chromecast Audio) spokes person? and as such can't let anyone say anything that could in any way be misconstrued as a statement against the holy CCA.
News to me.
using App Store ratings to make a pick is an interesting approach.
I was curious what the average person who uses the software thinks about it. Lots of flaws in that thinking for sure. Not everyone sharing their cognitive bias uses the software the way I would being one of many. But it is an easily accessible and large sample group.

After a hard drive crash a couple years back, I practiced what I preached and invested in a QNAP NAS. And when researching Roon a couple days ago, it appears that QNAP and Roon have been working together and have some recommended NAS hardware configurations on which to run Roon. So, it looks like on the surface of things, for considerably less than a Nucleus, I can upgrade my NAS using the same 4x4TB of disk drives, Install Roon, and enjoy the comfort and security of my data being safe (I am a bit of a photo bug also), and have a Roon server. I buy a subscription to Photoshop and Lightroom, so a subscription to Roon shouldn't seem so bad. Shouldn't. I an not quite there yet.

Next on the list is to learn about the Pi MusicBox. They seem to be pretty popular.

I was also reading about the JRiver MC. There may be a solution there also. So much to learn.
 

nimar

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I'm not familiar with MusicBox, but there are plenty of good distro's for the Pi out there. Though I do find, if you end up with Roon you only need the most basic, ie. one that supports Roon playback as it does everything you need. https://ropieee.org Is a popular option, I prefer dietpi myself, though it does require more familiarity with the command line.

As for where to run Roon, it can run on any Windows/Osx/Linux computer, it can run on the QNAP or on another machine and access music sourced from the NAS. Buying a nucleus is entirely unnecessary, its a convenience for users that don't have any technical ability (or those that like spending lots of money on a nice case) but offers nothing over running Roon on hardware you already own.

Not used JRiver, but have heard good things about it. AFAIK it is more geared towards single user playback, vs controlling endpoints.
 

Kal Rubinson

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As for where to run Roon, it can run on any Windows/Osx/Linux computer, it can run on the QNAP or on another machine and access music sourced from the NAS. Buying a nucleus is entirely unnecessary, its a convenience for users that don't have any technical ability (or those that like spending lots of money on a nice case) but offers nothing over running Roon on hardware you already own.
While that is true, the CPUs in NAS drives are quite puny (in most cases) compared to inexpensive Windows/Osx/Linux boxes and the difference may be significant if one needs sophisticated DSP, Hi-Rez and/or multichannel support. Roon may do everything but it needs an engine.
Not used JRiver, but have heard good things about it. AFAIK it is more geared towards single user playback, vs controlling endpoints.
Jriver will support multiple simultaneous endpoints with synch-ed or separate content.
 
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davarazzo

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Roon may do everything but it needs an engine.

Yeah, Roon recommends at least Intel® Core™ i3 processor or equivalent. And to install the application on an internal SSD drive.

My current NAS has the Celeron® J3455 quad-core and would require an expansion card for the SSD. The NAS is still technically relevant so it should sell easily enough and offset a big part of the upgrade cost. With a few expansion tweaks, it could take care of all my audio, video, photography, cloud, server, and geek needs. Looks like a pretty doable project.

Last piece of the puzzle is what flavor of Pi do I want ...........
Just need a good digital Roon endpoint. I don't think I would use an audio output.

I have four pi's acting as Roon endpoints,
@nimar What flavor of Pi do you use?
 

Kal Rubinson

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My current NAS has the Celeron® J3455 quad-core and would require an expansion card for the SSD. The NAS is still technically relevant so it should sell easily enough and offset a big part of the upgrade cost. With a few expansion tweaks, it could take care of all my audio, video, photography, cloud, server, and geek needs. Looks like a pretty doable project.
I am skeptical about that CPU.
 
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