Category Archives: Modular

Asus Eee Top

asuset1602 This is not a streamer. It is not even a media center of any kind. It is quite simply a PC and not a very impressive one at that – spec-wise; an Asus Eee sporting a 15.4” touch monitor and driven by a measly Atom processor. It does, however, have enough power to run a standard media player such as Foobar2000, Songbird or indeed Windows’ own Media Player. And this is what makes it suddenly stand out. For a relatively small investment you get something that operates like a Sooloos, albeit without the otherworldly audio capabilities, and looks cool on almost any table top.

RipNAS

RipNASThe RipNAS is not an audio streamer per this blog’s usual definition but a uPnP compatible server based on Microsoft Windows Home Server. Devices that are compatible with the uPnP standard can then connect to the RipNAS and use it for storage. What makes the device stand out is its built-in optical drive that lets you rip automatically to a number of audio formats, including Flac. Just insert a CD and rip away. The device comes preconfigured with 320GB, 640GB or 1TB harddrives and can be extended with a matching external drive to up to 7TB. That should suffice for all but the most extreme of needs.

For streaming the device supports Logitech SqueezeCenter, Sonos , iTunes and uPnP. Also it connects automatically to such services as freedb and MusicBrainz for tagging music. Needless to say; since it is a Windows Home Server you can install just about any piece of software you can think of, such as automated backup of music or online purchases. Indeed, the server can be used simply as a Windows file server.

Sonos Controller for iPhone

Sonos Controller I mentioned the Kupuk Zones a while back; an application for the Apple iPhone / iPod Touch that lets you control the Sonos Zone Players. Now Sonos themselves have released a zone controller for the iPhone. The reactions in the community the last couple of days have been hurrayingly positive and admittedly the logic of having Sonos themselves do the development would by itself be enough to warrant such a reaction. Now they only need to release a Zone Player application for PC and Mac to keep their shareholders a tad on the fringe.

Resolution Audio Opus 21 IXS

Opus 21The Resolution Audio IXS is not included on the Resolution Audio web site yet, so this is pretty much a concoction of spottings.

Resolution Audio is already famous for their Opus 21 CD player which combines with their Opus 21 XS [Extra Source] device lift their system above normality, utilizing the CD player DAC for digital audio. All components are powered from an external power supply, aptly named Opus 21 Power Centre. It is from the power supply you are informed of what is currently playing. Now, the IXS stands apart from the original XS in that it supports streaming iTunes tracks from an iTunes serving computer. Through an iPod Touch, or indeed anything capable of remote controlling your iTunes library, you can control which tracks are played. In detail how it differs from the XS remains to be resolved, since the original XS itself has 5 digital inputs of which one is USB, meaning that listening to iTunes with the help of an iPod Touch was already possible. Such are unofficial information; you cannot always get the details.

Kaleidescape 1U Server & Music Player

Kaleidescape In itself the 1U Server seems fairly uninteresting but with the Kaleidescape Music Player in the mix it immediately turns into a hefty competitor in the media server market – even if it may appear somewhat uneconomical [diplomatically speaking].

The server comes in two versions. The 1U has 1TB of storage which can be extended to 4TB through modular drive bays. The 3U also starts with 1TB but can be extended to a stunning 12TB. The really stunning part comes when you start clustering the servers in which case you reach a mindboggling 100TB of music and/or DVD storage. Now – let us assume that a CD contains 700MB of data [which, believe my, is a very high assumption] and you divide that into 100TB, you end up with 150,000 CDs. If the Kaleidescape servers didn’t already drain your bank accounts, the CD purchases might.

The server can cover 45 discrete zones and perform up to 4 simultaneous rips. The Kaleidescape Music Player is one of your options for those zones as well as a number of full HD video components. The Music Player itself can handle 4 discrete zones at a resolution of up to 24bit/192KHz and sports a CD/DVD drive in its sleek exterior.

Creative X-Fi Notebook

X-Fi Notebook Frankly this gadget was hard to fit into this blog but somehow it needs to be here. It is actually two devices. The X-Fi Notebook is a PCCARD soundcard with built-in wireless transmission using the other part of the equation; the Creative Wireless Receiver.

xfireceiver With the receiver it should be possible to transmit music to 4 discrete zones, each equipped with one. In other words: With a decent notebook, an X-Fi Notebook and sufficient receivers, you could build a multi-zone streamer fairly easily. The soundcard itself supports resolutions up to 24bit/48KHz and works pretty much as any other soundcard.

NuVo Music Port

NuVo Music Port The Nuvo Music port is not an audio device in its own right but an add-on for their large music systems such as NuVo Grand Concerto and NuVo Essentia E6G.

NuVo Controller The Music Port is a hardware interface that connects a PC to the system and lets it not only control the NuVo systems but also act as a source. It even lets you collect music from other network places and aggregate them in one playlist. A PC with two 5.1 surround sound cards can then serve 6 streams and truly be a part of a cool setup.

With their new wireless controller, they are getting pretty close to some of the core features of the Sonos system fusing it with those of a home automation system. The infinitely spiffy Sonos remote is far from being in jeopardy, though, nor do I expect it to be anytime soon.

Kupuk Zones

kupuk Those who own both a Sonos system and an iPhone or ipod Touch now have the option of controlling their Sonos system from not only the indeed very jazzy Sonos controller but from their phone as well.

Specializing in making software for the iPhone, Kupuk has done a very nice job of making this a slick interface. The program identifies Sonos zones and lets you control each individually. It doesn’t mirror the Sonos controller but is an interesting addition. The application can be found at the Apple iPhone App Store.

Impact Acoustics USB wall plate


usbsuperIf you have a USB device you need to connect to your media streamer and need to run it more than the 5 metres USB is usually capable of, Impact Acoustics offer a neat little wall plate kit that lets you run USB through twisted pair up to 50 metres. The end points fit a standard American wall plate but a bit of ingenuity should suffice to fit it in a European panel. This repeater is USB 1.1 compatible so it should actually be able to feed a DAC like the Bel Canto or Benchmark from a PC based media center stoved away in another room. Definitely worth a try.

Impact Acoustics offer a broad range of connectors, flush mount or on-cable.

Tivoli Audio NetWorks

Tivoli Audio are known for some of the coolest table top radios on the market in general and for Henry Kloss’ design in particular. They too have jumped on the wagon and done a streaming piece of art with their new NetWorks.

NetWorks streams internet radio stations as well as playing FM radio and DAB. Supported file formats include MP3 and WMA. It is unclear if lossless formats are supported but unlike most others it supports Real Audio.

More on this little cutie later.

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