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Home audio setup, From the office computer to the living room
mwalimu
post Aug 24 2012, 21:06
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I'm looking to upgrade to a better audio setup. Currently all I have is a fairly cheap set of speakers (2 + subwoofer) hooked up to the soundcard that came built into the desktop computer in my office. I also have a component stereo I bought in 1979 that was last hooked up 2004 and is now sitting in my basement collecting dust. The receiver probably still works but the other components all have problems; for example, the Ohm C2 speakers that once sounded great are showing their age in dry rot and having suffered through 3 kids' probing fingers. But, I digress...

My CD collection has all been ripped to my hard drive, and I've configured those drives/directories to enable read-only access by any other computer that can establish a wireless connection to my router. I think what I need is to get a second computer, hook it up to an amp, and have a good set of speakers. I can appreciate the sound quality of a $500 pair of speakers over a $100 pair, but I have neither the discriminating ear nor the budget for a $5000 pair. The computer that feeds the signal to them need not be anything fancy so long as it's capable of accessing the library on the office computer via the wireless router and running a media player without degrading the audio quality to any perceptible degree. I already expect this setup will require an external amplifier, especially if it means I don't need a high-end soundcard in an otherwise low-end computer.

As an alternative, I might consider a setup that also includes an external large-screen monitor suitable for viewing downloaded movies, via the same computer and using the same speakers.

Any thoughts or suggestions on how to put together a setup such as this? Links to online guides would be helpful too. Thanks in advance!
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garym
post Aug 24 2012, 22:25
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In your investigation of potential ways to get your computer music to your living room, consider a Logitech Squeezebox Touch. I have several and can stream my own music (or music services like spotify, MOG, pandora, etc.) to the various SB touch players throughout the house. Essentially, you install a program (logitech media server) on your PC containing the music. Then this controls streaming to the TOUCH. The TOUCH players can be connected back to your LAN via WIFI or ethernet. And you can play DIFFERENT things on each TOUCH or sync multiple TOUCH players to play the same thing. You can control it all from your computer, from the touch itself, or from an app on a smart phone or tablet. Very nice system. TOUCH handles 24/96 files natively and deals with most file types (mp3, m4a, FLAC, ALAC, WAV). For less than $300, it is a bargain for all it does.
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Hotsoup
post Aug 24 2012, 23:40
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You may also want to consider powered speakers (if the PC will be your only source in this case)? Something like the Audioengine A5 would work swell. And then you wouldn't have to worry about procuring an amp.

Like the previous poster suggested too, the squeezebox Touch is a great device. I have one and love it.
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garym
post Aug 24 2012, 23:47
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Yep, at my weekend place my music system is a Logitech touch feeding a pair of audioengine A5s. Simple with good sound. All fed my music files (about 70,000 files, flac, mp3, m4a) from a small pc.
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godrick
post Aug 25 2012, 00:16
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I have a very similar need, budget and priorities, so I hope I'm not hijacking this thead. Garym, for a Squeezebox Touch solution, I still want gapless performance, and using foobar2000 as a front end is highly desirable. Is using whitebear as the server application and foo_upnp with foobar2000 all that is required to use with one or several Squeezebox Touch devices to have a high quality, easy-to-use, and cheap solution?

If not, what are all of the applications required that you suggest? Thanks for your advice.

This post has been edited by godrick: Aug 25 2012, 00:16
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slks
post Aug 25 2012, 00:39
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Firstly I'm going to assume there's some reason you can't just play the music from the PC you have now. Maybe you want your music in a different room than you want your computer. Be aware that if you choose to go with a 2-computer setup (music files hosted on one PC, playing on another) you will need to have both computers powered on. If that bothers you, look into getting an external drive and moving all your media onto that, then hooking the drive up to the new PC. (It's probably a good idea to get an external drive regardless, if only for backup purposes.)

The setup I use, and would maybe be the simplest for you to assemble since you have some of the pieces already, is:

PC -> 3.5mm-to-RCA cable -> Old-style stereo receiver -> Speakers

I wouldn't worry much about which computer to get, since even the lowest of the low end will be plenty powerful for playing music. The sound card in it will probably be adequate, too. You could upgrade to a better sound card if that concerns you though. The Asus Xonar cards seem to be high-spec'd and well-respected, and they're only like $40.

You need to decide up-front whether you want video capability, since that changes the picture quite a bit. You could either hook it up to a TV you currently have, or buy a new large monitor for it. You'll need to make sure the PC you get has the proper jacks to connect it to whichever display device you choose. (For older TVs that could be S-video or component, older monitors are likely to use VGA, newer stuff is mostly HDMI.)

If you decide you want to watch movies on it, you might be better off going with a purpose-built computer though. There's a class of computers out there now that go by various names like "home theater PCs" or "media center PCs", which are designed for the specific purpose of serving up A/V content. I've never shopped around for one of them, though. If you get one of these, they might be less functional as a general-purpose computer. (things OTHER than playing audio/video) ... but I suppose this depends on the specific model.

edit: In the several hours I was distracted while this post sat half-finished, it attracted a bunch of other replies! I totally forgot about Squeezebox-type devices, which basically transport music (and nothing else) from your computer to another location. That would probably be the most space- and cost-effective way to go, if you simply want the music. But since you specifically mentioned buying a new PC, I thought maybe you wanted the additional capabilities of a general-purpose computer. It all just depends on what your needs are.

This post has been edited by slks: Aug 25 2012, 00:45


--------------------
http://www.last.fm/user/sls/
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garym
post Aug 25 2012, 15:03
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QUOTE (godrick @ Aug 24 2012, 17:16) *
Garym, for a Squeezebox Touch solution, I still want gapless performance, and using foobar2000 as a front end is highly desirable. Is using whitebear as the server application and foo_upnp with foobar2000 all that is required to use with one or several Squeezebox Touch devices to have a high quality, easy-to-use, and cheap solution?

If not, what are all of the applications required that you suggest? Thanks for your advice.


godrick, my two cents: I am a foobar2000 user on several PCs, so I understand your interest in using it as the backend database. A few years ago there was someone who had created some plugin for logitech media server (LMS) or something that allowed use of foobar2000. It seemed to die out and was never fully realized. Yes, "whitebear" is reported by the users as being a very good way to use DLNA in combination with LMS to stream to squeezebox hardware players (like the TOUCH).

But in my opinion you are making this all way too complicated. LMS works perfectly well for being the database/server to serve your music (and music services like MOG, spotify, siriusXM, internet radio) to a squeezebox player (like a TOUCH). It plays gapless, it allows rock solid synch across several SB players, it allows for use of ReplayGain tags, it plays many, many different filetypes, including FLAC, mp3, ALAC, m4a, OGG, WAV, etc.). It can handle 24/96 files natively or 24/192 files with triode's free EDO plugin.

There is nothing to keep one from using foobar2000 *and* LMS. This is what I do. I have the music files on my computer in one place. I point foobar2000 to that directory. I also point LMS to that directory. They both read the same files.

If you want to play around with LMS before buying anything, install the software from here (LMS ver 7.7.2). Most likely you need the windows exe version.
http://downloads.slimdevices.com/LogitechMediaServer_v7.7.2/

Once installed, open the webGUI in your web browser, lower right click on SETTINGS. On the settings page click on basic settings tab, and "browse" to the location of your music folder and select it. Give your music library a name on this page to (e.g., Gary's Music Library).

Click apply and it should take some time to actually read the tags of all your files and create its internal database. This is not as fast as foobar2000. It takes about an hour for 70,000 files in my case.

Next install a Squeezebox "software" player. Install SqueezePlay from here:
http://downloads.slimdevices.com/nightly/?ver=7.7

Install this and give the player a name (e.g., Gary's Laptop SP).

Go back to webGUI of LMS, upper right side use drop down menu to select the SqueezePlay player you installed earlier.

Now you should be able to play music to your Squeezeplay. Squeezeplay somewhat mimics a hardware TOUCH. But the hardware version works better, synchs across players better, handles hires files (SP may not, can't recall), etc.

And there is a lot more you can do. Lots of 3rd party custom plugins one can add related to dynamic (smart) playlists, custom scanning, ratings, etc. One can also easily tell LMS to use your last.fm account for scrobbling from any or all of the SB players you use. Anyhow, this is just a brief intro. There is a good helpful forum for SB users here:

forums.slimdevices.com

Ignore the wacko audiophool tweaking threads at first. Most of that stuff is either unnecessary or flat wrong. Most of those threads would have been binned over here at hydrogenaudio.org. One exception is Triode's stuff, which is what can easily allow one to use the USB output of the TOUCH and/or stream 24/192 files.

edit: and keep in mind that the key point of a hardware SB player is that it is independent of the sound card on the computer running LMS. Heck, the computer doesn't even need a sound card at all. The "bits" are transferred perfectly to the TOUCH via TCP/IP over either WIFI or ethernet within your LAN.

This post has been edited by garym: Aug 25 2012, 15:07
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