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Doing away with the computer

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Strange to post this in the computer subforum, but I need some advice.


I'm getting a bit fed up of HTPC's, or rather more specifically audio playback PC's. Sure... it's more versatile, but what I want out of them is pretty simple: I want them to play back music. And it seems I invest a huge amount of time and money into making them to do that in a way that fits into the rest of the separates... in terms of noise, proper/reliable function, etc. If I need a computer in the living room, I can simply leave a laptop lying around there. There is, increasingly in my head, no place for a PC (and especially not a Mac) in my audio rack due to the hassle and compromise involved.


I've tried systems which rely on a PC like the Transporter, but these are not that much behind in terms of potential complexity. I want digital audio playback to work like a CD player used to, or perhaps more appropriately, the way an iPod works... that I can turn it on, decide what to play and have it play without any other complication whatsoever.


I'd like to simplify and I've been looking at systems like the Olives. I'm interested in opinions from anyone who might have started feeling the same way I did and made the transition to a PC-free media server setup, and how it's worked out for you.
post #2 of 28
I transitioned from a PC as source to a SACD player and a turntable.

I might pick up a media server of some kind to avoid having to deal with a computer, but I'm awfully content with the current setup.

I only listen to one recording at a time and usually the entire recording. A computer seems great with endless options and storage, but it seems like overkill and too complex for listening to a few discs each day.

The one limitation I've run into is storage space for physical discs. I'm running out. I might get around that with some sort of server, which is why I'm considering one.

But for convenience and simplicity, a standalone CD player and a turntable suit me fine.
post #3 of 28
What is a music server (Olive and others)?
It is a computer with a sound card but dressed up like a HiFi component.
At one hand it is a dedicated computer, it does audio and nothing else.
This reduces the complexity and therefore if might be a more stable solution compared with a general purpose PC.
On the other hand, as it is a non standard solution, the manufacturer has to develop an interface and glue all the functionality (often Linux + freeware) together.
In other words, developing its own software so it might be buggy.

Maybe links like these are of use:
"Official" Olive products Thread (Opus 4, Opus 6, Melody 2, Olive 2, Olive 4/ 4HD - AVS Forum
Music servers
post #4 of 28
I have a family and laptops get used by them, or the HTPC is being used by them.

We have no room for my 2000? CDs anymore.

I use J. River which manages everything (audio, images, and video) extremely well, and when I get home a flip on the tube amp, and use my iPhone (Rivermote) to control tunes, inside or out.

I could not live without my HTPC, nor my record player, nor my Oppo BDP83.

I think it fits in wonderfully; for me it is as simple as my other gear. Actually, much more simple than my vinyl rig.

That said, I did downgrade from a Uneed X11 case and Q6600 cpu to the new setup which is smaller and quieter and can still pull its weight doing audio analysis and transcoding.

The thought of getting stuck a proprietary system like Sonos makes me cringe; it's all about software and J. river is doing some incredible stuff these days. I have full control over everything. I can burn CDs over WAN for christ-sake; playe 24/96 over WAN to my office. Custom trackinfo screens pulling from Last.FM. Custom meta-data fields.

The list goes on.
post #5 of 28
Just curious what you didn't like about the Transporter, as I have been thinking about taking that route myself.
post #6 of 28
What complexity? I open iTunes on my MacBook Pro, type in the name of the album I want to hear (actually, I seldom get through more than a few letters and there it is...), and click the black right-pointing arrow. How is this more complicated than finding the cd in the rack where a thousand of them wait, taking it out of the jewel box, possibly wiping off smudges, opening the cd player, inserting the cd, closing the cd player and hitting play?

You lost me somewhere.

P
post #7 of 28
I think Eric is refering to the fact that with pc audio often is difficult to concentrate on one specific album,
at least for me, I always change albums in Foobar after 2 or 3 songs,
while on cd player you just listen to the full album..

Another thing is audio quality, with pc you can go very very good,
with separates you can go high end..
post #8 of 28
to the Op Im sure you are not the first nor the last to find frustration in this journey. I have been looking at the options for quite some time now... the NAS aspect of the squeeaeboxes is more then I can handle; the noisy mechanics of the Olives and their cost is a turn off; the custom little pcs are expensive etc etc

there is the WD tv live...it approaches what i would like; hard drive connected to device, device plays media via digital out to a dac. however, I am not sure of the quality of the digital out on these units, tho i hear that the software is stable. they are small but require a separate montior or lcd screen to view music selection. i wish there were more folks using these so we could get a better idea of the digital quality.

Another option now is the low cost of netbooks would take up very little space on a audio rack
post #9 of 28
I don't see what the big inconvenience is - just the contrary. I have all my music on a central server, and use wireless laptop -> usb dac for listening anywhere else I want. I just don't see it being any simpler or easier than that. Everything is one spot, everything at your fingertips, just load up what you want in the player, and play. How is sorting through hundreds of CDs to pick the ones you want any better than that?
post #10 of 28
Apple TV will do what your asking for. Digital out to the dac. Remote control with iPhone/Touch, and never turn the TV on. It won't play FLAC files though, and the HD space can be limited. I never tried to see if you could hand a USB HD on it for additional space. I know that they have been hacked to use bigger disks.

I do too much on the computer to go away from them. In my home office I have the computer audio + CD player + burgeoning LP setup on my speaker system. My good headphone system is a my work office, and I would never try and mess with vinyl there.
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stymie miasma View Post
Just curious what you didn't like about the Transporter, as I have been thinking about taking that route myself.
The interface partly, the fact that there's still a computer at the back-end, etc. NAS's do exist which can host the transporter, but I've found they don't always work well. If you like the Squeezebox, you'll like the Transporter. It is definitely a halfway house back from having an HTPC, but it was not simplified enough for me over an HTPC while the navigation was too olde-worlde.


As for the rest of the posts, I'm not asking for validity on whether an HTPC solution is good. I have an HTPC: a custom-built, silenced dual-Harpertown machine which has been recently overhauled to an all-SSD array, which runs j.River Media Center and Windows Media Center, hooked up to a Prism Sound / dCS back-end.


My issues mainly stem from having to look after and deal with a computer as opposed to a single-purpose device, when all I do on said computer is a single purpose anyway. Everything from j.River crashes and irritations to needing to decide whether I want to listen in j.River or Media Center, working around the kinks in software for the ten-foot modes, etc etc. A myriad of small stuff I really, really don't want to have to deal with any more. I want it to be like my CD player. I pick what I want to play, I turn it on and hit play.
post #12 of 28
Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Transporter.

Thanks also for drawing attention to music servers/Olive - I am not really very savvy with computer audio, but I do want to start centralising my library as browsing through CD racks is getting old. Is the reviews for the Olive were a little more favourable, I would be all over it.
post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stymie miasma View Post
Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Transporter.

Thanks also for drawing attention to music servers/Olive - I am not really very savvy with computer audio, but I do want to start centralising my library as browsing through CD racks is getting old. Is the reviews for the Olive were a little more favourable, I would be all over it.
The functional reviews seem generally positive, and as for the onboard DAC I'll be subbing the Scarlatti in any case. It would be good to hear from someone who has either transitioned from a PC-based system or went straight from disc to server, to see how they've lived with it. I have the option of navigation - in a much more sophisticated manner than the Transported on-unit - on the device, or via the HDMI connection, on my TV. The Olive 4 seems to be able to act as either a HDD, UMS or MTP device?, allowing the initial dump of my existing music library fairly painlessly. There's an iPod remote app, which would work for me: I'll just buy another Touch.


It seems like my ideal. But I'd definitely like to know how people get on with it in real life.
post #14 of 28
Quote:
I pick what I want to play, I turn it on and hit play.
That's iTunes on a Mac. Of course all it really does is condense storage and make picking what you want to play a lot easier. CDs will do the same thing, with a lot of manual management.

Tim
post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tfarney View Post
That's iTunes on a Mac.
It's certainly the Applenerd myth for sure. The truth is that even as a simple media player for use in the living room, the Mac as a whole is far more compromised than the PC, although at first it may seem like simplicity trumps all.
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