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Best Bang For Your Buck (or quid in my case)

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  • Best Bang For Your Buck (or quid in my case)

    Best bang for your buck:

    I wanted to write this post mainly for newbies but it will be of interest to some old time VB’ers.

    A lot of newbies don’t understand the ‘squeeze concept’ and they (as I did for quite some time ) are confused by servers, players, controllers…..I will try and explain these features in really simple terms and then I will describe what I think is the best configuration you can possibly achieve in terms of quality for the price. Here goes, I won’t expand the acronyms, you can Google them if unsure:

    The Vortexbox is basically a NAS. But it’s a specialised NAS. Serving media streams (audio and video but with a slight audio bias) is its main focus . You can however use it as a communal storage spave on your network, just as with a NAS. I use it as my backup storage device for the home. But this isn’t what it was designed for particularly. Serving music and video streams is its main purpose and it does that incredibly efficiently.

    Once you build your Vortexbox you have created a media server. It will sit there attached to your LAN and it will have no screen, keyboard or mouse connected to it. It is what we call ‘headless’. It sits there on your LAN waiting to be contacted by a ‘Player’. A Player is another device on the LAN (or remotely over Internet) which can attach itself to the Vortexbox (‘the server’). There are many Players which can be attached to the server. Examples are numerous but on your Android phone it would typically be ‘OrangeSqueeze’ or ‘Squeeze Commander’. On your PC it would be Squeezelite or a number of others. The purpose of a Player is to retrieve files (music) from the server and output these as music to your HiFi amplifier or headphones, or to play directly on you smartphone (e.g. Orangesqueeze).

    If the computer on which you installed Vortexbox software has an audio card then this audio card can be configured as a Player (you set it up using the Vortexbox GUI Icon ‘Configure Player’. In this situation the Vortexbox computer is acting as both a server and a player.

    The last element of the Squeeze concept is the ‘controller’. I’m not sure that this is a defined term in squeeze-speak but I’ll use it here because it helps explain the versatility of the whole squeeze universe. The controller is the device that you use to select tracks you want to play on your PLayer/s or to configure the millions of options that exist in the server. By the way the heart of the Vortexbox server software is the Logitech Media Server (a piece of software running under Linux as part of Vortexbox. It had other ‘squeeze..xxx’ names in earlier times but now its called LMS) .

    Often the controller is part of the Player (e.g. Orangesqueeze, Jivelite…..) but it could be a separate dedicated device who's only fnuction is to select tracks etc. For most people, I guess, another computer on their LAN is their controller. In your browser on a LAN connected computer if you enter the IP address of your Vortexbox with port 9000 (e.g. 192.168.1.178:9000) you will see the LMS server (i.e your Vortexbox) presenting you with a controller interface GUI. From here you can select a Player (more later) and a track, album etc and it will then play on the Player you selected. You can have as many Players as you wish connected to your LAN (e.g. 1 in each room) and you can use the control interface to play different tracks on each one, totally independently and all at the same time. You can also synchronise them all to play the same track (an option in the controller interface GUI). You can even use millisecond delays in that synchronisation to avoid hearing delayed music as you walk from room to room.

    For me the best Player you can possibly buy (actually u build it) is based around the Raspberry Pi. A tiny single board computer (Google it). Below I describe the best configuration I think you can achieve for any sensible amount of money and its based around the Raspberry Pi.

    The best configuration:
    Buy a Raspberry Pi 3 Moel B (about $40). Buy a Raspberry Pi 7-Inch Touch Screen Display (e.g. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B014WKCF...5RD0GQUJ&psc=1) for about $85.
    Buy a SmartiPi case for about $27 (e.g. https://www.amazon.com/Case-Official...=smartipi+case).
    Buy a DAC for the Raspberry Pi. In my opinion this is the best you can buy but there are many other really good and cheaper ones (http://www.audiophonics.fr/en/diy-da...s-p-12105.html
    )
    Assemble all of the above hardware (easy). Next, read the Wiki’s on (https://sites.google.com/site/picoreplayer/home ) and download and install Picoreplayer onto an SD card for your Raspberry Pi (all in the Wiki). You have just built your self a Player with an integral controller !

    The controller part (a plugin ) of the Picoreplayer based Player is called Jivelite and the Picoreplayer Wiki will explain how to install Jivelite on to your assembled Picoreplayer Raspberry Pi (it’s a plugin for Picoreplayer).

    Connect your assembled Raspberry Pi Player to your LAN along with your Vortexbox and Configure your Picoreplayer to your taste (WiKi). Remember to install Jivelite on to it. Once you have done all that and everything is connected on the LAN, connect your HiFi amp to the DAC outputs on the Raspberry Pi and you are up and running. You need to load some music files onto Vortexbox of course and you can do this by just inserting CD’s into your headless vortexbox. It will rip them automatically and you can watch that process fr a computer connected on your LAN using the ‘CD/DVD Ripper’ icon on the vortexbox GUI (e.g. 192.168.1.178:9000). You can also use your LAN connected computer to store your music files (FLAC, MP3 etc) onto yur Vortexbox. You will see yur Vortexbox in youur network (look for files/music/flac folder). Store your music files accordingly

    For me the above Raspberry Pi/Picoreplayer player arrangement is as good as it gets. This is a 32 bit 768Khz Sabre DAC with 129 db dynamic range and 120 db S/N ratio. Nothing comes close regardless of price, particularly if you use a good power supply. Having said that though it sounds brilliant even using the el cheapo android phone charger.

    Hope my 101 description has helped some newbies. There’s stack more I could say……..
    Last edited by SeanMiddleton; 08-25-2017, 11:27 AM.

  • #2
    Nice job. Thanks!

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    • #3
      I concur with all of this! After various, less than satisfactory, investments in time and money I have also found my way to to the same type of architecture and think it's great. The LMS, RPi (Raspberry Pi) and VB communities are dynamic and helpful and have a way of keeping things up-to-date and relevant. My particular combination includes:-

      Server Hardware & Software.
      • Vortexbox v2.4 on a silent headless pc. With Blu-ray reader so I can rip my DVDs/Blu-ray discs. (I use dBpoweramp on my PC to rip audio CDs but that is just my preference)
      • LMS with plugins for BBC iPlayer (including Listen Again and uncompressed 'Concert Sound' streaming), Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, YouTube audio. Bridge to play audio from LMS to Chromecast & Airplay devices.
      • [Plex Media Server to serve videos & photos to the tv and iPads etc.]
      Controller hardware & software
      • e.g. Squeeze Commander on Android devices or iPeng on Apple devices.
      • Jivelite on PCs
      • LMS GUI web-page
      Player (or end-point) hardware & software
      • Five or six RPi of various types. The RPi0w costs less than £10 and will do the job for basic audio; if you need the touch-screen display, go for an RPi3.
      • Each RPi needs an on-board DAC. Such as those made by Audiophonics, IQaudio, HiFiBerry, JustBoom.... Outputs from the DACs to suit existing audio equipment - phono plugs, 3.5mm jack plugs, optic fibre or amplifier board for RPi. They can have a touch-screen to control them, IR remote control or just be controlled from the 'Controller' already mentioned.
      • PiCoreplayer on each RPi to play from LMS. Each RPi also can behave as an Airtunes end-point for those wanting to stream from their iPhones/iPads.
      • Squeezelite installed on PCs/laptops.
      • iPads and iPhones as LMS end-points using iPeng.
      • Android devices as LMS end-points using 'Squeeze player'.
      • Chromecast dongles - which can receive from LMS or other audio/video applications.
      • [Plex apps on the TV, tablets, phones for streaming photos and video to]
      I could go on... I hope the impression left is that a system based around Vortexbox/LMS/Raspberry Pi/PiCorePlayer or similar is very versatile. The risk is that, instead, it comes across as being very complex but that is what forums like this are for.



      Comment


      • #4
        On a Windows machine I definetly recommend Muso (www.klarita.net/muso.html) as the ultimate "controller" of any player in the same network. Besides being a very competent "controller" it is a fantastic front end to the LMS music database. It accepts many additional tags and comments for each track or album. I used it mainly for jazz and blues but it is said to be an extremely flexible front end for classical music too. And a lifetime full-multi seat licence costs only EUR20 (aprox US23).
        I have no affiliation with the people developing Muso but as a very happy user I do not hesitate recommending the 30 day trial version available at the address below.
        HTML Code:
        www.klarita.net/muso.html

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        • #5
          I should also add Subsonic (subsonic.org) to the list here. Vortexbox has the option (on the main GUI page to install Subsonic). You can install SS on any device (PC,Android, Mac...) and thereby play any music file or movie from your Vortexbox. You can run SS either from a PC etc on your LAN or remotely over internet. If you pay a small fee you also get to chose your own DDNS ("yourname".subsonic.org) and with this you can log onto your Vortexbox from anywhere in the world and play any of your tunes/movies. You can even issue a 'share' on Facebook to allow others to play any of your files (with permissions you choose). You can give 'guest access to your Vortexbox (you decide on permissions) to anyone you choose. All password etc protected and you can issue as many guest invites as you wish. I tend to use SS as my PC player and also on my Android phone (Orangesqueeze is also very good on Android).

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          • #6
            Is it possible to stream the same music in several rooms of the house with no delays? A PC in one room, android in another, and a phone connected to a Bluetooth speaker for instance.

            Thanks,
            Don

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            • #7
              Originally posted by dleonard5 View Post
              Is it possible to stream the same music in several rooms of the house with no delays? A PC in one room, android in another, and a phone connected to a Bluetooth speaker for instance.

              Thanks,
              Don
              Yes, if all the players are synchronized (one sets this in LMS). I do this all the time. No "echoing" etc. Perfect synch!

              Comment


              • #8
                Sean, to add to your very good introduction let me speak about my experience. I am a great fan of Muso (http://klarita.net/muso.html), a great font-end, very inexpensive (EUR20), extremely configurable and with a fantastic user support by the developer! Definitely recommended! Below is a print screen showing some of my music.muso.jpg

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by garym View Post

                  Yes, if all the players are synchronized (one sets this in LMS). I do this all the time. No "echoing" etc. Perfect synch!
                  And if you want to add some delay between players to account for the time it takes from room to room you can !

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