back to article Festive streamers caught in Vulture's claws: Gadget-ogle for audiophiles, video geeks

What was your first streaming device? Over recent months, there has been a glut of them, but the first to find a space on my network was a Roku SoundBridge (or, more accurately, Pinnacle SoundBridge HomeMusic, as it was known in the UK). Soundbridge Streaming devices have come a long way in a short time Soundbridge Streaming …

  1. psychonaut

    netgear mp101

    is still soldering on after, what, 8 years or so? pretty neat piece of kit for its time.

  2. Frankee Llonnygog

    I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

    The one shown in the article thumbnail

    That and a nice Telefunken valve amp and some minty Grundig Raumklang IVs

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

      I have mostly fond memories of the old Hacker Cavalier record player from my youth, with a Garrard autochanger. The mechanics in those sorts of things are ingenious.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

        @Nigel;

        For truly ingenious mechanics my ADC Accutrac 6+ has the Garrard beat. Up to 6 vinyl albums on the stack, and not only can you play them in any order, but the look on peoples' faces when the centre of the deck rises up to meet the stack and then gently lowers it to the platter is priceless!

        Simply selecting a FLAC file from a menu list doesn't come close.

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Re: I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

          Looks a neat bit of kit; I saw a couple of videos, and the splendidly named Vintage Knob site has info on the non-changer version

          1. Frankee Llonnygog

            Re: I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

            Those of us lucky enough to have Vintage Knobs do spend an inordinate amount of time polishing them.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

      I notice that it offers speeds of 78, 45 and 33⅓, but not 16⅔. I wonder if 16⅔ records ever existed - I've certainly never seen any.

      1. Jan 0

        Re: I'd quite like the Dual autochanger

        @Kubla Cant

        16⅔ records do exist, but you won't find music on them, only the spoken word (limited bandwidth).

  3. Steve Oliver 1

    Our Viewsonic VMP74 died this week after nearly 4 years of service. I'm waiting for the postman to bring us a Roku 3.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For once Apple aren't the expensive option.

    I know I'll get slated for suggesting the walled garden but we're all Apple so have gone Airplay with a few Airport Expresses. For £60 (refurbished) it's an easy way to add streaming to existing kit.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: For once Apple aren't the expensive option.

      I used to use an Airport Express in the kitchen, but it died after several years service, and has now been replaced with the uStream for the time being. Though most of the time, it's Radio 4 in there.

  5. D@v3

    Roku3

    Picked up from Amazon on the lightning deal earlier this week. Nice little unit. Slight shame that Amazon video isn't available, but Netfilx is, and it has USB support for videos from 'other sources'.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Roku3

      Yep; and the Plex apps are on sale until tomorrow (29th) so if you have a Synology or something like that, you can put Plex server on and access content on the Roku that way.

      £1.49 for the Roku plex app, which is a worthwhile addition, in my view.

      1. Any mouse Cow turd

        Re: Roku3

        or you could save yourself £1.49 and sideload a build of the plex app onto the Roku (in dev mode).

        That's what I've done with my NowTV box (basically a crippled Roku box) so at least I'm able to stream a bit more content other than Sky branded stuff.

        As a first intro to streaming it's a great little box (picked up a 2nd one yesterday for £15 inc. 3 month sky entertainment pack) but when they die I will likely splash out and get a Roku or something that can get netflix etc.

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Re: Roku3

          As far as I know, the Now TV box is, essentially, one of the Roku 2 series boxes (the XS, I think), with customised software. Whether you could flash one with the series 2 firmware would be interesting to know..

  6. msage

    Audio Streamers

    I think it's worth looking at the gramofon and the rocki too. I have a couple of the gramofon units and for sending spotify round the house they are awesome!

    1. jason 7

      Re: Audio Streamers

      Ahhh the Rocki...nice cheap hardware...shame about the awful management team.

      Gave up using mine a while ago. Oh what could have been...

  7. The Eee 701 Paddock

    RIP Squeezebox :-(

    I like some kit that Logitech makes, but I feel I can never forgive them for assimilating Slim Devices' Squeezebox range, and then "disappearing" it.

    I picked up our Squeezebox Duet three years ago (as, effectively, an end-of-line product), and it has given nearly-flawless service every since, teamed with Logitech Media Service running on our old Synology NAS box. The "Receiver" is plugged into my venerable Technics amp along with the CD player, which rarely gets used as most of the music I want, is now on the NAS.

    The Squeezebox sounds great, handles Ogg and FLAC files (the latter, my format of choice) and the software is open-source, so not quite so much at the mercy of one vendor. Unfortunately, Logitech seems to have digested Squeezebox completely, so when the Duet finally croaks, I'm not sure how I'd replace it. Probably eBay... or an iDevice running Squeezecast, on an audio-dock?

    Thanks for nothing, Logitech.

    1. DaveMcM

      Re: RIP Squeezebox :-(

      The Squeezepad app for iPad is pretty decent - standard "free" functionality is just to be a remote control for Squeezebox hardware but can also be made to function as a full on client too with a couple of quid in app purchase... Been using it a couple of years and it works brilliantly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RIP Squeezebox :-(

      I have a squeezebox 3 hooked up to amplifier and floorstanders in the living room and a squeezebox radio in the bedroom, all fed by a logitech-media-server app running on a raspberry Pi hooked up to a USB hard drive.. access to usb harddrive for adding more music is via SMB from any of the computers/tablets in the house and the whole setup is controlled using the Squeezer App from any tablet or phone... super easy to use on tablets so any guests or anyone else can control music and volume easily

      The SQB3 has a very nice DAC and music in FLAC is fantastic. Squeezebox radio is very good with tight bass and clear sound for a small package (although I don't often invite guests into the bedroom to listen to music :)

      Everything just works, is super easy to use, and the raspberry PI uses just over 1 watt of electricity per hour.. (the power-amp might draw a bit more when in use)

      It's an amazing arrangement, I can't believe that logitech killed off the squeezebox line :(

      1. Andrew Harvey
        Thumb Up

        Re: RIP Squeezebox :-(

        Couldn't agree more with all comments about the Squeezebox line. Some idiot with a spreadsheet convincing some other idiots that it should be killed off. I still have one working Squeezebox and a Raspberry Pi/Wolfson DAC setup that acts (brilliantly) as another. I forget the details as it's all at home and I'm not. What I love best of all really though is the remote (I use iPeng) for controlling players via phones/tablets (you can guess from the "i" which ones, although my daughter's Sony uses SqueezeCommander). I get so frustrated using a lot of other players at the crappy inability to arrange/rearrange music on the fly. It's really democratic when all of the family can add tracks to a playlist of an evening.

    3. Havin_it
      Boffin

      Re: RIP Squeezebox :-(

      Maybe worth mentioning that the Logitech Media Server (nee too many names to mention) does output a generic mp3 stream on port 9000/stream.mp3, so a great many clients can digest that without issues as long as you have a controller (which is a free in-house app for Android at least). "JUST PLAYER" (I'm not shouting, that's how it's named) is one I use on my droid for this purpose as it runs happily in the background so I can keep the Controller app in foreground.

      Also, just to join the chorus, fuck Logitech.

  8. Bassey

    WD TV Live

    We've had a WD TV Live for several years now. Western Digital still release fairly regular updates adding new channels. It does Netflix (which is its main purpose) but can also do iPlayer, blinkbox, youtube, spotify, TuneIn and many others. After Netflix, the main use I put it to is streaming all the films I have stored on my NAS. It has HDMI and Composite output, USB input, WifI, Ethrnet, is absolutely tiny, comes with a proper remote but can also be used controlled via an app. Plus my Android Phone and Windows 7+ can see it to stream content to. I've not come across a video format it doesn't support including subtitle files. At around £60, unless you need Amazon Video, I really don't think it can be beaten and if it died today I'd order another without hesitation.

  9. DaveMcM

    My first (like so many people) was a Netgear MP101 but sadly that died many moons ago.

    Current setup is Squeezebox Classic connected to a Cambridge Audio Azure amp running against a ReadyNas NV+ for the server.

    It was a sad day when Logitech abandoned all of the squeezebox hardware as it was all pretty good stuff, but at least the server software is open source and still under active development (albeit officially unsupported) at http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Nightly_Builds

  10. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Unplanned obsolescence

    Streaming to a device is great until the source of the stream suddenly decides to change their system.

    A few years ago I got a Roberts Streamtime radio, and one of the main uses was listening to BBC radio on demand, particularly Radio 4 Extra.

    The BBC have now decided they can't be arsed to provide a basic on-demand feed in Windows Media format - if you want to listen again, then use the iPlayer. Hardware doesn't support iPlayer? Tough shit, buy something that does. But beware that they may change formats again in a couple of years.

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: Unplanned obsolescence

      Maybe because it's Oz, and nobody seems to want to stream anything our way, but I've found the best way to get BBC content (radio only - piracy or 'near simultaneous' ABC rebroadcast is still the only way to get TV stuff) is through a cheap Android box hooked into the network and running multiple instances of TuneIn.

      Works for me anyway, but we have a household of 2, so don't really put much of a strain on the system.

  11. Duffy Moon

    I just stream audio from my NAS to my phone (S4). Neutron or UAPP as players, Hifimediy USB DAC and plug into an amp.

  12. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    It's all too complicated

    I've just never felt the desire to sit down and do all the required research to get it right, as there are so many incompatible options. So I've tended to go with what works and add to it, or go for standalone gear. I keep thinking that a fanless living room PC is the answer, but when I had the budget I didn't have the time, and now I'm mortgaged I haven't the time or the budget...

    Such a shame, as the technology has been around for ages. But the bloody manufacturers just cannot get their act together.

    I guess my first foray was a Bluetooth speaker/iPod dock I picked up when Curry's bit the dust. That's now relegated to the bedroom. Not great for music, but wonderful for iPlayer Radio and podcasts. iPad speakers aren't loud enough to drown out the sounds of cooking (when I mostly want to listen). Also good for the iPod. Don't know how long that's got to live though, as Apple killed the iPod Classic.

    I had a brief excursion into Sky. The Sky+ box is great, and not too shabby for things like iPlayer. But NFL online didn't work, without plugging a PC directly into the telly.

    Then I allowed myself the expense of a decent CD player again. So the CDs came back out of their boxes, now there's too many of the buggers for my old tower (aaargghh!). That plugs into the telly, and solves the crap flatscreen speakers issue. It also has a USB socket, so talks to phones/tablets, for iPlayer, podcasts or music. A Chromecast rounds this out for iPlayer telly and if I decide to join Netflix or go Sky online for a few months to watch the Summer's cricket. Even NFL online worked via the PC, despite the promised Chromecast app still not being available. I've been mostly impressed with Chromecast, and at £30 I was less worried by not having researched it fully. I was tempted by Apple TV, but that doesn't seem to do much more.

    If I wanted surround sound, this would all break down. But I'm happy with stereo, and my speakers have plenty of base.

    My friend has an Onkyo box/amp with millions of inputs, and a PS3 - and he can do more-or-less anything with those and his PC. But he also has millions of remove controls and spaghetti junction behind his telly. Even he sometimes gets confused by the setup. Oh and the media interface on the PS3 is horrible. It does many things, but that menu system is tiny, and fiddly, and nasty. I am jealous of his bluetooth receiver though - so much easier than my wired USB.

    Maybe I should have tried a smart TV. But I don't trust the manufacturers to make it useable. And if my £30 Chromecast is obsolete in 2 years, I won't be complaining. When it's an £800 smart telly, I damned well would have been.

    1. steveking1000

      Re: It's all too complicated

      My sympathy. I'm trying to find a way through as well.

      My use case is a holiday home. I'd love to have a device that connects to Google Play Music (I got one of the early subscriptions when it was better value than Spotify), perhaps plays FLAC files from a NAS and DAB radio as well. However, I don't want family + friends to have to download apps to control it. That is not going to go well, and lead to many phone calls ("What do you mean there is no app for a Nokia 6110?!").

      Nice simple touchscreen-controlled all-in-one units are much rarer than I imagined (and all ideas welcome!)

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: It's all too complicated

        I just saw an ad for an Asus 7" tablet for £79. Why not just leave one of those there? I'm actually quite tempted to buy one, or maybe a cheap Android phone, as a replacement for my iPod. It can do podcasts when I'm out-and-about, without killing the work phone battery. The work phone is an iPhone, and only has a pathetic 8GB of storage anyway. A 'Droid with an SD card slot solves that problem, for my 25GB of audio + podcasts. Then when at home, it can be the remote for BBC iPlayer, podcasts and music. As well as a Chromecast. Should I bother to get a NAS, (or leave the computer running as a media server), it can control that as well. Or Tesco's Hudl, which is dirt cheap if you use Clubcard points, and not bad if you don't.

        Then you just need a Bluetooth connector for music. Or USB.

        Android tablets are now so cheap that they're going to beat almost any decently specc'ed dedicated controller made in low volumes. Then you just write an app. Or even don't bother selling and locking down dedicated hardware, just do apps.

        1. Andy Davies

          Re: It's all too complicated

          Bluetooth Audio streamer - 'comes with 3.5 to phono adapter'.

          why not cut out the middle man and save £90 - £150?

          Just buy the 3.5 to phono adapter; plug it into a spare phone at one end and Hi-Fi at the other - 32 Gb on tap (I use an old Nokia that cost as much as a useable small car back then).

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: It's all too complicated

            Andy Davies,

            This is pretty much the definition of a 'first world problem'. But I don't like having to get up to pick a new song, so having the device wired to the sound system is annoying. It's OK when you put on an album to play in the background, but if you feel like listening to lots of different stuff, it's nice to have the controller by your chair.

            Obviously I could be organised, and have playlists, or be less lazy and get up off my fat backside. But on the other hand it's nice to sit there with a drink, and chat to friends while passing round the iPad and letting people pick some tunes.

            It's not worth £100 though. Which is why I currently have to get up. Although my player allows me to use the remote control to skip tracks within the album/artist/playlist the device is playing, for iOS and Android.

    2. deadmonkey

      Re: It's all too complicated

      Comet surely?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: It's all too complicated

        Good point. I could never remember which was which, both had big red signs with white lettering. And were equally crap. Also Curry's seems to have disappeared into PC World anyway. Presumably as the less toxic of the 3 brands (Dixons being the first to go). As I recall our Curry's and Comet went within a few months of each other, the Curry's being folded into the PC World a few hundred yards down the main road.

    3. Fink-Nottle

      Re: It's all too complicated

      > "I keep thinking that a fanless living room PC is the answer, but when I had the budget I didn't have the time, and now I'm mortgaged I haven't the time or the budget.."

      I've recently started using Plex on a Raspberry Pi hooked up to the main TV. The RP is ideal for living room use - it's inconspicuous, cheap and should be easy for el Reg readers to set up ...

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: It's all too complicated

        Fink-Nottle,

        Good point. Although I've not used Linux before, and haven't touched UNIX since the mid-90s. So I'd imagine it would be a bit of a learning curve getting back into it. I did consider it, but then £30 for a Pi, say £100 more for a case, hard drive and power supply (plus whatever a TV tuner card would cost) meant I was thinking I might as well spend £250 on something small and a bit more powerful. That meant research and setup that I hadn't got time (or couldn't be arsed) to do, then I thought "stuff it" and blew £30 on a Chromecast.

  13. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Dabbling my toes in the water

    I heard too many bad reports about the Chrome devices, so when I wanted to try out the modern world of streaming music and video I picked up a cheap DroidBoX from a well known Chinese tat bazaar. The wifi doesnt like keeping a stable connection to my router*, so it is now hard wired, but other than that it is doing a good job of keeping my daughter supplied with Peppa Pig, Ra Ra, and Tinga Tinga, as well as exposing her to music streams from all over the world - she goes to sleep listening to traditional Chinese music and Buddhist chants!!

    I havent explored more than a fraction of its capabilities yet - possibly because the user manual is two tiny pages of Chinglish.

    * It may not be the devices fault, everyone in the area suffers from wideband interference covering everything from AM radio up; there have been times when my PC cannot detect my wifi enabled printer - despite it being less than 1m away; and at least once a day my normally rock solid 300Mbps connection to the router drops to sub 1Mbps and wont authenticate.

  14. Chris Cartledge

    Magic!

    For me, the QED uPlay Stream is as close to magic as it comes (ref: Arthur C. Clarke: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic).

    I have put off streaming for years because it looked too complicated, particularly if you want to preserve the sound quality of CDs, but the pile of of silver discs has now got too large. You should be able to go into a shop and just buy it, but it seems that people end up buying bits and doing it themselves.

    The uPlay device itself looks too small to be real, just the size of a CD, and the Android app has a basic feel to it, but for to me it just worked with flac files off the tablet. I am listening via a Class D amplifier which is also infeasibly small with some old Kef bookshelf loudspeakers and it sounds wonderful!

    The file server is on order and really ought to be a recycled Atom based PC or a PI but I bottle out of DIY so it is actually going to be a Synology and I am hoping that this also will just work...

  15. Adam Hartfield
    Megaphone

    I had a Linksys Wireless Music Bridge purchased in about 2000. It worked by becoming an audio device on my Windows computer, and hooked into an unused input on my stereo. I would just launch WinAmp and play whatever I wanted. http://www.cnet.com/products/linksys-wmb54g-wireless-g-music-bridge/

    That worked well until I wanted to boost my home network to N. Everything would run at the lowest common denominator. Then I went from XP to 7, by which time Linksys had stopped supporting the device and didn't issue new drivers. I was able to work around it and get it working, but it was a pain in the ass. Finally I got a new receiver with a USB port, so I switched to FLACs on a 128 GB USB stick plugged into its front, which sounds great, but I do miss the convenience of a 15-year-old solution. I've tried to get a DLNA server going on my Ubuntu file server but it's come to nothing. Windows Media Player streaming into the receiver works some of the time and doesn't support FLAC anyway so meh.

    1. Dan Paul

      Try this...FLAC on Windows

      http://www.pristineclassical.com/More/FLAC-WMP.html

    2. Dan Paul

      Try this...FLAC on Windows

      http://www.pristineclassical.com/More/FLAC-WMP.html

      or go to the source

      https://xiph.org/flac/download.html

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