Logitech Squeezebox 3 vs PiCorePlayer on Raspberry Pi 3B+

Long, long ago, in the earliest days of this blog, I described my DIY approach to a whole house audio system. The strategy centers around a collection of Logitech Squeezebox 3 streaming audio players, each mated to a pair of powered audio monitors. All this worked great until the aging SB3s started to fail. Drying electrolytic capacitors cause arthritis in electronics.

Squeezebox_v3

Faced with failing SB3s, and the occasional desire to grow the installation, I resorted to using a most excellent combination of the Raspberry Pi3 B+ single board computer running PiCorePlayer in combination with a HifiBerry DAC. I’ve got HiFiBerry DAC+ where –10 dbm RCA output is suitable and DAC Plus Pro XLR where +4 dbm XLR balanced output is required.

hifiberry dac  in steel case

The RPi, HiFiBerry and PiCorePlayer combination work great! They outperform the original SqueezeBox 3 in every way, save the lack of an IR remote control. Also, they cost less, even with the fancy metal case.

hifiberry pro xlr in case

All the above is preface to help explain something that I discovered this past weekend. There’s a fundamental difference between the behavior of the SB3 and a RPi/HFB combination.

Continue reading “Logitech Squeezebox 3 vs PiCorePlayer on Raspberry Pi 3B+”

Immersive DSP: A Product That Inspires

MG_5192_6e28b20d-90c2-4d2b-a25a-71616216bc9d_1024x1024Now and then I discover a product that inspires my imagination. I’ve long dreamt of very sophisticated, whole house audio. In fact, whole property would be a better characterization. The ability to put any sounds I like anywhere. Not to be loud, but well distributed and zoned to be able to create effects.

We’ve achieved this to some degree, by deploying streaming music devices that feed multiple zones: front porch/yard, back yard, office, garage and dining room. At first each was a Logitech Squeezebox 3, but as these have died off I’ve transitioned to Raspberry Pi 3B+ with HiFi Berry audio cards. While I first tried the HiFi Berry DAC+ Pro, I now use the DAC+ Pro XLR.

In some places the streaming engine is connected to pair of small, self powered monitors. I still like the M-Audio BX5 Series. Very good sounds and great value.

While I’m not unhappy with this arrangement it does not satisfy some of my more outlandish desires. For example, I’d like to do a proper Halloween haunted house & yard. To my mind that would include sound effects located all around the yard.

This idea resurfaced when I recently saw the Immersive DSP SPK-4P, a PoE+ powered, IP-connected loudspeaker. It tickles the imagination to consider a small, powered speaker that could be located almost anywhere on the property. Each one treated as a discrete channel for the purposes of directional sound effects. No one loud enough to be annoying, but collectively very capable.

PoE_speaker_1024x1024

Each SPK-4P has two 15 watt class D amplifiers, allowing each powered cube to be mated to a passive twin. I can envision a speaker mounted to every fence post, roughly every 8 feet, along three side of the property. A great ring of inward aimed acoustic cannons, ready to send the spiraling sound of dragons flying past across the property.

I see other companies are starting to offer POE capable amplified speaker for commercial installation. Newer PoE standards that deliver more power make this more and more practical. PoE+ (802.3at) provides for 25 watts. 802.3bt provides up to 71 Watts. Digital switching amplifiers are highly efficient, turning most of that available power into sound.

It would be fund to experiment with AVB, which is a standard method for distributing digital audio over an IP network. Like DANTE, but backed by different group.

Alas, wee wonders cost. Around $350 for the powered version. My implementation would require at least 20! So it remains with the dragon of my dreams. Even before Game of Thrones, I always wanted a dragon. Think of the screams at Halloween.

dragon

Polycom VVX-1500 Keeps On Truckin

The other day I had to stage a little test that required a few SIP end points. For a lark, I powered up a Polycom VVX 1500 that has lived on my credenza for quite some time. It’s been idle for a long while, basically since the VVX 600 took the prime spot on my desk and became my daily driver.

vvx-1500 frontal

It happens that we don’t have POE everywhere I’d like, so the elder VVX had been powered off for a bit. Applying power, it began to boot, which is a process that can take some time. On this particular occasion, a considerable time, as it seems the device found a firmware update and automatically began to install it. I had forgotten that the VVX 1500 had been configured to use boot.onsip.com as its boot server.

While it fetched and loaded new firmware I had some time to lookup the current state of software offered for the VVX 1500. I was amazed to find that the old VVX 1500 is still actively supported! The latest firmware is 5.9.1.0615 released in January 2019. The OnSIP provisioning server offered 5.8.3.2414 which appears to be from Q4-2018.

that’s impressive for a device over ten years old. This one came my way when Small Net Builder asked me to review a pair. That review was published in September 2009. The folks at OnSIP did their own review in 2011.

While its video capabilities now seem dated (CIF resolution) the VVX 1500 remains the single best sounding phone I’ve ever used. It’s impressive that Polycom is still able to offer firmware updates for the mighty beast. Such longevity is testament to a very forward looking hardware design.

Other products I’ve used, Gigasets for example, are so hardware constrained that software support tends to be limited. The device has just enough memory to function. Over time, as the firmware invariably grows in size, it will be left behind.

I see that other iconic Polycom, the SoundStation IP7000, is currently sporting 4.0.14 firmware released in December 2018. It is also a remarkably long-lived product. We were still buying them for ZipDX projects in June 2017. In truth, it has well and truly been superseded by the Trio 8000 Series, which are dramatically more flexible.

My sit/stand desk has a little more space since I switched from a dual-monitor arrangement to a single 4K display. Maybe it’s time to take the burly VVX 1500 for a spin as my daily desktop phone once again. It sounds so great, and those metal buttons are just so…polished.

End of the Line For 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Earphones

Back in June 2016 I took a chance and bought the 1MORE Triple Driver in-Ear Earphones. While they seemed well-regarded, and well priced, their performance proved to be disappointing. For listening to music I eventually switched to a new pair of Etymotic ER3XR ear buds.

I continued to use the 1More headset for listening to podcasts, most typically when I was walking the dogs. The means that I used them quite routinely. So, it’s worth noting that, after two-and-a-half years, they’ve reached a point where they are physically degraded to the point of not being usable. In essence, I’ve discovered their lifespan.

The insulation on the wires from the point of the Y to the individual ear buds is now seriously brittle and falling away. This happened more on the right-hand side, which has the volume control. That’s because I often listen using just that side while walking the dogs. This helps me maintain greater situational awareness, which is important when walking two large dogs on leash.

At this point, the wire from the 3.5mm plug to the Y-point is not similarly degraded. I expect this is because it has a protective covering of woven cloth.

I cannot recall another headset that was so short-lived.

Voicemeeter 8 (aka Potato) Released Today!

I don’t normally parrot press releases, but I have the highest regard for VB Audio, the Voicemeeter Series and his Virtual Audio Cables. These are profoundly useful pieces of software.

I’ve used Voicemeeter from VB Audio since it launched. It’s great, simple audio mixing software for Windows. In truth, I now routinely use Voicemeeter Banana, which the more capable version, supporting extra virtual inputs and outputs. This is how I bidirectionally connect ZipDX to a Hangout and my headset for VUC each week.

Today VB Audio extends the Voicemeeter series further with the first official release of Voicemeeter 8, which Vincent has nicknamed Potato. Here’s the formal announcement:

Voicemeeter Potato Press Release
VB-AUDIO SOFTWARE
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2019
  
Voicemeeter 8 (a.k.a. POTATO) is finalizing the Voicemeeter Series with an ultimate virtual mixing console application, offering 5 Physical I/O and 3 Virtual I/O to connect again more audio devices and more applications together and to provide more control on any kind of audio workflows (now from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz).

This Voicemeeter release (version 3.0.0.7 / 2.0.4.7 / 1.0.6.7) offers new virtual audio drivers for the entire series (also to Voicemeeter Standard and Voicemeeter Banana) made to be more reliable, with optimal CPU load, better audio quality and fully compatible with all Windows versions (XP, VISTA, WIN7, 8, 8.1, WIN10 32 or 64 bits and Windows Server 2003, 2008, 2012, 2016 32 or 64 bits). Voicemeeter also installs virtual ASIO drivers (4 clients per ASIO driver) to connect 32 and 64 bits DAW’s and a Virtual ASIO insert driver made to connect a VST HOST to process any pre-fader inputs with any VST Plug-ins.

voicemeeter8

Voicemeeter Potato brings again new features inspired by audio pro mixing console and provides a better Microsoft windows integration. With the 8 BUS multi layer mixer, it is now possible to define an independent mix for each BUS (SEL Button). The internal FX section offers a reverb and a Multitap delay FX to invite musician or small bands to use it as music production mixer. The external FX section provides regular AUX with SEND and RETURN path to connect external hardware FX.  Finally the Potato virtual input strips are showing the connected applications with a volume and mute control for each (as it is proposed by the Windows Volume Mixer).

Voicemeeter Series is also providing extra services through VBAN protocol to transport Real Time audio, Real time MIDI and Real Time Remote Control over network. Voicemeeter package also installs additional applications like MacroButtons, VBAN2MIDI and 2 examples of a BUS A.P.A. (Audio Processing as Application) a 15 Bands Graphic EQ and a 8×8 Gain Matrix. Finally with Voicemeeter comes a complete API to control any parameters or to process audio stream inside Voicemeeter in a client application programmed in any language supporting standard DLL. SDK Download and Voicemeeter Remote API information are on our forums.

Fair trade, affordable for everyone!

While Voicemeeter Standard and Voicemeeter Banana are distributed as Donationware without constraint, Voicemeeter Potato is distributed as donationware with an activation code, free to download and free to use! It will invite you to activate your license after 30 days. Thanks for your participation and support! Contact us for volume licensing or special deals.

Windows XP, VISTA, WIN7, WIN8, WIN8.1, WIN10 32/64 bits (MME, DirectX, WDM/WASAPI, KS, ASIO). www.voicemeeter.com / www.vb-cable.com /www.vb-audio.com

Deal Alert: Etymotic ER3XR or ER3SE In-Ear-Monitors for $149

er3xr_box_mo_1As was mentioned a short while back, our young Dogo mix Julio ate my headphones. Of course, that’s not entirely true. He didn’t actually ingest them. He simply chewed them up. In that simple act, he rendered them useless.

In my attempt to pay more attention to this site I detailed his misadventure here. I asked for opinions on a replacement, but you were no help at all! I suppose that’s my fault since I’ve been ignoring this project for quiet a while.

Lacking for direct input, I set about researching replacements. I’ve had a couple different models of Etymotic products over the years. I began with a couple of pairs of ER6i, then the now-destroyed HF5s. The HF5s are still offered. They sound good, and at $100, they’re attractively priced.

Over the years, I’ve recommended Etymotic headphones to various friends and associates. The balanced armature design sounds crystal clear, which I admire. Some people have justifiably commented that they lack truly deep bass. I thought it worth finding a product that could do a little better in that arena.

To bring this ramble to a conclusion, after much research I came more-or-less full-circle, settling upon the Etymotic ER3XR. These are a good step up from the HF5s, and have the bass extension that I was seeking.

Since they’re a brand new model there was no deal to be found. I paid $179 for the pair that I’ve been using the past few weeks. However, this week I see that Massdrop is offering the ER3s for just $149.

I’m quite pleased with these so far. They don’t have a microphone, so they’re for listening only. However, they do have a removable cable using the standard MMCX connector. That presents the opportunity to replace the cable with a third-party replacement that includes a microphone.