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

Rebranding Networks: Wi-Fi 5 vs 5G

The hype around 5G mobile networks seems to have the Wi-Fi Alliance crowd a little nervous. In early October they launched a rebranding initiative to make the alphabet soup of Wi-Fi easier for grannies to understand. Were once we refereed to 802.11a/b/c/n/ac and/or 802.11ax…now, to be Wi-Fi certified, the correct terminology is:

  • Wi-Fi 4 (formerly 802.11n)
  • Wi-Fi 5 (formerly 802.11ac)
  • Wi-Fi 6 (formerly 802.11ax)

The entire guide to this new marketecture, which includes a library of symbols for use on packaging, is here. It’s worth a glance. Remember, the point of the exercise is to bring clarity to the oh-so-confusing world of Wi-Fi.

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Grandstream Revisited: Time For Some Tough Love

A few months ago I made some observation of how Grandstream had come to be in-use around my home & office. I especially appreciate their surveillance gear. The GVC cameras and NVR are in 2/47 service and have served us well the past couple of years.

That said, two problems have cropped up recently that bear examination.

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Argh! Google’s Neat Ethernet Adapter For Chromecast is Proprietary

You may recall a month ago when I stumbled across Google’s way-cool power supply + Ethernet adapter for  Chromecast. At just $15 I thought it novel and a great way to give Chromecast the reliability of a wired network connection. That it is.

I also thought, hoped even, that it was a relatively standard use of Androids USB-On-The-Go capability. Meaning that I had hoped it would serve an Android tablet just the same as it handled Chromecast, providing power + Ethernet. That’s where I was wrong.

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A Cautionary Tale of Meshes & Networks

ubiquiti amplifi 300pxEveryone wants great Wi-Fi. That much is a given. Our homes occasionally make achieving this difficult, either by way of their sheer size or manner of construction. This is a cautionary tale about a project I undertook around our home, and its unexpected impact on our Wi-Fi.

In recent years wireless mesh networks have become quite fashionable. And why not? Providing reliable coverage in a large home may require multiple wireless access points. Pulling Ethernet cable to each of those locations (yeah, baby!) is beyond all but the most ambitious of DIY homeowners.

For the average Joe installing one central router, then plugging in a couple of more distant wireless repeaters seems so much easier. That’s a Saturday morning chore that might well ingratiate you with the family.

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Ooohhh! This looks cool: USB Charger with a Built-in Ethernet Adapter!

USB-OTG is very handy. It allows someone to connect a variety of different USB devices to a tablet or mobile phone. Most often I’ve made use of a simple USB OTG cable to connect a flash drive or USB headset to one of my devices.

You can also use a USB hub to connect multiple devices, all while keeping the tablet powered. I have on occasion connected a USB headset or Blue Yeti microphone. These I use in conjunction with Audio Tool.

Today I discovered that Google offers a USB charger that has a built-in Ethernet adapter. Called the Ethernet Adapter for Chromecast, it’s just $15 from the play store!

Ethernet Adapter for Chromecast

This is fantastic since it eliminates reliance upon WiFi as the primary means of connectivity! That could make many things, admittedly obtuse things, that I might wish to try more reliable. As I’ve stated previously, wherever possible I prefer to leverage Ethernet over WiFi.

I simply had to have one of these for use with my new nVidia Shield K1 tablet! There’s an open question as to whether it will work with the K1, It only delivers 850 mA, which may not be enough for some devices. At just $15 it’s a risk I’m willing to take. More news to follow once the goody arrives.