The latest Freebox devices now are VPN endpoints courtesy of a firmware update

Article – French language / Langue Française

Mise à jour Freebox : du Wi-Fi programmable et un VPN intégré |

My Comments

Freebox Révolution - courtesy

Freebox Révolution to be a VPN endpoint have been adding some extra functionality to their Freebox Révolution and Freebox Crystal “n-box” Internet-gateway devices. This is being delivered through a free firmware update (version 2.1.0) as in the nature of the highly-competitive French Internet-service market and users can download and implement them in these devices.

VPN Endpoint Router

One key product is the ability for a Freebox Révolution or Freebox Crystal Internet-gateway to become a fully-fledged small-business-grade VPN router. Here, you could set these devices to work as an endpoint for a client-to-box VPN or, perhaps, a box-to-box VPN joining two small networks via the Internet backbone. For example, you could set up a secure-browsing or secure-file-transfer link to your home or small-business network in Paris or even buy a Draytek VPN router for your home network in the UK and a Freebox  Révolution for that chic French “bolthole” and establish a “box-to-box” VPN for backing up data between both locations, including making the same media available at both locations.

This is made feasible with hardware or software endpoints that work to PPTP or OpenVPN technology, which would suit software endpoints available on all the main desktop and mobile platforms as well as most other VPN endpoint routers.

Even the “seedbox” BitTorrent client integrated in these devices has been updated to be able to take advantage of the VPN functionality for user privacy.

Wi-Fi network improvements

The Freebox Révolution has been able to benefit from a software-based 802.11ac implementation which opens it up to high-speed data transfer with 802.11ac clients. Typically this would have required one to replace or add hardware to upgrade to the newer 802.11ac standard.

Similarly, the firmware has mad it easier for a Freebox user to optimise their Wi-Fi network performance by changing the channel the Wi-Fi access point is working on. It also includes a “site-survey” function which lists what Wi-Fi networks are operating on what channels at what strengths so you can choose the right channel to work on. This can be important in a neighbourhood where everyone is running a home network and could make things also easier for Free’s technical-support staff.

There is even the ability to turn Wi-FI functionality on or off according to a schedule which can be of importance for people who are sensitive to RF emissions or need to keep a lid on out-of-hours access to the Wi-Fi network.


You just never know what Free or other French ISPs have in store to increase the real value that they offer to their customers in that highly-competitive market.

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Pioneer to bring Apple CarPlay to some newer aftermarket car stereos


Apple CarPlay Comes To Pioneer’s Aftermarket Infotainment Systems | Gizmodo

Apple CarPlay Coming To Pioneer’s In-Dash Systems This Summer | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth


European Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

The talk about Apple’s CarPlay in-dash infotainment operating system has been focused on vehicle builders providing this as standard with particular car models. But Pioneer, who is well-known for a long run of high-quality car-infotainment technology for the vehicle aftermarket, has become the first company to launch an Apple CarPlay setup for this application class.

This will be available as an up-and-coming firmware update for a few of Pioneer’s premium “double-DIN” multimedia head-units that are being launched this year. The units, some with and without optical disc will have the large LCD touch screen as the operating system but will require the use of a iPhone 5 or newer device running iOS 7.1 or later to run with the new operating environment. They will also be connected to that iPhone via a USB-Lightning “charge and sync” cable. Key advantages will come in the form of access to Apple’s assets like iTunes, especially iTunes Radio, the reformed Apple Maps along with the Siri voice-driven “personal assistant”. There will be some driving-appropriate third-party apps like Spotify or TuneIn Radio that will be made “CarPlay-ready” as they are developed or revised for the iOS platform.

What I see of this is that the aftermarket scene, which will cater to the younger drivers who primarily start out with older vehicles, will need to embrace Apple’s CarPlay and other similar connected-infotainment platforms offered by Google and Microsoft. As well, it is showing that the vehicle is becoming part of the home network and the Internet and heading towards a platform-driven connected environment rather than one directed solely by the vehicle builder.

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It could be touch-to-connect for Wi-Fi devices very soon


WiFi Alliance adds support for NFC | NFC World

My Comments

Two “quick-setup” features that I have liked are coming together very shortly for wireless routers and network-enabled devices. These features are being exploited by device manufacturers who want to be part of the level playing field and desire to see innovation.

One of these features is the WPS-PBC “push-to-connect” functionality where you invoke a WPS setup option on a client device you want to enrol then press the WPS button on your wireless router to “enrol” your client device in to your home network’s Wi-Fi segment. This feature has made it easier to bring new Windows  7/8 computers, Android mobile devices amongst most other Wi-Fi-capable devices in to a home network without having to transcribe in long WPA-PSK passphrases. I even set up one multiple-access-point network to allow this to happen on both access-point devices when I was fixing up network-connectivity issues. Similarly, I was pleased with a TP-Link TL-WPA4220 HomePlug wireless access point that used “Wi-Fi Clone” to learn network parameters from an existing Wi-Fi network segment at the push of a WPS button so it can be quickly set up as an extension access point.

Another feature that I am pleased about is NFC-based Bluetooth pairing. This is primarily used on most Sony Bluetooth-capable devices but other manufacturers are increasingly enabling it. It allows you to touch your phone or computer to the Bluetooth-capable device to instantly pair and connect both these devices. When I bought the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headset adaptor with FM radio, it didn’t take me long to “get going” with this device because I simply touched my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Android phone to it to achieve this goal.

Now the Wi-Fi Alliance have merged both technologies and defined NFC “touch-and-go” setup as part of WPS-based wireless network setup standards. This functionality was seen as part of a “long-tail” vision for the WPS secure-network-setup standards with routers having to support the PIN-based and “push-to-go” methods. They defined a framework based around certain access-point and client chipsets including the Google Nexus 10 Android tablet. For that matter, Android, Linux and Windows 7/8 users could find this functionality either as a small app or “baked in” to an operating-system update.

This is another innovative step that will assure quick setup for Windows and Android devices with small-network Wi-Fi segments especially as most of the recent crop of these devices are equipped with NFC “touch-and-go” functionality and Wi-Fi connectivity.

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NBN to consider FTTN in regional areas


NBN Co ponders rural reversal | The Australian

My Comments

With the NBN considering moving regional areas to Fibre-to-the-node technology, we need to be aware of other similar developments taking place in UK and Germany where similar technology is being deployed for next-generation networks.

Here, we need to know of any deployment mistakes that have been made in these countries and are at risk of being made here. This includes connections that have or are likely to impede operation of the technology as well as catering to the changing landscape that will affect these areas, which is a fact as a town expands and farmland is subdivided for multiple housing projects. It is also why the concept of adaptability is very important when working on a next-generation broadband infrastructure

In the same context, the concept of adaptability  is important as a way to allow customers to buy increased broadband which I would say is important for professionals working from home or if the concept of “fibre to the basement” / “fibre to the building” is to be realised for subsequent multi-tenancy developments that occur in the neighbourhood.

What we need to be sure of for a next-generation broadband service is a competitive highly-adaptive system that can suit the way neighbourhoods change.

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Short commentary–Cyrus Lyric network-enabled CD receiver

Cyrus Lyric 09 CD receiver

Cyrus Lyric CD receiver – playing a CD

Normally I would have a product for a few weeks to be able to test-drive it, but I had a very short opportunity to try out a Cyrus Lyric network-enabled CD receiver at Carlton Audio Visual. The demo unit was intended to be shifted to this hi-fi dealer’s stand at the HIA Home Show. I have given space to this product as another example of its class since it was premiered at the Melbourne Audio & AV Show 2013 at Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto .

Carlton Audio Visual is one of a few remaining specialist hi-fi and home-AV dealers existing in Melbourne and who maintain a “bricks-and-mortar” storefront where you can actually try out the equipment you want to purchase or specify.

The functionality I was able to try out with this unit was the CD-playback functionality and the ability to “pair up” and play music from my smartphone and the unit was connected to a pair of Monitor Audio floor-standing speakers which demonstrated how flexible this class of network-enabled CD receiver was. I played the Big Break Records CD-remaster of Delegation’s “Eau De Vie” through this system and found that it came across with that same “punch” that was important for popular music, especially funk, soul and similar music.

Cyrus Lyric source list - CD, Network (UPnP), Internet radio, DAB/FM radio, Aux, Bluetooth

The many functions that the Cyrus Lyric has

As well, I had done some other research and found that the Lyric does well for connectivity with 2 optical and 2 coaxial digital (PCM) inputs for equipment like a TV or set-top box with digital output, or a MiniDisc deck. It can also work as a “virtual sound card” for your laptop computer using a USB Type-B connector, but you also have a line-level analog input and an analog output that can be configured to be a line-level output for a recording device or amplifier, or a pre-level output for a power amplifier or active speakers like the Bang & Olufsen Beolab or Bose Powered Acoustimass speakers.

There is even the ability to have a Cyrus Lyric set up for “2.1” operation with an active subwoofer and while its own amplifier drives a set of speakers that don’t rate well for bass like very small bookshelf speakers or smaller “cube-style” speakers. This means that you can adjust bass volume and cutoff frequency for this setup at the CD receiver’s control panel.

There are some useability improvements that could be provided here. For example, when the Lyric is actually in operation but you want the system not to light up fully, it could “light up” the volume control “buttons” and a “menu/source button” all the time so one can know where to go if you needed to adjust the volume quickly such as to turn the music down when you want to speak with someone or “wind up the wick” for a favourite song.  It is symptomatic of a trend in designing consumer and small-business electronics where you have a dark-coloured control or display panel which lights up items on an “as-required” basis as has been done with pinball machines.

From my experience with the Cyrus Lyric, I do see some good things coming of it being Cyrus Audio’s example for a high-quality network-connected CD receiver expected to last a very long time. I would recommend someone to purchase the Lyric 05 low-powered model along with a pair of smaller bookshelf speakers or for that small apartment if they had their eye on this model. This may also apply with people teaming one of these units with a pair of older speakers that were in good condition. The Lyric 09 would come in to its own with newer speakers that could handle its greater power output.

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Dolby to provide a personal soundtrack for sporting and cultural events


Dolby’s vision for the living room includes abundant audio options | Engadget

My Comments

Most of us who watch sports have a preference for a personalised audio experience during these events. For example, a common method of enjoying cricket in Australia is to have the TV’s volume turned down and the ABC radio commentary playing on the radio or hi-fi. This is due to “cutting out” the TV advertising as well as listening to cricket commentators who know what they are talking about.

Similarly, I have watched the Tour De France on SBS and do enjoy the English-language commentary that is provided but have had a taste of the French commentary when there was a technical mishap and would appreciate that, due to my knowledge of the language. Sometimes, a simple “music-and-effects” soundtrack for a royal wedding or similar public ceremony may suffice as the audio experience rather than what some might see as a “slanted” commentary.

Dolby is putting forward the idea of a highly-personalised soundtrack for sporting, cultural and other live events that can include one or more different commentary streams along with, for example, effects or other “event-driven” sounds that follow something like a social-media stream. This can be derived from “existing infrastructure” like broadcast commentary, or IP (the Internet) which could be something like an alternative radio or TV commentary or a “text-to-speech” of Twitter comments from your friends.

Of course, they say that it could require additional hardware at the broadcaster’s and consumer’s side for this to work but a lot of smart-TV and set-top-box platforms that have an Internet connection of some sort could adapt to this easily through a firmware update or the delivery of an app.

This application for interactive TV could be a godsend to those of us who love our sporting and cultural events our way.

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The 3Play Bluetooth audio adaptor answers the multi-device problem


3play is a Bluetooth audio dongle that begs to be misused | Engadget

My Comments

A common problem that affects any Bluetooth audio and mobile-phone setup is the way that most Bluetooth devices handle multiple source devices. I have covered this issue in a previous article concerning managing multiple Bluetooth source devices with one Bluetooth destination device (headset, speaker, etc). Here, I even highlighted how desktop and mobile operating systems don’t even handle connecting and disconnecting of these devices very well save for Android and Windows 8 and it requires you to pair up your wireless speakers with your iPhone every time you want to use them again.

3Play have come up with a Bluetooth audio adaptor that allows 3 source devices (smartphones, tablets, MP3 players) to this adaptor at the one time. In this implementation, if a device is paused, another device could be playing out the music, thus being based on a “priority” method.

What I would like to see of this is that 3Play could license the software out to other manufacturers who sell wireless speakers, Bluetooth audio adaptors and the like to allow for priority-driven multiple-device handling. Another way to solve the problem could be to enumerate each connected device as a logical source or sub-source which would work properly for home and car stereo systems. Here, a user operates a control on the system like a “Source” or “Band” button to select the Bluetooth device to listen to.

At least 3Play are answering the common problem associated with people showing up with Bluetooth-capable smartphones and tablets full of music and pairing them up to the same wireless speaker or music system.

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One of the first smart thermostats now arrives in the UK


Nest thermostat arrives in the UK ahead of an ‘aggressive’ European expansion | The Verge

Nest’s Learning Thermostat lands in the UK for £179 | Engadget

Nest débarque au Royaume-Uni | (France – French language / Langue française)

From the horse’s mouth

Nest Labs

Product Page

My Comments

Nest Learning Thermostat courtesy of Nest Labs

The Nest Learning Thermostat now can work with that central-heating boiler

Nest Labs have been associated with a room thermostat that is described as the “iPhone of thermostats”. This unit, which was available in the USA for the last few years, connects to your home network and your central-heating system  This also allows for a continual “learning-mode” for its operation and your computer or mobile devices work as extra control surfaces whether through a Web front or a client-side app.

But the UK has a different central-heating-control need especially as most houses use a boiler which heats up water which is pumped to radiator panels located in each room of the house. These systems also heat up the household’s domestic-hot-water supply either through the boiler itself or a heat-exchange tank located upstairs in the house.

A lot of these systems are managed by a time switch located near the boiler as the main control surface and may not have a room thermostat, with the householder overriding or “playing around” with the time switch for the heat to satisfy their comfort requirement. This kind of system has become a challenge for anyone designing a smart thermostat that is intended to work with any residential heating system and I have previously wrote an article about a network-enabled thermostat system targeted specifically at these systems.

Nest have modified this network-capable thermostat to cater for the UK central-heating system by implementing a control module that is connected to the boiler. The thermostat uses a wireless link to control the boiler to provide heat as necessary. At the moment, it doesn’t have the ability to manage the domestic-hot-water function that these heating systems also provide.

It is released now with an installed price of GBP£249 or a “do-it-yourself” price of GBP£179. This has also been the chance for Nest to release their Nest Connect connected smoke/carbon-monoxide alarm which also implements a “dashboard” on your smartphone. As well, Nest releasing their online smart thermostat in to the UK market is the start of them “getting their claws” in to the rest of Europe where most countries their implement this kind of heating system.

Personally it is the sign of a trend where this year could be the availability of smart heating controls for the UK and European markets.

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It’s getting closer for the USB Type-C connector


First Pictures Surface Of The Reversible USB Plug Of The Future | Gizmodo

Meet the next-gen USB cable that could sweep away all others | CNET

Previous coverage

USB Type C To Be A No-Worries Device Connection

From the horse’s mouth

USB Implementers Forum

Press Release (PDF)

My Comments

USB data cable

USB data / power cable to be eventually replaced with the USB Type-C data / power cable with the same plug each end

Just lately, the USB Implementers Forum have shown first pictures of their next-generation cable and connector which would have symmetrical connection abilities.

It was mooted last December as a connection solution for today’s computing needs. Here, this is about providing data and power to today’s smartphones, tablets and Ultrabooks using a very-low-profile connector the same size as either the Micro-B connector used on your Android smartphone or the Apple Lightning used on a recent-issue iDevice. The size will also appeal to increasingly-low-profile peripheral devices like portable hard disks, keyboards and mice and would also benefit monitor and smart-TV designers when it comes to connecting peripheral devices to these units so you don’t have to worry which way to plug the USB plug in.

It also underscores a reality with the USB standard where the USB cable will end up as a high-speed data transfer cable and a power-delivery cable that supplies enough power to run a notebook computer or high-capacity external hard disk by supporting the kind of scalability required for these setups.

Other advantages being shown here include an audible click for successful connection as well as being able to be plugged and unplugged 10,000 times. The former feature would help in that the user is sure the device they are connecting is firmly plugged in especially if they cannot see the socket they are plugging it in to, such as one installed at the back of a device, The latter feature would be of importance to sockets installed on mobile computing devices and accessories as well as “walk-up” connection sockets installed on the front of static equipment. Here we are thinking of smartphones being connected to a charging device regularly and frequently or USB thumbdrives being plugged in to the front of a desktop computer or printer. Both situations may start to lead to USB connections starting to become unreliable over time.

As mentioned previously, there will be cables available that will have a Type-C connection on one end and either a Type Standard-A, Type Standard-B or Type Micro-B connection on the other end. This will allow you to connect existing devices to newer devices bestowed with these connections. The articles even said that some newer devices will also be equipped with one of these connections along with a previous-standard USB connection in the near term.

Who knows what this year will bring for designers of low-profile devices where the power/data connection style will become more suited to this application.

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Why do I give space on this site to the network-capable CD receiver?

Regular readers may have noticed me giving some space to the network-capable CD receiver of the same ilk as the Rotel RCX-1500, Naim Uniti series, the Cyrus Lyric series and Sony’s newest offering in the form of the MAP-S1. I am writing about why I give coverage to these systems as a network-capable music-system option.

The rise, fall and renaissance of the high-quality integrated system.

Cyrus Lyric network-enabled CD receiver

Cyrus Lyric network-enabled CD receiver

These followed on from the “music centres” or “compact stereos” of the 1970s and 1980s which housed a turntable, receiver, cassette and / or 8-track cartridge deck in one box connected to a pair of separate speakers. Systems of that class that were worth buying approached a functionality and sound-quality standard that was equivalent to a baseline component-style hi-fi system.

This kind of standard for integrated home audio had died out through the late 1980s with Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Proton, Onkyo and a few others carrying the flag through the 1990s and beyond. This was while integrated systems that most people could afford at that time didn’t hit the mark for sound quality or, in a lot of cases, functionality or build quality.

The category resurfaced in the late 1990s with NAD, Denon, Onkyo and a few others offered CD receivers and DVD receivers that didn’t come with a set of matching speakers. One UK hi-fi magazine even described it as the return of the 1970s-era music centre. Onkyo even fielded a system that could be considered today’s equivalent of the music centre by offering the FR-435 which had a CD player, FM receiver and MiniDisc deck in one box.

The network-capable CD receivers mentioned here take on the CD-receiver concept and become part of the home network to provide access to Internet radio, online music services and music stored on that network.

The typical network-capable CD receiver

Amplifier design

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver

These CD receivers are typically built with amplification sections that could approach that or, in some cases, be equivalent to. a competently-designed baseline integrated hi-fi amplifier. This means that they can be used with any pair of competent speakers that the customer chooses to use it with.

There are a few examples of this concerning music systems of this class that come to my mind. One was a demo setup for the Onkyo FR-435 CD/MiniDisc receiver which involved it being connected to a pair of floor-standing hi-fi speakers made by a hi-fi “name of respect” and I had played a personal-compilation MiniDisc through this setup with it performing very competently..

Another was the review setup that International Dynamics provided me with when I reviewed the Rotel RCX-1500 network-capable CD receiver. This setup consisted of the CD receiver and a pair of Cabasse Antigua bookshelf hi-fi speakers connected with a pair of very-low-resistance hi-fi-grade speaker cables.

Marantz CR603 CD receiver

Marantz CR603 CD receiver – One of the many DLNA-capable hi-fi components shown at the Australian Audio & AV Show

Similarly, when I was at the Australian Audio & AV Show 2013, I had seen and heard a preview sample of the Cyrus Lyric network-capable CD receiver in full flight with a pair of Quadral Montan floor-standing speakers. This was, at one time, streaming music from a Bluetooth-connected phone or, earlier on, playing music off a CD.

These systems can easily serve certain realities concerning the availability of speakers.

One could be that you already ended up with a pair of good speakers. For example, you have ended up with Dad’s old Klipsch hi-fi speakers when your family were clearing out your parents’ house after he passed away and Mum had to move to supported accommodation. Or you went to an estate sale or auction and ended up with a pair of hi-fi speakers of a respected audio name that were in good condition for pennies’ worth.

On the other hand, you could be able to buy the CD receiver with a pair of speakers that suit your needs and budget at the hi-fi store you were buying it from. This may also include being able to look at what the hi-fi store offers when it comes to second-hand speakers in very good operating condition which could be trade-ins or a pair or two that they are tasked with selling on consignment.


Naim Uniti network CD receiver

Naim Uniti network CD receiver with Naim’s distinct CD-loading tray – now has been improved to the Uniti 2

These systems offer a CD player, FM/DAB+ radio, USB file-based audio playback along with network-based AV sources like Internet radio or DLNA audio playback in that one box. Newer generations even come with Bluetooth A2DP audio play from mobile devices along with access to various online audio sources other than an Internet-radio directory, like Spotify, Deezer or Pandora.

The limitations that may be exposed by these systems may include fewer connections for other audio devices. This may manifest in the absence of a phono stage where you can connect most turntables equipped with a magnetic cartridge or the absence of a “tape-loop” where you can connect a recording device like a cassette or MiniDisc deck and be able to record from or play to the CD receiver. As well, you may only find up to two line-level inputs on these systems. The reasoning behind this is that the network-capable CD receiver offers most functions in that one box.

Build quality and longevity

Sony MAP-S1 CD receiver courtesy of Sony

Sony’s new entry to the CD-receiver scene

I draw attention to these systems due to them being built to last which is important if you do either expect to use it frequently or see it staying around for a long time. It also underscores amongst users that they want to frequently play a well-built system that is less likely to break down with the regular use.

Newer systems will even implement user-updatable firmware to allow the system to support new online music services or newer networking standards and audio file types.

In some ways, the longevity that these CD receivers offer would justify the price tag especially in this economic climate where the idea is to look for value and durability so you don’t end up spending too much over the long term.


Smaller residence

Arcam Solo Neo CD receiver

Arcam Solo Neo CD receiver

The network-capable CD receiver is intended to satisfy a trend for smaller living spaces which is likely to become the norm for two main user classes. One user class would be a tertiary student who is living in student accommodation i.e. a student hostel, college dorm or residence hall. This would also extend to people living in accommodation associated with their job where the accommodation space is a small apartment or a room of a similar size to a hotel room. This also includes people who share a house and find that their private space is simply a bedroom.

Another user class would be a retired person or couple, or a couple whose children have flown the “family nest”. Here, these people would opt for smaller premises such as a decent-standard inner-urban apartment located close to city activities like the good theatres, or they could be living in retirement or assisted-living accommodation which would typically yield a small bedroom or a small apartment.

Both situations may not easily accommodate a stack of regular-width hi-fi components due to the small size of the living quarters or having such equipment may overwhelm these spaces.

Secondary music system

Even a larger house where you can have a “stack” of hi-fi components as your main A/V or audio system may yield a space where a secondary audio system may be desired. Examples of this may be a secondary lounge area like a large landing or foyer; a dining room or simply a master bedroom. To the same extent, these systems would earn their keep in a small office or shop, providing high-quality music for the patrons.

All these situations could easily be passed off as being suitable for a cheaper music system which is something you would do on a budget. But for those of us who want high-quality sound without an underpowered amplifier straining because too much is asked of it or are used to a good hi-fi system serving your music needs, these network-capable CD receivers could simply answer these needs.

This can also extend to a high-quality three-piece music system that you may want to set up in your shop or office to reflect the tone of your business. The network ability could then allow you to benefit from music held on a small NAS or online-hosted music services like the “new shortwave” that is Internet radio.

Changing needs

It is more so if you have changing needs and can easily purpose these systems either as a primary music system or a secondary music system as required. An example of this could be to purchase one of these units as a secondary system for the “den” in the large house, then take it with you to the small apartment as the hub of a decent music system.


I do give space on this Website to the premium network-capable CD receivers due to them being able to be the heart of a well-built good-quality music system that caters to the downsizing trend that is affecting how we live nowadays without losing on the good-quality sound that a lot of us are used to.

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