UPnP AV / DLNA media-playback hardware) Archive

Panasonic launches network-capable stereo equipment with full multiroom streaming

Article

Panasonic SC-ALL5CD CD/FM/DAB+ AllPlay-capable one-piece music system press picture courtesy of Panasonic UK

Panasonic SC-ALL5CD CD/FM/DAB+ AllPlay-capable one-piece music system can stream CDs or the radio to AllPlay-capable wireless speakers via your home network

Panasonic has a second go with multi-room, streams CD and radio | Gadget Guy Australia

From the horse’s mouth

Panasonic Australia

Press Release

My Comments

Panasonic SC-PMX100 CD/FM/DAB+ AllPlay-capable 3-piece music system press picture courtesy of Panasonic UK

… as can the Panasonic SC-PMX100 CD/FM/DAB+ AllPlay-capable 3-piece music system

Panasonic has pushed on the Qualcomm AllPlay specification as a way of having your favourite music or TV audio streamed around the home network to AllPlay-compliant Wi-FI wireless speakers. This takes advantage of new functions added to this specification such as streaming Bluetooth, line-in or other local audio sources to these setups or setting up a group of speakers for stereo or surround-sound reproduction with improved separation.

Panasonic SC-ALL70T AllPlay soundbar press picture courtesy of Panasonic UK

Panasonic SC-ALL70T soundbar can stream TV audio to your AllPlay-compatible wireless speakers via your home network

They have released the SC-ALL70T soundbar and SC-ALL30T TV speaker base which enhance your flat-screen TV’s sound but they can do more than what a soundbar or speaker base can do. If you use the newer SC-ALL2 wireless speakers, you can upgrade these speakers to become a full 5.1 surround-sound system with the front left, front right and centre audio channels coming out of the soundbar or speaker base. As well, if you connect your flatscreen TV’s headphone or analogue line-out jack to the soundbar’s or speaker base’s AUX input, you can set it up to stream the TV content’s sound to all of the AllPlay-compliant wireless speakers on your home network.

Panasonic SC-ALL2 wireless speaker courtesy of Panasonic UK

Panasonic SC-ALL2 AllPlay wireless speaker

Those of you who love local broadcast radio or buy your music on CDs can have these sources streamed around your home network to AllPlay-compliant wireless speakers courtesy of two new stereos that Panasonic has released. Here with these systems, you don’t have to be in a hurry to “rip” that new CD you bought from Amazon or JB Hi-FI to have it come through your wireless speakers around the house.

These are the SC-ALL5CD single-piece music system and the SC-PMX100 premium three-piece micro system, which have a CD player, FM and DAB+ broadcast-radio tuners along with Bluetooth connectivity and an aux input all able to be streamed across your home network. Most likely, you would use the Panasonic iOS or Android remote-control app on your smartphone or tablet to change tracks or stations that you hear when you listen from other speakers.

Let’s not forget that the Panasonic SC-ALL2 speaker, which has an integrated alarm-clock display, can be paired with another of these speakers for improved stereo separation. Here, it is pitched for bathroom, bedroom or similar “auxiliary” speaker use, but shows that Panasonic could take this concept further.

For example, they could pitch a three-piece micro music system similar to the SC-PMX100 but equipped with a Blu-Ray player. Then an AllPlay-compatible wireless subwoofer and the SC-ALL2 speakers could make for a surround-sound system for a master bedroom or small lounge area with the SC-ALL2 speakers able to provide “close stereo” sound suitable for listening to music in bed.  Similarly, these could go with a Smart TV like one of the Panasonic VIERA models, offering to provide increased stereo separation or a full surround-sound setup again suitable for the small lounge area.

These stereos and speakers will still play music from the online music services of the Spotify ilk, the “new short-wave” that is Internet radio as well as music that is piled up on a NAS and made available via its DLNA media server.

What is showing is that Panasonic, a mainstream consumer-electronics brand, is still demonstrating faith in the Qualcomm AllPlay network-based wireless sound distribution platform rather than going for systems that are totally focused on equipment sold by that same vendor.

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More coverage on the VIDIPATH technology.

Article VIDIPATH logo courtesy of DLNA

DLNA’s VidiPath Enables Subscription-TV Sharing At Home | TWICE

My Comments

I have given previous coverage to the DLNA VIDIPATH technology which allows you to use the home network to share pay-TV content around the home using compliant Smart TVs or desktop / mobile apps.

Foxtel IQ2 pay-TV PVR

A PVR-type set-top box can serve as the hub of a VIDIPATH pay-TV setup

This article talked of a typical scenario where you have a PVR-grade set-top box provided by your pay-TV provider – the same kind of box as Sky+ or Foxtel IQ. The typical scenario for serving a TV in the master bedroom. the den or the games room would be to rent another set-top box from the pay-TV provider and have them pull coaxial cable to where it is installed. If you wanted to participate in the pay-TV provider’s “TV Everywhere” platform, you would have to download and register their desktop or mobile app to have cable-TV content on your computer, tablet or smartphone when you are at home.

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

VIDIPATH-capable Blu-Ray players can bring pay-TV to the secondary bedroom TV

VIDIPATH provides an authenticated method of allowing third-party devices to connect to the PVR via your home network. The application that was raised in the article was to have a Smart TV in the bedroom or den without the need of a set-top box, or to install an open-frame app on your computer or tablet to pull up live, on-demand or PVR-recorded pay-TV content.

But a situation that wasn’t raised was the fact that one is not likely to spend as much on secondary TV sets as they would for the primary one where they watch most of the TV content on. Either the main set may be upgraded and the set that served that role would be installed in the bedroom, a smaller TV would be placed in the kitchen or similarly-small area or a set that doesn’t have the same bells and whistles as the one in the main lounge area may be placed in a secondary lounge area.

Here, such TVs may not be VIDIPATH-enabled and would really need to be considered would be Blu-Ray players, Blu-Ray AV systems, network media players and similar video peripherals to be equipped for VIDIPATH. Why? This is because such devices can add this kind of functionality to an existing TV by simply using the existing TV as a display. It is in the same context as the VHS video-cassette recorders of the 80s where they had features like enabling cheaper and older TVs to benefit from remote control.

As manufacturers like Sony release Blu-Ray players and home-theatre systems that have “smart-TV” abilities, it wouldn’t tale long for them to offer VIDIPATH-capable versions of these devices as a way to enable the secondary sets.

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Consumer Electronics Show 2015–Part 3–Home Entertainment

In Part One of this series about the Consumer Electronics Show 2015, I covered the trends associated with personal computing while I covered the “Internet Of Everything” and connected living in Part 2. This part now touches on home audio and video entertainment technology which is being more about 4K ultra-high-definition video and high-resolution file-based audio.

TVs and Home Video

Sony slim 4K UHDTV press image courtesy of Sony America

One of Sony’s ultra-slim 4K UHDTVs being shown in Vegas

The 4K ultra-high-definition TV technology is starting to mature with more manufacturers running even 10 models with this resolution. But they are improving on this with cost-effective high-quality display technology with LG using Quantum Dot technology and Samsung using SUHDTV nanocrystal technology. As well, a lot of manufacturers are running with more of the curved or bendable 21:9 TVs in their lineup.

Sony have premiered their XBR900C series 4K UHDTVs available in 55” 65” and 75”, and being 4.9mm thick. They also are implementing the X1 processor for optimumly real colours across all their current 4K TV range. They also launched an ultra-short-throw 4K UHDTV projector at US$10000 which is bringing 4K closer to the bar.

Samsung is supplying a range of flat and curved 4K TVs with screen sizes ranging from 48” to 88”. These will appear across three model lines – the JS9500, the JS9000, and the JS8500 and is in addition to a curved 105” set which has the new nanocrystal display technology.

LG's 4K OLED curved TV press picture courtesy of LG America

LG’s 4K OLED curved TV

LG are running with 8 different 4K model lineups that are targeted at every price and room Sharp are implementing the Quattron yellow-dot technology in their 4K sets while TCL are putting their foot in the door for 4K UHDTV technology.

Another important trend is the control software for the smart TVs. Sony, along with Sharp and TPV Philips are intending to implement the new Android 5.0 operating system while Samsung is intending to run with Tizen and LG to implement a newer iteration of the WebOS operating system. Razer is even working on a games console that runs the Android 5.0 operating system. Panasonic are implementing the Life+ Screen smart-TV platform which is based on the Firefox OS operating system. In each effort, the companies are using established open-source operating-system code as part of their smart-TV platforms.

Dish Joey 4K set-top box press picture courtesy of Dish Networks America

Dish Joey set-top box – the first set-top box to support 4K UHDTV

Let’s not forget what will appear on these sets Dish Network are ready for 4K content with the first 4K-capable set-top device in the form of the Joey set-top box. These can connect to 4K UHDTV sets with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 . As well, they are offering a Sling IPTV service along with music-focused upgrades to their service delivery.

This is also being brought on by the UHD Alliance which is a group of big-name TV manufacturers and Hollywood content providers who are working together to provide high-quality 4K UHD video content. They have goals not just for high resolution but high dynamic range, a wider colour gamut and immersive sound as part of the content from creation to viewing on the customer’s TV set.

It has been augmented by the Blu-Ray Disc Association announcing that they were to start work on the Ultra HD Blu-Ray Disc specification. Panasonic have put a fair bit of input in to it and have even shown a prototype Blu-Ray player that plays 4K UHDTV content. As well, the Secure Content Storage Association have defined a secure-content-storage specification for consumers to store premium content on a hard disk or NAS and have established a “best-case” principle for selling 4K video content. This is where a customer buys a 4K-grade copy of content and they can have the best resolution that the playback equipment they are viewing it on can offer.

Cognitive Technology is working on a “Smart TV” content recommendation engine and wanting to partner with TV manufacturers and content studios to improve the concept of machine-assisted content recommendation.

As for the PlayStation Experience, Sony is providing the PlayStation Now streaming game service for the Smart TVs and their PlayStation consoles and offering at least 100 PS3 games to this service. This is in answer to them selling 10.5 million PS4s since model introduction and 4.1 million of them being sold through the past Christmas shopping season.

The doyen of streaming movies, Netflix, is working on a “Netflix Recommended” scheme for TV sets. The goal is to have certified TVs to switch to Netflix as quickly and as easily as changing TV channels. Here, the TV would have to have a dedicated Netflix button on its remote control, a suspend/resume function and to have Lilyhammer showing on Netflix within 2-3 seconds. This effort is being focused on the US market but will be rolled out around the world.

DirecTV are heading towards toe “over-the-top” path with the Yaveo Hispanic IPTV service. This will feature programming that has Latin-American Spanish dialogue and concepts focused at the Latin-American community.

Imaging

Sony FRD-AX33 4K HandyCam camcorder press picture courtesy of Sony America

Sony FDR-AX33 4K HandyCam camcorder

This year, there has been an increase in the number of consumer-grade video-cameras that can natively film in 4K UHDTV. Sony have put up a 4K lightweight handheld Wi-Fi-enabled Handycam along with a GoPro-style “action cam” that surprisingly works in this format. These implement various “steady-shot” so you can take better footage with the camera hand-held. The action cam can shoot 4K footage at 30 frames per second and also implements an ultra-wide-angle lens.

Panasonic has used this show to get their fingers wet with 4K UHDTV imaging and launched their first 4K camcorder which can also do high-dynamic-range filming. They also released the Lumix CM1 Android-powered digital camera which has a 1” sensor.

Kodak is now on to lens-style cameras that attach to smartphones like what Sony initially offered. But these are more lightweight than the Sony models so you can stuff them in your coat pocket without them being too bulky and use a Wi-Fi link to the host device and implement NFC-based setup for Android phones.

Networked Audio technology

LG Music Flow Wi-Fi multiroom speakers press picture courtesy of LG America

LG Music Flow Wi-Fi multiroom speakers

There is still a lot of interest in the networked audio technology whether in the form of music and home-theatre systems or in single-piece wireless-speaker setups.

LG are advancing a range of new Wi-Fi speakers that are directly targeted to answer Sonos’s market dominance. This include a battery-powered portable model along with their speaker range based around the Music Flow concept. It uses a mix of technologies that are similar to Sonos, Spotify Connect and Google Cast. It also implements Bluetooth NFC-based “touch-to-play” experience and allows you to create room zones with stereo/surround speaker clusters and a party-mode with music around the house. They come in the form of the H3. H4 Portable and H5 which are similar to the Sonos Play:1 and Sonos Play:3 but can run at a louder volume without distorting and clipping. The H6 Soundbar negates the need for a hub device and has its own bass abilities without the need of a subwoofer. LG is to field a variant of this soundbar to snap at the heels of the Sonos Playbar.

Technics R1 Reference hi-fi system press picture courtesy of Panasonic

Technics R1 hi-fi system symbolising the return of the hi-fi brand

Panasonic is using the CES 2015 to exhibit its line of Technics hi-fi components Stateside. This is to capitalise on the Technics name that was associated with some highly-capable hi-fi components through the 70s, 80s and 90s with memories of some classy amplifiers, turntables, CD players and cassette decks; and was reintroduced in to Europe during the IFA 2014. Here, they have the R1 Reference Class System with the SU-R1 network media player / control amplifier feeding the SE-R1 150w/channel digital  power amplifier which has those large power meters that Technics power amplifiers were known for and driving the SB-R1 3-way six-driver floorstanding speakers; along with the C700 Premium Class system which has a ST-C700 network media player / tuner serving the SU-C700 45w/channel integrated amplifier driving the SB-C700 coaxial 2-way 2-driver bookshelf speakers. It would be interesting to see how this renaissance picks up in areas like New York City – whether it has the same vim and vigour as what existed in the early 80s where hi-fi was really valued.

Samsung have launched their WAM-7500 and WAM6500 360 degree speakers which implement  Ring Radiator Technology. This leads to sound that is diffused around the listening area, but they have the look that would make them blend in to a “retro-future” environment typical of a 1960s or 1970s space-fiction movie. They can connect to regular AV gear, or be wireless speakers that support Wi-F home-network connectivity along with, Bluetooth connectivity. The WAM6500 is the portable one of the bunch while the WAM7500 is intended to exist on a table or bench.

They are also launching the Milk Music “online-radio” service as a music service that can work with their multiroom systems.

One of the main drivers has been Google Cast which is an app-based content-streaming technology that uses the home network to “pull up” content from your smartphone on TVs and stereo systems in a similar vein to Apple’s AirPlay setup. Here, it has been pitched at the Android TV platform but the audio aspect has been pitched at a few home-audio devices offered by different companies. This is also run alongside the Google Nexus Player which is based on the Android TV platform.

Cambridge Audio are releasing a range of network-audio devices that are manageable on their front panel or through a mobile-platform app. These use a highly-optimised digital-analogue path with Wolfson WM8740 DAC circuitry and can support sources from the home network via AirPlay, DLNA / UPnP AV, or online sources like Spotify Connect. The CXN is a network audio player that provides these services to an existing sound system while this function is integrated in to two 7.1 channel bridgeable surround-sound amplifiers – the CXR-120 rating at 60 watts / channel or 120 watts / channel when bridged to stereo; and the CXR-200 which comes in at 120 watts / channel or 200 watts / channel when bridged to stereo.

Sony NW-ZX2 Audiophile-Grade Android Walkman music player press picture courtesy of Sony America

Sony NW-ZX2 Audiophile-Grade Android Walkman music player

Sony have launched a pair of S-Trainer street-style headphones as wireless music players but also have sensors to help you with your workout. But they have focused on High Resolution Audio by releasing the NW-ZX2 Android Walkman MP3 player capable of playing Master-Grade audio files and has 128Gb storage on board infinitely expandable with a microSD card.

Sony STR-DN1060 home theatre receiver press picture courtesy of Sony America

Sony STR-DN1060 4K-ready network surround-sound AV receiver

They also released the HT-ST9, HT-NT3 and HT-XT3 soundbars with some being connected to the home network and the STR-DN1060, and STR-DN860 network-capable home-theatre receivers. These are all capable of working with High Resolution Audio which is, again the “Master Grade” audio content worked at 24-bit 96kHz or greater sampling rates, said to be close to the sound of the master tapes.

Massive are fielding a set of Doctor Who Bluetooth speakers which look like either a Dalek or a TARDIS. They have the classic effects associated with this show such as the “Exterminate” call or the TARDIS’s cloister bell. This is also alongside a pair of headphones with some Doctor Who iconography..

Gibson (who now have Philips Audio, Onkyo and TEAC) is now selling the Trainer exercise supra-aural Bluetooth headset as a way of being noticed that it has consumer-audio prowess rather than just Les-Paul-style musical-instrument prowess. This headset has an LED so you can be noticed at night and it also has a button to “duck” the audio so you can hear what is going on around or to talk with someone else. As well, the earpads are designed to be washable.

Audio Technica have refreshed their headphone lineup with some waterproof “sports-grade” intra-aural devices including a headset. They even pitched a set of intra-aural earphones that are “up-to-snuff” for audiophile applications. They also launched a set of noise-reducing headphones with one that could be sold in Europe for EUR€100 and a pair of gaming headsets – one being open-backed and one being closed-backed for different frequency response characteristics, but these headsets are pitched at the same price.and can serve as wired mobile headsets. Let’s not forget their other point of prowess with record-playing equipment where they released an entry-level fully-automatic turntable equipped with their own cartridge.

The final part of this series will cover some computer and smartphone peripherals of not but will also cover how the home network is to evolve courtesy of some new connectivity-technology improvements.

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Now for Pay TV – A DLNA VidiPath-capable HDMI dongle

Article

HDMI dongle with DLNA Vidipath support will help cable operators with multi-room and multiscreen | VideoNet

From the horse’s mouth

ZapperBox

Product Page – Zip-R Stick

My Comments

VIDIPATH logo courtesy of DLNANow that DLNA VidiPath has been established for securely and surely delivering pay TV through the home network, a company has released a Chromecast-style HDMI dongle that exploits this technology.

This device, sold by ZapperBox as the Zip-R Stick connects to your home network via Wi-Fi, serving as an ultra-compact set-top box to bring your pay TV to that secondary TV. This is without the need to have a technician supplied via your pay-TV company to pull cable to your bedroom, den or kitchen.

It is built as part of the ACCESS NetFront Living Connect 3.1 media-sharing solution and has the NetfFront Browser software on that stick. As for the ability to control it, you use your smartphone to control it via a Bluetooth link or use an RF-based remote control that is compliant to RF4CE specifications.

One main application that would come to mind is where you have a TV set up in a transportable manner where you locate it wherever you are wanting to use it. Here, the Zip-R stick could be plugged in to a flatscreen TV which has a size of up to 32” which is kept in the kitchen or den and is ready to bring out to the yard so you can follow the ballgame while working or relaxing out there.

This is at least an example of what a level playing field offered by DLNA VidiPath technology can offer through the path of device innovation.

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Yamaha fields a network-capable stereo receiver that can suit most needs

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Yamaha Audio

R-N301 Natural Sound Network Receiver

Catalogue Page (Australia, Europe)

My Comments

A class of hi-fi component that is missed out on when it comes to network audio and AV is the stereo receiver. This component is more focused about reproducing music in stereo from radio broadcasts or other hi-fi components like CD players or turntables. This is compared to the home-theatre receivers which are more focused on reproducing surround sound, typically from attached Blu-Ray players, cable TV or other video sources along with support for radio broadcasts.

Onkyo previously released a network-capable DLNA-compliant stereo receiver in the form of the TX-8050 but Yamaha have released a more affordable unit which also works with Pandora, Spotify and co. This receiver, known as the R-N301 Natural Sound Network Receiver, has these abilities along with support for AirPlay and DLNA control and can put the music out at 100 watts RMS per channel (0.2% THD, 8-ohm speaker load, 20Hz-20kHz frequency response).

One omission that may affect some peoples’ buying decisions is the lack of a phono preamplifier so you can connect a turntable. This may be of concern especially with vinyl coming back in to vogue but is available in a more expensive network-capable stablemate in the form of the R-N500 Natural Sound Network Receiver.

But what I see of this is that Yamaha is joining Onkyo in providing a “full-width” stereo receiver that can be part of the home network but can be used in a lounge area like the formal living room where music, reading and other similar activities is the main activity.

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Australian Audio And AV Show 2014

Introduction

IMG_2138In October I had visited the Australian Audio And AV Show which was hosted at the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto hotel and this was about observing the way hi-fi and home AV were progressing especially on the Australian market.

Video Technology

Regular readers may have seen some coverage about the new 4K ultra-high-resolution TV technology and I had a chance to see this technology in full flight for myself at this show, courtesy of Sony. But the Sony representatives have remarked that this technology’s appearance in the broadcast-TV context is still a long way off especially in Australia. Here, they remarked that 4K UHDTV content will have to be delivered in a packaged form i.e. Blu-Ray Discs, file-based video delivered via USB hard disks or via the home network.

Sony 4K UHDTV

Sony 4K UHDTV

BenQ and Epson presented Full-HD video projectors that were more or less targeted at home-theatre setups and were demonstrated in that context.

Audio Technology

The two main distribution trends that are hanging on for quality hi-fi sound reproduction at the moment are the classic vinyl record or file-based audio content delivered via the home network.

The classic vinyl record

A turntable equipped with an optical cartridge that uses light to follow the stylus vibrations

A turntable equipped with an optical cartridge that uses light to follow the stylus vibrations

The classic vinyl record is still focused on new-cut records that have been mastered using newer techniques that permit increased dynamic range. These are played on turntables that are equipped for improved stability and the sound path implements high-grade components from stylus to speaker.  The equipment that I have seen in operation at this and previous Australian Audio And AV Shows is more for those who value the vinyl format as a hi-fi content source rather than to be part of the image.

VinylPlay - an integrated-phono-stage turntable that raises the bar for this class of turntable

VinylPlay – an integrated-phono-stage turntable that raises the bar for this class of turntable

One manufacturer even implemented an “optical cartridge’ that uses reflected light rather than friction to follow the stylus’s vibrations in that groove. Here, this cartridge can be fitted to most tonearms associated with high-quality turntables and is connected to a special preamplifier which exposes this cartridge’s output as a line-level signal. Here, it was about using light as a tool to “follow” a source of acoustic vibrations before it is converted to an amplifiable electrical signal as well as being able to use this cartridge with most turntables.

One turntable that was exhibited here that is considered a proper specimen for bridging the classic medium with today’s Sonos speakers or the computer is the VinylPlay “integrated phono stage” turntable. This has a similar build to most of the recent Rega, Pro-Ject or similar turntables that properly welcomed back vinyl and has what is expected for stability, but has a built-in phono preamplifier with digital and USB outputs as well as line-level and “cartridge-direct” analogue outputs. Another feature that increases its useability, especially for a manual turntable, is a distinct arrow on the cartridge’s front that indicates where the stylus is, so you can be sure the needle is where you want it i.e. on that record. What I see of this USB-equipped record player is that it isn’t about a gimmicky flimsy unit but one that can properly bridge the classic records to a lot of equipment.

Digital audio

On the other hand, the quality of digital audio, both in the recordings that are distributed and the “file-to-speaker” playback chain has improved. For example, the “high-resolution” file-based audio content has been represented here as being above the 44.1kHz 16-bit CD-Audio or the 48kHz 16-bit standard-play DAT specifications that was “cemented” for digital audio recording and playback in the late 1980s. Typically, audio that is made to this specification will resolve towards 24-bit 96kHz or 24-bit 192kHz digital-audio streams and this will either be in the form of FLAC or similar audio files and it yields what could be perceived a clearer sound. It is also augmented through the use of digital-analogue converters or digital-amplifiers that are designed to “pull more out” of a digital-audio stream with very little in the way of unwanted sound artifacts.

Sony MAP-S1 network-capable CD receiver

Sony MAP-S1 network-capable CD receiver

Equipment that was designed to cope with the “master-grade” high-resolution digital audio sound could also bring out the best from classic digital audio content as I had seen for myself with the Sony MAP-S1 network-capable CD receiver. This unit was set up completely as a system with a pair of the Sony SSH-W1 3-way bookshelf speaker and I had let it perform with my Whispers “Love Is Where You Find It / Love For Love” CD. Here, it came through clearly with the soul music, yielding that desirable “punch” to the sound yet coming across clearly.

The home network as part of digital audio

Auralic Aries network-to-digital media bridge which serves an external DAC

Auralic Aries network-to-digital media bridge which serves an external DAC

Again, the home network is still considered as part of enjoying digital audio. This is typically with a network-attached-storage device or music-focused media server holding all the music and network media receivers playing the music that is held on the NAS or from one or more online sources. It has been brought about with the larger size of music files that are prepared according to high-resolution “master-grade” standards and these files being offered on a “download-to-own” basis.

There were a few of the network audio receiver devices which were built to work with an external digital amplifier or digital-analogue converter rather than doing the digital-analogue conversion themselves. These were pitched for use with the top-notch digital-analogue converters and digital amplifiers the were becoming part of a high-grade digital-audio setup.

.. which serves this Auralic Vega digital-analogue converter and Auralic Taurus control amplifier

.. which serves this Auralic Vega digital-analogue converter and Auralic Taurus control amplifier

One of these was Auralic Aries network audio bridge connects between home network or online content and DAC,  DLNA support and works as Media Renderer. Connects to DAC via USB, AES/EBU (Digital XLR), SPDIF Coaxial or SPDIF Optical, network via 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi or Ethernet. As well, it works with Linn’s Songcast “network sound card” software so it and the DAC work as a computer sound card. This device is controlled using Auralic’s Lightning DS mobile-platform app but has the ability to work with an Auralic remote control for ad-hoc program selection and transport control.

The QNAP NAS works as a music server

The QNAP NAS works as a music server

This small network-media bridge  was fed by a QNAP NAS full of music and passed its digital signals via USB to an Auralic Vega digital-analogue converter. It in turn passed the analogue signals to the Auralic Taurus Pre control amplifier feeding a pair of Merak monobloc power amps to drive a pair of floor-standing speakers.

Another was the latest iteration of the NAD Masters Series of premium digital hi-fi components with the M12 digital control amplifier and M22 stereo power amplifier being driven by the <model number> digital media player. This unit appeared at previous Australian Audio And AV Shows and was an example of an optical-disc transport and network audio bridge device.

Latest iteration of the NAD Masters digital-driven hi-fi system

Latest iteration of the NAD Masters digital-driven hi-fi system

There is an increased number of dedicated music servers or “ripping NAS” units being presented at this year’s show with some of them working as the music servers for their distributors’ rooms. Two examples included the RipNAS Solid v3 and the Naim HDX. The Cocktail Audio music servers still appeared but were on static display, not serving an active system. As always, Naim pushed their music servers in to service as content libraries for two music systems, this time it was the NDS which was serving the Statement ultra-premium hi-fi system and the mu-so wireless speaker.

RipNAS Solid v3 ripping NAS

RipNAS Solid v3 ripping NAS

Lifestyle and multiroom audio

Lifestyle audio still had its strong presence at the Australian Audio And AV Show. This was mainly dominated with single-piece wireless speakers and soundbars with some of the soundbars being used to play music. Some of these systems implemented subwoofers to “lift” the bass response, whether they were packaged with the soundbars or simply as to be set up to work with one of the wireless speakers just to add that bit of “bite” to the sound.

These were part of the multiroom trend where you can have music systems located in different rooms  There was even a seminar on the multiroom audio trend and this highlighted the arrival of the home network and online media as key drivers of this technology.

Naim mu-so wireless speaker

Naim mu-so wireless speaker

But they highlighted the fact that different companies, including chipset and technology vendors, are working on their own solution to permit audio content to be delivered to many speakers via a packet-based network like the typical Wi-FI or Bluetooth network in sync without jittering or packet loss. This was to open up paths for situations like 2 wireless speakers being set up to work as a true stereo pair with proper separation or “party-streaming” setups with multiple speakers and sound systems. At the moment, most of these systems can only work with equipment that implements the same technology and I am not sure whether these systems can work properly on a multiple-access-point setup such as with a wireless range extender or traditional setup with access points connected via an Ethernet or HomePlug AV wired backbone.

Denon HEOS wireless speakers

Denon HEOS wireless speakers

Denon had exhibited their HEOS Multiroom setup consisting of three different single-piece wireless speakers while Definitive Technologies used Room 320 for showing a highly-complete wireless audio system. This one consisted of a few different single-piece speakers, a soundbar, a wireless amplifier and an “on-ramp / off-ramp” audio adaptor module for their PlayFi-based system which uses a small Wi-Fi network as its carrier. Polk also made us aware of their wireless multiroom system which was based on one of the existing synchronisation technologies.

Definitive Technologies W-Series soundbar - as part of their multiroom setu[p

Definitive Technologies W-Series soundbar – as part of their multiroom setu[p

Ruark Audio had surfaced this year with a collection of table radios and music systems. This was headed by the R7 Radiogram which has a CD player, FM/DAB/Internet radio, Bluetooth playback, DLNA MediaRenderer functionality and access to online services. Here, it is styled in a form similar to the archetypal “radiogram” or “console stereo” that served as the main household music system for most people through the 1950s and 1960s and is something that is pitched at the “baby-boomer” generation.

Definitive Technologies Adapt "on-ramp / off-ramp" for the W-Series multiroom setup

Definitive Technologies Adapt “on-ramp / off-ramp” for the W-Series multiroom setup

Naim also came to the fore with a single-piece wireless speaker called the mu-so. This could pull up content from a DLNA server or online content services (think Spotify or Internet radio), AirPlay, Bluetooth A2DP with aptX amongst other sources. It is primarily controlled through Naim’s mobile app and works tightly with their multiroom streaming setup. But this uses a 3-way speaker arrangement for each channel with each driver having its own amplifier and it also implements DSP technology which Naim implemented in the sound system used in the newer Bentley cars.

Ruark R7 Radiogram - the up-to-date take on an old classic form factor

Ruark R7 Radiogram – the up-to-date take on an old classic form factor

The Headzone still appeared, representing the increased role that headphones and earphones played in the personal AV life. The theme here still was to listen to music or video content through the headphones rather than have them available to hear the other party of a phone conversation or hear the sound effects associated with computer games played on our mobile devices. But I would see these still play a strong role with VoIP or mobile communications services that implement “HD Voice” or newer telephony-audio technologies which sound as good as AM radio, if not better.

They still are important for the connected life as we use them to be able to listen to music, video and games effects from our computing devices privately. Most of the premium sets were demoed with dedicated headphone amplifiers but some of the headphones were either connected to regular integrated amplifiers or the headphone outputs on some CD players, or simply available for us to plug our mobile devices in to.

It is also worth being aware of the efficiency that particular headphones show up, especially if you are targeting them for portable use with battery-operated equipment. Here, I had discovered this for myself with the Sony MDR-10RC headphones I previously reviewed and a pair of newer portable-focused headphones I am using as my regular set and tried both of them on the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth adaptor associated with my Samsung smartphone. I ran the Bluetooth adaptor at the same volume setting on both headphones and the portable-focused headphones sounded louder but not as clear compared to the MDR-10RC set. The fact that one pair may sound louder at the same volume level compared to another, thus being more efficient, may be of benefit with that battery-operated device because you are not “running the device hard” for the same volume level, thus not drawing on the batteries more.

Speaker technology

An example of one of the many systems that were demonstrated with bookshelf speakers yet yield the bass

An example of one of the many systems that were demonstrated with bookshelf speakers yet yield the bass

A lot of the hi-fi systems were demonstrated with the conventional-architecture speakers, some of which were the traditional floor-standing types or most of which were the bookshelf speakers that were set up on speaker stands. These still yielded strong unassisted bass response with the amplifiers at “ideal listening volume”.

On the other hand, another firm were exhibiting a surround-sound setup which used flat-panel speakers in a traditional quadraphonic layout but these required the use of a subwoofer to convey the bass response.

Conclusion

What the last few iterations of the Australian Audio And AV Show have underscored was the fact that recorded-music reproduction has taken many methods and has improved on the methods. The signal path from the content source, being a vinyl record, optical disc or a file held on a computer or network-attached storage, to the speakers will under a continual path of innovation and even the medium itself will under a path of innovation.

I have provided a Spotify playlist of some of the songs that have heen played here.

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The XBox One now to have DLNA as part of major software update

Articles

Xbox One to Finally Include DLNA Support | Broadband News & DSL Reports

XBOX One will learn to play media from USB and DLNA sources | The Register

The Xbox One is getting major media updates: here’s a breakdown | Engadget

My Comments

XBox One games console press photo courtesy Microsoft

The XBox One now to be DLNA-capable

The XBox 360 games console originally came out with the ability to play content held on a UPnP AV / DLNA media server and was one of the first devices pitched to the mass market to do so. This also underscored the multi-function abilities that was the direction for game-console design.

But, when the XBox One came out, this console didn’t have much in the way of media playback beyond DVDs and some online services. This is even though Microsoft had touted it as being part of one’s media-consumption ecosystem with highly-integrated media behavour.

Now a major “version-2” software update has opened the doors for a file-based media player that allows you to play media from USB Mass-Storage Devices as well as that which exists on a UPnP AV / DLNA media server that is on your home network. This is also augmented by the support for a plethora of file formats like MPEG2 TS and MKV. The Register article placed doubts on support for MKV due to it being used for illegitimate torrented material, but it could also be about “prepping” for access to legitimate “download-to-own” video content.

DVB digital TV tuner module for XBox One press image courtesy Microsoft

DVB digital TV tuner module for XBox One

It also adds extra paths for access to broadcast content through your XBox One such as a USB DVB-T tuner module for digital TV in Europe and Oceania, or access to the DLNA-based broadcast-LAN tuners like most SAT-IP compliant satellite units or an increasing number of the HDHomeRun units available for North American or European use.

This is a step for Microsoft to claw back the multifunction abilities that these consoles have and make them earn their keep as a video solution for the secondary lounge area, college dorm or other similar living areas.

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D-Link offers a wireless network extender that is a network music player

Article

Extend Your Network, Listen To Music With D-Link’s New Adapter  | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

D-Link

DCH-M225 Wi-Fi Audio Extender

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

D-Link are another company who are emulating the success of the Apple AirPort Express multifunction device by offering a device that works as a 2.4GHz wireless range extender or a network audio player for the home network.

The DCH-M225 Wi-Fi Audio Extender can extend a 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi segment’s range using dual-stream technology and WPS “push-to-connect” enrolment. Or it can work as a Wi-Fi-connected audio player according to either AirPlay or DLNA MediaRenderer standards, thus making it feasible to play out music from your smartphone, tablet or computer to your favourite stereo equipment that is connected to this device. It would earn its keep in the “smartphone-based DLNA’ setups as well as with music piled up on a DLNA media server as described in this feature article.

Personally, if I wanted this device to be a direct competitor to what Apple offers, it would have to have an Ethernet port so it can also work either as a wireless client bridge or an access point as well as the music player and wireless-network range extender.

At least D-Link is using the audio playback functionality as a way to differentiate itself from the horde of wireless-network extenders that is being offered.

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CableLabs have given their blessing for DLNA CVP-2 standards for premium-content delivery in the home

Article – From the horse’s mouth

CableLabs

DLNA CVP-2: Premium Content to Any Device in Any Room

My Comments

Sony PS3 games console

Consoles like these could be able to pick up pay TV from a DLNA CVP-2 gateway device

CableLabs have cemented their approval for the current iteration for DLNA Commercial Video Profile 2 to provide for improved in-home pay-TV setups using the home network. This leads effectively to an FCC goal that requires device-independence for cable-TV setups in the home rather than users being required to lease a set-top box for each TV in the home or install a “TV Everywhere” app provided by the cable company on each mobile device if they want cable TV on the extra screens.

What is DLNA CVP-2?

This is a super-standard defined by DLNA which uses a group of standards to assure pay-TV networks that their content is being delivered securely and surely to the display device via the home network. Here, the display device can be a Smart TV or video peripheral with “Connected TV” capabilities or software in a regular desktop / laptop computer or mobile device (tablet / smartphone) to show the TV content on the screen.

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

.. as could these Blu-Ray players

It will typically require a so-called “gateway device” connected to the cable system, satellite dish and/or Internet service, such as a broadcast-LAN tuner, router with broadcast-LAN capabilities or a PVR in the customer’s home while display devices and software would have to authenticate over the home network with the standards that are part of the package. The PVR solution may typically be connected to the main TV set in the lounge or family room where most TV viewing is done while TVs installed in other rooms like the bedroom can use the home network to “pull down” live or recorded TV content using “smart-TV” abilities integrated in the set or a games console / Blu-ray player.

DLNA media directory provided by server PC

.. as could these Smart TVs

There is the use of DTCP-IP secure-content-delivery specifications for IP-based home networks to authenticate the access of content to cable-TV / content-studio / sports-league requirements. As well setups that implement DLNA CVP-2 implement RVU which provides the same kind of user interface expected when you use pay-TV services, which could facilitate things like access to video-on-demand and pay-per-view content, access to the service provider’s TV-hosted storefront and magazine, or ability to schedule PVR recordings.

Another benefit provided by DLNA CVP-2 is to support endpoints that implement a very-low-power standby mode and allow them to use wakeup and network-reservation mechanisms to allow the efficient-power modes to operate but provide for proper useability and serviceablility. This avoids service issues that are likely to happen if a device goes to an ultra-low-power quiescent mode when not needed and finds that it has to create a brand new connection to the network and its peers when it is needed.

Do I see this as a change for delivery of the multichannel pay-TV service?

One reality is that DLNA CVP-2, like other technologies affecting TV, won’t change the calibre of the content offered on pay-TV services. You will still end up with the same standard of content i.e. a lot of channels with nothing worth viewing.

But it will affect how a pay-TV company delivers services pitched towards a multiple-TV household. They could offer, either as part of the standard service, as part of an upsaleable premium service or as an optional item, a “multiple-TV” service. This would allow a person to have the pay-TV service appear on all suitably-equipped screens instead of paying for each TV to be equipped with a set-top box.

Similarly, the main device could change from an ordinary set-top box with PVR abilities to either one with the “gateway” abilities integrated in to it or a “headless” gateway device with broadcast-LAN and PVR abilities. In this case, the main TV would either be a suitably-equipped Smart TV or be connected to a video peripheral that has this kind of “connected TV” functionality built in. It could also change the focus of the value of the customer’s bill towards the content services rather than the customer-premises equipment.

For consumers, it could be a path for those of us who move between pay-TV or triple-play services whether due to moving location or moving to a better offer. This is because there isn’t the need to mess around with set-top boxes or create infrastructure for a pay-TV service that implements different methodologies.

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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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