Tag: UPnP

Australian Hi-Fi And AV Show 2016

Cambridge Audio / Rega hi-fi system

A Cambridge Audio / Rega hi-fi system representing all of the music sources – vinyl, CDs and file-based audio

The Australian Hi-Fi and AV Show, previously known as the Australian Audio and AV Show appeared this past weekend at the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto hotel. This attracted a significant number of hi-fi and home-AV names even though some of them had exhibited at another competing hotel-based hi-fi show that was held on July 1-3 at the Pullman Mercure Hotel near Albert Park.

Core trends

Most manufacturers were running equipment setups that had a turntable and a network media player and, in some cases, a CD player connected to the setup’s main integrated or control amplifier. This was to demonstrate their equipment’s prowess with both analogue and digital material while underscoring a reality with most of us heading between these different media for regular listening as some time in our lives.

Hi-Fi speaker designs

This year has been a chance for some manufacturers to showcase some interesting hi-fi speaker designs as these actually utter the music being played through the hi-fi system. There is still a strong interest in the traditional stereo setup rather than surround-sound audio, typically associated with watching Hollywood movies.

Active speakers

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 90 digital-active speakers

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 90 digital-active speakers

During the 2013 show, a few manufacturers were demonstrating active speakers that had integrated power amplifiers as viable pieces of hi-fi equipment, breaking the mould of “computer speakers, lifestyle audio and PA speakers” for this class of speaker. It included Linn even demonstrating “digital-active” speakers, a concept that Philips had pioneered with the DSS-930 and DSS-950 digital-active speakers that could be fed from an SP/DIF digital signal source.

This year, there were some more manufacturers presenting active-speaker designs including some “digital-active” designs coming from Linn and Bang & Olufsen. Here, this was more about proving that the speakers can house the amplification circuitry and, in some cases, digital-signal processing and conversion circuitry yet yield clear hi-fi sound without “stressing”.

Bang & Olufsen Beolab 18

The B&O Beolab 8000 “pencil” in a new form – the Beolab 18

For that matter, Bang & Olufsen had been a stranger to the hi-fi show circuit especially in Australia until this year where they occupied one of the banquet rooms to present their Beolab 90 digital-active speakers (14 ICEPower amplifiers and 4 Class-D amplifiers serving 18 speaker drivers)  along with the Beolab 18 which is the latest iteration of the Beolab 8000 “pencil-design” speakers and the Beovision 14 flat-screen TV. Typically, they didn’t want to compete with the traditional hi-fi industry and pitch towards the traditional “audiophile” mindset, but focus towards those who appreciated very good music and flim and those who valued the design they were known for.

A glass speaker housing

Spunc Sound presented a cube-shaped speaker design at this show. Here, it was using speaker drivers back-to-back to create a powerful clear sound for speakers in a glass housing rather than a traditional wooden housing that would normally require insulation to work against standing waves.

I even heard these speakers playing a Lady Ga Ga track from a CD to underscore how they responded with highly-rhythmic electronic-dance-music content as well as demonstrating the way they used sound-cancellation techniques to yield that clear sound. It underscored that rare possibility of being able to see through the back of the speaker that was in full flight.

Old speaker legends rediscovered

But some manufacturers have been rediscovering legendary speaker designs that have had a subsequent influence on how the stereo speaker was designed over the years.

The BBC influence

Harbeth speaker

The Harbeth speakers based on the legendary BBC monitor speakers

Two manufacturers had been demonstrating speakers that were based on their involvement with designing “near-field monitor” speakers for the BBC through the late 1960s. These were tools that came in to being for any radio or TV show that the BBC had a hand with, whether through the sound-production or the broadcast process.

One of these were the Harbeth speakers which were designed by the BBC as part of their R&D efforts and the first to implement polypropylene speaker cones. The other was the KEF LS50 50th Anniversary bookshelf speaker which was based on KEF’s LS 3/5 monitor speaker that was designed by the BBC to be used in their outside-broadcast vans, but implemented coaxial drivers which is something often associated with automotive sound.

Yamaha brings back their 70s-era speaker classic

Yamaha NS-5000 Speakers

Yamaha NS-5000 speakers that were based on the NS-1000M speakers launched in 1974

Yamaha had presented the NS-5000 floor/shelf speakers that were being launched at the show. These are a pair of speakers based on the NS-1000M speakers launched in 1974 when Supertramp released their “Crime Of The Century” album. But there have been a lot of today’s improvements built in to these speakers such as newer material for the speaker drivers.

I had heard these in action with Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening” played from FLAC-based audio via a Yamaha CD player serving as a USB DAC, connected to one of Yamaha’s latest integrated amplifiers. Here, the song came through very clearly and underscored what the legendary design was about.

Open standards being used for network-based audio

FLAC files that can be created by Windows 10 Media Player handled by this network media player

FLAC files that can be created by Windows 10 Media Player handled by this network media player

There were two main paths for passing through computer-based audio – a Windows or Mac laptop connected to a DAC, CD player or digital amplifier which worked as a USB-based sound module; or a small network linking a NAS or other media server to one or more a network media players and implementing DLNA network media discovery technology.

Here, most of these setups were dealing with FLAC audio files which have effectively been “opened up” to Windows users through Windows 10 providing operating-system support for these files, whether for playback or “ripping” from regular CDs. It could be very feasible to use Windows 10’s Media Player software to play a high-grade FLAC file in to any USB DAC shown at this year’s show without the need to add extra software.

Bricasti M12 Dual Mono Source Controller

Bricasti M12 Dual-Mono Source Controller – an example of a USB-capable digital preamplifier

Some setups even exploited TiDAL as an online music source, even though there is the difficulty with running network-capable consumer AV equipment with a hotel network based around the notion of logging in via Web-based authentication. But IHG worked around this issue by providing the equivalent of a “home Internet connection” to most of these rooms for the duration of the show.

The fact that most of these setups implemented standards that aren’t owned by particular vendors meant that there was the ability for the companies to innovate. This was more so with the ability to focus on writing software and designing hardware that was about sound quality but without the need to reinvent the wheel.

Network-based lifestyle audio

There is still some interest amongst a few manufacturers in audio equipment that exploits the home network as a media-distribution path while fitting in with your lifestyle. But the idea of high-quality sound still exists for this class of equipment, whether in the form of a multiroom speaker system or a network CD receiver or network audio receiver that is the hub of a high-quality three-piece stereo system.

Denon had launched their latest generation of the Heos multiroom platform which included some speakers and network media players with one of these devices being able to stream audio content out from existing equipment to a cluster of Heos speakers.

Naim mu-so soundbar and mu-so Qb wireless speaker

Naim mu-so soundbar and mu-so Qb wireless speaker

Naim were also showing the mu-so multiroom speaker systems including the mu-so Qb which is a cube-shaped take on the original mu-so soundbar. As well, the latest iterations of their network media players can serve as master or client devices in a Naim-based multiroom setup.

But there is still the problem with the network-based multiroom audio scene where it is totally dependent on customers using equipment from the same equipment manufacturer or with the same chipset platform. There hasn’t been any effort in the AV industry to provide a standard for distributing real-time content like audio or video content in sync across a network to multiple endpoint devices of different types from different manufacturers.

Marantz CR-611 network CD receiver

Marantz CR-611 network CD receiver

There is still some interest in the high-quality lifestyle music system from some manufacturers. Marantz exhibited their CR611 network CD receiver which was paired up with a set of Jamo bookshelf speakers as their entry in to this scene, following from the previously-issued CR603 network CD receiver that was seen at the 2011 show. Here, it was highlighted with a Sound and Image award as the best “system solution” of the year for 2017, representing this class of equipment that can easily be sidelined by some peiple in the hi-fi scene.

Arcam Solo Music network CD receiver

Arcam Solo Music network CD receiver

Arcam used this show to premiere the Solo Music network CD receiver which is the follow-on to the Solo Neo and was previously mentioned on HomeNetworking01.info. This was a chance for me to try it out and I played one of the CDs from the ABC Classic 100 Swoon collection on it. I had “this unit play “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams and this unit, paired with the previously-mentioned KEF LS50 speakers, proved what these systems were about with this kind of music, something that would underscore one of the use cases that I highlighted for this class of equipment.

George Robertson, who represented Arcam even highlighted the way the Solo Music and its stablemates were built, underscoring the use of traditional electronics-building techniques along with Class-G amplification design. He even asked me to attempt to lift up the unit and I had found it very heavy, which showed how it was built to last.

Naim Uniti Atom and Uniti Core

Naim Uniti Atom network media receiver and Naim Uniti Core “ripping NAS” media server

Naim used this show to premiere the new Uniti range of lifestyle audio equipment. The first two products and the ones that were shown were the Uniti Core which is a media server or, should I say a “ripping NAS”; and the Uniti Atom which is a compact network media receiver that can be wired up to a pair of speakers. This even went as far as implementing a touchscreen user interface on the main unit along with a volume control located on top of that set – easy to find! But this doesn’t omit the high-quality sound associated with this brand.

BenQ treVolo electrostatic Bluetooth speaker

BenQ treVolo portable Bluetooth electrostatic speaker

I was even able to hear one of the BenQ treVolo Bluetooth electrostatic speakers that proved that the electrostatic speaker design isn’t just for the highly-esoteric hi-fi setup preferred by audiophiles with too much money to spend. Here, this setup yielded a very clear sound that could encompass all music types from your mobile computing device that is playing out those FLAC files.

Headphones

The “HeadZone” that existed during previous years where headphones were being premiered and demonstrated had gone but some manufacturers were still promoting premium headphones.

For example, BeyerDynamic had used their room to promote their newest range of headphones but the range they were exhibiting while Naim demonstrated a range of premium music headphones along with their headphone amplifier.

What was really becoming the case was that the headphone market has become very saturated with many different sets of “cans” on the market although there are some that do certain tasks well. Here, this show had focused on the headphones that were about listening to music through headphones at home rather than during your public-transport commute for example.

Conclusion

The Australian Hi-FI And AV Show kept the reality alive regarding how recorded music is played, whether through the familiar vinyl records or CDs, or file-based media streamed from a computer or NAS connected via a home network, or even a high-quality audio streaming service. But it has underscored that each of these music-reproduction paths can yield high-quality sound with the right equipment.

Audio and AV articles that may be of interest

Naim NDS network audio player

The Naim NDX and NDS network media players are an example of what high-end network-based audio is about

I have purchased tickets to the Australian Audio and AV Show 2016 that will be held at the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto hotel and am running this list of articles regarding audio and AV content in the context of the connected lifestyle.

Some of these are about using Windows 10 with its inherent support for the FLAC file; bring legacy audio media like vinyl to today’s technology; or simply to highlight some AV trends. There is also a few relevant buyer’s guides which relate to buying for online or network-based audio or simply buying your next set of headphones for your smartphone or laptop.

Windows 10 and the FLAC file

Those of you who have upgraded your computers to Windows 10 will realise that it can handle the high-quality FLAC audio file format. This covers both playback and ripping audio content from CD to files, although when you rip from CDs the sound will be regular CD quality.

FLAC studio-grade audio files to be supported by Windows 10

You can rip CDs to FLAC using Windows 10’s Media Player

FLAC – now the audio filetype for archival use

Legacy audio formats and today’s needs

Linn Sondek LP12

You may want to get those old familiar records on to your computer to play on your home network

This article is about how you can set up your equipment to play vinyl and other older media to your network-enabled multiroom system or for digitally salvaging old recordings with your computer.

Legacy analogue audio to today’s needs–can this be done?

Using audio-editor software to salvage recordings on legacy media

Equipment trends worth highlighting

There are some trends that are affecting the high-end audio and AV market that I will be calling out here.

Network media players that serve as control amplifiers – Some manufacturers are running network media players that can connect to any power amplifier or active speaker and work as a control amplifier in their own right.

Why do I give space to the network-capable CD receiver – An article about the network-capable CD receivers, especially those that are being offered by the respected hi-fi names, and the fact that these are continuing on the idea of the high-quality integrated music system.

Relevant Buyer’s Guides

Buyer’s Guide – Component Network Media Adaptors – How to go about buying devices that can add network or online media playback to your existing audio or AV system

Buying an Internet radio – What to look for when you buy an Internet radio or network-capable sound system.

Buyer’s Guide – Network Attached Storage – How to choose the right network-attached storage for your home network especially if you are “ripping” your CDs to your computer hard disk and wanting them available around the network.Denon UrbanRaver AH-D320 headset

Buyer’s Guide – Headphones and earphones – Understanding the kind of headphones or earphones you can get for your laptop, smartphone or tablet and how to go about purchasing them.

Buyer’s Guide – Giving your portable computer equipment better sound – How to go about using the right speakers, sound modules and similar equipment to enhance the sound that your laptop, tablet, smartphone or other equipment provides.

Should I buy a soundbar rather than a surround-sound system to improve my TV’s sound – Considering a soundbar rather than a fully-fledged surround-sound system as a way to improve your flat-panel TV’s sound

Your DLNA Home Media Network

This series of articles will be important to you whenever you buy that Smart TV or network-capable home audio system because most of these devices offered by most manufacturers provide this kind of functionality.

Getting Started With DLNA Media Sharing – How you can use your computer with media-server software to share your music, photos and video to your DLNA-capable AV equipment. Also have a look at this Assistance Journal about making some travel pictures available to a Smart TV so they are shown to a mother-in-law – this can be done out of the box with Windows XP onwards.

Setting Up PC-Less Network AV – How to go about using a dedicated media-server device like a NAS to share your media without the need to have your computer on and available to your network all the time. This is very important for those of you who have a laptop computer and want to move that computer around the house, pack it away when not needed or take it with you to work or when you travel.

The Three-Box DLNA Network Model – How you can use another device like a smartphone, tablet or computer to have content held on a DLNA server appear on a DLNA media player. This is more of a reality with tablets and smartphones appealing as a control surface for network-based media.

Integrating Classical Music Into Your Digital Music Collection – How to integrate serious classical music in to your digital music collection so you can find and play particular complete multiple-movement works easily. This is important when you buy and rip classical-music CDs that come with two or more multiple-movement works like concerti, quartets or sonatas on them.

Making Cloud-Based File-Share Solutions Work With Your DLNA-capable NAS – How you could use a DLNA-capable NAS to show content held on selected folders in Dropbox or similar services on your DLNA-capable media players. This is important when you, for example, use these services as a media pool for special occasions.

General Articles

Why do I buy and rip CDs for my online music library – An article that allows you to justify your position in buying your music on CD in this day and age of file-based audio, Spotify and “back to vinyl”. This includes “ripping” your CDs to a NAS or your computer’s hard disk for an online music library.

Network media players that serve as control amplifiers

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Auralic

Altair Wireless Streaming Bridge (Product Page)

Technics

SU-R1 Network Audio Control Player (Product Page)

My Comments

Technics SU-R1 network media player / control amplifier press image courtesy of Panasonic USA

Technics SU-R1 network media player / control amplifier

I have reserved my tickets for the Australian Audio And AV Show 2016 to he held at the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto on 21-23 October this year. As I have noted in my coverage of previous shows that I have attended. there has been equal space given to the classic vinyl record, CDs and file-based digital audio at these shows. This includes some manufacturers playing music from the different media through the same hi-fi setups.

One of the main trends that is surfacing in the high-end audio department is the network audio player that is actually a control amplifier (pre-amplifier) and designed to be connected directly to a power amplifier or active speakers.  This capitalises on the fact that serious hi-fi buffs have shown a liking towards the idea of hi-fi setups that implement the separate control amplifier connected to either a separate stereo power amplifier or a mono power amplifier (monobloc) serving each channel.

Technics SE-R1 stereo power amplifier press picture courtesy of Panasonic USA

Technics SE-R1 power amplifier – a contemporary take of the legendary Technics stereo power amplifiers of the 70s, 80s and 90s

Between the 1970s and the 1990s, a typical hi-fi stereo power amplifier was built on a large chassis and had a pair of large “power meters” which indicated how much power these beasts were putting up. In some cases, these power amplifiers were considered one of hi-fi’s status symbols and Technics carried this forward in their design of the companion SE-R1 power amplifier illustrated on this site.

Similarly, there has been some interest in some of the sound-reproduction community concerning the design, manufacture and use of active speakers beyond the “computer-audio, designer-lifestyle-audio and PA-system” use cases thanks to right-sized frequency-specific amplification like biamplification and similar design techniques implemented in these speakers. This was something I had noticed at the Australian Audio and AV Show in 2013 when one of the manufacturers presented a set of active speakers as traditional hi-fi speakers. As well, some users may even use an active subwoofer along with speakers served by a power amplifier or a set of active speakers in order to put some extra bass in to the sound.

Auralic Altair network media player / control amplifier

Auralic Altair network media player / control amplifier

I have called out two network media players – the Technics SU-R1 network media player / control amplifier which is intended to work with the SE-R1 power amplifier but can work with other power amplifiers / active speakers; and the Auralic Altair Wireless Streaming Bridge. Both of these units tick the boxes, not just for network connectivity and online source playback but for the kind of connectivity that can exist between them and a power amplifier or active speakers. These are designed to connect to any of these devices due to use of standard connectors and are proving that this class of device isn’t just for “lifestyle-class” equipment anymore.

JBL EON active PA speaker - this can work with the Auralic and Technics network media player / control amplifiers

JBL EON active PA speaker equipped with XLR connections – this can work with the Auralic and Technics network media player / control amplifiers

Firstly, they work using UPnP AV / DLNA technology for discovering content on media servers or NAS units. Similarly they also provide access to some online audio services like Internet radio, Spotify and others depending on the unit and the firmware in place at the time. Apple iOS users can use the AirPlay function to stream sound in to the sound system connected to these network media players. They also work as USB digital-analogue converters with them serving effectively as sound modules for your regular computer or Android mobile device.

.. as can this B&O Beolab active speaker

.. as can this B&O Beolab active speaker equipped with RCA connections

As for connectivity to a power amplifier, they implement the traditional RCA outputs which work with most, if not all, power amplifiers on the market that are pitched for domestic use. These connectors also allow for someone to use active speakers like the Bang & Olufsen Beolab range or the Bose Powered Acoustimass range of active speakers, both of which are known for high-quality sound.

Aktimate bookshelf active speakers

.. and Aktimate active bookshelf speakers with RCA connections

But they also implement the balanced line-level connectivity with the three-pin XLR plugs associated with professional audio and PA systems. This connection type is also being valued in the high-end hi-fi space for connecting control amplifiers and power amplifiers due to reduced interference but you could even get away with connecting these network media players to active PA speakers of the JBL EON kind.

It could raise the audio-reproduction question about the comparative sound quality of a high-end domestic-use power amplifier or active speaker; and a PA/sound-reinforcement power amplifier or active speaker as similar sound-quality expectations are being required for both classes of equipment.

What is showing up is that these network-media-player devices are being highlighted as a hi-fi option for those of us who want to build a sound system for file-based or Internet-hosted audio content and base that around high-quality active speakers or separate power amplifiers.

Telephone Interview–UPnP Forum (Wouter van der Beek)

Introduction

UPnP Forum logo courtesy of UPnP ForumI have had the chance to interview Wouter van der Beek who is the Vice President of the UPnP Forum which defines the standards and specifications associated with UPnP technology. This interview is primarily about the direction that the UPnP Forum and this technology is heading in the face of current personal-computing trends like cloud computing and the Internet Of Things.

What is UPnP

This is a collection of standard for interlinking network-connected devices at an application level. It is to facilitate discovery of the devices by other devices on that network along with the ability to benefit from what the device has. The idea had been seeded 15 years ago when the home network was becoming commonplace thanks to affordable but powerful computers along with affordable broadband Internet services, but there needed to be foolproof ways to allow most people to set up, manage and benefit from these networks without requiring extensive computer skills.

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution – an example of equipment designed with UPnP in mind

This has been facilitated initially with the Internet Gateway Device which has simplified management of Internet access for devices on a home network. If you use a UPnP-capable router and have its UPnP IGD function enabled, you don’t have to meddle around with different settings to get an online game or Skype to work via the Internet.

DLNA collections listed as sources on the TV

DLNA content collections listed as sources on a Samsung Smart TV

It has also been facilitated with DLNA-capable media devices which use the UPnP AV MediaServer or MediaRenderer device control protocols. This is where you could use a smart TV or a Blu-Ray player to discover photos or vides kept on your computer or network-attached storage device or “push” music from a Windows computer, NAS or Android smartphone to a Wi-Fi-enabled wireless speaker. Here, it has become to that point where UPnP and DLNA have become so synonymous as an expectation for anything that uses the home network to provide or play / show multimedia content in a similar way that Dolby noise reduction was an expected feature for good-quality cassette players.

The foolproof way of setting up and using UPnP-capable network equipment has, for that matter, had me look for devices that support these specifications when I am involved in buying or specifying network equipment.

New Directions for UPnP

UPnP’s New Zones of Relevance

Previously, the Universal Plug And Play technology was confined to the home network which encompassed computers and related devices that existed in one’s home and connected to a router which served as the network’s Internet “edge”.

Thanks to trends like the highly-mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops; the online services and cloud computing, and the increasing role of social media in our lives;  the UPnP technology and, to some extent, the home network has changed its zone of relevance. This encompasses the following zones of relevance:

  • Personal, which would encompass the devices we take with us or have on ourselves like smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and fitness bands
  • Home, which would encompass what we have at home such as computers, routers, NAS units, home AV, appliances and the like, even encompassing devices associated with comfort, energy management and security
  • Car, which encompasses the technology associated or integrated in our vehicles like infotainment systems or powertrain-management systems
  • Workplace / Business which encompasses the computing and communications technologies used in the office and would also encompass devices associated with comfort, energy management and security
  • Industry which would encompass systems that provide the backbone for the modern life.

It also encompasses the Internet Of Things where devices can be required to be sensors or actuators for other devices and services in a universal manner.

An example of this was to establish some Device Control Protocols like the Telephony DCPs with a view to look towards the many zones of relevance and increase the UPnP ecosystem’s relevance to more users.

Cloud and Remote Access now part of UPnP

One major change is to integrate cloud computing, remote access and online services in to the UPnP ecosystem. Previously, a UPnP ecosystem was encompassing just one network, typically your home network and required each endpoint to be on the same network.

Different zones of relevance

UPnP is now about online services and remote access

Now situations have risen such as the desire to gain access to your content held at your home from your friend’s home or a hotel, or exhibit pictures held on Facebook or Dropbox on our smart TVs at home. Similarly, even in the same home, not all devices are connected to the same home network such as portable devices drifting in to Wi-Fi “dark spots” where there is very little reception or devices that are connected to a “guest network” on our routers.

Now cloud and remote access were written on as an annex to the UPnP Device Architecture but support for this is a requirement for UPnP+ certification. This is to factor in the ability for a UPnP “realm” to transcend across multiple logical networks.

One of the key additions was to integrate XMPP in to UPnP as part of the Cloud initiative in order to provide a level open playing field for cloud-driven applications. This also will provide for secure transport of the necessary data. It is more centred around the concept of creating virtual rooms which UPnP devices and services are invited in to as needed with these rooms being part of different logical networks or IP subnets.

Making UPnP “safe for business”

Empire State Building picture courtesy of <a href="http://ny-pictures.com/nyc/photo/photographer/604482/araswami">araswami</a> and <a href="http://ny-pictures.com/nyc/photo/">New York Pictures</a

UPnP – to be safe for business

You may also wonder whether there are steps to make UPnP technologies “safe for business”? There are some steps that have taken place to assure this goal because the different zones of relevance like workplace / business and industry place a key emphasis on security.

One of these is the DeviceProtection DCP which allows the creation of a “network of trust” amongst UPnP Devices and Control Points. This will be mandatory as part of UPnP+ certification whereas it was simply an optional feature for UPnP networks. Other DCPs that will become mandatory for UPnP+ certification include the “management” DCPs: DeviceManagement, ConfigurationManagement and SoftwareManagement which look after how a device is set up and updated.

Of course, these are considered “retrofit” solutions which assure secure links and setups and any security concept is primarily about “buying time” from hackers.

As well, DLNA had integrated various content-protection measures in to the VIDIPATH specification which encompasses UPnP AV standards to assure secure content delivery for premium content like Hollywood films and big-league sports.

The Internet Of Things

Rethinking Device Control Protocols

Previously the UPnP Forum placed emphasis on the Device Control Protocol as being the way to describe a UPnP device and what it can do. This ended up with each of these protocols taking a long time to develop, whether at the initial stages or as they were being revised.

Examples of these were the UPnP Internet Gateway Device which described what a modem or router was about and this was shaped by telcos and network-equipment vendors; and the AV Device which described media storage, playback and control with this being shaped by most of the main consumer-electronics names.

As well as the long time it took to develop a Device Control Protocol, there was the risk of focusing these protocols on an application-specific vertical plane with functionality being duplicated amongst multiple protocols.

The new direction was enshrined in the “Internet Of Things Management And Control” DCP which is focused around the particular tasks a sensor or actuator device can do. This also enshrines language and data models that can be used to define applications. But it allows a sensor or actuator which does the same thing to be described the same way.

There were two examples we talked of: – a temperature sensor, and a lamp used as part a home automation or building automation setup. A temperature sensor measures temperature but it could be part of a room thermostat, a weather station or a fridge, but it does the same job by measuring and reporting the current temperature. A lamp is turned on and off or has its brightness increased or decreased but this could work as part of a “smart home” setup or as part of a building automation setup for an office building or an apartment block.

As well, the data models can be evolved for particular applications and there is a short turnaround time required to set a data model in stone. This could allow one to define an application-level device class based on a collection of sensors and the kind of measurements to be used.

Network Bridges

Another reality that UPnP would face is devices based on other standards. This encompasses sensor and similar devices that work on networks like Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth that don’t work on an IP/Ethernet-based structure or Ethernet-based technology that doesn’t implement IP as a way to liaise with devices at higher levels. In a lot of cases, these networks have come about due to an expectation that battery-operated sensor and similar devices are expected to run for six months or more on a single set of commodity “dry-cell” batteries like AA-size Duracells or CR2035 “button-size” batteries.

The UPnP Internet Of Things effort also includes Device Control Protocols to address Network Bridges so they can work in a UPnP or UPnP+ ecosystem. This should solve a very common problem with “smart-home” devices typically smart locks and central-heating controls, where Internet-connectivity bridges for these devices are supplied by the manufacturer and are designed to work only with that manufacturer’s devices.

Achieving vendor universality

The UPnP Forum has made big strides in achieving vendor universality but it still relied on the use of logo programs like DLNA or Designed For Windows or potential buyers pouring through specifications to achieve this goal when buying or specifying devices. But some competing ecosystems typically required one physical device such as a wireless speaker to have physical and logical support for each of them, thus the row of logos that adorn the top edge of a device.

But they would like to use concepts like Network Bridges to provide support across different logical ecosystems and have UPnP as a “glue” between the ecosystems.

Conclusion

By stripping the UPnP platform to functions that are on an elementary level, it means that the ecosystem can be evolved to newer requirements that work across any computing zone-of-relevance independent of where the data source or destination is.

The Lenovo Cast retrofits existing TVs with today’s video streaming requirements

Article

Lenovo Cast network media adaptor press picture courtesy of Lenovo USA

Lenovo Cast network media adaptor – fits in your hand, hides behind the set

Lenovo’s answer to the Chromecast is a strong, puck-shaped dongle | Mashable

From the horse’s mouth

Lenovo

Lenovo Cast

Press Release

Specification Sheet (PDF)

My Comments

Increasingly we are seeing a range of set-top devices that stream video content from the Internet or our home networks becoming available. Some of these devices like the Apple TV are effectively part of an online video platform with you using a supplied remote control whereas others are simply required to work with a smartphone or tablet via a specially-installed app like the Chromecast..

This is in addition to the likes of Panasonic and Sony offering their smart-TV platforms on their Blu-Ray players as a way of enabling existing TVs with smart-TV capability.

But Lenovo has jumped in the fray with a puck-shaped device called the Lenovo Cast. This device uses simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi as the way to connect to your home network.. Rather than rely on their own smart-TV platform, they use Miracast and DLNA to connect to your devices which pitches this device as an “all-round” connectivity device for your laptop, smartphone or tablet. For example, you could “push” pictures and digital signage to one of those bargain-basement TV sets installed in your café’s dining room using “Play To” on Windows computer in the back office, and this device/

I would prefer the Lenovo Cast to have inherent support for VIDIPATH which uses your home network to distribute your Pay-TV service. But at least it can enable more flatscreen TVs like cheaper and older sets, or video projectors to become DLNA and Miracast endpoints.

Expect this to be available around August for a price of US$49.

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.

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.

Product Review–Western Digital MyCloud EX2 dual-disk network-attached-storage device

Introduction

I am reviewing the Western Digital MyCloud EX2 dual-disk network-attached storage device that has the ability to run with two hard disks as a RAID 1 setup or a RAID 0 setup. This is a unit that is pitched at users who want a highly-capable and configurable NAS for their home network or to have as a sidekick multimedia NAS for their small-business network.

Capacity Price
4Tb (2 x 2Tb) AUD$499
6Tb (2 x 3Tb) AUD$699
8Tb (2 x 4Tb) AUD$799
Enclosure only

WD MyCloud EX2 dual-disk NAS

Class Consumer Network Attached Storage
Storage
Capacity 4 Tb (2 x 2Tb)
Other capacities
Disks 2 hard disks
Configuration RAID 0 or 1, Separate disks
Set up as RAID 1
Connection
Network Connection Gigabit Ethernet
USB Device Connection USB 3.0 x 2
Mass-Storage
Device Discovery
UPnP Yes
Bonjour Yes
UPnP Internet Gateway Control Yes
IPv6 Dual-Stack
Features and Protocols
SMB / CIFS Yes
DLNA Media Server Yes
General Web Server
Remote Access Yes
Remote NAS Sync Same model only
Cloud-Storage Client
Download Manager Yes
BitTorrent client Yes
Other functions app support

 

The Network-Attached Storage System itself

Connectivity

The Gigabit Ethernet and USB connections on the WD MyCloud EX2 NAS

The Gigabit Ethernet and USB connections on the WD MyCloud EX2 NAS

The WD MyCloud EX2 can connect to your home network via a Gigabit Ethernet connection which would work at full speed with the upmarket routers that are pitched at the next-generation broadband Internet service.

As well, it comes with 2 USB ports so you can “hang” extra USB hard disks off the unit. They can be set up as extra storage capacity including to share resources held on these disks across the network, or to transfer data between the USB storage device and the NAS, typically to import data to the network or to backup data held on the NAS.

Setup Experience

I found that the WD MyCloud EX2 was easy to set up and integrate with your home network. This was due to its management interface being available using UPnP standards. You could download the client software simply by right-clicking on the hard disk icon in Windows and selecting the download option. This software is mandatory if you want to take advantage of the “MyCloud” remote-access functionality, which means that you don’t need this software to get your MyCloud NAS going.

Here, you are abile to set up things like a management account and password, give it a distinct device name, find out the state of the unit including disk capacity and health amongst other things.

Capabilities

WD MyCloud EX2 NAS hard disks

2 user-replaceable hard disks

The WD MyCloud EX2 dual-disk NAS can be set up to run a JBOD setup with each hard disk as its own logical volume, a RAID 1 setup with both hard disks ganged together as a single volume so that the data is replicated on each disk or as a RAID 0 setup where both hard disks are ganged together to effectively use both drives’ capacity as one logical volume.

Of course, this NAS ticks the boxes when it comes to SMB/CIFS access and DLNA / iTunes media serving. The latter function is looked after by TwonkyMedia Server 7 for the DLNA aspect, which also supports DLNA-based upload for those cameras that support it along with multiple-DLNA-server aggregation.

The computer-backup functionality can be facilitated with WD’s software or with the operating-system-supplied solutions such as Windows Backup or Apple Time Machine.

System performance

When testing the WD MyCloud EX2 NAS, I had run it as a RAID 1 setup, which provides for increased fault-tolerance and network-to-disk data throughput. Here, the setup has data mirrored on each physical hard disk which is of the same size.

A mixed-size file transfer between my computer and this device allowed this NAS to achieve a throughput rate of around 11Mbps. As well, even putting this NAS to use with streaming some short MP4s via DLNA yielded a very smooth experience courtesy of the TwonkyMedia server software.

I had noticed very little operational noise or vibration while the WD MyCloud EX2 NAS was in use especially while the unit was doing the test file transfer. This means that I would find it suitable for home or similar environments where a quiet system is required. It also showed that the NAS was a very well-built unit and was able to avoid unnecessary heat build-up.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Personally, I would like to see the availability of a front-end app that can work with most of the cloud-storage services like Dropbox or OneDrive so that the NAS can work as an independent “on-ramp” or “off-ramp” for these services. This is although Western Digital are pitching this and other personal NAS devices as a “personal cloud” storage alternative to these services.

Similarly, as I have often said, the “personal cloud” that WD and others promote with these devices should be able to accommodate multiple NAS devices at multiple locations. This is whether to provide data availability at each location or provide a level of resilience against power or connection failure by, for example, having a copy of your data held at another physical location like your shopfront. It can also exploit the idea of allowing customers to use equipment with different capabilities at different locations or for different purposes.

Conclusion

I would recommend that one purchases the WD MyCloud EX2 series dual-disk NAS as a “step-up” unit for where one wants increased data throughput or increased fault-tolerance out of these devices. The ability for a user to replace the hard disks can be a bonus but you will have to copy the data out to another storage device like a USB hard disk or NAS of the same capacity or greater before upsizing the hard disks when you intend to upsize the NAS.

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.

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.