Monday, May 23, 2011

Cheap Bedroom Audiophiling, Wireless & Bluetooth Audio Streaming, How to listen to AFL live Radio on your IOS device for $1.19 at home,Multiple Speakers, streaming dvd's to IOS, Netbooks & other tech


I have really been impressed with my DAC (Firestone Libby) lately.  I have resurrected my trusty 10 year old Yamaha YST MS30 2.1 bose-copy speakers for the bedroom. They are connected via my Firestone Libby headphone DAC and Airport Express via an optical cable. The Sub is under the bed and the tiny satellite speakers are on either side. The speakers are very non-obtrusive & almost invisible which is what I am after, yet they are quite powerful. They are loud enough for what I want (30W RMS), as I don't want to have music too loud, while I am falling asleep or listening to podcasts and football. Listening to Tiesto late at night with a SUB pumping under the bed and a spatial sounding DAC is mesmerising & DAC-Magical, even from these cheap speakers (it is nice to get a even sound from single speakers, Yamaha always give a good sound even if they are cheap, they have some great active crossover circuitry as well as excellent stereo imaging). The other enjoyable activity is playing Infinity Blade in bed and having the game-music & fx stream out using airplay, so I dont have any cables connected to my ipod touch 4G. Cables are major suckage when playing games on the ipod touch 4g in bed!!!!The sound is not interrupted whilst playing Infinity Blade, unlike the blue-tooth connection (but more from that later). Infinity Blade's soundtrack & FX does sound amazing BTW!

Ugly but cheap, practical, decent sounding & affordable--the Yamaha YST MS30

I am impressed with the spatial imaging and fullness of sound from the Firestone Libby DAC. The vocals really cut through clearly and there is plenty of room in the high end, so that I am perfectly happy with a flat EQ. Mid Range is sweet too with clear definition between instruments and an excellent reverberation trail. In fact I think the DAC is more important than spending $400 more on speakers and then using the crappy onboard DAC of either the ipod touch or Airport Express. All my complaints of a harsh static digital sound seem to go way with a good DAC. I always want to turn treble up using cheap dacs because they lack detail, and even then they need treble because cheap DACS have poor output stages. The only problem with the Libby is an audible 60hz hum, but it is only heard when there is no sound.


Because I have a separate wi-fi n network for audio than my internet, I don't get drop outs and I am able to use the multiple speaker option in itunes without any delay (for two sets of speakers). It sounds fantastic. I have tried setting up 3 sets of multiple speakers with an Apple TV, but there was a noticeable delay on the Apple TV which was the furthest away (possible 50-100ms but I haven't measured it), maybe a wifi N 5ghz would fix this, but as I use 2.4ghz N to be compatible with the ipod/iphone, I haven't really got a need. It would be nice to have an adjustable time difference between multi-sets of speakers, so hopefully the next version of itunes will have it. If the ipod touch/iphone could have a dual wifi chip @ 2.4 & 5 ghz then you could have a sonos type setup with adjustable time settings on each speaker as well.

Bluetooth Streaming Audio

Sometimes I have a need to use bluetooth with my speakers in the bedroom, when I want to save power from my airport express or save time from waiting for it to boot.  Also sometimes I want to download something from the internet to the ipod and I want to listen to tune-in on my ipod touch 4G at the same time, when I can't access itunes via IOS remote to my laptop to my airport express (which is what I usually do).

So I decided to buy a Belkin bluetooth receiver but it sounds so crappy, that I really only use it for podcasts. I tried playing infinity blade but the sound would cut out all the time, and music sounds like a fish underwater or a bad skype call.  My Sennheiser MM100 bluetooth headphones sound awesome and Bluetooth is acceptable in the car so I know it isnt the bluetooth format. Considering it cost just under half of a refurbished airport express it is a rip off. I have my doubts over Belkin as it markets itself as a premium brand, but is usually really cheap & crappy with a nice design & package. I often have a lot of cognitive dissonance with the brand.

The non-impressive Belkin B/T Receiver

Netbooks & WOL (Wake On Lan)

Sometimes I want to use a little laptop in bed rather than my ipod touch 4G and I don't want an ipad. I also want to have WOL so I can turn my laptop on from my ipod touch (using remote desktop & magic packets) in bed and stream music through to my airport express, as 750 gig of music won't fit on an "i device."

I have been looking at the Toshiba nb550d as it has WOL and features the new impressive AMD Fusion chip. 

Unfortunately with netbooks, they only come with 1gig of ram, and by the time you upgrade the ram, HD and the version of windows, you might as well get a full functioning and more powerful laptop for a similar price.  The Sony Vaio YB has the more impressive ZacateAMD fusion, which gives it more grunt than the Atom dual core for CPU intensive tasks (kills it of course in graphics). The other bonus with Sony is that it comes with 2 gigs of ram and full windows.  So by the time you spec out the Toshiba it will not be much cheaper than the Sony which is a far better laptop!!!! Also the Toshy has poor battery life and I would like to have a MacBook Air type of battery length, so I can stream music at length whilst the netbook is in its laptop bag (that i havent taken out of!!).

The problem with the netbook market is that they are underpowered with Windows 7.  Windows 7 is best with at least 4 gigs of ram. 1 gig doesn't cut it and Windows 7 starter is crippled. Netbooks should come with 2 gigs of ram and I think with the coming Intel Atom "Cedar Trail" it will be on its way.

So at the moment netbooks are best to be avoided. I really wanted a cheap laptop for $250 & 2 gigs of ram with WOL and none at the price even have WOL. You have to start spending the price of a cheap 15" laptop which is far more powerful. I am considering a Macbook Air, might as well get a good performing laptop with a good screen and battery life.

The Magically magic netbook MBA or Mac Book Air


Australian Rules Football has a live football radio stream on its website  Unfortunately for IOS devices they have disabled their internet radio station so I can't listen to it with Tune-In.  As there is no Adobe  flash for IOS unless you jailbreak it, I have been unable to listen to live AFL radio. But I have discovered an app called Splash Top Remote that is completely awesome and only $1.19. It is the best Remote Desktop App going around for IOS.

It will stream whatever is on your laptop to your IOS device including sound.  I have even been able to watch my DVD collection from VLC streamed over it.  Now I can listen to live AFL without having to pay a fortune buying the IOS AFL app with a huge monthly prescription!!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Headphones Sennheiser HD 598

It seems like these days I have become a Sennheiser & Apple fanboy to a high degree :-)

I really have a liking to these headphones...HD 598

The Senn 5XX have always had a reputation of being bland and boring and my HD555 certainly have that look. But the tacky look of the HD598 really appeals to me ;-)

The Boring & Bland HD555

The posts I have been reading about the HD 598 are by in large very positive. But as I recently purchased a set of HD 650 I will not tempt myself to listen to the HD598. In fact as a result I have been listening to my HD 555 again and they are great value fones.  I have been enjoying the lightness and comfortability of the phones and the single cord. A great new feature of the 518/558/598 series is that you can replace the cord with something shorter for more portable listening. The HD650 are heavy & sacrifice some speed for that extra bass & detail.  I have heard the HD 598 have a great soundstage. Recently I have just been using a set of Yamaha YST M8 for my headphone amp and it is surprisingly quite good (although lacks bass of a dedicated headphone amp). So I am entering a new phase of thought on headphone amping.

Creative Zen m300 ipod nano copy

If you can't wait until September for the new ipod nano or have a feeling they won't introduce bluetooth with the next generation, there is the recently announced Creative Zen m300 coming in June that features bluetooth 2.1 EDR.

I have recently become a convert to bluetooth with the Sennheiser mm100 that I use with my iphone and my espow watch phone.  Bluetooth has finally come of age and with the popularity of podcasts such as Tiesto's club life and A State of Trance, the difference between bluetooth and cable is minimal, particularly in mobile contexts. I prefer the convenience of not having cables and I particularly enjoy the Sennheiser mm100 whilst riding my bike (this is the only neck bluetooth headphone I am aware of and therefore fits well with a bike helmet).  My watch phone has bluetooth, but unfortunately has dropouts which does not occur from my ipod touch/iphone.  The ipod touch or iphone is too large for bike riding and running and I am looking for something smaller hence an ipod nano with bluetooth.  I have been using nike + lately but maybe it is a gimmick as it is quite inaccurate, particularly if you change your speed of running, so that feature perhaps is not so important as being built in (like it is with the ipod touch).

The problem with the Zen is lack of use with my existing itunes library.  This is where Apple is quite smart by locking you into their ecosystem as I like to keep all my podcasts synced, as I listen to them across multiple devices.