Chromecast audio

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Maxx

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I'm not usually one to plug commercial products, especially those of corporate giants like Google.

In this case, I am because I was stunned that someone like Google would come out with an inexpensive mass market product that solved what I thought was a need/want somewhat unique to me.

You all know what chromecast is, and it certainly makes sense in these days when nearly everyone has a smartphone or tablet and a bigscreen flatscreen TV.

At first glance Chromecast audio would seem to be a dumbed down version at the same price, so why bother?

So here's old Maxx with a decent old school stereo in the basement mancave. A few years ago I mounted some outdoor speakers up under the eaves and ran speaker wire down to the basement amp. I'm somewhat hip to technology, so my music collection has mostly been converted to mp3, and now I could run playlists on the basement computer through the amp and listen to music out on the patio. For the record, I don't much like headphones or earbuds, and bluetooth speakers get awfully pricey if you want any kind of decent sound.

When I got a tablet, I started considering how I might remote control the basement computer so I didn't have to run up and down stairs to change lists or go to Pandora or whatever. I'm sure I'd have got that done eventually, but forgot all about it when I saw an ad for Chromecast audio. It works off my wifi, with line audio outputs instead of hdmi. Plug it into a tape input on my old amp, and voila, I can sit out on the patio and control whats playing on the stereo via the tablet. I even have control over volume once I've set the base level on the amplifier. For parties, anybody with a smartphone can jump in with their own songs or streaming service, provided I set the device so anyone can use it without passwords (Yes, I know, security. I don't normally have it set for "open" use, and its powered down when I'm not actually using it.) Since all my computers are on the network, I can use music files on any of them without moving them to the tablet first.

I know there's a lot of other ways to skin this cat with headphones or bluetooth speakers, but I was pleasantly surprised that google came up with something that was a simple plug-in retrofit to the somewhat odd old school setup I already had.

P.S. for those concerned about my neighbors.... my yard is big enough, and the layout of house and garage kind of screen the patio off. I have to have it pretty loud for the neighbors to even notice. I checked. Closest neighbor is 100 years old and almost deaf, so its even less of a problem.
 

dogboy

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That is a nice solution Maxx. I'm afraid I've been lazy and haven't converted my music to MP3s or any other medium. Being a professional musician, I have stereos, amps, surround sounds and professional PAs all over the house, so wherever my wife and I have settled, we're playing CDs from there. I did put Serius XM on our Iphone so I can plug that into whatever near by amp is close. My wife and I've gotten into "Deep Tracks" channel 27 on Serius.

As a side note, the great Keith Emerson of "Emerson, Lake and Palmer" died today. Another great one falls.
 
M

Maxx

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As a side note, the great Keith Emerson of "Emerson, Lake and Palmer" died today. Another great one falls.
Crap. I guess today will be Keith Emerson playlist day. "The Nice", etc.
 
M

Maxx

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That is a nice solution Maxx. I'm afraid I've been lazy and haven't converted my music to MP3s or any other medium.

Less urgency now. I went into one of those OCD binges when I became concerned that I might not be able to access all my old albums if my turntable and turntable-friendly amp went belly up. Little did I know that vinyl would experience a resurgence and all that equipment is still readily available. Not to mention used record stores popping up everywhere. When I finally pack it in, there'll be a goldmine waiting for someone at the estate sale. Most of the records are in pretty good shape because I mostly only used them to make mix tapes back in the day, and more recently, mp3 conversion.

I guess Viagra proved that old guys with old equipment are still a substantial market.

Being a professional musician, I have stereos, amps, surround sounds and professional PAs all over the house, so wherever my wife and I have settled, we're playing CDs from there. I did put Serius XM on our Iphone so I can plug that into whatever near by amp is close. My wife and I've gotten into "Deep Tracks" channel 27 on Serius.

I didn't look at the technical specs all that close.. I'm sure its far from audiophile quality. Your professional grade stuff would probably (rightly) refuse to talk to such a pedestrian device. Still, as you say, its a nice solution, and sound quality is as good or better than my ears are able to discern.
 

dogboy

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I didn't look at the technical specs all that close.. I'm sure its far from audiophile quality. Your professional grade stuff would probably (rightly) refuse to talk to such a pedestrian device. Still, as you say, its a nice solution, and sound quality is as good or better than my ears are able to discern.

Oh...from records to MP3. I have a reasonably large record collection that has sat for years. How did you convert the records into digital? I thought about buying one of those turntables that does that. It seemed like the easiest way to do it. I have a Tascam digital mixing board that converts analogue or any kind of input, into the digital domain and prints it to a CD. It's several years old now and it has a steep learning curve. I converted one record and I think it took two days.
 

tiny

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Oh...from records to MP3. I have a reasonably large record collection that has sat for years. How did you convert the records into digital? I thought about buying one of those turntables that does that. It seemed like the easiest way to do it. I have a Tascam digital mixing board that converts analogue or any kind of input, into the digital domain and prints it to a CD. It's several years old now and it has a steep learning curve. I converted one record and I think it took two days.

If you have a decent turntable already, you'll get a much better recording than with a (relatively) cheap USB turntable thingy.

Audacity is free software that lets you record audio on your PC. Plug the turntable/amp into your PC's audio input, adjust the levels, and record the files.

Website/Download: http://www.audacityteam.org/
Tutorial: http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/tutorial_copying_tapes_lps_or_minidiscs_to_cd.html

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I'm somewhat hip to technology, so my music collection has mostly been converted to mp3...

Welcome to the 1990s! :biggrin:

Just kidding! :p But disk space is affordable now. Why not rip to a lossless format like FLAC? It sounds like you have (at least) half-decent equipment, so it'll sound much better.
 

dogboy

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If you have a decent turntable already, you'll get a much better recording than with a (relatively) cheap USB turntable thingy.

Audacity is free software that lets you record audio on your PC. Plug the turntable/amp into your PC's audio input, adjust the levels, and record the files.

Website/Download: http://www.audacityteam.org/
Tutorial: http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/tutorial_copying_tapes_lps_or_minidiscs_to_cd.html

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Welcome to the 1990s! :biggrin:

Just kidding! :p But disk space is affordable now. Why not rip to a lossless format like FLAC? It sounds like you have (at least) half-decent equipment, so it'll sound much better.

Thanks Tiny. I had forgotten about Audacity even though we used it at the junior high school where I taught.
 
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Maxx

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If you have a decent turntable already, you'll get a much better recording than with a (relatively) cheap USB turntable thingy.

Audacity is free software that lets you record audio on your PC. Plug the turntable/amp into your PC's audio input, adjust the levels, and record the files.

Dropped a couple grand on a stereo in 1978. Still have the ProjectOne turntable and Cerwin-Vega speakers. Relegated to the mancave, but still quite functional. Got a new cartridge for the conversion project. For Dogboy's benefit, the key is having a pre-amp for the low output level of a magnetic cartridge. Back in the day, any decent amp had one built in. These days, you'll more often find digital input than phono input. If you're going for "professional grade", you might have a separate component pre-amp.

I used Roxio, found in the discount bin at Target for maybe $30. I didn't know about Audacity at the time. Perhaps it didn't exist yet. I've since tried Audacity. Its a lot more powerful, but less intuitive and user-friendly. I'd use Audacity now, though, since I have more of a clue about what I'm trying to do.

Welcome to the 1990s! :biggrin:

Well, given that's when I started the project....

Just kidding! :p But disk space is affordable now. Why not rip to a lossless format like FLAC? It sounds like you have (at least) half-decent equipment, so it'll sound much better.

I stashed the uncompressed .wav files, so I could go back and reconvert at higher bit rates if I wanted. Used 192kbs for albums, 256 for CD's. FLAC? Maybe if my ears were still professional quality... Problem is, the original amplifier I used is dead, the one I'm using now does have phono input, but my OCD would demand a much better one if I were going to convert at that higher spec level. Then there's the issue of frequency response and A to D conversion specs in the computer. That would probably call for a new sound board, if not an entirely new 'puter.

I still might try an album or two just to see if I can tell the difference. Best test might be classical guitar like Segovia or Parkening. Most rock and roll you'd never be able to tell. That costs me nothing but a couple hours that Mrs Maxx would insist are better spent doing.... You're right. I'm going to do a little experimenting.

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Oh...from records to MP3. I have a reasonably large record collection that has sat for years. How did you convert the records into digital? I thought about buying one of those turntables that does that. It seemed like the easiest way to do it. I have a Tascam digital mixing board that converts analogue or any kind of input, into the digital domain and prints it to a CD. It's several years old now and it has a steep learning curve. I converted one record and I think it took two days.

That's probably an order of magnitude better spec-wise than what I did. Maybe if it has a digital or even analog output that will talk to your 'puter, doing the processing on that with Audacity might go faster.

Edit: I should probably have been a tad more specific about the process.

Turntable----->phono input on stereo amp----> line output (usually tape out) of stereo amp----> audio line in of computer (not mic in - don't know if that would work or not)------> audio software (Audacity, Roxio)-----> desired format on hard drive (mp3, wav, FLAC, Ogg, etc.)
 
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tiny

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I stashed the uncompressed .wav files, so I could go back and reconvert at higher bit rates if I wanted.

Why use WAV when FLAC takes up less space with no loss in quality?

Used 192kbs for albums, 256 for CD's. FLAC? Maybe if my ears were still professional quality... Problem is, the original amplifier I used is dead, the one I'm using now does have phono input, but my OCD would demand a much better one if I were going to convert at that higher spec level. Then there's the issue of frequency response and A to D conversion specs in the computer. That would probably call for a new sound board, if not an entirely new 'puter.

Yeah. There's a fair bit of variation in the quality of soundcards these days. The "standard" ones are always built-in to the motherboard now, so there's a bit less electrical isolation. My old PC produced a terrible audio output, but my new (~8yr old) one sounds great.

I remember looking at the Asus Xonar range of soundcards. They seem pretty nice:
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/high-end-pc-audio,review-32894-5.html

I still might try an album or two just to see if I can tell the difference. Best test might be classical guitar like Segovia or Parkening. Most rock and roll you'd never be able to tell. That costs me nothing but a couple hours that Mrs Maxx would insist are better spent doing.... You're right. I'm going to do a little experimenting.

To the mancave, Maxx-man! :-D

I reckon you should be able to tell the difference between FLAC and 192kb/s MP3 even on rock tracks. Especially if you can play both versions simultaneously and flick between them to directly compare.

Much as I hate proprietary file formats, I find that WMA files sound much better than MP3s (and variable bitrate WMAs are often barely distinguishable from the CD source). The sound seems fuller and less tinny, and there's less of that weird digital squelching you get in the top end with MP3s. AAC files sound better than MP3s too.

If you ever need to convert your collection from one format to another, ffmpeg is brilliant. It's command-line only, but that makes it dead easy to convert an entire collection with a single command.

https://www.ffmpeg.org/
 
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Maxx

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Some excellent suggestions, Tiny. All things to investigate, especially as my current main computer is nearing end of life. Or at least relegation to backup status. It came with, and still runs, Vista. I'm currently looking at new machines, as well as what data I need to reformat so I don't lose anything when I change this one over to Ubuntu. My old Franklin Planner (windows 95. still works OK on Vista) data will need to be exported to something (csv, excel, whatever) and imported into another database. There are probably other things I need to reconfigure as well.

When I originally did the conversion, my main concern was the apparently imminent obsolescence of vinyl. Given that, choosing a format that seemed likely to last was paramount. I rejected wma out of hand for that reason, as mp3 and mp3 players were becoming ubiquitous. A proprietary format, especially from Microsoft (whom I've always detested) seem counterproductive. Since then, music I've acquired from dead.net (taper's forum, and the annual 30 Days of Dead giveaway...all legit and sanctioned by the band) and the local library (legal, of course) also came in mp3. Consistency. BTW, just to be difficult, I also refuse to use i-tunes. They love to second guess me and insist that I do things their way, and every time I booted up, I had to wait half an hour while they installed the latest updates. I hate machines and software that tell me what to do. It's supposed to be the other way around.

As you say, storage space is no longer a big deal, and conversion from one format to another seems to be less of a problem now and in the future, so its worth doing some experimentation with other formats to see if its worth change.

P.S. Command line? No prob. My first computer class involved booking terminal time at 3am to talk to the IBM at Illinois Institute of Technology (not where I was going to school...), putting in my stack of punch cards, then coming back later to see "syntax error" on the printer.
 

dogboy

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Edit: I should probably have been a tad more specific about the process.

Turntable----->phono input on stereo amp----> line output (usually tape out) of stereo amp----> audio line in of computer (not mic in - don't know if that would work or not)------> audio software (Audacity, Roxio)-----> desired format on hard drive (mp3, wav, FLAC, Ogg, etc.)

Thanks for the info. I understand the need for a pre-amp as I've been there before. I used to make a lot of soundtracks for my various choirs, and I started doing that back in the 80's if I remember correctly. My tracs were recorded to tape then, and CDs in the early 90s.
 
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Maxx

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Thanks for the info. I understand the need for a pre-amp as I've been there before. I used to make a lot of soundtracks for my various choirs, and I started doing that back in the 80's if I remember correctly. My tracs were recorded to tape then, and CDs in the early 90s.

The extra detail was more for the benefit of lurkers. I figured once audacity was mentioned, the rest probably clicked into place for you. When I started into it, the idea was prompted by finding a free recording program on my then-new Windows '98 computer. A "Holy Cow! You can do that?" sort of moment.
 

tiny

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When I originally did the conversion, my main concern was the apparently imminent obsolescence of vinyl. Given that, choosing a format that seemed likely to last was paramount. I rejected wma out of hand for that reason, as mp3 and mp3 players were becoming ubiquitous. A proprietary format, especially from Microsoft (whom I've always detested) seem counterproductive.

Yeah -- I agree. I only have a couple of 1GB audio players, so I keep my audio collection in FLAC format and transcode to WMA if I want to listen to music out of the house.

Since then, music I've acquired from dead.net (taper's forum, and the annual 30 Days of Dead giveaway...all legit and sanctioned by the band) and the local library (legal, of course) also came in mp3. Consistency. BTW, just to be difficult, I also refuse to use i-tunes. They love to second guess me and insist that I do things their way, and every time I booted up, I had to wait half an hour while they installed the latest updates. I hate machines and software that tell me what to do. It's supposed to be the other way around.

We agree again! I can't see the point in iTunes -- it's bloated junk. VLC is just fine... or Goggles Music Manager or MusicBee.

I also get really annoyed when some software thinks that I want to download cover art, or automatically update IDv3 tags. Hands off my files!!! It's my computer!

cartman_respect_my_authoritah.jpg :damnpc:

As you say, storage space is no longer a big deal, and conversion from one format to another seems to be less of a problem now and in the future, so its worth doing some experimentation with other formats to see if its worth change.

Ffmpeg is the dogs bollocks for transcoding stuff. I spent ages fannying around with graphical transcoders that were far more limited and not fully standards compliant (meaning that random tracks on random devices just wouldn't play or would cut out half way through). Open source FTW!

P.S. Command line? No prob. My first computer class involved booking terminal time at 3am to talk to the IBM at Illinois Institute of Technology (not where I was going to school...), putting in my stack of punch cards, then coming back later to see "syntax error" on the printer.

Wooooo! That is very cool!

My first computer class involved my mind being blown by the fact that the BBC Micro had a special button in case you made a mistake! The backspace key! "Wow!", I thought. "It's like the rubber on your pencil... They've thought of everything!" (Well, I was only five years old!) :biggrin:
 
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Wooooo! That is very cool!

My first computer class involved my mind being blown by the fact that the BBC Micro had a special button in case you made a mistake! The backspace key! "Wow!", I thought. "It's like the rubber on your pencil... They've thought of everything!" (Well, I was only five years old!) :biggrin:

Actually, the ultimate was the little card my grandmother kept in her wallet (until she passed a few years ago), and I wish I'd scanned it or could remember the exact wording, cause it is mind-blowing. It said something like "Graduate, IBM Computer School" --- and dated 1937. She loved to pull it out any time the youngsters started talking trash about technology.
 

tiny

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Actually, the ultimate was the little card my grandmother kept in her wallet (until she passed a few years ago), and I wish I'd scanned it or could remember the exact wording, cause it is mind-blowing. It said something like "Graduate, IBM Computer School" --- and dated 1937. She loved to pull it out any time the youngsters started talking trash about technology.

Ha ha! I remember getting my first car and adding myself to my dad's AA membership.

Anyway, the card had my name and said I'd been a member ship since 1967 (when my dad first joined, about a decade before I was born!). It was fun showing that to people and making them think I was 27 instead of 17!

I would have loved to have worked in IT in, say, the 70s and 80s. Things were just getting cool, but everything was still simple... and fun. There's such a learning-curve for youngsters wanting to get into IT these days...

(Oh... I should probably say that, over here, the AA is the Automobile Association. In case you were thinking of something else!)
 

dogboy

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I remember when I was a student at Westminster Choir College, I'd get practice time on the big pipe organ in the chapel at 3:00 in the morning, back when I was a Freshman. I'd actually get up and take advantage of it because the sound made by playing a big pipe organ was amazing.

It made me realize, I have a turntable. I should play my records from the source and enjoy the analogue sound. I used to have my old Fisher tube amp, and now I wish I still had it. I'd love to hear that big, fat analogue sound once more, just like playing a monster pipe organ.
 
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Maxx

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I would have loved to have worked in IT in, say, the 70s and 80s. Things were just getting cool, but everything was still simple... and fun. There's such a learning-curve for youngsters wanting to get into IT these days...

When computers were something of a secret club instead of appliances. Like amateur radio... or diapers. For a while there, first thing I'd do at a new gig was make friends with the guy in charge of IT. If you need data, its a good thing to have the trust of the guy with the keys. Then along came the internet and all kinds of inviolable security protocols.

Its AAA over here. I guess you were there first, so we had do differentiate.

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It made me realize, I have a turntable. I should play my records from the source and enjoy the analogue sound. I used to have my old Fisher tube amp, and now I wish I still had it. I'd love to hear that big, fat analogue sound once more, just like playing a monster pipe organ.

Junior brought me along as an extra set of eyes for the home inspection when he bought his current house a couple years ago. We marvelled at a contraption on top shelf of the entertainment center in the family room: a vacuum tube CD player, apparently of recent vintage. I'm not sure I understand that seeming paradox....
 

dogboy

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Junior brought me along as an extra set of eyes for the home inspection when he bought his current house a couple years ago. We marvelled at a contraption on top shelf of the entertainment center in the family room: a vacuum tube CD player, apparently of recent vintage. I'm not sure I understand that seeming paradox....

I wouldn't have guessed such a thing existed. Why vacuum tubes to run a CD player when they were a product of chip technology?
 
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Marka

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I wouldn't have guessed such a thing existed. Why vacuum tubes to run a CD player when they were a product of chip technology?

Most likely the amplifier section... tubes are known for their warm sound (and, they are interesting to look at) ... interestingly enough, tubes are emulated in software sound rendering applications now too...

It is possible too, the tubes were a facade - not a functioning aspect of the circuit... see 'Steampunk' and various other nostalgia/vintage dressings... A type-writer (old manual style) for a computer keyboard for instance... oh, the joys of getting your fingers stuck between the keys... <CR> carriage return - a long ago outdated term, that persists in some of the web page coding... as I understand it.

The old familiar ding could be charming, for a time or two...

-Marka
 

dogboy

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Most likely the amplifier section... tubes are known for their warm sound (and, they are interesting to look at) ... interestingly enough, tubes are emulated in software sound rendering applications now too...

It is possible too, the tubes were a facade - not a functioning aspect of the circuit... see 'Steampunk' and various other nostalgia/vintage dressings... A type-writer (old manual style) for a computer keyboard for instance... oh, the joys of getting your fingers stuck between the keys... <CR> carriage return - a long ago outdated term, that persists in some of the web page coding... as I understand it.

The old familiar ding could be charming, for a time or two...

-Marka

They still make tube amps for electric guitars. In the band where I played, our lead guitarist used an old Fender amp that was tube driven. There are a lot of components in the rock music industry that have at least one tube to get that warm sound.

I guess I misread the original post that the CD player was part of an entire sound system, with the amp having tubes. That would explain that. With a lot of younger people buying vinyl, I wonder if they'll ever want to pursue tube amps and speakers rather than ear buds or headphones. Personally, I like to have the sound in my room rather than my head, but I'm probably showing my age. But I'm also a professional, classical musician and that's how we prefer to experience sound and music. The room has a lot to do with the listening experience. I suppose that's something that escapes the average younger listener.

Today we had a five church music event at my church as we were the host church and I was the host music director. At the end of the Lenten service, I played a big J. S. Bach double fugue. A pipe organ needs a large space to resonate, the bigger the better. The optimum sound would be a giant pipe organ in a big, stone cathedral, places I've also played. There's nothing quite like that sound. You actually feel it, and it seems to physically touch the listener. You can't ever get that experience through ear buds or headphones. Vinyl, tube amps and big speakers tend to replicate that experience.
 
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