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LC1

Playing Music Stored On An External Hdd Without A Laptop?

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Inspired by the impressive audiophile/hi-fi knowledge being espoused on another thread, and not wishing to hijack that thread, I was hoping that someone here could answer a few quick questions for me.

I am thinking of ditching my ancient hi-fi separates (budget spec Cambridge Audio) in favour of a smaller footprint system where I can play FLAC files direct from an external HDD using a smaller amp such as one of these http://www.amazon.co.uk/Topping-TP20-MK2-TA2020-Digital-Amplifier/dp/B00828UTE4, and some bookshelf speakers.

Now, I am aware that I can buy an external DAC to plug into my laptop, but I would rather have something smaller that stays plugged in by the amp/speaker setup.

I am aware that one can buy good quality portable media players with good built-in DACs, such as Cowon or FiiO, but these don't have sufficient storage for a large lossless music collection.

I don't think that the Logitech Squeezebox would work for me because, as far as I'm aware, it doesn't have the option of physically connecting to an external drive, only of connecting to a network where the music files are located.

What I really want, but don't think exists, is a small form factor gizmo with a colour screen that allows me to connect to my music collection on an external HDD and search and play according to artist, album, create playlists etc (just like a portable media player) and give a direct line out to an amp/hi-fi set up.

Does such a thing exist?!

If not, is it possible to do the above with an ipad/tablet with an external DAC? I suspect not because of the lack of physical connectivity, USB ports etc?

Anyone got any innovative ideas?

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You'll have to spell it out for me! Do you have a model in mind?

I've also just found this interesting new product based on the Raspberry Pi, which might be just the thing I'm looking for, except I'm not exactly clear how I would control it without plugging it into a TV...

http://www.techradar.com/news/video/home-video/meet-slice-the-raspberry-pi-powered-media-player-with-a-difference-1260998

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Another thing to consider is that if you stream music from t'interweb, do you want to use the same device to do this as well?

I've got a Denon hifi with a netbook sitting on top of it which I run Spotify/Youtube/MP3 or FLAC files off....the netbook gets loads of use for other stuff too, but when I'm at home, it's rightful place is on top of the hifi.

However I am aware this isn't the best option when it comes to sound quality, so it wouldn't be suitable for audiophiles.

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However I am aware this isn't the best option when it comes to sound quality, so it wouldn't be suitable for audiophiles.

Thanks Joe. I'm coming to the conclusion that a laptop atop the hifi is the most obvious way of doing this, but I had hoped that there would be another solution, since I may want to listen to music whilst also working on the laptop, so would need a dedicated machine for the music really. Plus the whole startup times of these machines is annoying when you just want to put a track on.... The music quality issue can be resolved by getting an external DAC that sits between laptop and hifi.

There's also the high-end portable mp3 player option, but I would have to use a series of 64gb micro SD cards to group my music collection on, which also isn't ideal.

The streaming/networking option also isn't really something that interests me, I only want to access music from a physical drive....

But, based on my current understanding, it seems it can't be done without a computer or TV as the interface, which is highly annoying!

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If all else fails I've got an old Samsung Q35 with a dead battery and a broken fan which could in theory be stripped back and refurbed for sole use as a music player - if so, what would people recommend to make it better for that purpose? Obviously get the fan fixed, but then what else would improve matters? Solid state drive for speedier startup, new OS, all unnecessary programmes removed? What DAC would people recommend? All this is fairly new to me - any hints gratefully received :)

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You'll have to spell it out for me! Do you have a model in mind?

I've also just found this interesting new product based on the Raspberry Pi, which might be just the thing I'm looking for, except I'm not exactly clear how I would control it without plugging it into a TV...

http://www.techradar.com/news/video/home-video/meet-slice-the-raspberry-pi-powered-media-player-with-a-difference-1260998

http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-tell-if-your-android-phone-or-tablet-supports-usb-on-the-go/

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You could connect the HDD to a USB OTG compatible tablet. Setup the BT connection from the tablet to one of those BT adapters on your Hi Fi, and that SHOULD allow you stream from a HDD to a Hi Fi.

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Another thing to consider is that if you stream music from t'interweb, do you want to use the same device to do this as well?

I've got a Denon hifi with a netbook sitting on top of it which I run Spotify/Youtube/MP3 or FLAC files off....the netbook gets loads of use for other stuff too, but when I'm at home, it's rightful place is on top of the hifi.

However I am aware this isn't the best option when it comes to sound quality, so it wouldn't be suitable for audiophiles.

Get yourself a decent USB DAC and it shouldn't matter what you're connecting it to. A decent DAC is going to set you back a minimum of £100 though.

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Does your router have usb input and supports DLNA by any chance?Plug hard drive into that and then use something like a Roku plugged into the amp, controlled from your phone or tablet.

If not, get a NAS and then something like a Cambridge NP30 http://www.richersounds.com/product/streaming-hi-fi-and-network-audio-players/cambridge-audio/sonata-np30/camb-np30-blk or just a Raspberry Pi and XBMC or Plex (and controlled from a tablet or phone).

For an all-in-1 maybe a Brennan? http://www.brennan.co.uk

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Does your router have usb input and supports DLNA by any chance?Plug hard drive into that and then use something like a Roku plugged into the amp, controlled from your phone or tablet.

If not, get a NAS and then something like a Cambridge NP30 http://www.richersounds.com/product/streaming-hi-fi-and-network-audio-players/cambridge-audio/sonata-np30/camb-np30-blk or just a Raspberry Pi and XBMC or Plex (and controlled from a tablet or phone).

For an all-in-1 maybe a Brennan? http://www.brennan.co.uk

...You can hack a Now TV box, and put Plex on that - cheaper option than a "proper" Roku box; even though they're the same thing in principle. You can then download the Plex app from the relevant app store, and control your files that way.

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For an all-in-1 maybe a Brennan? http://www.brennan.co.uk

Thanks all for the suggestions. I don't have a TV, so that leaves out the media player box thingy options. I didn't really want to fart about with bluetooth or streaming/networking, so I guess the closest thing to what I imagined I was after is that Brennan thingy - not cheap but could well be the one if sound quality is up to par, so I may well see if I can arrange to hear it playing at the local Richer Sounds. Can't believe that's the only thingy of that type available?! Seems to me to be an obvious gap in the market, but then I guess everything is moving to wireless cloud-based streaming these days....

Suppose I'm really looking for a non-portable mp3 player with usb connectivity - too much to ask?! :)

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Thanks all for the suggestions. I don't have a TV, so that leaves out the media player box thingy options. I didn't really want to fart about with bluetooth or streaming/networking, so I guess the closest thing to what I imagined I was after is that Brennan thingy - not cheap but could well be the one if sound quality is up to par, so I may well see if I can arrange to hear it playing at the local Richer Sounds. Can't believe that's the only thingy of that type available?! Seems to me to be an obvious gap in the market, but then I guess everything is moving to wireless cloud-based streaming these days....

Suppose I'm really looking for a non-portable mp3 player with usb connectivity - too much to ask?! :)

It seems to have a built in HDD, and thus you copy CDs to it, and back it up to an external HDD, and you can play from an ipod, but will this USB port accept playback from an external HDD?

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Thanks Joe. I'm coming to the conclusion that a laptop atop the hifi is the most obvious way of doing this, but I had hoped that there would be another solution, since I may want to listen to music whilst also working on the laptop, so would need a dedicated machine for the music really. Plus the whole startup times of these machines is annoying when you just want to put a track on.... The music quality issue can be resolved by getting an external DAC that sits between laptop and hifi.

Well a laptop sat on top of the hifi would indeed look silly, but the netbook being alot smaller than a laptop means that it's less intrusive, and I also use a keyboard shortcut to turn the screen off while listening to music so as not to have the screen shining away in the corner.

I read your post on my iPad and picked up my netbook to reply - I counted 5 seconds between opening it, hitting the on switch, and it finding and connecting to my WiFi, so if you just shut the netbook without turning it off then it'll startup quick - I'd assume that leaving it on standby constantly will not use much electricity, but others can correct me on that!

Thanks to you and Norbert for mentioning the DAC...might look into picking one up!

The Netbook I use is the Samsung NC10 Plus - it's also good for travelling as the battery life is amazing.

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Was thinking maybe something like a raspberry pi or better another miniature PC - like the intel NUC with appropriate software would provide ultimate flexibility, together with your own choice of interfacing device - bluetooth mini keyboard, mouse, other control? Mini display - something like a car hdmi unit or similar which would be cheap.

Bookmarked this one when considering a cheapo raspberry pi.

http://volumio.org/discover/

Jriver - this looks very good - needs some computing grunt.

http://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Id

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Raspbmc on a Raspberry Pi is fine for me. I've got it plugged into the TV to get the benefit of visualisations along with the music. Can also stream video and some live TV as well.

It can be a little slow sometimes, even though it's the Pi model B but it only cost a few quid. I used to use XBMC on a hacked old Xbox but it died after a few years,

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I was musing something like this some months back.

Our new router can act as a DLNA server which as I understand it, is a standard that can be 'read' by other devices like our TV so I could plus a HDD into that and stream from it.

Except that the 'selector'/player on the TV is crap.

One solution appears to be something called Apple Airport which when connected to the network means you can use your Apple devices, assuming you have some, to select music from the network and stream it.

The Sonos kit seems to be interoperable and I've been looking at that just recently as per the other thread. Seems great for multi-room, all wireless.

When I originally considered this I thought this would all have been "sorted" by now. To put stuff on, say, the car stereo would just be a matter of wiping my hand over the screen to point the playlist at the car like something out of "Minority Report" but it seems this stuff is still coming together.

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I was musing something like this some months back.

Our new router can act as a DLNA server which as I understand it, is a standard that can be 'read' by other devices like our TV so I could plus a HDD into that and stream from it.

Except that the 'selector'/player on the TV is crap.

One solution appears to be something called Apple Airport which when connected to the network means you can use your Apple devices, assuming you have some, to select music from the network and stream it.

The Sonos kit seems to be interoperable and I've been looking at that just recently as per the other thread. Seems great for multi-room, all wireless.

When I originally considered this I thought this would all have been "sorted" by now. To put stuff on, say, the car stereo would just be a matter of wiping my hand over the screen to point the playlist at the car like something out of "Minority Report" but it seems this stuff is still coming together.

Samsung have just brought out their Sonos equivalent; the Multiroom. Its much simpler to attach an existing hifi to these speakers than it is to a Sonos system..

http://www.trustedreviews.com/samsung-wam750_Portable-Audio_review

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Raspbmc on a Raspberry Pi is fine for me. I've got it plugged into the TV to get the benefit of visualisations along with the music. Can also stream video and some live TV as well.

It can be a little slow sometimes, even though it's the Pi model B but it only cost a few quid. I used to use XBMC on a hacked old Xbox but it died after a few years,

I thought someone might mention xbmc. I've got it running on about 4 machines in the house all networked to my NAS. It will run on raspberry pi aswel, and would seem like a good cheap solution to the ops issue, could control it with xbmc remote which runs on ios/android/windows phone

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I'm interested in this area too. I currently run mediaportal on a PC with it's own mini-display and so far it's the best one-stop solution for audio and video solution I've seen on a budget. Most of these sort of systems seem to focus too much on the video and not enough on the audio interface. For those with a large music collection many are unusable. Although not great, at least I could do what I wanted with mediaportal and didn't have to put the telly on just to listen to music. Unfortunately recent builds of media portal seem to have a bug where they don't index all artists (correctly tagged) in my music collection so I'm looking for alternatives.

I'm considering a new custom build with a 7" touchscreen built in, running different software for music and video (I'll probably stick with MP for the latter). For those running XBMC - do you use any plugins to improve the music interface?

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Was thinking maybe something like a raspberry pi or better another miniature PC - like the intel NUC with appropriate software would provide ultimate flexibility, together with your own choice of interfacing device - bluetooth mini keyboard, mouse, other control? Mini display - something like a car hdmi unit or similar which would be cheap.

Bookmarked this one when considering a cheapo raspberry pi.

http://volumio.org/discover/

Jriver - this looks very good - needs some computing grunt.

http://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Id

Thanks, the idea of a Raspberry pi running volumio got me thinking - apparently you can buy 10" touchscreens that work with that little gadget, so in theory it could look something like:

HDD=>Raspberry Pi + Touchscreen=>USB DAC=>Amp=>Speakers

This would avoid me having to control using a TV or Smartphone, neither of which I own (I like to remain a comfortable distance behind the cutting edge of technology!). I do own a laptop, but the thought of having to control the music player with another device just sounds like a step too far.

It is also a very 'bitty' set up, and I would much rather have fewer components - so an android tablet that could handle the two usb connections (HDD/DAC) would be preferable. I still don't fully understand this "USB on the go" thing, but I'm guessing that it means that your device (tablet) needs to be able to act as both master (HDD) and slave (DAC output), is this right?

Do such tablets (with x2 USB ports) exist? I haven't been able to find one as yet.

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Thanks, the idea of a Raspberry pi running volumio got me thinking - apparently you can buy 10" touchscreens that work with that little gadget, so in theory it could look something like:

HDD=>Raspberry Pi + Touchscreen=>USB DAC=>Amp=>Speakers

This would avoid me having to control using a TV or Smartphone, neither of which I own (I like to remain a comfortable distance behind the cutting edge of technology!). I do own a laptop, but the thought of having to control the music player with another device just sounds like a step too far.

It is also a very 'bitty' set up, and I would much rather have fewer components - so an android tablet that could handle the two usb connections (HDD/DAC) would be preferable. I still don't fully understand this "USB on the go" thing, but I'm guessing that it means that your device (tablet) needs to be able to act as both master (HDD) and slave (DAC output), is this right?

Do such tablets (with x2 USB ports) exist? I haven't been able to find one as yet.

I'm behind the times with tablets so could be completely on the wrong track here, but why not use a USB hub? The signals would all probably go on the same bus anyway. I'd imagine you're more likely to run into problems with a lack of protocol to read from an external HDD, rather than the lack of physical ports.

You're only getting rid of, at best, one component here (screen + pc vs tablet) so I reckon the PC is a better option personally.

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Thanks, the idea of a Raspberry pi running volumio got me thinking - apparently you can buy 10" touchscreens that work with that little gadget, so in theory it could look something like:

HDD=>Raspberry Pi + Touchscreen=>USB DAC=>Amp=>Speakers

This would avoid me having to control using a TV or Smartphone, neither of which I own (I like to remain a comfortable distance behind the cutting edge of technology!). I do own a laptop, but the thought of having to control the music player with another device just sounds like a step too far.

It is also a very 'bitty' set up, and I would much rather have fewer components - so an android tablet that could handle the two usb connections (HDD/DAC) would be preferable. I still don't fully understand this "USB on the go" thing, but I'm guessing that it means that your device (tablet) needs to be able to act as both master (HDD) and slave (DAC output), is this right?

Do such tablets (with x2 USB ports) exist? I haven't been able to find one as yet.

You should be able to use a 4 port USB hub, but it seems it has to be powered. Moreover, any devices may need to be formatted to FAT32..

http://forums.androidcentral.com/samsung-galaxy-note-2/242976-note-2-otg-cable-usb-hub.html

usbotg.jpg

This gives you an idea on how it works...

post-16228-0-17494100-1407925150_thumb.jpg

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I do own a laptop, but the thought of having to control the music player with another device just sounds like a step too far.

Suggest not discounting it, I use Twonky beam to stream videos to TV via a Roku from an android phone, quite amazing it works, almost magical. A cheapo tablet seems excessive but could be cheaper than a half decent screen to attach (permanently) to your streamer. The more I look at jriver/Nuc, the more I think the added flexibility will be a better long term bet, maybe with SSD drive so all in one case apart from DAC.

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