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Old 07-21-2008, 02:35 PM
"Stackpole, Chris"
 
Default Audiophile grade music server using several flavors of Debian

I am not very knowledgeable on this subject, but I have a few questions
if you don't mind. I am rolling my own entertainment system and learning
a lot as I do. So I have heard terms and of products but I am a far cry
from expert on them. :-D

The comments are interspersed within the body of the email.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Nick Lidakis [mailto:nlidakis@verizon.net]
> Sent: Saturday, July 19, 2008 2:37 PM
> To: debian-user@lists.debian.org
> Subject: OT: Audiophile grade music server using several flavors of
Debian
>
> Ron Johnson wrote:
> > -
> > Mark it [OT] and post away!
>
> Thanks...
>
> Just thought someone could benefit from this application, or I could
> receive some constructive criticism on some of choices I had made.
>
> I had been researching way to assemble an audiophile grade music
server
> since early last year for my dedicated listening room. There were
> several ready to go retail (Sonos, Slim Devices, McIntosh, etc.)
> solutions that were quickly dismissed because of price and/or their
> closed hardware/software nature. The server had to fit several
criteria:
>
> 1. open source, preferably Debian based (apt makes software easy to
> install and it's my desktop OS)
> 2. relatively low cost
> 3. audiophile grade (FLAC output via USB without any re-sampling
and/or
> conversion of the audio stream)
> 4. power efficiency (preferably below 10 watts)
> 5. absolute silence ( NO fans or disk drives in the listening room)
> 6. ability to control music and play lists from the listening position
> with relative ease.
> 7. stability
>
> An article on the Linux Devices site was my rough blueprint for the
> server I wanted to put together:
> http://www.linuxdevices.com/articles/AT6488801276.html
> The author spent nearly $600 USD for a music server that uses the
> (cheap) on board audio of the mini-itx board as the output. That, and
a
> crude software hack for running Debian off a IDE flash drive. Not
cheap
> and definitely not audiophile grade.
>
> Because of my frustration (reboots and sucky firmware glitches) with
> cheap, mass consumer firewalls, I have been happily running Monowall
on
> a PC Engines WRAP board for the last 3 years with absolutely no
> downtime. I periodically check his website to look at his new wares
and
> was pleasantly surprised one day to see that he was offering a new
line
> of single board computers called ALIX. (
http://www.pcengines.ch/index.htm
> )
>
> There are several flavors, one of which caught my attention
immediately:
> The ALIX 3c2 (http://www.pcengines.ch/index.htm). A 500Mhz AMD Geode
CPU
> (fanless), 256MB RAM, 2 USB ports, 1 serial, 1 Ethernet, 2 mini PC-I
all
> on a board sized 100x1600mm. The whole thing runs off a small 12V, 18
> watt adapter. The boards are meant to be running as firewalls or WiFI
> bridges using either Monowall, pfsense, or other software meant to run
> off Compact Flash. One link on the PC Engines sight was for a
> distribution called Voyage Linux. http://linux.voyage.hk/
>
> Voyage Linux is basically Debian for embedded devices that run off of
CF
> cards as small as 128MB. It keeps apt, which would make the ALSA and
MPD
> installation a breeze. The Voyage Linux developers were kind enough to
> build a kernel with USB and ALSA modules, as they were not included in
> their current kernels.
>
> Software wise, I wanted: MPD on the server, FLAC files served to the
MPD
> server from the bedroom computer which would act as an NFS server, and
> an MPD client on some kind of Linux hand held to control it all. A
Nokia
> N800 running MMPC (http://mmpc.garage.maemo.org/) if I could find one
> used at a decent price.
>
> Putting it all together:
>
> 1 ALIX 3c2 with Voyage Linux running off a 512 MB CF card. (board
$125,
> enclosure $15, wall wart $10)
> Used Nokia N800 w/ latest Maemo OS 2008 and MMPC. (Craigslist, mint
> condition, $100)
> NFS running on the bedroom computer where all the FLAC files are
ripped
> with Grip. (apt-get install, $0)
> Used Linksys WRT54G wireless router. (Craigslist, line new, $20)
> Items already on hand: 1 gig compact flash card.

If I understand right, the Nokia is how you control the hardware. My
question is what mpd client do you use on the Nokia to control the
software? Do you use it to create and keep multiple playlists? Or is the
adding and creation of playlists done on the PC that rips to FLAC? Does
the Nokia support Album art as it displays the music? Lyrics? Is there
good support for sorting your music (eg, more then just artist/album)?

Does this control sound volume as well? Or do you have multiple remotes?
I already have seven remotes for all of my tv/music as is. I am also
curious as to if the Nokia allows me to get rid of a few remotes, or if
it just adds more remotes to confuse my guests. :-)

To shrink my remote collection, I was personally looking into the
Logitech Harmony 1000 (
http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/remotes/universal_remotes/devices/373&
cl=us,en ) but I wasn't able to find much information on people using it
with Linux (I am sure my standard devices [TV,Wii,DVD,ect] would work,
but not sure about MythTV or any of my other Linux systems). I really
like the display and ease of use. The Logitech rep I talked to did say
that they were going to be releasing a newer version in the next few
months (no release date). He said that he didn't know if it would work
with Linux or not, but that it would have more support for accessing
wireless devices over standard connection frequencies and he didn't see
why it wouldn't over those standard frequencies. If anyone has any
comments, I would be glad to hear them (though if you say "It sucks" I
would like to hear why you think so ). I am also open to any comments
about using the Nokia as the OP does.


>
> Total: $270. Still cheaper than any of Slim Devices products; none of
> which have USB audio out.
>
> The ALIX sits on a rack and is dead silent. It's fed via CAT 5 that
runs
> from the listening room to the bedroom switch. My Kill-A-Watt
registers
> 3 watts max consumption when the ALIX is playing FLAC files; top shows
> ~%8 CPU. FLAC output is via USB, which is plugged into a Trends Audio
> USB-to-S/PDIF converter. The trends is plugged into a Adcom GDA-700
DAC.

This is the product on the Trends website that I found
(http://www.trendsaudio.com/EN/Product/USB_Audio_desc.htm ), and you
said you use the Adcom which I believe is an optical-to-analog
converter. So if I understand right (that may be a big if) you are going
digital(usb) to optical (Trends) to Analog (Adcom). Why? Why not just go
from Trends directly to speakers? What am I missing?

>
> The Nokia N800 connects to the Linksys WRT54G, which accesses the ALIX
> on the LAN via a dedicated port. I can manipulate MMPC using either my
> finger or the stylus. Changing songs or play lists is instantaneous.
> Even though MMPC is at version .1, I've only had it crash once in the
> six months I have had the server up an running. The ALIX, with Voyage
> Linux, has had uptimes of months without any issues.
>
> Installing MPD and ALSA on voyage was as simple as making the CF disk
> writable with the command remountrw. Then apt-getting mpd and
alsa-base,
> configuring mpd.conf, and fstab with the NFS partitons, and re-setting
> the file system to read only with the command remountro. All the MPD
> configuration files, play lists, and state files are stored on the NFS
> disk; obviating any need to write to the CF card.
>
>
> My only installation issues were partitioning the compact flash for
> Voyage Linux. GRUB refused to boot unless the partition was 512MB or
> less. Don't know why.

You went with the CF route, which to me seems much more difficult then
just using a thumbdrive. Maybe it is just me, but it is hard to beat the
price/space/ease of just buying a multi-GB thumbdrive. The Debian Live
project makes rolling-your-own-thumbdrive distro incredibly easy. Does
the ALIX 3c2 not support booting off of a thumbdrive? Or did you just
really want to use the CF?


>
>
> Hope it wasn't too long of an OT post...
>
> Nick

Hope I didn't ask too many obvious/dumb questions...
:-D

Have fun with your new setup! Congrats!
Chris Stackpole


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Old 07-22-2008, 04:56 AM
Nick Lidakis
 
Default Audiophile grade music server using several flavors of Debian

Stackpole, Chris wrote:

I am not very knowledgeable on this subject, but I have a few questions
if you don't mind. I am rolling my own entertainment system and learning
a lot as I do. So I have heard terms and of products but I am a far cry
from expert on them. :-D

The comments are interspersed within the body of the email.



If I understand right, the Nokia is how you control the hardware. My
question is what mpd client do you use on the Nokia to control the
software? Do you use it to create and keep multiple playlists? Or is the
adding and creation of playlists done on the PC that rips to FLAC? Does
the Nokia support Album art as it displays the music? Lyrics? Is there
good support for sorting your music (eg, more then just artist/album)?


The Nokia MPD client is MMPC. http://mmpc.garage.maemo.org/
Like I mentioned earlier, it's a one man effort and it's at version 0.1.
Currently I can create playlists, browse songs by artists, file system.
There is no support currently for lyrics or album covers, but it's planned.


You can have several MPD clients connected at once. I usually have gmpc
running on the bedroom computer, and mmpc on the Nokia N800. If I'm
putting together some complex playlist I'll just walk over to the
bedroom and use the much more efficent mouse and keyboard, walk back to
the couch in the isteing room and manipulate the play list from the
Nokia. It's this kind of flexibility that made me eschew the other
commercial offerings. And with these new UMPC Linux devices getting
smaller, I'll probably be able to run a full distro with gmpc (or any
other of the more full featured MPD clients) on of those things in the
future.


Another very interesting option might be using an Apple iPod touch or
iPhone. There's at least one guy I know that has written an MPD client
for those devices: http://www.katoemba.net/makesnosenseatall/index.php/mpod/




Does this control sound volume as well? Or do you have multiple remotes?
I already have seven remotes for all of my tv/music as is. I am also
curious as to if the Nokia allows me to get rid of a few remotes, or if
it just adds more remotes to confuse my guests. :-)


You have several options here; pros and cons for both. The Trends Audio
UD-10 uses the Burr Brown PCM2704 chip. It's a double duty device:
mid-range DAC and a USB to S/PDIF converter. I use it in the latter
category, so there is no volume control of the S/PDIF signal. If you use
it as your main DAC (using its analog ouput) you can control the volume
using any MPD client, but your throwing bits away in the digital domain,
and the lower the volume the more bits being tossed.


I use the volume on my Pass Labs Aleph L analog pre-amp (non-remote
controlled).




To shrink my remote collection, I was personally looking into the
Logitech Harmony 1000 (
http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/remotes/universal_remotes/devices/373&
cl=us,en ) but I wasn't able to find much information on people using it
with Linux (I am sure my standard devices [TV,Wii,DVD,ect] would work,
but not sure about MythTV or any of my other Linux systems). I really
like the display and ease of use. The Logitech rep I talked to did say
that they were going to be releasing a newer version in the next few
months (no release date). He said that he didn't know if it would work
with Linux or not, but that it would have more support for accessing
wireless devices over standard connection frequencies and he didn't see
why it wouldn't over those standard frequencies. If anyone has any
comments, I would be glad to hear them (though if you say "It sucks" I
would like to hear why you think so ). I am also open to any comments
about using the Nokia as the OP does.


From what I understand, those remotes have to be programmed in Windows.
There is no Linux support. The Nokia does not have any IR, so you can't
use it to control any those devices.




This is the product on the Trends website that I found
(http://www.trendsaudio.com/EN/Product/USB_Audio_desc.htm ), and you
said you use the Adcom which I believe is an optical-to-analog
converter. So if I understand right (that may be a big if) you are going
digital(usb) to optical (Trends) to Analog (Adcom). Why? Why not just go
from Trends directly to speakers? What am I missing?


The Adcom DAC is a digital to analog converter. Before putting the ALIX
server together the Adcom was fed by a Theta Data Basic CD transport.
It's known as having digital separates. The Theta just reads the bits
and output them in in S/PDIF, Toslink (optical), or even AT&T glass
fiber to the DAC. The DAC converts that to an analog waveform; something
a preamp or amplifier can handle. If you've ever bought a CD player,
you're basically getting a CD transport and a DAC in one box; the output
being analog and connecting to an amp or headphones. My Adcom DAC (circa
1999) has inputs for S/PDIF, Toslink (optical), and digital AES/EBU. I
needed a way to get the FLAC files from the USB out of the ALIX fed into
the DAC, and the Trends UD-10 allows me to do that. The setup is:


ALIX USB to USB input of Trends USB. Trends S/PDIF output to input of
Adcom S/PDIF input. Adcom analog line leel out to my preamp. Preamp to
amp. Amp to speakers.


There are several mid-range and high end DAC designers that have
realized that CD transports/players are becoming obsolete with the
advent of digital music players and HUGE hard disks. These new DAC's
come with nifty USB inputs to accept FLAC, WAV, mp3, aac, and mp4
natively. The Benchmark DAC-1 USB (http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac1/)
is something I'm looking into as a DAC with a dedicated USB input. It
also has inputs for S/PDIF and optical as well. Purchasing a DAC like
the Benchmark would obviate the need for the Trends UD-10 converter.



You went with the CF route, which to me seems much more difficult then
just using a thumbdrive. Maybe it is just me, but it is hard to beat the
price/space/ease of just buying a multi-GB thumbdrive. The Debian Live
project makes rolling-your-own-thumbdrive distro incredibly easy. Does
the ALIX 3c2 not support booting off of a thumbdrive? Or did you just
really want to use the CF?



The ALIX supports CF on board, and I had a spare CF card laying around.
I never investigated a thumb drive installation. I gravitated towards
Voyage Linux because a) it was Debian based, b) i could apt-get almost
any package, c) the whole OS runs in a read only mode minimizing writes
to the CF card, and d) they specifically support the hardware on the
ALIX boards. It was a no brainer.




Hope I didn't ask too many obvious/dumb questions...
:-D


Not at all.



Have fun with your new setup! Congrats!
Chris Stackpole


Thanks. The Trends UD-10/ALIX combo actually sounds better than the
Theta Data Basic transport. Something I was not expecting. Don't know if
it's because of lower jitter or whatnot...



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Old 07-22-2008, 01:01 PM
"Stackpole, Chris"
 
Default Audiophile grade music server using several flavors of Debian

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Nick Lidakis [mailto:nlidakis@verizon.net]
> Sent: Monday, July 21, 2008 11:56 PM
> To: debian-user@lists.debian.org
> Subject: Re: Audiophile grade music server using several flavors of
Debian
>
> Stackpole, Chris wrote:
> > I am not very knowledgeable on this subject, but I have a few
questions
> > if you don't mind. I am rolling my own entertainment system and
learning
> > a lot as I do. So I have heard terms and of products but I am a far
cry
> > from expert on them. :-D
> >
> > The comments are interspersed within the body of the email.
> >
> >
> >
> > If I understand right, the Nokia is how you control the hardware. My
> > question is what mpd client do you use on the Nokia to control the
> > software? Do you use it to create and keep multiple playlists? Or is
the
> > adding and creation of playlists done on the PC that rips to FLAC?
Does
> > the Nokia support Album art as it displays the music? Lyrics? Is
there
> > good support for sorting your music (eg, more then just
artist/album)?
>
> The Nokia MPD client is MMPC. http://mmpc.garage.maemo.org/
> Like I mentioned earlier, it's a one man effort and it's at version
0.1.
> Currently I can create playlists, browse songs by artists, file
system.
> There is no support currently for lyrics or album covers, but it's
> planned.
>
> You can have several MPD clients connected at once. I usually have
gmpc
> running on the bedroom computer, and mmpc on the Nokia N800. If I'm
> putting together some complex playlist I'll just walk over to the
> bedroom and use the much more efficent mouse and keyboard, walk back
to
> the couch in the isteing room and manipulate the play list from the
> Nokia. It's this kind of flexibility that made me eschew the other
> commercial offerings. And with these new UMPC Linux devices getting
> smaller, I'll probably be able to run a full distro with gmpc (or any
> other of the more full featured MPD clients) on of those things in the
> future.
>
> Another very interesting option might be using an Apple iPod touch or
> iPhone. There's at least one guy I know that has written an MPD client
> for those devices:
> http://www.katoemba.net/makesnosenseatall/index.php/mpod/
>
>
> > Does this control sound volume as well? Or do you have multiple
remotes?
> > I already have seven remotes for all of my tv/music as is. I am also
> > curious as to if the Nokia allows me to get rid of a few remotes, or
if
> > it just adds more remotes to confuse my guests. :-)
>
> You have several options here; pros and cons for both. The Trends
Audio
> UD-10 uses the Burr Brown PCM2704 chip. It's a double duty device:
> mid-range DAC and a USB to S/PDIF converter. I use it in the latter
> category, so there is no volume control of the S/PDIF signal. If you
use
> it as your main DAC (using its analog ouput) you can control the
volume
> using any MPD client, but your throwing bits away in the digital
domain,
> and the lower the volume the more bits being tossed.
>
> I use the volume on my Pass Labs Aleph L analog pre-amp (non-remote
> controlled).
>
>
> > To shrink my remote collection, I was personally looking into the
> > Logitech Harmony 1000 (
> >
http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/remotes/universal_remotes/devices/373&
> > cl=us,en ) but I wasn't able to find much information on people
using it
> > with Linux (I am sure my standard devices [TV,Wii,DVD,ect] would
work,
> > but not sure about MythTV or any of my other Linux systems). I
really
> > like the display and ease of use. The Logitech rep I talked to did
say
> > that they were going to be releasing a newer version in the next few
> > months (no release date). He said that he didn't know if it would
work
> > with Linux or not, but that it would have more support for accessing
> > wireless devices over standard connection frequencies and he didn't
see
> > why it wouldn't over those standard frequencies. If anyone has any
> > comments, I would be glad to hear them (though if you say "It sucks"
I
> > would like to hear why you think so ). I am also open to any
comments
> > about using the Nokia as the OP does.
>
> From what I understand, those remotes have to be programmed in
Windows.
> There is no Linux support. The Nokia does not have any IR, so you
can't
> use it to control any those devices.
>
>
> > This is the product on the Trends website that I found
> > (http://www.trendsaudio.com/EN/Product/USB_Audio_desc.htm ), and you
> > said you use the Adcom which I believe is an optical-to-analog
> > converter. So if I understand right (that may be a big if) you are
going
> > digital(usb) to optical (Trends) to Analog (Adcom). Why? Why not
just go
> > from Trends directly to speakers? What am I missing?
>
> The Adcom DAC is a digital to analog converter. Before putting the
ALIX
> server together the Adcom was fed by a Theta Data Basic CD transport.
> It's known as having digital separates. The Theta just reads the bits
> and output them in in S/PDIF, Toslink (optical), or even AT&T glass
> fiber to the DAC. The DAC converts that to an analog waveform;
something
> a preamp or amplifier can handle. If you've ever bought a CD player,
> you're basically getting a CD transport and a DAC in one box; the
output
> being analog and connecting to an amp or headphones. My Adcom DAC
(circa
> 1999) has inputs for S/PDIF, Toslink (optical), and digital AES/EBU. I
> needed a way to get the FLAC files from the USB out of the ALIX fed
into
> the DAC, and the Trends UD-10 allows me to do that. The setup is:
>
> ALIX USB to USB input of Trends USB. Trends S/PDIF output to input of
> Adcom S/PDIF input. Adcom analog line leel out to my preamp. Preamp to
> amp. Amp to speakers.
>
> There are several mid-range and high end DAC designers that have
> realized that CD transports/players are becoming obsolete with the
> advent of digital music players and HUGE hard disks. These new DAC's
> come with nifty USB inputs to accept FLAC, WAV, mp3, aac, and mp4
> natively. The Benchmark DAC-1 USB
(http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac1/)
> is something I'm looking into as a DAC with a dedicated USB input. It
> also has inputs for S/PDIF and optical as well. Purchasing a DAC like
> the Benchmark would obviate the need for the Trends UD-10 converter.
>
> > You went with the CF route, which to me seems much more difficult
then
> > just using a thumbdrive. Maybe it is just me, but it is hard to beat
the
> > price/space/ease of just buying a multi-GB thumbdrive. The Debian
Live
> > project makes rolling-your-own-thumbdrive distro incredibly easy.
Does
> > the ALIX 3c2 not support booting off of a thumbdrive? Or did you
just
> > really want to use the CF?
>
>
> The ALIX supports CF on board, and I had a spare CF card laying
around.
> I never investigated a thumb drive installation. I gravitated towards
> Voyage Linux because a) it was Debian based, b) i could apt-get almost
> any package, c) the whole OS runs in a read only mode minimizing
writes
> to the CF card, and d) they specifically support the hardware on the
> ALIX boards. It was a no brainer.
>
>
> > Hope I didn't ask too many obvious/dumb questions...
> > :-D
>
> Not at all.
>
>
> > Have fun with your new setup! Congrats!
> > Chris Stackpole
>
> Thanks. The Trends UD-10/ALIX combo actually sounds better than the
> Theta Data Basic transport. Something I was not expecting. Don't know
if
> it's because of lower jitter or whatnot...
>
>
> --
> To UNSUBSCRIBE, email to debian-user-REQUEST@lists.debian.org
> with a subject of "unsubscribe". Trouble? Contact
> listmaster@lists.debian.org
>


Thanks for the response! I have some research to do. :-D

Chris Stackpole


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