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Linux Audio(philes) after Logitech

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Sat, 3 Nov 2012 13:22:47 -0300

[Summary from http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4736980 which contains some
useful alternative suggestions:

Logitech made hardware and software that allowed you to stream music from a
Linux computer to elsewhere in the house.  They have stopped making the
hardware and the software appears to be "decaying".

Forking and fixing the software sounds like the obvious short-term solution,
but it's not so easy - it's fairly opaque Perl, and despite various interested
people and an open bug report, nothing has happened so far.  Also, it's not a
good long-term solution, since the hardware will fail eventually, too (the
hardware was pretty dumb; a lot is done by the software/firmware).

The best alternative I have found is the Audio Engine D2. That works at a
lower level than the existing logitech devices - it looks like a USB sound
card to the computer.  That means that it works with a variety of different
music players (avoiding the trap I fell into with Logitech's software; on the
other hand, that also makes it less flexible).

One piece of context that may be missing is exactly what this hardware does /
did.  Typically in a "computer audiophile" setup music starts in a digital
file on a disk, is sent somewhere, converted from digitial to analogue,
amplified, and fed to a speaker.  What logitech did was the "send somewhere"
part (plus, optionally, conversion to analogue, and maybe more).  So you could
keep your music in one place, but listen to things elsewhere (or in multiple
places - maybe your main speakers in the living room; a headphone amp in the
bedroom; monitors in the office).  Effectively it was a "wireless digital
cable" (plus software router).

It was also useful that the Logitech devices could work with a purely digital
signal.  That let people use other (typically more expensive, better sounding)
hardware to do the digital to analogue conversion.]


Logitech recently closed its "Squeeze" line.  This used to contain various
hardware devices for streaming music across wifi - pretty much a low-cost
Sonus.  Now the entire product range has been replaced by a single "radio",
aiming at an audience more concerned with ease of use than flexibility or
audio quality - http://ue.logitech.com/en-us/home

(Detailed background at
http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?96188-New-Squeezebox-Radio;
another take at
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-33199_7-57519226-221/logitech-leaves-squeezebox-fans-wondering-whats-next/)


The software that Logitech developed in parallel with their devices, the
Logitech Media Server (previously "squeezeserver") was written in Perl with a
web interface, and used to run perfectly on a wide range of platforms
(including routers and Raspberry Pis!).  So Logitech was the "budget
audiophile" solution for many Linux users (including myself).

Now, while hardware like the Duet has been dropped, Logitech's software
support is continuing, in some sense (see background link above).  So perhaps
things are not so bad in the short term?  But there are already problems - the
latest OpenSuse (12.2) includes Perl 5.16, but the Logitech software only
works with 5.14 (bug report -
http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=17985).  And it's hard to believe
that the company will continue to put effort into supporting hardware it no
longer sells.

So this is going to be a big deal for Linux audiophiles.  What will come next?


One option is to switch to Sonus.  But that is expensive, seems to have
stagnated and, I believe, has some weird limitations on the number of tracks
it will support.

Another option is to move towards one of the commerical uPNP solutions.  Many
companies, including "audiophile" companies are making media servers and
streamers and various other fancy boxes.  Various pieces of software on Linux
look like they would support streaming to uPNP (eg Amarok).

But the great thing about Logitech was that it was just one component in a
more flexible system.  It could be used as a "simple" a wireless, digital
signal, feeding digital output to a better DAC (although later Logitech DACs
had a decent reputation the earlier duets sounded pretty rough).

People like me (middle aged audio nerds!) typically already have amplifiers,
DACs, and a computer.  And what we want, I think, is a simpler alternative.
In particular, one that is a component at the hwrdware level, so that software
support issues are not such a big deal.


The solution, then, may be the AudioEngine D2.  At the hardware level this is
a USB audio device.  It will work with Linux (I am confident of this; I have
chatted with the company support and not only were they helpful, but they use
Linux internally).  And it does pretty much exactly what I want - it takes a
USB audio signal, sends it across wireless, and then produces the digitial
signal (or audio via what seems to be a decent DAC) at another, remote,
output.

I already own an AudioEngine D1, which is a DAC/headphone amp (see
http://acooke.org/cute/DACReviews0.html).  The build quality is excellent and
it has been completely reliable.  And the reviews for the D2 at
http://audioengineusa.com/Store/audioengine-d2-reviews look impressive.

I'm trying to get hold of one now.  The Chilean distributor may still have one
in stock...

Andrew

Update: D2 Review

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Sat, 10 Nov 2012 10:19:35 -0300

I just posted a review of the D2 at http://acooke.org/cute/AudioEngin0.html

Andrew

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