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Hardware

Hardware Review: Rio Receiver 231

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the send-all-your-toys-to-me dept.
Along with the Rio Central we reviewed here yesterday, SonicBlue sent us a Rio Receiver for review. This is a bare bones audio terminal: no local storage. Instead it feeds from either your windows PC, or from the Rio Central. It aims to let you put your tunes wherever you have HPNA or Ethernet. And unlike its expensive big brother, this thing is priced to reasonably for people who want either multizone audio, or just to stream audio from their PC to stereo.

Props to Robo for testing the Windows stuff for me, and CowboyNeal for testing it with the Rio Central. They wrote much of this review. I just cleaned it up and took credit for it.

The Rio Reciever doesn't bother with ripping CDs or creating MP3 files of its own, it streams them from either a Rio Central, or a Windows box with their software installed. Either method allows you to setup playlists which are then accessed from the Rio Reciever.

Hooking speakers up to the receiver is easy. It has bare wire outputs for going directly to speakers, RCA outputs for use in a stereo rack, and a plain old headphone out that's suitable for most powered PC speakers. That's a lot of outputs, but it means that it's easy to use in a variety of situations, which is exactly what you want out of a device like this.

The reciever can reach its source through either an HPNA jack, or an ethernet jack. Hooking up the Rio Reciever via ethernet was fairly simple, provided a compatible server is already on the same subnet. The receiver finds an available IP address- although it seemed to ignore our DHCP server and actually took our routers IP once! This isn't a fatal flaw, but you may wanna double check when you set this thing up to make sure you don't get any surprises.

The interface on the front of the box takes a little getting used to. Menu items are selected from menus by a large dial, and confirmed by pushing the dial. (which also functions as a large button) While compact, I found that all too often I'd accidentally push the dial in while trying to turn it. Eventually I had to give up and stick with the remote control which didn't have that problem.

Unfortunately, while the interface isn't bad, it's not great either. Given the sheer number of MP3s available to play, navigating through a huge list with just a dial isn't fun. If you've put the time into make playlists using either the Windows software or the Rio Central, then this is much easier. Of course you can search search on artist, album, genre, etc., but it gets more and more difficult as your MP3 collection gets larger.

The screen on the receiver leaves a lot to be desired. Unless it's at eye level at a distance of six feet or less, don't bother trying to read it. Luckily once the player is rolling, there's little reason to bother looking at it. When first installing, I got a neck ache from trying to read it while it sat on my desk, but once up and running, I became oblivious to it.

The Win98 software is very bare bones, but does what it's supposed to: import music. After installing the software and turning on the receiver, I was able to import both MP3 and WMA files.

The functionality of the Rio Receiver does not change between the Rio Central and a Win98 Machine, so for those who already own a windows PC, they can possibly save themselves the $1500 cost of a Rio Central. The Rio Receiver is priced around $170, and a couple discount places have already had them priced around $100, making it very feasible for the home audio enthusiast who has a large music collection on his computer to pop these small boxes around your home or office, letting you share your music wherever you want it.

The SliMP3 is less polished, but is fed with a simple perl program that streams audio. The Audiotron is fed with any Samba compatible server. In other words, either device can work with a Linux box. The Rio currently can't, but it is the only one that doesn't require an external amp to hook it up to speakers, making it the best choice for simple multizone applications. And it's priced a hundred bucks less!

All in all, this is a pretty neat device. I wish it had more ways to stream MP3s to it, since buying the costly Rio Central or converting my MP3 server to Windows aren't things I'd consider at this point, but for a lot of users I imagine the Windows software will be enough. Unlike many MP3 units, this one is priced reasonably. The variety of input and output options mean this thing can work for people who just want to get their MP3s into a stereo component, as well as for people wanting to create a nice multizone audio system in their house without needing a second mortgage.

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Hardware Review: Rio Receiver

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    there are lots of MP3 players around, but when are we going to get MP3 recorders a lá recordable portable minidisc?
    • Archos sells a 6 GB portable MP3 recorder [archos.com].
    • Already here.

      www.archos.com [archos.com]

    • you've been aboe to buy mp3 recorders for years now. Most all radio stations have nice hardware stream generators (recorder basically)

      The problem with a regular "recorder" per-se is that you can build one that is better, faster and cheaper with a PC and a turtle-beach santa-cruz soundcard than anything they could build for you in a nice looks-like-my-cdplayer package.

      basically, buy a black desktop pc, put a burner in it, a IR keyboard/mouse, video out card and have your recorder.
    • They already exist, for one thing. The problem I have with recording audio to MP3 or MiniDisc is that you start off with a lossy compressed format. Solid state recording is finally starting to come into fruition, with companies like Nagra (and even the new Nomad) offering harddisk-based portable units. I'd personally rather have the option of recording to PCM/WAV (at either 16 or 24 bit) and doing any compression (probably SHN) on the "master" copy later on. Storage is so cheap now that there's no reason not to at least record in uncompressed format.

      - A.P.
  • by sulli (195030)
    Now we're talking.

    I bet someone comes up with a way to get this thing to listen to linux, or shoutcast, or mac. I doubt it will be win only for long...

    • Re:$100 (Score:3, Informative)

      by cowboy junkie (35926)
      The Jreceiver [sourceforge.net] project takes care of the first two and this Perl server [mock.com] also fits the bill.
    • Re:$100 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ryanr (30917)
      Speaking of which, where can they be had for $100? I see $142 at Amazon (out of stock), and about $150-170 most other places.

      • Re:$100 (Score:3, Informative)

        by Splat (9175)
        Tigerdirect (whom aren't exactly known for great Customer Service - hell, they're reputation sucks) has had them for $100 for a few months now.
  • by albeit unknown (136964) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:52PM (#3163571)
    SonicBlue is made out of people!
  • Useful or useless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by moankey (142715)
    Reminds me of those things that are being sold as an email, file, firewall, server in a box. When actually all it is, is a computer with locked down limited use. Why would I need to hook up another device that requires my PC to work to begin with?
    • For one thing it can have a much better audio card than your PC and for the other it can be much quieter than a PC.

      Having said that, I have my laptop hooked up to my stereo and I grab MP3 files from my music server in the basement.

    • by dschuetz (10924) <.slash. .at. .david.dasnet.org.> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:05PM (#3163666) Homepage
      Why would I need to hook up another device that requires my PC to work to begin with?

      Because it takes up only like 8x10" of counter space in my kitchen, doesn't have a fan, and draws like 45mA when playing.

      Show me a good general purpose computer for $150 that'll do that and I'll drop the Rio in a heartbeat.
    • Very useful! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dimer0 (461593) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:09PM (#3163687)
      I have one of these mounted on the wall in my garage, with ethernet run out there and in-wall speakers. I'd definitely not want a computer and monitor out in my garage. This is perfect. The inboard amplifier is great, too!

      Definitely doesn't belong in a stero rack, though.. That's where the Audiotron is. Looks like a stereo component, and has optical audio out.

      And, the comment about how it requires a computer? Oh, I'm venturin' to guess that everyone on this site has a computer laying around. Comon.

    • In some cases, limited access *is* a feature as it keeps it simple and more dependable.
      Other pluses for the Rio:
      • Compact
      • Quiet
      • Low-power
      • Remote control
      • Output options - traditional stereo speakers, RCA jacks, headphones

      I used to use an old PC to serve the same purpose, but after I gave that away, I decided the Rio would be a simpler, cheap alternative.
  • how about a nice digital output? since we are talking about a digital medium.
  • On the site they list this as "Box Contents":
    # Windows 98, Windows 98SE, 2000, Millennium
    # Intel Pentium 200 MHz MMX or higher CPU
    # 32MB RAM
    # 16MB of available hard drive space
    # CD-ROM drive
    # PNA or Ethernet adapter for PC

    Wouldn't it be nice if they gave you a case to put all that stuff? And they give out a beefy harddrive if it has all those windows and 16 Megs to spare.
  • The official site has the following listed under Box Contents::
    • Windows 98, Windows 98SE, 2000, Millennium
    • Intel Pentium 200 MHz MMX or higher CPU
    • 32MB RAM
    • 16MB of available hard drive space
    • CD-ROM drive
    • PNA or Ethernet adapter for PC


    All that for $189? What a bargin!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:57PM (#3163609)
    here [mock.com]
  • Make me one that supports OGG files and I'll buy it.
    • Find someone who uses OGG and they'll make it.
      • Find someone who uses OGG and they'll make it.
        Actually, I believe there's a problem that OGG requires floating-point operations, and the system the receiver's built on only has integer stuff available.

        So, find someone who can write a fast FP OGG decoder and they'll make it might be more accurate.

        Plus, the jreceiver project's been experimenting with live streaming and transcoding, so you could maybe transcode an ogg file to very high bitrate mp3 at the server. Not for purists, I suppose, but would keep you from having to re-rip your library.
        • Look man, OGG is a great, but it came 4-5 years too late.

          Beta was superior to VHS for videotaping. Guess what? Most people these days have never heard of Beta.

          MP3's have mindshare and name recognition. MP3=Pirated_Music to the general public. This will remain so, in spite of the existance of WMV and OGG.

    • Write me a GPLed fixed-point OGG decoder optimized for ARM720T and I swear I'll give you, free of charge, an MP3 player that plays OGG.
    • The Rio Receiver plays OGG files just fine, if you use JReceiver. JReceiver has some "transcoders" to handle non-native audio formats like OGG, so it converts your OGG files to MP3 on the fly while streaming them to the Rio Reciever.

      If you don't like that, you can always hack the Rio Receiver software yourself to add an OGG player. The whole mounted filesystem is there for you to play with. You can replace the whole player with Ogg Vorbis if you like.
  • This will be modded Offtopic/Flamebait/Troll, but I'm just irked enough to post it anyway.

    Reviews are most helpful when they draw some kind of consistent conclusion; One sentence says "The interface isn't bad" but is followed by a whole paragraph about what a pain the interface is to use. So, which is it?

    Most of the article is more critical than complimentary, and yet the conclusion is "All in all, this is a pretty neat device." Feh.

    I'm glad I'm not paying to read posts like this ad-free.
    • i thought the parent post was an ad. it did not sound like they paid for it. and as you noted, it got the "pretty neat device" when the only real comments on usability (knob, windows only, requires pc) were somewhat negative.

      thanks OSDN.
  • by dschuetz (10924) <.slash. .at. .david.dasnet.org.> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:59PM (#3163629) Homepage
    The SliMP3 is less polished, but is fed with a simple perl program that streams audio. The Audiotron is fed with any Samba compatible server. In other words, either device can work with a Linux box. The Rio currently can't

    Okay, this is probably the 10th time there's been a story about the Rio Receiver, and in each and every one someone like me stands up to shout:

    There are open-source Linux servers for the Rio Receiver!!!

    Check out a simple perl/apache one by Jeff Mock at www.mock.com/receiver [mock.com],
    a more complex server that's built on java, jetty, struts, and the like at http://sourceforge.net/projects/jreceiver/ [sourceforge.net]. And be sure to check out the Rio discussion forum at http://rioreceiver.comms.net [comms.net].

    Sonic Blue engineers frequent that message board, and there's lots of open-source hacking going on, including line-out kernel hacks, integrated web and vnc servers, and the like.
    • The SliMP3 [slimdevices.com] is less polished

      It's been quite a while since Taco wrote his review [slashdot.org] of our SliMP3 product. The unit he tested was a hand-made prototype that I built in my garage!

      Since then, the product is definitely more polished. We've sold a few hundred, we now have a proper case for it, and we have nearly a dozen software developers working on it. [yahoo.com]

      If you're in the market for a network MP3 player, please check out the SliMP3. It is the ONLY completely open-source player, and the ONLY one to use a high quality vacuum fluorescent display instead of a tiny backlit LCD.

      If you have any questions about the product, I will answer them under this thread. Sorry for plugging my product after some else's review, but I really think you'll find the SliMP3 more interesting. :)

  • The Competition (Score:5, Informative)

    by bookguy (562708) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:00PM (#3163633)
    What would be really great would be if someone actually tested all the various computer to stereo devices that are now hitting the market and made some sense of their differences, both in terms of features and in terms of quality.

    There's, by my count:

    Rio Central & Rio Receiver (www.sonicblue.com)
    Audiotron(http://www.turtlebe ach.com/site/products /audiotron/)
    Lansonic Digital Audio Server (www.lansonic.com)
    Request Audio Requester (www.request.com)
    SliMP3 (www.slimdevices.com)
    Stereo-Link (www.stereo-link.com)
    Yamaha CAVIT (http://www.yamaha.com/yec/cavit/)

    No one has mentioned Request, Lansonic or Yamaha products, to my knowledge. Nor has anyone compared the sound quality output to that of, say, the SoundBlaster Audigy.

    This is clearly a burgeoning category, but I for one could use some help separating the winners from the losers.
    • Re:The Competition (Score:4, Informative)

      by dschuetz (10924) <.slash. .at. .david.dasnet.org.> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:46PM (#3163869) Homepage
      What would be really great would be if someone actually tested all the various computer to stereo devices that are now hitting the market and made some sense of their differences, both in terms of features and in terms of quality.

      I'll bite. Send me hardware, I'll post the complete review within 30 days of receiving all the components. :)

      Rio Central & Rio Receiver
      Discussed here, with plenty of misunderstandings. From what I've seen, it's the best so far.

      Audiotron
      Cool formfactor (more component-like). But all the playlist / music management happens on the local unit, not on the server. So whenever you update stuff, it's gotta re-parse your folders, rather than simply saying "show me all the artists you have," which is what the Rio does. Plus, if you lose power (like if you unplug it to move it around), it's got to re-scan everything, too.

      Lansonic Digital Audio Server
      Interesting, looks much cooler, but damn is it expensive. $700 for the DISKLESS unit? (the closest competitor to the Rio). On the other hand, the server's a little cheaper. The 950-series looks like it's trying to be the front-end for an in-wall multi-zone system, which actually is something I need personally (and haven't yet figured out how I'll do it). Looks like a high-end audience, but I'm not convinced that it's any better in quality (their space usage estimates assume 128kbps compression rates).

      Request Audio Requester
      I think I've seen this page before. Like Lansonic, I think they're targeting the built-in systems, so they're competing with multi-kilobuck installations and are probably priced accordingly. Seems to include line-in inputs to "rip" LPs and tapes.

      SliMP3
      Ubercool device. About the size of a SIMM, does what the Rio Receiver does, mostly. Hardware decompression, if I recall, so no chance (as opposed to slim chance) of ogg or other codec support. No amplifier. Designed and built by geeks, for geeks. When they upgrade it to have an optional on-screen display, downloadable menus, and MPEG-2 video support, I'll buy four of 'em for an in-house a/v system.

      Stereo-Link
      Eh. Takes music played from a regular PC, only via USB, and, er, outputs line out audio. Not clear if the decompression is happening in the box or in the computer. This doesn't really belong in this discussion...

      Yamaha CAVIT
      Eh. Looks like the same sort of thing as Stereo-Link, but maybe with an integrated amp? Again, not even the same category of product as the first five.

      So, to sum up, we've got Rio (server and client, proprietary but semi-opened protocols), Audiotron (client only, uses SMB), Lansonic and Request (high-end, expensive, very different target audience, probably closed protocols), and SliMP3 (receiver only, linux server, open everything).

      Recommendations:

      If you want something that looks at home in your stereo rack, and don't mind putting everything on a windows share (even on a linux box), use Audiotron.

      If you've got a linux server and want a really cool, geeky, high-tech sort of thing with a display you can read from Mars, get the SliMP3.

      If you want a more capable receiver, windows and linux server support, and an optional stereo-component-looking server, choose Rio, especially if you can find more of the $100 units (TigerDirect is apparently sold out now).

      ps -- I've got three Rios. Love 'em.

      • Re:The Competition (Score:3, Informative)

        by seanadams.com (463190)
        SliMP3
        Ubercool device. About the size of a SIMM,


        It's 8.5" wide, 2.5" tall, and 2" deep. Dunno what kind of SIMMs you're using. :)

        does what the Rio Receiver does, mostly

        Actually does a lot more:
        - clock display
        - groovy menu scrolling
        - search capability
        - way faster UI
        - easier setup
        - hackable
        - proxies to shoutcast, icecast, http, and live365 sources

        Hardware decompression, if I recall, so no chance (as opposed to slim chance) of ogg or other codec support.

        True, but we can transcode ogg to high bit rate MPEG. Yes, I know it's a hack, but it sounds just as good as the original ogg with HQ VBR.

        No amplifier.

        That's a feature! What use is a built-in 10W/channel amp, honestly?

        Designed and built by geeks, for geeks.

        Indeed. Also designed by Slashdot readers, for Slashdot readers. :)

        When they upgrade it to have an optional on-screen display, downloadable menus, and MPEG-2 video support, I'll buy four of 'em for an in-house a/v system.

        Video is a different story altogether. *way* more bandwidth, needs a powerful PVR-like head-end to serve the thin clients - very exepensive / limited market. We might do a video product in the not-too-distant future, but it won't look much like the SliMP3.
  • by EnVisiCrypt (178985) <groovetheoristNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:00PM (#3163637)
    It seems to me the the major price addition on these receivers is the processor. Why not do something like Sony's PCLink for their MD's (except this would use something with longer distance than USB) and feed audio, rather than MP3 data straight from the computer? That way, there is no interference with normal audio on the PC, yet the stream is processed to audio by your already purchased general purpose PC processor. It also allows for a bit more flexibility in file format support. I can't imagine these limited use processors/memory units have a lot of room for additional codec code.

    I imagine some sort of cheap PCI card broadcasting wirelessly to the "receiver". Plus, it would look better than stringing CAT-5 all over the house, since a lot of PC's are no where near the nice stereo equipment.
  • Blah blah blah (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by NiftyNews (537829)
    Translation: "Hey, I'm in the market for a free MP3 unit. Which one of you manufacturors will be the first one to shut me up by mailing me a free one? I promise to post all of your specs in the article for site's my massive audience!

  • by rbgaynor (537968) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:00PM (#3163640) Homepage
    Disney CEO Michael Eisner will appear before congress to argue that hpna/ethernet technology is only used for the illegal copy and distribution of copyrighted material and that the use of hpna/ethernet should be banned or heavily regulated. Eisner is also reportedly not happy with people humming the theme songs from Disney movies in public, but is not expected to propose any limitations on vocal cords at his appearance before congress.
  • I've been happy with my Rio Receiver for the most part, but the screen problem is a real drag, as it renders advanced remote functions practically useless at a distance. Also, on Win2K, trying to import large playlists has a tendency to crash the Rio application.

    But it's an easier sale now that the price point has started to drop a bit. When it was up near $300 it was harder to swallow.
  • You can run reasonable quality audio over about 30-50m of CAT5 and then solder phone jacks on the end and plug it into your stereo, or buy a cheap amplifier and be done with it.

    So what is the advantage of this box? Doesn't appear to have Remote control, and anyway, you could use remote control for your PC as it is.

    Great if you have the money, but my PC with DVD sends audio and video over about 20m of CAT5 and the Audio and Video quality are just fine thank you very much (using Composite signal from TV out card).
    • This is one of those things that just can't be explained to people who don't see the value in it. If you don't need a remote MP3 player, then you just don't need one and you can run long wires or FM transmitters, or whatever gives you "reasonable quality".

      But for me, the advantage to a real MP3 player is huge. The PC doesn't play the audio! It could be playing something completely different, or playing a game, while the audio plays elsewhere (in the livingroom). Or I could have different audio in each room with a Rio and no extra wire pairs.

      How far do you think you can run that unshielded wire before it picks up hum from nearby AC lines?

      In a pinch, I've run video over twisted pair too, but that doesn't mean I liked it. :)
  • by swordgeek (112599) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:02PM (#3163650) Journal
    I've noticed that as we get cooler and more portable technology, sound quality seems to be on the decline.

    MP3 sucks. Well maybe it doesn't suck, but it's a damned sight worse than CD audio, and let's not forget that CDs just barely encompass the resolution and frequency response that we can discern. There's bloody little headroom to muck about with on a CD without affecting the sound. Lossy compression (i.e. MP3 format) definitely qualifies, and definitely affects the sound.

    This is fine for portable systems, computer speakers, and so forth; However, I'm getting worried that MP3 and other similar formats will become dominant in the marketplace. We may see before long a world where it's pointless to get really excellent audio equipment, because the playback quality is severely limited by the format.
    • You're exactly right, and it's for that reason I don't think in the long run record companies really have to worry about mp3s.

      I have a good bit of money invested in my home and car stereo. The first time I tried playing a burned CD made from mp3s, I was deeply, deeply disapointed.

      The only real application I could see from something like this is to stream Internet radio. The quality is'nt that great, but a good stream is still on par with broadcast. Unfortunatly, I don't see any standard for choosing and selecting online stations.

      In the meantime, if I really want to listen to audio from my computer on my home stereo, 50 feet of moderate quality RCA style cable running out from my sound card is a lot cheaper.
      • Unfortunatly, I don't see any standard for choosing and selecting online stations.

        They have satellite radio subscription services. You can pick up satellite antennas/receivers for your car and some high end CD players/head units come satellite capable. Good for people who live in the sticks and don't like country music.

    • by guttentag (313541) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:59PM (#3163957) Journal
      let's not forget that CDs just barely encompass the resolution and frequency response that we can discern
      Barely \Bare"ly\, adv.
      1. Merely; only.
      2. he barely escaped.


      Let me get this straight: CDs encompass the resolution and frequency response that we can discern, but that's not enough for you? Why do you want CDs that can play music you can't hear?

      Perhaps I'm missing something here, but the only reasons that come to mind are:

      • You've been smoking an RIAA-certified dog-whistle crack pipe for too long
      • You are trying to turn your Discman into a sound-wave-based weapon
      • It would make a great companion for your infra red television
      I agree with you about the quality of MP3s, though, but toys like the Rio Receiver are hardly mainstream. I wouldn't worry too much about MP3s replacing CDs.
      • I said barely, and I meant it. I think you misunderstood my motives for the CD comment.

        CDs cover a frequency range of DC (theoretically) to 22.05kHz. Humans on average can hear 20Hz-20kHz when they're young, and the high frequencies drop off as we age. Notice that that's an average. Some people can hear 22kHz frequencies, which strains CD quality to the breaking point. Then there's resolution--16 bits is again right on the border.

        The point of these numbers though, is this: Any lossy compression on a CD-quality file will result in audible losses. If you had a 40-bit 100kHz frequency response on CDs, then you could grind them down into (large!) MP3s without worrying about losing detectible information. As it is, we're chopping away at a format (CD audio) that can't afford any chopping away, and in a few years when CDs go the way of the dinosaur, is their replacement going to be worse? It sure looks like it from my end.
      • I've had to have one of tjhose damned sonic motion sensors disabled in one office already. It was disabled by the tech using a sharp pointed pencil jammed into the snout of the device. When I asked him if that was a "standard" fix he replied that yes, it was! Apparently I'm not the only one who's heard the damned things and while the tech couldn't hear them himself he assured me that this fix has ALWAYS worked :-)

        Out of an office of about 30 people only two of us could hear the silly thing. It gave me massive headaches until we could figure out what the heck was going on. So yeah, there could be something in the higher or maybe lower ranges of a recording that some of us might find valuable. :-P

        Hrm, and when I burn a decently ripped MP3 to a CD, as in one I'VE ripped, it generally comes out pretty good. Others have come out crappy I'll admit but the ones I've taken care to do mostly right sound decent with no really apparent screwups. We'll see hwo this goes when I get my alpine MP3 player installed in the dash and I no longer have to convert the MP3 back to CD format...
    • MP3 sucks. Well maybe it doesn't suck, but it's a damned sight worse than CD audio, and let's not forget that CDs just barely encompass the resolution and frequency response that we can discern.

      Good; I agree. Keep telling this to the RIAA until they get the message that MP3 file sharing is not, in fact, a total threat to their business.

      However, for most folks, MP3 is Good Enough. It doesn't contain all the sound, no, but it makes up for it by giving you the power to store all your favorite songs on a single hard drive instead of needing to spring for a 300-CD jukebox for your stereo. Plus it's easier to navigate and program playlists on MP3 jukebox software, using your keyboard and mouse.

      If you really think that sound quality is the only thing consumers are interested, you haven't been paying attention. If you can increase convenience by a factor of ten, while decreasing quality by a mere 10%, most people would consider that a spectacular trade-off.
    • by Cryptnotic (154382) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @04:24PM (#3164101) Homepage
      So use FLAC.

      http://flac.sourceforge.net/

      Porting the flac player to the Rio Receiver should be fairly straightforward, since there is a linux player and the Rio Receiver runs Linux. I'd be suprised if someone hasn't done it already.

    • I wouldn't worry too much if I were you. Not much will be lost, really. 90 percent of what constitutes music these days is a hack job done on antiquated ADAT or harddisk recorders by engineers who've pretty much forgotten the fine old art of miking things. Then it gets slammed through some extremely damaging compressor presets to 'make it as loud as possible' repeatedly.

      MP3-ing this kind of music doesn't make it sound any worse than it already does.

      Old music, you say? Well, maybe 'tube (pre)amps have warmth' and 'tape saturation makes instruments sink into the mix in a pleasant fashion', but analog technology also has the drawback of introducing a lot of signal distortion and noise 'true audiophiles' probably aren't interested in. I'll grant you, however, that MP3 encoding isn't terribly nice to such material.

      On a positive note, the techniques (or factory presets) sound engineers use are geared towards optimizing the output for whatever the material is most likely to be played on. So if MP3s become the norm, expect music to be produced specifically for this format. You're right: this does make 'really excellent audio equipment pointless', but no more pointless than it is now, with music being produced in such a way that it sounds good on tv or FM radio.
  • If you've got a laptop running Windows or Linux, get a wireless card and a wireless router/Access Point, set up your desktop as a samba server and you've achieved the same thing. Additional benefit is you can use the laptop to ssh or check e-mail. :)
  • WMA problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by sulli (195030) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:04PM (#3163659) Journal
    Did you see this? from the faq?

    (24311)Selected WMA tracks aren't being added to the Receiver.
    WMA files can have built in file protection. This allows distributors to add features such as expiration dates to the downloaded files. If one or more WMA tracks are not added correctly when you Import Music, this is most likely caused by a limitation of the file. Try playing the files in question on the server, with any normal WMA music player. If the track will not play on the server computer. Contact the distributor for more information on playing these files. If you have playback permissions or are using an unprotected WMA file, you should not experience this issue.

    Interesting that they have to explain this to their users. Here DRM acting "normally" is perceived as a problem by users and techsupport. After users experience this once, will they switch from MP3 to WMA? I don't think so.

  • by ChicoLance (318143) <lance@orner.net> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:04PM (#3163660)
    Another alternative for MP3's that I don't see mentioned often:

    Ramsey Electronics [ramseyelectronics.com] has an FM transmitter which plugs in nicely to your computer. Then, any radio around the house can pick up your MP3s, including the main radio, and the headphone radio you have when you mow the lawn.

    The only catch is that this transmitter is sold as a kit of parts, and you must solder the thing together. This makes it a "homebrew" radio which is legal to transmit onto the FM band. It works great around the house.
    • I suppose that's fine if you like the quality and dynamic range of FM Radio. Blech! It's bad enough going from true CD Quality to MP3, but to snuff it further to FM bandwidth, that's sacrilege.

      Besides, if you buy any of the lower-end FM transmitter kits, they use lousy tuning circuits that need to be constantly adjusted to stay on frequency. And they're woefully underpowered. Just walking around the room will detune them or cut your signal. Give me real copper wire anyway.
    • This makes it a "homebrew" radio which is legal to transmit onto the FM band. It works great around the house.

      There are plenty of pre-made FM transceivers on the market, even Radio Shack sells one. They are also often used in car stereos not equipped with RCA outputs, for the use of hooking up CD changers and the like. Broadcasting on any band is legal, so long as it doesn't go beyond a certain range (I've never seen one do more than 20 or 30 feet).

      • You're underestimating this transmitter. I've got the $30 model that doesn't have PLL tuning, and I've never had it drift significantly in frequency on me. It will also transmit about 1/4 mile away, and the signal is bright and strong, and doesn't get "blocked" by simply walking in front of it. The higher one with PLL turning is "locked" and will not drift.

        I've got several friends who have this also, and it really is the only way to go.
    • Actually, you don't need extra hardware at all, you can use your monitor as an AM transmitter:

      Tempest for Eliza [erikyyy.de]

      Ok, the sound quality is lousy, but...
  • by markj02 (544487) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:04PM (#3163664)
    I don't get it. Why don't people who manufacture these devices document the protocol and put it up on the web? They'd have Linux and MacOS support within days.
  • You can find 802.11 desktop wireless cards [pricewatch.com] on pricewatch [pricewatch.com] for less than $40 now. It seems that they could have put this feature in at a small cost to them. And streaming mp3s at 2.5Mb/s is more than enough bandwidth. If i'm going to use these for multizone audio as the article suggests, I sure as heck don't want to wire them all with CAT5 around my house.
  • by Dr. Ion (169741) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:10PM (#3163696)
    My Rio Receiver works great, and I've never run the Windows software. The Rio Receiver is one of the best values around for remote networked MP3 players. At its core, the Rio Receiver (aka Sonic Blue) is an ARM7 processor running Linux.

    With a little work, you can get it to boot from a Linux server and mount its filesystem over NFS. (This is what the Windows software does, more or less.) The entire filesystem is in the "receiver.arf" tar file that comes with the software.

    The most well-known Rio server hack for Linux was put together by Jeff Mock and available from his webpage [mock.com]. If you're reasonably familiar with setting up remote-booting machines, the Rio should not be much of a challenge. Jeff wrote a small perl daemon to handle the unique boot sequence for the Rio, and a larger set of scripts to serve up the MP3 files.

    After using Jeff's fine server for a while, I found I wanted something with better MP3 management and playlist support. That's when I found the JReceiver Project [sourceforge.net]. This software rocks! It's a royal PITA to set up if you're not a Java programmer, but it does quite a bit. It's a full SQL front-end for your MP3 content, so playlists can be dynamic from SQL expressions ("I want all new ROCK songs added in the last 14 DAYS that are not by CREED"). And of course, it serves the Rio directly. It will also handle the booting if you want to boot Rio from the same Linux machine that runs JReceiver.

    Last, Frank van Gestel put together a terrific modification to the Rio Receiver filesystem that adds a local http server to the receiver box itself. This serves up the exact front-panel display to a web browser, and you can operate all the controls remotely over the network. Now you can get a clear view of the Receiver screen without being right in front of it. Further, it will let you control the line-level volume output as well as the speaker output (a shortcoming of the original kernel). You can get the patch files in this thread [comms.net]

    Lots of intelligent discussion on the Rio boxes at rioreceiver.comms.net [comms.net]

    All in all, this is the best networked MP3 player going for under $100. Audiotron is nice, but this is cheaper and far more hackable. Runs Linux, boots from Linux, built-in ethernet, and has no fan or hard drive.

    The only disappointment is that it has no digital audio (SPDIF) output. No coax, no optical.. line level only. Ah well, MP3's aren't exactly hifi anyway.

    Enjoy!
    • I've been using Jeff's rioserve for a month or so and have sent him some updates. You might want to check back for these (and probably other people's) updates.
      1. Configuration is now in config.pl, not spread into multiple files.
      2. The home page now lets you list bu title, artist, album, or genre, not just by title
      3. There is now an 'edit' page which is what you get taken to by default when you click on a song. 4. You can edit any of the fields and it updates both the database and the MP3 file itself, if you have write permission and mp3info executable installed (I used mp3info-0.8.4-2)
      4. Instructions now include specific step-by-step directions for Apache, NFS, DHCP, and SSDP configuration.
  • I've found that a cheap FM transmitter coupled with a regular PC makes a great music delivery device. Ramsey Electronics [ramseyelectronics.com], among other companies, make a variety of FM transmitters that can take the sound output from your computer, and locally broadcast it to any radio or stereo you have. You don't need any other special equiment, get your favorite mp3 playing app on whatever OS you prefer and you're ready to go. The quality isn't anything to write home about, but for the price and the ability to use all your existing equipment, I think it makes a great choice. Just think, you can "stream" to your clock-radio in your bedroom!
  • but can it stream off a shoutcast server? I recently setup a shoutcast server along with a web interface to let someone pick the songs that play on it remotely from the web, is there a player like that that i can just point at my stream and have it play?
  • Internet Radio ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zykem (266628)
    Hey, how about internet radio? when will the first linux hack come out and hopefully with internet radio and mp3 recording....
  • Too bad... (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Refrag (145266)
    It's too bad the thing is so ugly no one would ever want to put it in their living room next to the rest of their stereo equipment.
  • I can pay $100 for the rio, but a $150 is a little steep for me. Where can you get it for $100.
  • I didn't recognize the acronym, so here's a link for others who might not: HPNA [webopedia.com]
  • The review states that discount places are selling these for $100. I've searched for the last half hour and I've found nothing close to that price. $99 would be a perfect price point for something like this. I would like to buy 3, but at a $170 I'll buy some cheap compact stereos instead.
  • Next question ... can it stream uncompressed audio. I have a large collection of lossless .shn files. Can this unit receive an uncompressed stream, or is it restricted to receiving MP3s and WMAs?

    Presumably I'd have to do some hacking to jreceiver or the like in order to decode the .shns, but what I'm really interested in is whether the player can accept an uncompressed stream. It would be pointless to take my nice, lossless files, and convert them to lossy .mp3 format just to listen to them.
  • Ogg Vorbis Support? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pmcneill (146350) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:35PM (#3163817)
    On this page on the Rio Receiver [sonicblue.com], it says it is "Upgradeable to support future audio formats". Has anyone made one of these work with an Ogg Vorbis codec?
  • At $170 bucks I think it's overpriced. Pick up a virgin webplayer or other hackable "network appliance" from a failed startup for $30 and staple an old hard drive to it and you have a much more versatile system for a lot less money.


  • This sounds like the perfect thing to use to listen to your streamsicle server, check out the link in the sig.
  • It would be nice... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swordboy (472941) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:38PM (#3163825) Journal
    The funny part is that most entry level processor / media solutions these days have enough power to do more than just a couple tasks. The problem is that vendors *want* to offer a tiered product line for the sake of maximizing revenue/income.

    Take a look at VIA's new mini-ITX reference board [via.com.tw]. It is only 170mm square and they claim fanless operation with minimal power consumption. Target price is under $100 including processor. If a talented *someone* could sit down with linux and design a quality open solution for Mp3 devices, then it wouldn't be long before others add TV time-shifting, DVD, HDTV and possibly even gaming (in the future, near 3D will be plenty cheap), then consumers would have an option other than the standard-issue MS product that will eventually fill the market. You think that Sony can afford to put millions into playstation developement when all that MS has to do is reach into the PC parts bin? Playstation will be dead or X86-based real soon. The economies of scale just don't favor non-x86 anymore.

    My prediction:

    The various/uncollaborated open source projects will sit in alpha and beta stages while Microsoft toils away at a mediocre standard that works at the consumer's expense of an increased stranglehold. They've already started [microsoft.com]. Soon, they will expand their technologies to the automobile [microsoft.com] and soon everyone will have a car capable of communicating wirelessly with their Windows household. Your car's GPS will track every aspect of its life. Was/is little Billy speeding? What was my fuel mileage on the vacation last summer? How did it compare with this summer's vacation? Ah - the car is due for an oil change. I'll just find a local provider via the provided MS software and the map will be uploaded into the car's navigation system. Microsoft gets a small percentage of the oil change cost, of course. What about road hazzards? The ABS & GPS systems in the car could warn others of potentially slippery roads. Airbag go off? Warn others and call for an ambulance. Linux *could* do this but it won't because MS will establish themselves before it happens. Enough about the cars...

    My point is that while the linux community toils away at various different projects, they haven't a single focused effort in the new areas that will allow MS to continue their world domination. Back to the MP3 player:

    So what's the deal? Why can't some talented (not me or I would have done it) entity come up with a stripped down, lightweight, open version of Linux for the purpose of having an open-standard for consumers? Sure - their isn't much money in it but it *has to* happen if MS is to be toppled. It would seem like VIA would put some money into LinuxBIOS for their new mini-ITX form factor - they could sell processors for financial gain and subsidize this development. Soon, people would be piecing together their own DVD/MP3/DivX media players - and VIA would have a piece of the action. The pieces are all there but nobody ever bothers to try and put them together...

    Sigh...
  • How about... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Emil Brink (69213) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:38PM (#3163827) Homepage
    Am I completely mistaken, or is there no device with the following features:
    • Small form factor
    • No fan
    • 10/100 Ethernet jack
    • Built-in amplifier
    • Plenty of analog (and digital) audio outputs
    ...that just listens to (unicast or broadcast) raw audio packets, sent over UDP, and converts them to analog, amplifies suitably, and emits them through analog outputs? Sure, it would waste more bandwidth than streaming and buffering a compressed stream, but it would, as I see it, have the following things going for it:
    • Very simple on-board software; no codedcs required
    • Automatically future-proof: if your computer can decode and transmit it, you'll hear it
    • Fairly low hardware requirements, no signal processing
    • Simple interface; a volume knob might be all you need.
    It seems to me such a device could be useful... Oh, and about the bandwidth: a full CD-quality stream is, as everyone knows, roughly 170 KB/s, or 1.6 Mbps. On a 10 Mbps net, that's rather heavy, but on a 100 Mbps LAN, I wouldn't care much. I mean, it's only for internal LAN use, afterall. So, am I nuts, or would such a box (which I imagine could be produced in the $50-$60 range) be good for anything? Is it already out there, and I've just missed it?
    • Am I completely mistaken, or is there no device with the following features:
      • Small form factor
      • No fan
      • 10/100 Ethernet jack
      • Built-in amplifier
      • Plenty of analog (and digital) audio outputs

      ...that just listens to (unicast or broadcast) raw audio packets, sent over UDP, and converts them to analog, amplifies suitably, and emits them through analog outputs?

      Actually yes. It's the Rio Receiver. I've set mine up to do this in the space of an hour before. It NFS boots (once you handle the UPnP/SSDP protocols) and all you have to do is get it to automatically run netcat or something and pipe it to /dev/dsp.

      It's small, there's no fan in it, it's got ethernet, and it has a good quality built-in 10 watt amplifier. No digital output unfortunately.

  • Why bother spending $170 on this thing when $35 provides an FM transmitter? Talk about leveraging the wireless world! It has the added bonus playing other things too, such as internet radio. I already use one to listen to the BBC World Service in other rooms of my house. If I want an MP3 music mix for a party, I can create it on the computer and let it go.
    • What if someone in another room wants to listen to something other than what's being broadcast from the server?

      There was a comment similar to this one yesterday. I think you are missing one of the advantages of a setup like this - each receiver can play its own audio stream. If you don't want to do that, then an FM transmitter is fine. But if you want to listen to different things in different areas simultanously, then it doesn't help.
  • Seems to me this otherwise great product is somewhat tarnished, for me at least, by the fact that it isn't wireless capable. I mean, if I put this bad boy in my living room, that means I'd have to run an ethernet cable across my living room, through my kitchen, down a hallway, and into my room. Also, since I'm already jacked into the net via ethernet on my main Linux machine, which holds my mp3's, does this mean I have to get a second NIC card to plug the Receiver into?
  • by tswinzig (210999) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @03:55PM (#3163925) Journal
    The receiver finds an available IP address- although it seemed to ignore our DHCP server and actually took our routers IP once! This isn't a fatal flaw..., but you may wanna double check when you set this thing up to make sure you don't get any surprises.

    Translation: The Rio DHCP client is broken.

    The interface on the front of the box takes a little getting used to.

    Translation: The Rio user interface sucks.

    The screen on the receiver leaves a lot to be desired.

    Translation: The screen on the Rio sucks.

    The Win98 software is very bare bones

    Translation: The Rio software sucks.

    Thank you.
  • The audiotron is by far better. Bigger display, audio component sized, and no additional software needed to make it work. Built in web browser configuration. The audiotron also streams audio off the web.

    My only gripe with either of these boxes is that they don't have TV output. TV output seems like it would be easy to do and it would add minimal cost to the unit ($50).

    The audiotron occasionally hangs when it encounters really long filenames or corrupt files, but in the year i've owened it i've only seen it happen twice.

    -ted
    • I picked up a pair of AT's, one for the bedroom and one for the living room. They're both conceptually very cool. In practice, they're not quite so perfect.
      The fact that you need to re-scan the entire library after a power cycle or to re-arrange tracks is horrible (it seems to clock in around somewhere around 1 minute per 1000 tracks). Navigating a large collection is almost impossible on the small screen. Creating playlists does help, but that adds even more overhead. I've also noticed frequent lockups while quickly surfing through tracks.

      Despite all my pains to archive/organize my music, I've ended up switching both units to Streaming Radio Mode only, which works very well.
  • Why spend all that time setting up HomePNA unless you already have it for something else? And even if you do have it, you're still limited by the device's need to be close to a phone jack.

    Much more practical, I'd think, to get an FM transmitter installed in your PC [yahoo.com], or even just attach one to your speaker jack [drbott.com]. Noticably cheaper, than a Rio Receiver either way. This way you can pick up your MP3 collection from any FM radio in the house, even untethered battery-powered ones.
    • Much more practical, I'd think, to get an FM transmitter installed in your PC [yahoo.com], or even just attach one to your speaker jack [drbott.com]. Noticably cheaper, than a Rio Receiver either way. This way you can pick up your MP3 collection from any FM radio in the house, even untethered battery-powered ones.

      Why that's brilliant! Of course, you'll need a little extra hardware [salon.com] if you want to actually control what you listen to.

      Aside from not having to run back to the computer to skip to the next song, the big advantage of these networked players is that not everybody has to listen to the same thing. A friend of mine has audiotrons around his house; he, his wife, and his daughter can all listen to different things.

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