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Advice on what cheap gear would be best for me to play my MP3 albums?
harrylentil
post Jul 2 2013, 13:39
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to play my mp3 albums?

I have thousands of albums in 320kbps or vbr equivalent mp3 and so far I have been copying them to CD at about 6 albums per disk to play on my DVD player (which only accepts CD for mp3 playback) but the task has overwhelmed me and titles are hard to find on the hundreds on disks.

They are all on an external HD, and I can play them on my PC but it’s a noisy box, and power hungry. The PC and DVD player are connected to the hi-fi.

If I had the money, I would buy a laptop with a good sound card, plug the HD and hi-fi into it and play away, but my budget is no more than about £200 as my income is tiny.

Any suggestions for playing this music with good quality sound through the (old, strictly analogue) hi-fi?

This post has been edited by harrylentil: Jul 2 2013, 13:44
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pdq
post Jul 2 2013, 14:02
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I think you could find a netbook for less than that, if not new then used or refurbished. I have seen used 10.1 inch netbooks for $140.
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skamp
post Jul 2 2013, 14:12
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Or, a Raspberry Pi (£31.20) with a USB DAC that has a line-out (I bought the excellent EMU 0204 USB on eBay for £69, but you might find something cheaper). The RasPi comes with two USB ports, enough to connect the USB HDD and the USB DAC. It's completely fanless and very low power, so it won't make a sound.

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MichaelW
post Jul 2 2013, 15:57
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How about an MP3 Player? A Sansa Clip+ with MicroSD cards would be indefinitely expandable. Put RockBox on it.
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pdq
post Jul 2 2013, 16:35
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QUOTE (MichaelW @ Jul 2 2013, 10:57) *
How about an MP3 Player? A Sansa Clip+ with MicroSD cards would be indefinitely expandable. Put RockBox on it.

"Thousands of albums" could run into a lot of SD cards.
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halb27
post Jul 2 2013, 17:57
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I have ~1500 tracks encoded @~280 kbps on average which occupy ~11.5 GB on my Sansa Clip+'s SD Card. So yes, thousands of albums take several SD cards, but they can be easily exchanged. Moreover I can imagine it's possible to organize the music in such a way that the music which is usually listened to is located in one primary SD card.


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skamp
post Jul 2 2013, 18:37
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Swapping cards is really inconvenient, IMO. A thousand albums at 320kbps would require more than two 64GB microsdxc cards already, which go for £40 or more. If you have thousands of songs, you could easily need a dozen of those. Not to mention that you would no longer be able to use the database to browse your collection (or you would need to rebuild it every time you swap cards).

Edit: with £200, he could buy a Clip+ for £25, and… only four 64GB microsdxc cards, which is good for about… 1778 albums that last 60 minutes, at 320kbps. The math just doesn't work.

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pdq
post Jul 2 2013, 18:56
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If I'm not mistaken, the Clip+ won't read SDXC cards, only the 32 GB SDHC.
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RonaldDumsfeld
post Jul 2 2013, 19:19
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Sit on your £200 for now. Try and put up with the current inconveniences until you can afford a new PC.

Either of the above solutions would probably work. 2nd Hand Netbook particularly. Provided you didn't want to take it jogging.

You are going to need a new PC at some point so you might as well kill two birds with one stone when you do. It is at least 5 years since I have come across a new PC, portable or desktop, that didn't offer excellent audio out as standard. They use much less power too. So they are pretty quiet.

I have an ASUS Vivobook 200. I mention it because it means I can personally guarantee that both the line outs and headphone out are excellent quality and more than loud enough. (75 Ohm headphones). You can get them for £300 here. ASUS Vivobook
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skamp
post Jul 2 2013, 19:40
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QUOTE (pdq @ Jul 2 2013, 19:56) *
If I'm not mistaken, the Clip+ won't read SDXC cards, only the 32 GB SDHC.


Microsdxc cards work fine with the Clip+ (with Rockbox, at least), when formatted as FAT32. I have confirmed this personally, with a 64GB card, and so have other people. Same for the Fuze+.

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DVDdoug
post Jul 2 2013, 19:54
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A few years ago I bought a cheap 15-inch laptop for about $300 USD. I can still find similar bargains. So, maybe you can find something in your price range. If the sound is not adequate, you can try a USB soundcard.

I needed the laptop temporarly for something else, but later I plugged it into my home stereo for playing MP3s. The sound quality is fine... I don't hear any noise or distortion. I have a fairly cheap ($15 USD) USB soundcard that I use for testing/troubleshooting and it's also quite adequate.

I did upgrade the hard drive from 300 to 500 MB when I decided to use it for audio. And I regretted not buying a laptop with HDMI, so I just recently bought a new (more expensive) laptop with HDMI and a Blu-Ray drive.
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mzil
post Jul 2 2013, 20:57
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QUOTE (skamp @ Jul 2 2013, 14:40) *
Microsdxc cards work fine with the Clip+ (with Rockbox, at least), when formatted as FAT32. I have confirmed this personally, with a 64GB card, and so have other people. Same for the Fuze+.


That potentially could have an issue (I'm not sure though) if you ever wanted to reuse the card in an SDXC device, at a later date, using exFAT formatting.
SDcard.org
warns :

" Do not format the SDXC memory card in a non-compatible device because it will erase the data on the SDXC memory card and format the card for a different file system, making it incompatible with SDXC devices."

They print this in bold print and I've never understood if you can simply correct the situation by reformatting in an SDXC device to remedy the situation at a later date. I would think if it was as simple as that they'd say so on that same page, but they don't. Have you personally ever actually attempted to return such a card back to exFAT SDXC status? Maybe the SDXC device may balk at that, and not even list it as a formatting option, for example? I don't know.

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2tec
post Jul 2 2013, 21:19
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QUOTE (harrylentil @ Jul 2 2013, 06:39) *
Any suggestions for playing this music with good quality sound through the (old, strictly analogue) hi-fi?

WD TV Live Hub ~ Audio - MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS


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MichaelW
post Jul 4 2013, 11:30
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Not to insist about the Clip+, and as OP already has an external drive the best solution is pretty certainly a used lappy, but buying 64GB cards is an expensive way of buying capacity. You don't need fast, and on the local auction site you can get 32GB cards for NZD30, which is about GBP15. You can build up the capacity incrementally, which is good if on a low income, and you get a back-up. It would require indexing, but it would sure beat a bunch of CDs.
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skamp
post Jul 4 2013, 12:13
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QUOTE (MichaelW @ Jul 4 2013, 12:30) *
you can get 32GB cards for NZD30, which is about GBP15.


And deal with 20+ cards? Seriously? Can the local Clip+ nazi brigade please stop recommending the bloody Clip+ for fucking EVERYTHING? It's like using a shovel for tearing down a 10 story building, geez.

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skamp
post Jul 4 2013, 12:36
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Please let me elaborate:

  • in order to store his THOUSANDS of albums, he's going to need at least 15-20 cards or more, which are really really tiny. How is he going to find the music that he wants with those? He can't even label them. And how's he going to store them without losing or misplacing them, and keeping them in order?
  • the Clip+ has a very weak output, for use as a line-out connected to his hi-fi, which expects at least twice the voltage that the Clip+ can output. It's not even certain that his hi-fi has sufficient gain (or ANY gain at all) to make it usable. People have complained about this before. Add Replaygain and a subtractive EQ to the mix, and the problem gets significantly worse, with attenuation that can range from -6dB to -12dB or even more.
  • some hardware variants of the Clip+ (like mine) suffers from audible CPU noise, which will get amplified with the increased gain.
  • the tiny screen already makes it inconvenient to browse large collections; also, use of the database won't be practical when constantly switching cards.
  • the Clip+ will need to get recharged very often, because of poor battery life.
  • copying 1,000 albums at 320kbps on a fast microsdhc card that can write at 4MB/s, would take at least 10 hours. Multiply by the number of "thousands" of albums that he owns.


The Clip+ has its uses, but this is definitely NOT one of them.

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aztec_mystic
post Jul 4 2013, 13:43
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Since you already have the music on an external hard drive, I think a Raspberry Pi might be a cost-effective solution. It's about GBP 70 for Pi, case, SD card, PSU, and external USB audio audio interface. It can be even cheaper if you have parts (such as SD card, suitable cell phone charger, or Linux-compatible external sound card) floating around.

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slks
post Jul 4 2013, 22:37
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A Pi would definitely work for this, but that's somewhat of a DIY project. It's probably the cheapest option but you may want to think twice about it if you're not familiar with Linux.

A cheap used netbook would work too - but if you're going to go that route you may as well wait another month or two, and just buy a new computer, if you're needing one anyway.

Then there are dedicated MP3 players, which might be the most immediate and simplest option. But I'm not sure what capacities they come in these days, or what capacity you need. (Gigabytes are a much better measure of capacity than albums).

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MichaelW
post Jul 5 2013, 11:37
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QUOTE (skamp @ Jul 5 2013, 00:13) *
QUOTE (MichaelW @ Jul 4 2013, 12:30) *
you can get 32GB cards for NZD30, which is about GBP15.


And deal with 20+ cards? Seriously? Can the local Clip+ nazi brigade please stop recommending the bloody Clip+ for fucking EVERYTHING? It's like using a shovel for tearing down a 10 story building, geez.


Well, I'm terribly sorry I made you so angry. I really hadn't thought that a plausible, if sub-optimal, equipment choice would cause so much wrath. If you have a nice lie down, you'll probably feel better soon.

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harrylentil
post Jul 5 2013, 16:13
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Thanks to all posters, and please keep advising. The mp3s take up about 550GB, and are backed up on 2x1TB external HDs. I do need a new tower PC and I am saving for that. I am going to wait until the next gen Intel Haswell processors come out and see what happens to the price of the 4 core Ivy Bridge I5-3570K, the one with the HD4000 graphics. I don't game, so that will definitely mean no need for a graphics card with its noisy fan and pesky power needs. It will have 8GB ram and 2 internal HDs. I wonder how much more expensive that would be in power consumption than a minimal netbook/laptop for playing music, and how noisy? It would need a case fan. Maybe a cheap netbook with a USB sound card would pay for itself eventually in comparison.
I wouldn't have a laptop as my main PC. I was taken by the Pi idea but, after a google, maybe not. Some people have written that there is a background sizzle no matter what sound card is used.
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2Bdecided
post Jul 5 2013, 17:48
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QUOTE (skamp @ Jul 2 2013, 18:37) *
Swapping cards is really inconvenient, IMO.
If you swap cards, will the clip+ re-scan the library? If so, that's a problem, because it's very slow to re-scan a 32GB card full of music. Takes a couple of minutes at least. You don't want that.


If it's not to be a PC, would a second hand squeezebox work? There are other network music players out there. I've forgotten the name of an early one which only played a few formats and must be very cheap second hand, but is probably good enough.

There are various hi-fis or DVD players or STBs that let you plug a HDD in - beware of hopeless interfaces on these though. As you're in the UK, take a look in Maplin at devices like that which let you play content straight from a USB HDD. I've always assumed that these are all total crap (lousy interface, FAT32 only, noisy audio output, etc etc), but you might be able to try one in the shop to find out. They're certainly well within your budget.

Cheers,
David.

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skamp
post Jul 5 2013, 18:47
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 5 2013, 18:48) *
If you swap cards, will the clip+ re-scan the library? If so, that's a problem, because it's very slow to re-scan a 32GB card full of music. Takes a couple of minutes at least. You don't want that.


Yes. The database isn't tied to specific cards (though having them be tied to, say, a card's UUID, would be pretty neat).

BTW, 550GiB would require either ten 64GB microsdxc cards, or nineteen 32GB microsdhc cards. Even at £15 a pop, second hand (which is the best way to buy unreliable cards), it would amount to £285. That's way over budget, for highly inconvenient gear that will probably fail sooner or later. Also, those probably won't write data at 4MB/s like in my example above. Likely half that.


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jkauff
post Jul 6 2013, 15:36
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Couldn't you switch to rewritable CD blanks, and just copy over what you want for your listening session? How many albums do you listen to at a sitting?
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Audible!
post Jul 7 2013, 01:16
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The Raspberry Pi, WD TV LIVE! and old laptop/netbook ideas seem solid to me, but you really should demo the analog output quality of whatever option you're considering before you purchase it, if at all possible (bring headphones to the point of sale).

If you have a smartphone it's also concievable you may be able to control an external usb drive with an application and an appropriate dock.

My personal recommendation as a first step would be to open up your current computer case, pull all of the fans (especially the one strapped onto the CPU heatsink), and blow all of the accumulated dust out of the case and the heatsinks. This may result in lower idle temperatures and a reduction in fan speed noise. If your case and power supply are sufficient, it might be cheaper to pick up a replacement CPU+motherboard+RAM than to procure a used laptop.

I would not use my first Dell mini 9 or my Patriot Home Box Office video player for feeding analog to the hi-fi due to noise and interface issues, respectively. As motherboard reviewers have demonstrated (generally using RMAA), there can be variation in output quality between motherboards even using similar vintage audio CODECs. Tech Report and Xbitlabs usually do perform RMAA testing on CODECs if you plan to purchase a motherboard, although the quality differences tend to be exagerrated somewhat by the arbitrary ratings from that piece of software, IMO.

Given the quality of the software that can be found on Android and idevices these days, I would be most tempted to investigate the smart phone option, if applicable.
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yourlord
post Jul 7 2013, 04:36
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The raspberri pi has a 3.5mm audio output on it. No need for a usb dac unless you just really want to go there. It has an ethernet port so you can even host the storage device on the network and not even worry about having a spinning hard drive sitting near your entertainment center.

Linux isn't really an issue as you can easily install something like openelec which requires viritually no linux knowledge and boots directly to XBMC so you have a fully featured media center right out of the box.

There really isn't a better and cheaper option unless you have an old and quiet laptop laying around.



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