Saturday 12 January 2019

GUEST: Future Proofed (and didn't know it) - Adding Streaming to My Existing Hi-Fi.

Every once awhile, it's great to have a guest writer put up their thoughts on the Musings. I've always lived by the principle of "it really isn't what you got that matters, but how you make the best of it". I think Allan's post here is a nice example of that. These days, we have all kinds of products and technologies easily available at good prices, but when mixed with streaming services, sometimes one needs to do a bit of digging to get everything to work right the way one desires. One could spend countless dollars on things that might or might not really be of value. How we use what we have can take all kinds of forms and ultimately is a reflection of us taking control to satisfy our needs while reflecting understanding of how the products and services work... This Guest Post is a nice reminder of that!

Take it away, Allan...

by Allan Folz


Last spring on this humble blog I wrote a guest post reviewing the Sony HAP-S1. At the time I had a number of complaints with regard to the feature set. Indeed, I wasn't entirely sure I was going to keep it for the long-term. My biggest problem with the HAP-S1 was that I could not use it with any of my preferred Internet streaming services. The HAP-S1 has a pair of analog inputs and I bought it thinking I could use those with the headphone jack on my phone and laptop to be able to play back music streamed from the Internet. Also, while I knew when I purchased it that it didn't support Bluetooth, I had planned to get a Bluetooth to analog-out receiver that I could connect to its analog inputs. Unfortunately, after I received the unit I discovered there is a limitation in that the analog inputs can only be used to drive the HAP-S1's internal amplifier. Since I was using the line-out of the HAP-S1 to drive a pair of self-powered monitors, there was no way to get the signal from the analog inputs to the line-out. Instead, I'd have to move the monitor's input wires from the HAP-S1 to the phone or laptop each time I wanted to switch sources, which was a non-starter. (Or purchase a pre-amp, which was far more expense and space than I was interested in undertaking.)

Oppo BDP-105 with 7” 1080p HDMI field monitor.
Then, over the summer I located an Oppo BDP-105 locally on Craigslist and started using it almost exclusively since July. The biggest reason was that the Oppo-105 has built-in apps for Pandora, YouTube, and Tidal. (It has others as well, but those three are the services I use regularly.) Furthermore, the HAP-S1 is also a UPnP DNLA server, which was a pleasant surprise since it is not explicitly mentioned by Sony in their marketing material or even the user manual. I didn't realize I could play back music stored on the HAP-S1 until I connected the Oppo-105 to my network one time when I happened to have the HAP-S1 powered on. To my surprise, the HAP-S1 was available to browse and I could play back music on it through the Oppo-105! Since the Oppo-105 could play from both Internet streaming services and my personal collection stored on the HAP-S1, it had relegated my use of the HAP-S1 to essentially a very expensive NAS.

And yet, I wasn't entirely satisfied with this solution either. My biggest problem was that navigating the HAP-S1's library with the Oppo-105's remote control was slow and tedious. Sony has an app for the HAP-S1 which makes navigating and choosing music for playback reasonably nice. (It's not perfect, IMO, but it's much better than merely tolerable.) However, with only up and down arrow buttons on the Oppo's remote control, picking songs took more patience than I was willing to exercise. Let's say I was listening to Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, & Nash so often that the kids were starting to notice. To be sure, there are worse fates in life; however, the primary reason I bought the HAP-S1 was to have my entire music collection in a single, convenient location so that I'd be inclined to listen to my favorite albums more often. And yet, here I was back in the same, albeit slightly different rut because the convenience, once again, wasn't completely there.

As for Internet streaming from the Oppo BDP-105 which I had such high hopes for, it was yet more of a mixed bag. Briefly: navigating YouTube is S-L-O-W. Playback is fine, but skipping through videos, loading the next video in the playback queue, and searching for new videos to queue is akin to surfing the web with a dial-up connection circa 1997. As for Tidal, it cannot be controlled directly from the Oppo-105's remote control! You have to use the Oppo MediaControl app from a phone or tablet. And what a miserable app it is, more on that later. Pandora, it must be said, is perfect from a usability stand-point, and, as icing on the cake, there are virtually zero commercial interruptions (!) with the native app on the Oppo-105, but – and it's always something is it not, dear readers – the sound quality is decidedly lacking. On our kitchen speakers (Emotiva 3B's picked-up on closeout), I never noticed it, but on the living room hi-fi, many of my favorite songs leave me feeling pretty “meh.”

sad trombone
I shouldn't overstate matters, though. It wasn't all lemons. Each service, including DNLA via the HAP-S1, did work properly and I was listening to a lot more music than I had been. It's just the convenience factor was not where I wished it to be. Once again, the tech solutions had left the user pining for the old days, where all your music was on physical artifacts, of which you knew exactly where to find whichever song you were in the mood for in seconds, in one step, and without having to think much about it.

One more quick note before I continue: the front-facing HDMI jack on the Oppo-105 is fabulous. I have a Thunderbolt to HDMI cable that allows me to mirror my laptop's screen and, more importantly, the audio stream right into the Oppo-105. (If I may be so bold, to my mind, the next set of “objectivist” measurements is of the streaming services themselves, matrix-ed with the “Big 4” digital inputs. I know that at least Tidal and Amazon Music have test tone albums included in their libraries.) [Ed: Great idea! That'll take some work and a number of subscriptions though!]

Hey, buddy, get your own blog.

S/PDIF & TOSLINK to the Rescue

So there I was using the Oppo BDP-105, and very happy with the sound quality, yet wishing there was some easier way to get music from the HAP-S1 to the Oppo-105. Unfortunately, the HAP-S1 only had digital in's, no digital out's.

Then Amir at Audio Science Review reviewed the “hidden” TosLink output of the Chromecast Audio (CCA). (tl,dr; – it's bit- perfect from Roon and certain other Android apps, though not from the Chrome browser.) That's when it hit me (ok, to be honest that wasn't exactly when it hit me, more like about four weeks later): I could use the digital out of the CCA to stream into the HAP-S1. This whole time, I'd been locked on thinking I needed a stand-alone Bluetooth-to-analog for streaming, when an even easier and better fidelity WiFi-to-TosLink had been possible all along. [Ed: Remember guys, I measured the digital TosLink output of the CCA awhile back also.]

Then like a lightening bolt: it didn't have to be just a phone, anything with TosLink would work. It feels sooo backwards, but I could send the Oppo-105 to the HAP-S1. And... if the CCA has TosLink, what other streaming devices do? Oh hey, the original Fire TV has TosLink. Then, I kid you not, some cat on Craigslist not 4 blocks from my house had listed an original Fire TV for $30.

Holy Cow, the humble little TosLink port has completely future-proofed my HAP-S1!

Indeed, any hi-fi kit with TosLink or S/PDIF inputs is future-proofed. I don't purport to be the biggest audio enthusiast, but I had never seen that explored on the Internets.

Suddenly, that the Oppo UDP-205 dropped all their native apps support, save Roon, made perfect sense: who wants native apps with all their support and upgrade headaches when users can simply connect whatever is the latest streaming device. For that matter, it doesn't even have to be TosLink. The HDMI sticks that are everywhere these days are just as capable. That's when it really hit me: the Oppo BDP-105 and UDP-205 are all the A/V receiver most people need. Combine one with self-powered speakers or as many nice, used 2-channel (or mono-block) amplifiers as you require, and you're good to go. Maybe this is obvious to everyone else already, but it had never struck me how redundant the Oppo's make everything in the modern stereo rack.

It's About the Features (read: ease-of-use)

After my miniature epiphany I went a little crazy and bought both the Fire TV (too cheap not to!) and the Chromecast Audio. I got them both right before the Thanksgiving holiday and had a long 4-day weekend to connect everything and put it through its paces. Early Christmas for Dad.

Google Chromecast Audio & Amazon Gen 1 Fire TV.
First let it be said, none of these are as easy to use as a desktop app connected either via USB or HDMI. The convenience factor of a dedicated streaming device only trumps the superior usability of the desktop app when you want to play music you've already marked as a favorite or added to your personal collection. If you are feeling in the mood for exploring a service's catalog to find new music, stick to the desktop. Also, if you are a stickler for bit-perfection, I think that only Tidal from its desktop app offers lossless streaming, though it's only at their (IMHO ridiculously expensive) $20/month tier.

Second, I found that the difference between HDMI and TosLink with regard to sound quality to be very slight. I was stymied from seamless A-B testing due to 1) the Fire TV automatically pausing whenever I switched inputs from HDMI to TosLink, and 2) the Oppo had trouble re-syncing to the HDMI input after switching out of TosLink. However, forced to choose I think TosLink had harsher sibilance around the cymbals and similar treble-type percussion. Too sharp, I reckon I would call it.

I used the Fire TV into the Oppo BDP-105 so as to keep the hardware controlled, for comparing/testing only the data link protocol. As Arch has tested and had shown previously, USB is best, followed by coax S/PDIF, then TosLink. Figuring out where HDMI fits into that pecking order would be an interesting issue to take up in future objective testing. Also, readers should be aware that that pecking order is for well-engineered implementations. Each is only as good as its implementation on your particular device, and I've seen devices tested that had different orders owing to design errors. [Ed: I think that's the right way to think about HDMI - it's complex and really depends on the device and implementation. Previous testing of HDMI devices herehere and here mostly using AV receivers suggest a mixed bag ]

So, without further ado, in order of easiest & most satisfying and convenient to use to the least:

1. Amazon Music + Fire TV

Amazon Music app from Fire TV.
Sound-wise, I could not hear a difference between Amazon Music and Tidal's “Premium” (ie. US$10/month, lossy 320kbps) tier. Neither was as good as straight from a CD, but I also felt unless one had the CD at hand to compare against (and it was a well-mastered CD with good dynamic range at that), you would unlikely be able to notice a difference. I cannot imagine anyone likely to be dis-satisfied with the sound quality (unlike, with Pandora where I often enough am dis-satisfied with the sound quality). [Ed: From searching around, I think devices like the Oppo stream Pandora at up to 128kbps only.]

That leaves the deciding factor as the ease-of-use of the apps. Here the decision goes to Amazon Music. The bottom line is Tidal's streaming app is very inconvenient to use, and their “suggestions” are not as relevant. The biggest miss of which is that there are no “similar artist” suggestions for what you are currently listening to. One of my favorite parts of streaming over listening from my own library are ideas about similar artists I might enjoy. The odds are that if I start exploring unfamiliar music, it would be through the gateway of a suggested similar artist on the streaming site. So, at least for how I listen, Amazon Music gets the nod because it is easier to bounce around among related songs and artists that I like. Also, Amazon Music's placement of suggested playlists and stations right at the top when you enter the app is much preferred. With Tidal, alas, it seems to be all hip-hop all the time until you scroll down 4 or 5 selections, which I didn't even realize were there for the first dozen or so times I used the app. This is not to say Amazon did not have a bunch of bizarre suggestions I have no interest in, it did. However, Amazon at least showed the good sense to bury that stuff at the bottom of the GUI instead of up top.

Another nice feature of Amazon Music is its automatic connection to any “Auto-Rip” CD's you may have previously purchased from Amazon. You do not need to pay for Amazon Music separately (US$10/month) or be a Prime Subscriber ($120/yr; $6/month to EBT or Medicaid recipients) to be able to stream music. Every new CD you've bought that had “Auto-Rip” included at the time will show-up in your library and be available for streaming. (Also note, while Tidal offers higher sound quality for their higher priced tier, Amazon offers a deeper track library. The library that is a free benefit with an Amazon Prime membership is 2 million tracks deep vs. 50 million tracks deep for the library that is the stand-alone subscription. I subscribed to the stand-alone library, and I do not have a Prime membership.)

2. Tidal + Fire TV

Tidal app from Fire TV.
If you prefer Tidal and have a fully fleshed out “My Music”, Tidal is an absolutely fine option. The “HiFi” sound quality, which is the best one available when streaming from a media device, is certainly not lacking. Its less than satisfying ease-of-use would probably be overcome after spending more time learning the app and getting used to using it. I ended up not putting the time in because I didn't like it and had Amazon Music available to me. Their cost and sound quality is the same, so I see no reason to spend any more time with Tidal than to realize I didn't like it. I don't know how deep Tidal's library is versus Amazon's, and that could certainly be a legitimate factor for someone to choose it over Amazon, but so far everything I've wanted to listen to has been available on both.

I will add, Tidal through the Fire TV is a huge improvement over the Oppo MediaControl Android app. Tidal built into the Oppo MediaControl app (and the only way to stream Tidal natively from the Oppo as it is specifically excluded from the remote control) is horribly buggy. The biggest bug was on the first three devices I tried it on, browsing artists would crash the app. I could not search for an artist and then add them to my collection from the Oppo MediaControl app. I had to do it from the desktop client running on my laptop. I could search album names fine, just not artist. It did this on a Blackberry Priv, an off-brand Android phone, and Kindle Fire HD 8 (from 2012). Oddly enough, it worked fine on a Kindle Fire HDX8 (2013/2014), which is older than both the Priv and the Android phone. Before I got the Fire TV, and before I happened to discover Tidal worked on the HDX8, I was ready to give-up on running Tidal natively from the Oppo. I would have to limit my use of Tidal from my laptop into the Oppo via USB or HDMI.

Finally, and this might be scraping the bottom of the barrel, but it is a feature, and I did like it: Fire TV will use your on-line photo album as a screen saver while listening to music. It does this for both Tidal and Amazon Music, so the benefit is versus the Chromecast and the Oppo's native apps. And if you really want to get clever, you could upload album covers or whatever is your fancy to your Amazon photo album and have it display those. OK, I haven't done that, and don't plan to, but it's an interesting option nonetheless.

3. Pandora + Oppo-105

Pandora from Oppo BDP-105's native app.
As previously mentioned, the native Pandora app almost never serves commercials. While Pandora's library is on the thin side, and their sound quality is decidedly lacking, those might not always matter for your circumstances.

When I'm listening to old-school Country and Western the sound quality of Pandora is every bit as good as the FM radio which it was largely mastered for, and which I grew up listening to. Or, if I just want a few hours of non-stop, uninterrupted background music on a weekend, Pandora from the Oppo BDP-105 fits the bill perfectly.

4. YouTube + Fire TV

YouTube from the couch.
I assume YouTube is well-known to most of this audience. On the chance there are readers that think YouTube is only for kids watching other kids playing video games and adults afflicted with social media-induced ADHD, I will counter that YouTube is a pretty good source of independent music. Further, its suggestions for related content are the best in the business.

As far as music goes, I love YouTube for all the small indie groups and cover bands I'd never discover anywhere else. Close second are classic concerts.

In fact, my love of song covers goes so deep (gratuitous plug alert 😀), I wrote a small blog post listing all my favorite covers for 'The Lakes of Ponchartrian'. Then, after having so much fun doing that post, on a dare I did another one for 'Sweet Child of Mine', and which, regardless of one's opinion of GnR, I think it made for some very impressive covers. Finally, while on the topic, quick shout-out to my all-time favorite cover band, Post-Modern Jukebox. If you've never heard of them, you owe it to yourself to check out their channel.

As far as streaming devices go, one interesting thing I discovered while playing with the Fire TV, which I have not figured out how to duplicate from the desktop browser, is how to inspect the dynamic compression of the uploaded video. From the YouTube app, you can enable this screen overlay by clicking scroll-down once to access the play/pause on-screen button, then clicking scroll-left twice to highlight and select the three vertical dots on-screen button, then clicking scroll-right to the bug button to select the “stats for nerds” overlay menu (shown below). It doesn't give the DR number we are used to, but it does show the normalized loudness in dB that they've applied to the upload to make it match their target. Suffice it to say, if YouTube has seen fit to turn down the loudness on the upload, you might not need the nerd screen to figure out something doesn't sound right, but the nerd screen makes for a nice confirmation.

90's hit that was noticeably louder than all the other songs I had been listening to, was not pleasant to listen to even though I knew and liked the song, and upon further investigation had its loudness automatically reduced for my playback.
A Post-Modern Jukebox cover which sounds great and has loudness – and thus dynamic range – to spare.
This site has a really interesting series of posts addressing how the various music streaming services normalize uploaded content to a fixed upper loudness limit. As it turns out, and to no one's surprise track-to-track loudness variability is the #1 complaint among users of streaming services. Streaming services may ultimately be the impetus that forces producers to call a truce in the loudness war by harshly penalizing anyone that goes over the limit by indiscriminately turning down their loudness to match the rest of the content on the service.

[Ed: BTW, you can access the YouTube "stats for nerds" on the desktop browser for the videos. While the video is playing, right-click on the video and you should see the option to select... It looks like YouTube is targeting average loudness to around -13 LUFS. Worked fine on Windows Chrome and Edge.]

Ironically, since this is what got me back into streaming after my disappointment from the Oppo BDP-105's native apps, I've barely used the Chromecast Audio. With it sitting right next to the Fire TV, and the Fire TV having a screen and remote control, it's easier to just use the Fire TV.

Even more ironic, the one use-case where I would find it useful is the one it doesn't support:  streaming from my MacBook sans cables while sitting about 12 feet away on our couch. Since Mac OS X does not natively support the Google Cast protocol, I have to use a third party desktop app to connect to it. The couple times I used the trial version, the audio sounded not as clear as running through a cable to USB or HDMI directly to the Oppo.

So, if I want to sit on the couch and “drive” from my laptop, it's (still) with a long cable. This type of listening doesn't come up for me often, so it's a problem I can live with. If I didn't have the Fire TV, and didn't have thoughts of purchasing Roon sometime next year, I might inquire with the company as to how the app works. Maybe it is bit-perfect, and it was just the nature of how I was testing it out that it didn't sound as good as I thought it should have.

OK, I Must Digress

I've intended to stay mostly on the positive side, presenting the things that work well and that I've been enjoying. However, there remain a few usability issues that I can't let go unmentioned and uncriticized.

1)    The Oppo's remote control lay-out is horrible. Exceedingly horrible. Like someone should have been fired and ordered to delete their LinkedIn account horrible. Consider:
   Giant Netflix and Vudu buttons are both oversized and given prime, top, full-row placement
   Volume, obviously the most frequently used buttons, buried in the middle of the third row
   Home, probably the second most used button, thrown randomly in the fourth row.
   Disc tray open, something I do NOT EVER need to do with help from the remote is given top, left-most placement. This is like pole-position for a right-handed user as that's the easiest button to find and hit with one's thumb. And it's... for opening the disc tray. Wut!?!
   There's more, oh, so much more. Basically every button on the remote is wrong. Random chance should have at least gotten one or two right. Was it some kind of industrial espionage?
   Seriously. To that guy: delete your account.

2)    Fire TV remote does not have volume control. Or power-off. OK, I get the power-off bit. Power buttons are old-fashioned, I shouldn't be so paradigm-locked. Fine. But volume control is completely legit. The desktop apps have their own built-in software volume control, so volume control can be implemented. Amazon just made the decision I shouldn't need it. They specifically decided I should use the remote control to navigate through the app and do everything to select playback material, but then when it comes time to adjust volume I should set down the remote-in-hand and pickup another remote (hopefully within reach, though Murphy would tell them it's not going to be) and adjust volume. And if your DAC does not have volume control, like... oh, the Sony HAP-S1, you're completely out of luck.

3)    Fire TV will interrupt playing music with a program trailer if you hover over promo content too long. This is ridiculous. It's intrusive adware of the worst kind. It's made me jumpy using the Fire TV while in the program browser screen because I don't want to accidentally start playing some darned adware. I still wonder if I'm being too generous toward Amazon by using this crazy thing.

4)    Sony HAP-Z1ES does not have any digital inputs. This is the spare-no-expense, big brother of the HAP-S1. And it is not future-proofed. I had briefly considered splurging on the Z1. Now, you couldn't give one to me. The hubris of such a design morally offends me.

5)    Amazon's products are notorious for creepy spying on users. I chose the original Fire TV because it does not have a built-in microphone. There is one on the remote, but, by virtue of only a pair of AAA batteries, it is necessary to Push-To-Talk. Furthermore, I unplug the base unit when not in use. Of course, Amazon is decidedly not alone in regard to spyware. Be informed and stay vigilant.

Conclusion / Brass Tacks

As I wrote at the conclusion of the Sony HAP-S1 review, I think the "brass tacks" for any major (or in this case minor) purchase, music kit or otherwise, is 1) would you do it again and 2) would you recommend it to a friend.

With regard to the Fire TV (or similar) to add streaming capabilities to one's hi-fi: yes, absolutely, on both counts. It is the reason why I wrote this guest post. I was blown away by the “Aha!” when it hit me as the solution for virtually everything I found lacking in the Sony HAP-S1. Then, when it actually worked every bit as well as I had hoped, I had to share this great discovery.

Granted, I still don't have the compact, one-box solution that I've always wanted. However, I am happy with what I have. Each piece has a job and does its job well. That's definitely something not to be taken for granted. (If anyone has a recommendation for an intuitive, easy to use universal remote, please share it in the comments. 😉)

So with that, may your 2019 be filled with great friendships, good music, and satisfying hobbies. And once again, special thanks to our host, Archimago, that has brought this great community of music fans together.


Hmmmm... Interesting idea Allan about measuring the quality of the audio services. As you noted with the discussion about YouTube, we know that each service has a different way of handling volume equalization along with codec and bitrate choices made. These variables can certainly affect ultimate potential audio quality.

I also appreciate your mention about privacy issues and these new "smart" connected products like the Amazon EchoEcho Spot or the various Google Home devices. As a guy who appreciates his technology, there's nothing wrong with these devices and they certainly can improve efficiency and convenience in life. However, there's something to be said about being mindful of the risks and potential intrusions into one's privacy when we open up devices that record audio and video into our homes. This of course also includes Siri and Cortana.

On a related note, it's rather shocking how when I travel to places where privacy laws are weaker than in Western countries and the reach of governmental agencies can be very strong, how many citizens seem unperturbed by the risks of giving out all kinds of personal information to various highly connected platforms. It's all great when things are well... But probably wise to be vigilant of the risks to one's privacy, potential for fraud, and threats even to liberty if/when things go wrong.

Many thanks again, Allan! It's great to have extended discussions and sharing like this from fellow audiophiles on what works. There are clearly many options out there and no-nonsense shared practical experiences like this ultimately enrich the greater "hobby" community. :-)

Until next time, enjoy the music everyone!


  1. Replies
    1. Ahhh... No wonder I was able to pick one up after Christmas for CAD$20 at the local Best Buy. Had never seen that deal before.

      If you go for Roon, Allan, it'll be interesting to hear how that works out for you with the CCA as endpoint. Assuming smooth 24/96 support and gapless, for the price, the CCA should be damn hard to beat! The only thing might be needing to get a wired ethernet if WiFi isn't stable enough for 24/96...

  2. I am pretty annoyed Google pulled the plug on the Chromecast Audio. I thought it is a great way to bring streaming connectivity to a range of not connected gear, including some pretty ambitious stuff. I currently use a number of them in various rooms, including the main listening room, where I use its digital output into a Pioneer U-05 DAC/preamp and Quad 606-2 power amp playing into Quad 2805 speakers. The sound quality through that system is glorious and it is also very convenient.
    On the hardware side I decided to play safe and order a few before they will have sold out. On the software side the question will be how long Google will continue to support them with the necessary firmware updates. And ill it make the protocol availabe to alternative manufacturers, like it did to e.g. Naim and Sony?

    1. decided to play safe and order a few before they will have sold out

      The article was published on the 11th. I saw it evening of the 12th, by which time everyplace I checked already had it sold out.

      Hopefully another manufacturer will pick up the slack -- I think the CCA has demonstrated market demand, albeit it's not a market Google is interested in -- though, I suspect it's going to be very tough to beat the price-to-performance Google was able to bring to bear.

      Maybe related to that, and apropos of our spyware comments, I saw a quote from Vizio's CEO where he stated that TV margins are to the point that they would cost consumers more without the adware. Now, he may be talking his book -- recall the tempest everyone had when Vizio was caught spying on owners' viewing habits -- but it is conceivable. What I didn't see mentioned was how much more it would cost. I'm actually in the camp that isn't so much surprised people will sell their privacy, but that they'll sell it so cheaply.

    2. That is certainly very interesting Allan about the "price" of privacy and whatever lower cost implementing adware can be passed on to the consumer.

      Actually, I think this is important information that somehow should be made available to the public in some anonymised fashion...

  3. I am in the Netherlands, where it was and still is available, for as long as stocks last, of course.

    1. Ah, yes. The spelling on your name should have tipped me off.

  4. Thanks for this article. I based my updated improved hi-fi system around the 105 five years ago and loved this and Arc’s posts on it. (Ah, the comfort of comfirmation bias.). I use JRiver and a dedicated laptop into the usb in the back for ripped cds, and an apple express toslink for airplay. This way I just stream cd level Tidal to the 105, as well as Qobuz. You might like Qobuz for its links to similar artists. Oh, and try streaming RadioParadise.

    1. Thank you. Glad you liked it. Sounds like you have the 105 figured out. I'm surprised how much more capable it is than I expected. Usually it's the other way around... you get something and then you realize all that it can't do. Once I figured out how to get past the limitations of the native apps, there's not much of anything it lacks for.

      I'll be sure to check out RadioParadise, thanks for the tip.

  5. To close the loop on the remote control, FireTV's use Bluetooth. Your run of the mill learning remote won't work. I settled on the SideClick, which cost me as much as the whole FireTV. Not sure how I feel about that. But it's getting the job done, so I'm a much happier camper.

    As a final closing note, I noticed Amazon offers a $4/month tier of Music Unlimited if you limit it to a single FireTV or Echo device. However, the FireTV app is so sub-par wrt usability, I'm not sure I'll actually pull the trigger on the lower price tier, even though I'll only ever listen to it from the same DAC & speakers from my laptop as from the FireTV.

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  7. I've been a reader of Archimago now and then for a few years but never felt the need to comment before, but then I usually understand the articles!

    Maybe it's me but I really don't know why you are making things so complicated. Especially as you yearn for a one box solution.

    I have a computer, the S/Pdif output is connected to my 10+ year old Meridian digital pre-amp S/Pdif input. And that's it. Simple. I use Foobar2000 to play the albums stored on my computer hard drives (backed up to external drives of course), it's bit perfect and lossless, no need whatsoever to buy Roon. Also, the Foobar UI is totally customisable. Foobar also does Internet radio, including HLS streams. If I want to play a youtube video then I goto the Youtube website. (btw, right click on a video then choose "Stats for nerds"). Likewise if I want to listen to Amazon music or other music streaming websites, just goto the relevant website, no need to use apps on an Oppo, no need for an Oppo, if I want to play a DVD I just insert one into my computer DVD drive. As for a remote control, I use a wireless mouse. (yeah, ok, I use the pre-amp remote for volume control!). One more advantage of using a computer is the ad blocking via a custom hosts file. You say you use the Sony as an expensive NAS, why not sell it and buy an NAS instead? Or do what I do and have multiple HDD's in my computer, all backed up to external drives. I know you say you didn't want to go to the expense of buying a (digital) pre-amp, but you could have bought one instead of the Oppo, Sony, Fire Tv, Chromecast etc. You can still sell them all and buy a pre-amp with a digital input (or a DAC with internal volume control) to feed your active speakers. Fewer boxes, less wires, simpler all round.

    I really think you are over complicating things. However, I'm aware I'm obviously missing something here. . . but I honestly don't know what! You are right though, the humble S/Pdif or Toslink has been around for decades and offers bit perfect transmission (if correctly implemented). As Archimago has shown in his investigative articles, S/Pdif and Toslink are perfectly adequate for the purpose for which they were intended. No need to reinvent the wheel.

    1. Have you heard the nursery rhyme about the old lady who swallowed the fly? :)

      I didn't want a computer, so... I bought the Sony.
      I wanted streaming apps, so.... I bought the Oppo.
      I wanted better streaming apps, so... I bought the FireTV.

      In retrospect, I could have bought the Sony and a FireTV, and called it a day, which was largely my point of writing -- I didn't realize it until well after the fact. If some reader has a good piece of old kit with TOSLINK, SPDIF, or HDMI (or a quality HDMI to TOS/SPDIF converter, alas tough to assess quality on those) they are future-proofed and might not have even known it.