Saturday 24 June 2023

REVIEW: Hidizs AP80 PRO-X Music Player - touchscreen, unbalanced and balanced headphone output, dual ESS ES9219C DAC. (And time for PAF 2023.)

Digital Audio Players (DAP) are not a class of components I've explored as thoroughly over here at the Musings. However, over the last few years, as smart phones have ditched their analogue headphone outputs opting for Bluetooth audio or (often cumbersome) DAC/headphone amp dongles, what's an audiophile to do when we want to listen to high-quality playback on the go? Perhaps a small DAP can satisfy this need.

Recently, the folks at Hidizs sent me one of their most recent Hidizs AP80 PRO-X (currently around US$200) for an honest review including objective testing of course. This is the 3rd evolution of the Hidizs DAP product line which started with the AP80 in 2018, followed by the AP80 Pro in 2020, and this newest AP80 PRO-X in 2022. As you can see with that picture of the device in my hand, it's a cute, flat, squarish music player measuring only 6.1x5.6x1.4cm, and weighs a mere 70g.

The aluminum and glass body, bright Samsung 480x360 2.45" touchscreen with good viewing angle, contrast and saturated colors, feels sturdy in the hand with convenient volume control knob, and 3 smaller physical buttons on the side.

Saturday 17 June 2023

Computer hardware thingies: Mediasonic Probox USB3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps enclosure, SODOLA 8-port 2.5GbE Switch, and if you need a good USB-C cable for DAC...

Hey there everyone, this week I thought I'd just put up some quicky comments/"reviews" of products I've found useful in the last while in my computer system and home network in case this might be of use to you. Nothing too fancy or necessarily even audiophile related for the most part.

First, there's this Mediasonic Probox 8-Drive USB3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps enclosure [H82-SU31C] (US$350). 

Box contents: IEC power cable, 8x plastic HDD handles and screws, 3' USB-C to USB-C cable.

In 2023, while we're getting there with high capacity "3D" and higher endurance SSD designs, we're not quite at par with the storage capacity afforded by multi-terabyte hard drives available at excellent prices. I'm sure most of us have been gathering our archive of digital memories and other media for years and have a need for all those terabytes at least backed up.

I've been using the older USB 3.0 + eSATA version (H82-SU3S2) of this device for >10 years already as a simple 3.5" HDD backup box which unfortunately went a bit flaky on me with occasional loss of connection in the last few months. Hence the upgrade to this newer model.

As per the description, this is a 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2 device, the interface is USB-C; nothing else other than the power connector on the back and a few buttons and indicators up front. 

Saturday 10 June 2023

Beelink EQ12: Low power Intel N100-based Roon endpoint and Kodi 4K/HDR/60fps player, general Windows 11 computer. A few words on HDR10(+), Dolby Vision, AV1, and Kodi. And hilarious Transparent $$$ cables.

Beelink EQ12 MiniPC, some testing with the RME ADI-2 Pro FS R Black Edition.

Since around 2004, I've been using various computer systems for music playback, initially starting with ripped files on PCs and then quickly transitioning to server-endpoint "distributed" playback by something like 2006/2007 when I bought my first Slim Devices Squeezebox 3. I've never really looked back since, as this is IMO the superior way to manage music with a central home server repository and distributing the music around the home. It has been more than a decade since I've cared to use a CD transport other than to rip music and there's no reason why CDs would sound better anyways ("bit perfect" and all that).

Of course back in the day, especially prior to 2010, putting a computer in the sound room was likely going to be fraught with noise issues. In the 2nd decade of the 21st Century now, with much lower CPU/memory/motherboard power demands while capable of excellent speed, silent SSD drives, and small form factor MiniPCs, it's actually rather trivial these days to maintain cool and quiet, unobtrusive computers that perform well as AV "appliances". These machines will not contribute to acoustic or electrical noise pollution in listening rooms even with low ambient noise levels provided the hobbyist approaches device selection and optimization with some basic care.

Today, let's convert that little Beelink EQ12 Intel N100-based computer (discussed/reviewed last time) into something I would use as a Windows audio streamer and movie player in my media room. Let's talk about some BIOS settings, Windows set-up suggestions to consider, and computational potential.