Saturday 24 February 2024

REVIEW: AGPTEK A30X Music Player - inexpensive 32GB utility DAP/MP3 Player. And a few words on EQ and some sample curves.

Open box: music player, quite comprehensive manual, USB-C to A cable, inexpensive earbuds, strap, and lanyard (can be a little tough to snake this through the hole on the bottom right, use a needle or paperclip to push/pull it through the slot!). 

I love my music, which is why I became an "audiophile". I definitely do not believe that audiophiles need to buy expensive or exotic stuff. These days, reasonable sounding products can be very inexpensive and in the service of just having music available on a bus, subway ride, maybe even in a car on a road trip, all we need I believe are "utility"-grade devices to serve that purpose! Lossless is likely unnecessary and hi-res audio would be a waste of storage space on devices like these (let's be honest, hi-res files often are just a waste of space already regardless of device quality!).

With a need for an inexpensive Digital Audio Player (DAP) a few months back, I came across the AGPTEK A30X Music Player as seen in the open box above. With a cost of only about US$30 (bought retail), this little guy features 32GB of microSD storage (expandable to 128GB), has a 2.4" touchscreen, both 3.5mm headphone out plus Bluetooth 5 wireless capability. Furthermore, this supposedly can play video, has an FM radio, can record audio, has a pedometer function, and apparently e-Book reader capability; admittedly I haven't tried all this stuff out nor would see myself using this other than the radio function. This is a self-contained device and does not have WiFi capability.

It supports a range of audio codecs including MP3, WMA, FLAC, APE, and WAV. Up to 24/48 from my testing (like Apple products as far as I'm aware).

Here at the Musings, I think it's just as important running measurements to see how well the "low-end" performs as much as "hi-res" devices! The lowest tier device tested over the years remains the sub $5 CheapDAC'22 😯. As usual on this blog, unless specified, this write-up is in no way sponsored by the manufacturer.

Saturday 17 February 2024

HUNSN [CWWK] RJ36 Fanless MiniPC: Intel i3-N305. Power-limiting, setup, Roon outputs - multichannel, crosstalk cancellation DSP, direct USB.

Okay, let's continue with our exploration of the fanless HUNSN/CWWK i3-N305 computer discussed last week. This time, we'll focus on what I did here to get it running as my music end-point (for Roon), in particular creating multiple output options for multichannel, stereo crosstalk cancellation (XTC) DSP, and also for those times when I want the highest 2-channel resolution playback to the USB DAC.

Most of the time this computer will be running "headless" although it is connected to my TV and I will on occasion watch movies using Kodi. And since the machine is quite powerful (>100GFLOPS on Linpack stock), I turned down the power utilization for my purposes which in turn will keep the fanless solution cooler.

Let's get going!

Saturday 10 February 2024

REVIEW: HUNSN [CWWK] RJ36 Fanless MiniPC - Intel i3-N305 (12th Gen "Alder Lake-N", 8C/8T, 32EU iGPU). And comparison with the Raspberry Pi 5.

Another year, another upgrade to the sound room MiniPC! 😁 Honestly, for audio streaming purposes, I could easily just use the very low power MeLE Quieter2Q as a Roon endpoint with multichannel capability discussed in 2022. As usual, "Bits Are Bits" so this upgrade is not about sound quality, just fanlessness, and higher processing speed on tap.

Recently, I saw this interesting article for an Intel i3-N305 MiniPC and thought it might be fun to try a fanless low-power but reasonably fast machine. The i3-N305 CPU consists of 8 Intel 10nm 12th Generation Efficient-cores (E-cores) with a 32 Execution Units (EU) iGPU; significantly faster than the last miniPC I reviewed which was the Beelink EQ12 with Intel N100 CPU - 4-core, 24EU.

So to give this a try, I bought the HUNSN RJ36 off Amazon, standard retail "barebones" unit since I figure I could buy the DDR5 RAM and M.2 SSD drive myself. Current price about US$375 before RAM and SSD.

The OEM company who makes these computers is CWWK. Similar computers can be found with the Topton brand name. There's no logo or name on the box itself which to me is fine - brand names are not important to me for many tech products so long as performance, build quality and reliability (which can only be determined over time) are adequate.

Sunday 4 February 2024

Computer Parts: Marvell AQC113C 10GbE network card (QFly NIC-10G), PCIe x4 riser, and 7-port USB3 PCIe x1 Card.

Over the years, I've written about transitioning to faster ethernet here at home with standard copper 10GBASE-T (10GbE) cabling, beginning back in 2018. This works fine even with Cat-5e in the walls of my home (although some renovations use Cat-6). More recently, my home network was upgraded to 2.5GbE for any device that can benefit, with standard 1 gigabit/s fallback.

Last month, I needed another 10GbE network interface card (NIC) and noticed that we're now seeing inexpensive Marvell mGig AQC113C NICs available, upgrades from the AQC107 cards I have been using. So I grabbed a QFly NIC-10G (~US$75) to try out. There are other similar products like the NICGIGA (very unfortunate name).

The card offers 10G/5G/2.5/1GbE speeds and below (100/10Mbps) for compatibility. The new chip operates at only 4W running 10G speed (I believe the AQC107 is estimated at ~6W) making it even cooler-running for heavy loads.