Home Audio

Tuesday 10th May, 2005
Just by chance, I came across a solution to some of my home audio plans yesterday.

Since long before the day I was given my iPod I considered ripping all my CDs and having a centralised music library but, when it came down to it, I couldn't see much benefit for the time it would take. Then I got the iPOD which offered an easy way of ripping my music from CD, looking up all the artist/title information and then storing it in an easily manageable library.

So now, just for the sake of the iPod, I'm building up a centralised music repository. Indeed, I've even started purchasing music from iTunes! I've been toying with the idea of how to best exploit my new music library but many of my avenues are failing either on cost of convenience grounds.

Enter the Creative Labs Soundblaster Wireless Music device which "gives you the freedom to play all of the MP3 and WMA music on your PC in another room of your home over your existing 802.11b or 802.11g wireless network."

Essentially the Soundblaster WM allows me to tap into my existing music library using a wireless client and outputting the sound via standard phono/RCA jacks or optical digital. A quick install of the creative software on your library machine allows it to stream your MP3/WMA music to up to 5 wireless nodes. An RF remote with large LCD screen allows for full control of what's playing whilst, as infrared isn't in use, line of site isn't required. This allow me to use it as a music source for my Bose lifestyle unit whilst still leaving it in the cupboard behind close doors.

One Problem - iTunes used proprietary AAC endoding and Apple's DRM. I actually thought this would ruin the whole plan, but alas no. Today I checked the options within iTunes and, instead of AAC, I can rip directly to MP3. So I will rip (and re-rip) my library to 192kbps MP3 files with standard ID3 tags which will be usable on my iPod without problem. I will then store my iTunes library on my server and share it with the Creative streaming software.

The end result...a centralised music library containing all my CDs accessible from a wireless remote in any room. With a quick click in iTunes I can copy any tracks to my iPod for use offline. The only thing I need now is a solution for the car, probably just a 3.5mm jack to cassette adaptor for the head unit in the Lexus. Thankfully Lexus still supply cassettes alongside CD changers in the dash.

I previously looked at Sonos home audio solutions, recommended by Gareth Cook,  but the lack of resellers in the UK made them not so cheap to import and prohibitively expensive.

Sonos comes to Europe. Maybe I'll delay that thought a little.

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