Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

20 posts / 0 new
Last post
Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

Does anyone know of an easily accessible idiot's guide on how to play music stored on my laptop through my 'main hi-fi'? In addition to a large CD and record collection, I now have a great deal of music stored on hard-disc which I would love to hear through my main sound system (Musical Fidelity X2 and LS35As) I realise, of course, that I could simply link to my amp via the laptop's headphone outlet, but this isn't particularly convenient. I have read various articles (not least in Gramophone, of course) but all have left me rather baffled - I did say I needed an idiot's guide!

My laptop is a Toshiba and I have very reliable wireless broadband, the modem (?) is quite near the amp, around 20ft or so from where my laptop is situated. Is there a way of getting the music wirelessly from my laptop to the amp? 

All help and advice gratefully received, and apologies in advance if these questions are somewhat basic.

JKH 

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

Harnedy - there are a number of devices on the market that will do what you want.  I use a Squeezebox Touch which costs around £250.  Basically you plug it into your hi-fi and it will play any music stored on any computer in your house.  It will also stream internet radio. It is also compatible with various content providers (including I believe Napster, Rhapsody and Classic.com but not Spotify). Sound quality is excellent, it's fairly easy to set up and there's very good support at www.logitech.com, including an active user community.

I'm less familiar with other similar products.  Hopefully,others will post furhter recommendations that will help you choose the product most suitable for your own particular circumstances.

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

The most convenient way would be to get a wireless streaming device that connects to your hifi.

The two main brands in this market are Sonos and Logitech's Squeezebox.

I have no experience of using Sonos products.  They get very good reviews, but are (more) expensive - eg, a 'controller' will cost you c.£279 and a 'zone player' (the wireless unit that streams the files and connects to your hi-fi) will cost the same again - so c.£558 overall.

I have used a Squeezebox Duet for a couple of years now. They also get good reviews, and very well designed and made, and are less expensive than the Sonos - eg, a Duet (a 'controller' handset + a wi-fi player that connects to your hi-fi) retails at £289 (less, if you search around a bit). 

It's certainly easy enough to set up - assuming you're happy enough adding a device to a wireless network you should be able to have it up-and-running about 10 minutes after it arrives - and it's easy enough to actually, too.  There's also a very active user community out there, should you need any help.

Fwiw, there's also now a Squeezebox 'Touch'. As the name suggests it's a touch screen device, and combines the functions of streaming player and controller in one unit. A touch screen ought to be a more usable device than the rotating scroll-wheel of the Duet Controller. However, as the Touch has to be connected to your hifi, and may therefore be over the other side of the room from where you're listening, the logic of the design escapes me :-)  You can control the Touch using the Infra-red remote included - but as the remote doesn't have a display, you're still left with the problem of being able to read the Touch's screen from wherever you're sitting.

In terms of digital music formats supported, both the Sonos and Squeezebox devices should handle anything you're likely to want to play:

Sonos supports MP3, iTunes Plus, WMA (including purchased Windows Media downloads), AAC (MPEG4), Ogg Vorbis, Audible (format 4), Apple Lossless, Flac, WAV and AIFF.

Squeezebox supports MP3, AAC (MP4), WMA, Ogg, FLAC, Apple Lossless, WMA Lossless, and WAV.

That's necessarily only a quick overview, of course - if you've any specific questions about Squeezebox, please just ask.

 

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

Hi SpiderJohn

Squeezebox sounds like it could be a good route for me, I'm on a budget as we are expecting our first child later this year :)

At the moment my ALAC files are stored on a 1 TB External Hard Drive. I listen via itunes on my MacBook Pro.  The drive is in my office, on the top floor.

I'd like to stream the music to my B & O Hifi downstairs.  I've tried hooking up my wife's laptop and using itunes home sharing, but the stream keeps dropping (I assume because the ALAC files are too big).

So my question - would the Squeezebox product you describe recitfy this, and allow me to stream without dropping out? 

AVL

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

If you're using a Macbook and iTunes, it would make sense to use an Airport Express, which is quite a bit cheaper than any of the Squeezeboxes.  Whilst it doesn't have its own interface, you can control it directly via the Macbook or by using an iPod Touch or iPhone as a remote.

The standard analogue output is reasonable enough, but when attached to an external Digital to Analogue Converter (its headphone socket doubles as an optical digital out) and playing files of 320kbps or more, it can rival CD players of £500 or more...

Add airfoil for $25 to stream sources other than iTunes as well and you have all the music source you'll ever need.

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

Thanks both for your replies!

Anecdotally I had heard the Airport suffered a little from drop outs when streaming large files - sounds like you don't agree?

I had understood you could use the iTunes Remote app to control iTunes via Squeezebox - but maybe thats not correct?

My head gets befuddled quite quickly with different combinations and alternatives - sounds like both of these routes would work for me?

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

SpiderJon wrote:

Wouldn't a decent external DAC  raise the cost to much the same as SqueezeBox? Plus you'd still lack a dedicated remote - although I grant that controlling it via a laptop would be perfectly viable.

Yes it would, but would be more flexible and better quality than a Squeezebox.  Though probably not 'more better' than strictly necessary for most people in the real world, agreed.

SpiderJon wrote:

Must... resist... temptation... to... discuss... bitrates...

:-)

Go on, you know you want to.

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

Well that all went very well...until last night!

Bought the Airport Express, easy set up out of the box, attached to my wireless network fine, good, detailed sound using ALAC recordings (even without a DAC), iPhone Remote app works well, happy happy...

But last night - it stuttered and glitched.  No apparent reason - nothing running on the network differently as far as I could tell.  The washing machine was on in the basement below (!) - am I clutching at straws here?

Seems fine again this morning - played exactly the same music file, without a hitch...

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

Sorry, missed this.

What operating system are you using?

RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

I have a Squeezebox and am very happy with the audio results. To my ears I can detect no difference between a 320kbps ripped file and the original CD - and that's through a high-end Yamaha AV receiver and a pair of Quad ESL988s, REL woofer, KEF satellites (although my ears are perhaps less high tech than the replay equipment!) As soon as I buy a CD I rip it to a hard drive and seldom look at the CD again, unless to check a song's text.

However a continuing source of annoyance with the Squeezebox is the one-line display which can take forever to scroll to the end of the line. If you want to play a track called something like "Eine Alpensymphonie - symphonic poem for large orchestra, Op64 - XIII Auf dem Gipfel" and you only want to play this Summit music it seems an eternity waiting for the display to scroll so you can identify track XIII that you want.

(OK to those of us brought up on LPs, this is nothing compared to getting the album off the shelf, extracting disc, etc,etc...) Even if you edit the track name on your PC the Squeezebox will revert after a few seconds to the metadata stored with the file and display the whole line again!

An alternative solution exists: I keep my entire music collection on a couple of Western Digital 1TB external drives. (And regularly back them up!) I have recently bought a WD HD TV media player which is permanently connected into my AV system. When I want to play music seriously I just pick up the hard drive from my computer home office and plug it into the media player with two cables - HDMI & power. This wonder device costs a princely £35 from Amazon.

The result allows me to play glorious sound but controlling the search options via the television monitor, where all track info is displayed instantly.

(Lest you think the TV would be a distraction, a press of the "pure direct" key on the amplifier blacks out the displays while you concentrate on the music.)

I still use the Squeezebox on occasion for convenience but will always use the media player when I want to do some serious listening. If you have a good AV receiver/speakers/TV with HDMI interconnection, this could be the best £35 you'll spend in some considerable time.

(No connection to any of the suppliers mentioned apart from as a happy customer.)

 

 

Macsporran
RE: Linking a Laptop to Hi-Fi

Thanks for all the great advice on this thread. I have a couple of idiot's questions - forgive me.

I too have a most of my audio on a WD 1tb drive, ripped and played /burned thru itunes. I assume the WD HD media drive links via phonos to the receiver described above, and will also link to a normal amp via phono? But I assume too that to access the menu options I need a vid link - what sort of cable? - from my amp or the WD HD media drive to the tv. Else I can't see what I'm choosing, obviously. Currently my amp - a Musical Fidelity A5 - just takes an audio phono lead off the tv.

I hope that makes sense and thanks in advance.

Pages

Log in or register to post comments

Gramophone Subscriptions

From£67/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2019