Monday, 31 May 2021

My Fusor, starmode, and a fractelised tungsten super surface...

Not much time for this as I'm currently stuck doing loads of mock maths exams ~ in a desperate bid to get a score above 40% {My fault as I decided for a laugh (spurred on by a B in "Geology") to take on a third year maths course with no (not enough) prior experience in the "field" = No pun intended :) }

Anyway, I was in the other "field" t'other day dreaming about the aforementioned "fractelised" tungsten grid and ruminating 'bout the bosses view on burning deutrium and the whole home made reactors in the garage thing etc when it occured to me I needed to get a higher surface area tungsten grid. Sadly, one of the reasons I engaged in this maths course was because I'm really interested in cryptography and fractals (using the "latex" thing in Libre office is something I could have done without though!) - Both of which (we're told anyway) aren't going to appear in this years exam..(Doh!) But a "fractelised" tungsten grid appeared to me in my field dream (lol = oh dear I'm getting too old to write anything without getting tangentially diverted)

Back on track... (lot of this stuff is because I know I'll forget if I don't record it)

LDAC is good (if you're outside / not in our house as way too much interference) and Chinese IEM's are really good - I don't mind the fact you can't mess with the frequencies (Sony have locked it like they did with SACD and the signature does seem quite flat) but the best phone based setup I’ve discovered thus far is this...(if you're lacking a headphone socket and want a lossless bluetooth solution)

(By way of experimentation I've spent a small fortune on different earpieces / headphones etc over the last few months - yet this really is surprisingly cheap!!)

Android phone with LDAC support. (I've not tried the other option LHDC yet!)

Fiio BTR3K (dual AKM's with separate crystal oscillators gives a really smooth sound) no good for big cans with the standard headphone socket though (not loud enough for me) brilliant for walking outside (variable results inside) First job = flash the sucker up to the latest firmware! 😎

Famedy dual driver IEM's with MMCX detachable / upgradeable cable. 

 
 
Now the IEM's can be customised with memory foam tips and an upgraded cable. I've not put memory foam tips on ~ but I have bought a 2.5 mm yinyoo balanced MMCX cable as both Cowon and Fiio have balanced outputs (Fiio goes from 25 mw standard to 75 mw with balanced = big juice increase!) Cable arrives on Wednesday so I'll enjoy having a play with it.. 


Alexa is telling me there's been a breakthrough in fusion reactors so I'm off, catch you post invasion!πŸ‘ΎπŸ‘½πŸ‘Ύ

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Cowon Plenue D2 Vs Sony Nw-A105 16GB Walkman

Been meaning to get a new DAP (to replace the Cowon S9 mentioned in a post below) for a little bit and as Magnus is still settling down (burning in really - the only change I've made since the original build was to fit a bigger M2 boot drive ~ replacing the Sunbow). My plans to upgrade PSU, cooling and memory this Christmas being nullified by a good old dose of "the virus" which has pretty much knackered me for days!


 

So Christmas was upon us and I dutifully unwrapped my shiny Sony Nw-A105 which is the same as the 40th anniversary A100 only cheaper (was £199 when we bought it) as it doesn't have the funky Walkman case. Now I could probably talk about this for hours (but I won't) 

Here are the original ingredients -

Sony Nw-A105 16GB Walkman

Shure SRH 440E 

Sony  WH-CH710N

 and finally -


Note:- The 900N's are actually an appalling set of headphones as the bass is so monstrous I find it (quite often) induces bursts of uncontrollable laughter ~ which is why I've kept them (so far!!))

Right to the point - The Sony Walkman sounds dreadful (there's a horribly granular something going on) It could't really power the Shure cans at all using the standard headphone jack. I doubt this jack is capable of powering any wired headphones to the EU db limit - Sony have deliberately hobbled the amp and there's nothing you can do to reverse it - Because the player is android (I tried setting region to Hong Kong etc but nothing works) rather than Sony's usual linux OS.

 

Why does it sound so horrible? Once my 900N's turned up I started to think (for about a day) I would keep the player as the LDAC does work to fix some of the sound problems (mostly by throwing so much bass at it you can't hear anything else) Smooths it out a bit and adds more volume. However, it's as though the android system is taking too much of the system resources and the player is physically struggling to process the music files properly. (Presumably this couln't be true?)

Note:- I'm talking here about Thriller 25 anniversary gold disk edition (good to test as we know every note) - Them Crooked Vultures and Porgy and Bess ripped to FLAC (somewhere around 1050 kbps) using Exact Audio Copy. I tried loads of different types of music ripped to different file types and compression levels. There were FLAC files the Sony refused to play (weirdly) which was quite annoying (these were ripped using CDex to 900 odd kbps)

This review really only uses the three albums though.

Right so you deserve some explanation and here it is - If you put Scumbag Blues (even a crappy 320 kbps MP3 version) onto the Cowon S9 and play it there's no way in a million years you'd drift off thinking about painting the shed or washing the car! Nope, there's something borderline demonic in the S9's delivery. something crazy and untethered. Next try listening to the same song a few more times and strangely you're not thinking about the washing, the ironing, or mowing the snow! Nope, all you're thinking is you can't wait for it to finish so you can play it again! And that's what listening to music should be like! Somehow Sony (android?) have ripped the heart out of 105's musical delivery ~ they've destroyed it's very soul. I can more or less guarantee you could play "Scumbag Blues" on the Sony, sip some Horlicks, and drift off to sleep within seconds! 

The Sony was packed back up and despatched back to Amazon. And,,, I very nearly sent the 900N's back as well....(Only they still make me chuckle!)

Yesterday, the Cowon Plenue D2 turned up. "It's" strange really as Cowon don't do sensitive or aesthetic - Everything they do is function spiced with an engaging (addictive) kind of brutality => you really have to witness this for yourself, then, once you're infected there can be no going back.

 I switched the D2 on and selected one of the three options namely I don't live in the European union (which I suppose is the truth now! :) )  

Scumbag Blues (using crystal clear) - Words really can't describe the delivery (OK I'll give it a go!) <=> it's as though Echo herself poured some juice of the Gods over every single one of the D2's transistors, aiding and abetting the perfect delivery of each microscopic detail of analogue beauty into the (somewhat crappy) 900N's.

If man has ever made a perfect machine then this is it!

And I have my new DAP!! :)



 

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Magnus Sharkoon

Sometime during the course of the summer I decided (mostly as we can't go anywhere or do anything) to build a new PC for the living room (has to fit under the TV stand)

The new machine would replace an i3 hp mini pc which has served the Squeezebox and Plex for quite a few years (probably find reference to it in previous blogs here!) I also decided this new machine would likely be the last (Windows PC) computer I'd ever build so it needed to be notable in some way (I say the last only as they really are becoming ubiquitous and there will [in the future] be much less reason to build your own IMHO - Although I'll probably have a go at printing one once we can do that!)

Magnus Sharkoon would need to be ITX form-factor and would likely take a year or two to complete as it iteratively evolves into it's final form. 

I ordered a Sharkoon case (as I liked the name!) and then gradually ordered bits and pieces to go inside. Some of the parts are simply to get the project up and running - Others are keepers! :)

So far Magnus is an i9 9900k and boots into Win 10 prof from a small 128 gigabyte sunbow NVME drive. I installed a 480 gigabyte SSD for games, and the like, then shucked two external 6 and 5 terabyte Seagates for Plex. Plex serves well over a 1,000 films now (some higher quality / larger files than others) Magnus has an unsophisticated ASUS mb and graphics are handled by a GTX 1650 Super which delivers about 5000 odd on the 3d Mark Timestrike with the CPU trundling along at 5GHz 

Problems encountered - Bent pins on the MB - Ordered two incorrect CPU's (more I couldn'r decide what to build thean anything else!!) then i9 CPU arrived in smashed up display box and the Radeon Gcard I bought originally didn't work properly at all..!! 

Here are some pics -


 



Sunday, 17 May 2020

AmpliFi Instant Home WiFi Mesh Router - AFI-INS-R (UK Version with UK PSU) combined with Amplifi Instant Home Mesh WiFi System Kit - AFI-INS (UK Version with UK PSU),white

Well, we're still going through network meltdown here ATM. The number of devices online all the time probably doesn't fall below 40 anymore and could even hit the, somewhat, heady heights of 60 if we were to charge everything up / get some laptops out the cupboard etc.
Perhaps we jouneyed the wrong way purchasing loads of dodgy Chinese standalone light bulbs (rather than something with a hub) - And now the (even dodgier?) light switches mentioned in the last post!
The previously described Huawei router was pretty good (considering the price) but very sensitive to different clients (even similar clients). It didn't like some of our TP-Link HS100 switches and kept bombing them out (or simply wouldn't let them connect at all) After a couple of weeks it started to let go of speakers whilst we were enjoying our weekend disco's!! :)
In the meantime our trusty VR900 gave up producing a 2.4 GHz signal :( - Final coffin nail => No more TP-Link free cloud control!
I think TP-Link must have realised their VR series routers were (ever so slightly) fatally flawed hence the setting = reboot every so many days - The shortest time-span being three ~ which really needed to be one! lol (As per the Huawei)

Enter Ubiquity Instant / Ingredient list -
First I bought this for £69.99 -

Reasons were (in order of importance)
1. It's a mesh system where you can set the channel number (but only for the primary networks / guest and second networks sit on the same channels. Weirdly you can't hide the second networks but you can hide the guest network)
2. You can add as many of these as you like provided the additions aren't kits (which turned out to be false)
3. Look and footprint - VR series routers are big lumps! These are tiny + The underglow makes them look super funky!
4. Ubiquiti are more business class - So the logic was ~ perhaps a slower system (who cares as long as it can stream 4k!) would last longer than some of these super fast routers which burn out in 5 minutes (if you're lucky!) (I noticed even super-cheap routers around the 1200 mark seem to keep going without issue for years! (Ok so less devices attached)
5. Should really move this up the list - Price! The kit below + single ~ sell for the same price as an AX router - Reading the 1-star reviews of the new, cheaper, AX units makes us think they're not quite good enough for what we need here yet! :)

Next we set the single up and ran it in place of the VR900 without issue (shame it's not black but love the smallness) Figured out some of the settings and logged onto the diminutive web panel etc

Second
Everything worked fine for a week or so whilst the two pack (£99.99) made its way to sunny Wallia - Once arrived (and appropriately disinfected due to the Zombie apocalypse) It was installed using the main network unhidden and guest music network hidden (devices on infinity) The single was set the same only using different frequencies (with a view to merging the two together)

Brilliant aspect of this is we now have a nice hole in the 2.4GHz spectrum where we could potentially setup another network (using the VR600 which is still perfectly functional) for the future (the merging of our music and main network seemed to work fine (surprisingly))

First music test after the arrival of the two pack went well as all the Chromecasts logged onto the new routers (we realised this would be a temporary situation) by the following weekend a few of the music devices had drifted over to the other router and the decision was made to mesh the suckers up!

Disaster! First of all (our fault for thinking this would be easy!!) we tried merging the double pack with the single (which we discovered can't be done)
Next, we tried merging the single with the double (which also can't be done).
All this took hours because, somewhere along the way, the mesh point from the double pack detached itself and wouldn't merge back - Paper-clipping everything back to factory left right and center eventually restored some sanity! Worse, to get anything back working the android application has to be continually reset ~ otherwise it seems to get confused over (for instance) the online status of the devices (the mesh point was tested working using a LAN cable yet the application said it was detached) The act of resetting the android app ruins all the permissions which means (until you realise you forgot to manually enable the permission to turn WiFi network on and off) the software continually asks for WiFi on off control.
The whole process was extraordinarily frustrating.
Even worserer - Why would the app go through all the laborious act of pretending it's merging the devices if this cannot physically be done = Excessive annoyance beyond all the other technological interaction frustrations so far this year! (Well done Ubiquiti lol)

We haven't given up with this merging situation yet though (Einstein / madness doing the same thing expecting different outcomes etc aside) and we'll point the manufacturer to this blog so they can see exactly what happened ~ potentially allowing them to redeem themselves! (If they so choose)

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

HUAWEI WiFi WS5200 V2 for Chromecast audio

Well = goes against the grain a little bit as I am a self confessed TP-Link fanboy. However the VR600 was deselected from its premier position as music router due to some very strange interference issues. I suspect the premium technological design effort was concentrated on 5GHz which (of course) has no bearing with ones Chromecast setup!! I completely swapped everything around with the VR600 and the VR900 working in conjunction organizing light switches, light bulbs, cameras and general duties downstairs (I put them at opposite ends of the wireless spectrum). The VR900 really is close to meltdown now and seems to fold when attached to anymore than 10 devices. The addition of new devices is (naturally) relentless especially now live-switched light switches have become available! These present an excellent conundrum as you have to guess (in the absence of any equipment) where to put the capacitor to gain stability!! Haven't electrocuted myself quite yet but the possibility of such an event seems ever more immanent! 😎
Ok so the VR600 went out and was temporarily swapped for a C50 which (you have to take your hat off to) performed remarkably well although the bathroom speaker would periodically drop out whilst one cleaned ones gnashers etc! Chromecast audio tends to go pretty glitchy once one speaker packs up and can take several seconds to get back working...
Now hukdeals had the Huawei on offer at Boxt for less the £30 bucks so I read up on it then paid £30 to get a V2 from Amazon - Here are some difficult to find out things you may need to know -

Yes, you can set it up with both network SSID's as hidden* and yes you can choose the channels manually. Not sure how many devices can connect to this in total but suspect I'm overloading it on the 2.4 GHz so the quoted devices could be correct over the two frequencies - However on 2.4 GHz alone it struggles to support much more than 20..

*Pretty important here as my (currently 5) routers use all the available WiFi bandwidth (try to keep things a little bit less obvious)

Now the router has been running a few days - There are two HS100's which refuse to connect to it and one or two other items glitching a bit (Roku sticks) However I simply redeployed these to different networks and let the little Huawei run (It's set to restart daily) Yesterday AM it crashed for the first time which is pretty good considering my other routers only last a couple of days before getting super burning hot etc However, worth mentioning is the music quality which seems to be consistent everywhere with no dropouts as such! So the device is performing well (if you consider it didn't attempt taking on more than it could chew initially / melting itself a-la its TP-Link contemporaries) ~ I'll likely get some more once the price reduces again.

So now I have a bit of a solution (admittedly these are usually thermally dependent and somewhat temporary) I decided it would be nice to cast from a CD player an actual CD across the network - Thinking I'll build a bespoke unit to accommodate this using an old super-small windows (or linux Pi) computer / CD-Rom drive and a copy of Chromecast audio stream master - Now I want this unit to look nice which means it will be boxed up and it will need a display to operate the casting aspect + it will need quite a big drive so I can play MP3's from it as well..! Brilliant project which I think I need to start now but can't as I've got too many Geology exams coming up!! Doh!! πŸ˜πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

When I get 5 minutes I'll stick some pictures of everything mentioned above (below) and add the links!

Saturday, 29 February 2020

eBIRD Chromecast Speaker in the Bathroom Review

Well one of the most difficult places to get powered sound into is the bathroom. I've tried quite a few things over the years including -

1. Simple battery powered Bluetooth speakers (using different squeezebox applications (impossible sync issues) on various devices (this is so long ago I can't really remember))

2. Pure Jongo's - The sync on these things was also very difficult to get right.

3. Chromecast audio powered by a Bose European charger from the shaver socket - This works well but you only have one USB so the Bose eventually runs out of juice. I have got multi headed European USB sockets but the wires the wires etc!!

3.5. Chromecast speakers with battery packs - I bought battery packs for Google home and mini speakers thinking I could somehow get these powered up on USB - The mini works but the sound sucks - Bought right angled barrel connectors for the home but they don't work (I don't think they're quite long enough / someone somewhere said cut the plastic end off but I decided against)

4. Chromecast audio / Bose combination with dual head 20,000 mAh mobile powerbank on permanent charge from the shaver point - So advantages of this method are single wire input - Can be tucked and partially hidden on top of the bathroom cabinet (I got it looking quite acceptable in the end) Good uptime if the battery gets disconnected to charge toothbrush - Disadvantages are potential for battery to go pop (I monitored the battery / charger / and socket temperature - Our socket only has the Shaver sign / No toothbrush sign which means it's not really cut out for running always-on ) Really this was a mess but it sounded very good.
I've been feverishly searching for replacement shaver sockets with USB built in as well ~ without any success... Starting to think the worlds not ready for me yet or something! :)

As always (one feels compelled to mention) I've tried quite a few other combo's, now lost in the mists of time.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, the mrs mentioned new bathroom cabinet blah, blah so I started looking at ones with speakers and weather stations built in - They're expensive (not as expensive (or as nice looking) as the one already in the bathroom though) and I couldn't find one with aux-in for the Chromecast (really can't be bothered with Bluetooth anymore as it's too much fafff) let alone a bathroom cabinet with Chromecast built in!! (that would be way too easy!!)
Then (kerching?) suddenly last weekend I came across the eBIRD - Described by Amazon as -


And amazingly they're only £29.99 (Bonsai!!)
Now the sound on this isn't quite as good as a Google home (I don't think) but the difference (if any) isn't much - A big disadvantage being there's no way of adjusting bass or treble (non I've found yet anyway) as the option simply doesn't exist in the Google home application.
The risk with buying the speaker was powering it up obviously. I watched a German review on YouTube but unfortunately the reviewer doesn't show the mains adapter.. Well for thirty buckpounds I thought lets give it a shot anyway...

Quick scenario review -
Really a bathroom speaker needs to be hidden(ish) / needs to be as wire free as possible / needs to be cheap because it will likely get steamed, splashed, go moldy etc / needs to have low power usage as bathrooms don't have any power! (the biggest problem) And mostly it needs to be technological enough to keep me entertained (lol sorry) 

Now the speaker arrived (from Germany?) and my thoughts (in order) were -

Big box
Surprisingly heavy with good build
UK Power adapter!! Nooooo (I was hoping for European)
Setup was super easy - 2 minutes
Takes a long time to boot up / log on and get going
Sound is not bad ~ Surprisingly good even!

Then I started thinking - You really really could do whole home on a super frugal budget with this! Imagine if you were skint / couldn't afford Sonos etc Then one of these in every room and the free version of Spotify would certainly lift your spirits! All for not much more than the cost of a single Sonos speaker! And, I bet, the effect would be pretty good..(As you can tell I'm really quite enthused by it)

How to get it working! Well I dug out the barrel connectors I had bought for the Google home above and they worked (risking almost certain polarity oblivion) perfectly with the Bose charger - Speaker powered up and is now installed on the bathroom cabinet (wires all nicely tucked away to keep the boss happy!! :) So far the shaver socket is holding out (hasn't melted / split in two or anything) 

In summation - I'm pretty chuffed with the outcome - Sound could be better but how much power can you drag out of a shaver socket before it blows-one! ? (I'll report back!!)

Looks like this -



Saturday, 15 February 2020

Cowon S9 and The Fiat Tipo

Some time back (probably 10 or so years ago (amazingly)) I broke with tradition somewhat (mostly because I'm not really an Apple fan) and indulged myself in a Cowon S9 and a set of Shure headphones to boot. At the time the S9 was probably the best sounding MP3 you could get (don't believe any of the negative reviews as this thing really is awesome!) certainly for less than than a few hundred quid (I don't think there were many / any players in the >£1000 price bracket back then) To really appreciate this device you had to tell it you live in Angola or Korea or somewhere - This unlocked the full power of the amplifier. Next, set the sound shaping profile, drag some uncompressed FLAC's onto it, and Bob's your ear doctor! Even today the raw-power (lol ~ yes the pun is intended and yes I listen to it on this device / you're lost? Well get a life!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Taste eh?  ) of the thing is merciless - Rock your socks off, ear-bleeding intensity I've never heard anywhere (apart from the attic where my 170 watt Onkyo can make the air move like a solid mass of "undistorted" wonderment!)
Where am I going with this? Well the TPE coating of the Cowon is oxidizing and the material is sadly reverting. Yep, the soft-touch, tactile enhancing, outer embellishment is going proper sticky like! Reminds me of my Amstrad PDA600 which did exactly the same thing (only over a much shorter time span) (looks like the TPE manufacturers have learned how to stabilize the stuff a bit better?)
So, I was thinking it must be time to start specking up a replacement! Most probably going to go for the Plenue D2 which (hopefully) will sound as good as the S9 (with more solidstate music space)

Can't wait...!!

In other news, for some crazy reason (someone drove into us the other day),



I decided to buy a new Fiat Tipo - Super cheap ATM so I got the bog standard one with no frills (I hardly drive anywhere really so don't need anything any better!) Really love the look of this car - Has a kind of subtle sexy thing going on (not sure why I'm even saying that!!) Anyway, big problems with Alexa as there's no headphone input to the media player (can't be arsed to spend the rest of my life getting the thing connected with Bluetooth (which doesn't seem to support music anyway in me Tipo!!))
Ended up purchasing a wireless transmitting whatnot to send the Alexa output to the stereo!! Never had one of these before so no idea if it's any good...! - I'll report back with a progress report!!