In search of a Hi-Fi system

Our 300 CD changer holder is out of space with our 400 CDs, and there’s no way to playback our digitally-bought 3.5 GBs of mp3/aac files that we have around. We need either something like the AppleTV where we can move all our 35 GB of ripped music in there, or a new 400 CD changer system like this one but with the ability to also play mp3/AAC and have a UI viewable via composite-out.

As it stands right now the AppleTV doesn’t do what we need because it doesn’t have composite-out, as I would like to use a small portable DVD player as external monitor for it. I simply don’t want to hook it on our 50″ TV and have our TV “on” all the time just so we can listen to music. If that was the case, we already have a PS3 that can do that (I currently use it for video playback only). It’s such a shame that the AppleTV doesn’t do RCA because it would have been perfect for music. 🙁

As for the linked Sony CD changer above, it doesn’t do AAC, it doesn’t have a hard drive (and I am not sure it reads mp3 files from DVD-R disks and not just from CD-Rs), while its UI simply sucks from what I read online.

The funny thing is that the device we need actually existed once as a prototype product. Back in 2000. And it was created by my husband’s then-company, Be Inc. The Be Aura was a beautiful device (unfortunately I couldn’t find any picture of it online to link, there used to be one), with a specialized UI, a remote control, and had a nice monitor too. Surely you could put together a small PC today with Windows Media or Linux on it, but it will still look like an ugly ass PC in our living room. That was a targeted device like the AppleTV, not a quickly-put-together PC job. Update: The device I was thinking was called “HARP”, btw. “Aura” was the software platform for it.

So, we basically need a device that can accept a SATA drive with mp3/aac and preferably FLAC music, has composite-out with a usable UI, and good digital-out for audio. The CD changer feature is optional as long as there’s a hard drive in there and there’s lossless FLAC support. So, do you know anything that would work for us?

Update: We might just be going for the Sony 400 CD changer it seems. We feel that the home entertainment systems today are in a state that resembles mobile phones before the iPhone arrived. The Sonos system is close to what we need, but no cigar.


Trenien wrote on April 19th, 2009 at 6:39 AM PST:

Hi, I don’t exactly know if you can find it in the US, or if you can directly plug your dvdreader in it, but you might want to check the linutop.

Carlos wrote on April 19th, 2009 at 7:08 AM PST:

Laurens wrote on April 19th, 2009 at 11:11 AM PST:

I wouldn’t use the popcornhour. While a beautiful box for all video files, having lots of audio & playlists on it is kinda cumbersome in my opinion. Plus, you still have to connect it to your tv.

If it’s only for audio files, go for a Sonos system.

memson wrote on April 19th, 2009 at 12:10 PM PST:

There was a video that was doing the rounds on BeShare that was taken by a Hungarian Be User group member when he visited Be Inc. I think he really wanted to see BeOS, but what he got was a tour of all the BeIA devices, and I;m pretty sure the Aura was in there. I think I have it on my old PowerPC based Mac that I ran BeOS on, so I’ll take a look and get some screen grabs.

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Eugenia wrote on April 19th, 2009 at 12:11 PM PST:

Trenien, you don’t even seem to have read what it’s required. The Linutop doesn’t do anything of what we need. I hope you were joking.

About the Popcorn Hour, I read that its UI sucks and it locks up regularly. I already have a cheap hard drive-based player btw, I reviewed one once for OSNews. It really ain’t that good about music.

The Sonos system is closer to what we need. I checked it out, but it’s a deal breaker on the fact that it doesn’t have an internal drive, or at least a USB connection to add one. It seems to acquire all audio from the network, which is a no-go, as I don’t want to have PCs “on” just to have music. As I said on the blog post, I need an independent solution.

Trenien wrote on April 21st, 2009 at 6:07 AM PST:

I didn’t really closely at the specs, so I’ve no idea what kind of input/output the linutop exactly has, beside usb.

What I did take from your requirements is that a lower end pc would have been fine if it weren’t for the form factor. Well, the linutop basically is a linux pc, with a very small form factor. You can plug it to an external HD, either via usb or ethernet; and as for audio, if what it integrates doesn’t fits the need, an external module can always be plugged in.
Thinking about it, maybe the Neuros OSD would even be more appropriate (if somewhat overkill)!

All this to say that except if you’re only considering possibilities where everything fits into a lone box (whatever its shape), my idea didn’t go so radically against what you wrote you were looking for.

ralfoide wrote on April 21st, 2009 at 10:19 PM PST:

You should switch to MythTV. It’s got such a great UI you’ll have endless hours of rant material for your blog. MythMusic UI is particularly impressive, it redefines “poor UI” in a whole new category (disclaimer: I use MythBuntu.)

As for the PC box they make customized PC boxes for media centers that are descent nowadays and you can build a nice setup for cheap. But your issue is mostly software. I seriously doubt there’s anything out there under Linux that could even remotely satisfy your specs.

Tom Perrone wrote on April 22nd, 2009 at 10:33 AM PST:


Look at the squeezebox (now owned) by logitech. You still need to have your music ripped to a drive somwhere, but it’s small, has its own display and works really well with all the formats (mine are apple lossless, flac AAC and mp3)

The price is right and it’s sound quality is amazing (also has digital out)

I have no affiliation with the company – just a really happy user (yes it’s rare – i know)

Thanks for reinstating the blog


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Eugenia wrote on April 22nd, 2009 at 12:24 PM PST:

Sorry, no. Squeezebox has the same problem as the Sonos one: no internal hard drive. JBQ wants an all-in-one system, not bits and pieces that only please the geeks who like to tinker shit. He wants an overall experience that works and doesn’t fsck when the power goes down on the NAS hard drive.

Ralf. wrote on April 23rd, 2009 at 6:17 AM PST:

Hi Eugenia,

just a suggestion:
You can control an Apple TV by an iPhone/iPod Touch using Apples “Remote” software. That works over WLAN with no TV powered on that is connected to the AppleTV at all!

… maybe a solution for you…?

Best regards,

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Eugenia wrote on April 23rd, 2009 at 1:14 PM PST:

That might work, and it might not work. It hasn’t passed 3 months since my father in law’s iTunes and iPod Touch wouldn’t “pair” because of router or other incompatibility. Plus, you will still need to wait 5 seconds to get the iPod connected back to wifi after a wake-up. It’s not instant-on as a remote is.

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Eugenia wrote on April 23rd, 2009 at 10:27 PM PST:

I showed JBQ the Apple Remote on my iPod Touch and he liked the idea. I think we are indeed going for the AppleTV. Thanks for the suggestion.

Mateusz Szczurek wrote on April 27th, 2009 at 6:43 AM PST:

You can also get PSP to control your PS3 without firing your TV. I have a projector instead of a TV and use PSP in “remote play” mode to start PS3 and play music on via HiFi (so I do not need to start up the projector). You won’t get FLAC though, AFAIK – linux on PS3 wouldn’t work in remote play.
You can also watch PS3 video on PSP screen remotely (but why would you want to do it?)

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Eugenia wrote on April 27th, 2009 at 1:39 PM PST:

Interesting, I didn’t know that. I will check this out.

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Eugenia wrote on April 27th, 2009 at 2:11 PM PST:

Apparently this won’t work for us, because if we connect our PS3 to our Yamaha amplifier that controls our music side of things, we won’t be able to connect it to our TV’s 5.1 audio system (which is separate).

Also, we have a problem with our first generation PSP at the moment, the battery doesn’t work (even the new one we bought).

So I think the AppleTV remains the best option.

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