As I sit here awaiting an impending blizzard and listening to a piano quintet by Ernst von Dohnányi, I’m feeling pretty content. The world is a bit crap right now, but the space I occupy and control is rather nice. I’m quite grateful for that.
With everything on fire in the distant world, I hope those reading are not experiencing localized blazes. If you are, please let me know what I can do to help. If not, let me be the one to give you permission to put down the phone, shut off the computer, and pick up something you enjoy. Whether it’s a book, an album, a game, or a movie. Whether it’s a pen, a brush, a chisel, or a crochet hook. Just go do it. And maybe call a loved one.
After all, what else is there but to live life?
If you’ve bought an Apple product in the past year, you probably have access to Apple TV+. If so, I definitely recommend Ted Lasso. The premise, well, it just should not work, but somehow it does.
Jesse and I have enjoyed watching as the show fills in the initially cartoon-outlined characters. The emotional depth to which it reaches, and the quickness at which arrives there, is impressive. It’s not difficult to cheer for Lasso. I wish I could find a way to be as optimistic as him.
We have a few episodes left to watch. Hopefully they don’t make me regret this recommendation!
Where do you stand? Can we still be friends?
I have been updating some of our entertainment and utilitarian electronics. It has been a welcome distraction these past couple weeks. I’ve improved our WiFi situation. I’ve installed more RAM in our NAS. I picked up an Apple TV 4K to see if I prefer it to our smart TV features, which are starting to show their age.
Probably the most fun project has been figuring out an audio streaming solution for my office stereo system. As most of you know, I really enjoy music. As most of you also know, I have a particular illness where, when I can, I pursue the most faithful reproduction of said music. Given my office stereo system is the best set of audio gear I own, that’s the place where I look for the best sound I can get.
While I have a vinyl setup in my office, I recognize that most often I listen to digital music, whether it is from my own library or a streaming service. For years the digital streaming device that has fed my office system has been a Chromecast Audio. In terms of sound quality this device has been pretty good, especially since for me it has just been a transport feeding into an external DAC. However, it was a challenge to get connected to it. The device often took 30 seconds to be recognized on my network, even via the Google Home app. After “priming” the Chromecast via Google Home, it would still be a random guess whether I would be able to connect to it via Spotify Connect. If I paused the music for more than 30 seconds, there was a good chance that the device would be disconnected. It just wasn’t enjoyable to use.
With a new device, I wanted to try a few things in my stereo system: 1) would I notice the quality difference with an HD audio service like Tidal or Qobuz? 2) would I enjoy library management with Roon? (Roon is hard to understand, but it’s a service that unifies your personal and streaming library as well as giving you a sort of “digital liner notes” experience. It also capably handles the streaming-to-all-of-your-devices duties.) 3) Gapless playback. (When you’re listening to Dark Side of the Moon, it’s off-putting to have a half-second pause between tracks.)
Time for something new! My first try at replacing the Chromecast Audio was to build a Raspberry Pi streaming device. I’ve always been intimidated by the Pi and this was a good place to get my feet wet. As with many things in life, with the help of YouTube it wasn’t bad at all. It only took part of a day to put heat sinks on the Pi, mount it to the screen, mount that assembly in the case, install the RoPieee XL OS, and get things connected to Roon. (RoPieee XL took hours to install to the Pi for some reason.)
So far, the device has been quite nice. Having a screen may be a bit overboard, but we’ll see if that turns out to be functional over time. The quality of the stream via USB to the DAC seems pretty good. The jury is still out on Tidal vs Spotify. I probably should do some acoustic room treatment before really making a determination. Roon is nice to have, but it’s going to have to be better than nice to justify paying the price of it. I will probably give it a couple months, though. The downside with dropping Roon is it probably means trying a different Pi OS, because RoPieee XL is mostly great at being a Roon endpoint.
Most importantly in all this audio talk is that I’ve been listening to more music again lately, and that’s a good thing. I’d love if everyone, including myself, sat down and actively listened to a couple albums every week. It is good for the soul.