Many of us computer audiophiles, and audiophiles looking to get into the music server game, have long wanted a music server that rivals the Sooloos touchscreen interface without paying the Sooloos price premium. What many people don't realize is how advanced the Sooloos product is as a complete package. Notably how it handles metadata and library navigation using this extended metadata. I continually research music servers and every related product under the sun but I've yet to find anything that duplicates or equals the quality of Sooloos metadata support and library navigation. For example browsing an album's credits to find the producer then searching for other albums in the library that were produced by this person. It's all a couple touches away and without manually entering the information at any time. As the saying goes, there's no free lunch. This is certainly true with what I call Joe Sixpack's Sooloos.
This article is not meant to be a comparison between an inexpensive solution and the Sooloos package. It's more of a look at a viable option for budget conscious audiophiles.
<img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0813/sx2210t-thumb.png" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 5pt 5pt;" align="left">The Dell SX2210T multi-touch monitor has a full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 21.5" screen with a nice glass feel. Somewhat similar to the feel of an iPhone. The SX2210T also offers pretty good color rendition although it's not even close to the Apple backlit LED 24" display. Compared to the Sooloos standard touchscreens (17") the Dell has larger size, better resolution, better feel, multi-touch navigation, and better color. The best thing about the Dell SX2210T is its price. Depending on the day of the week this monitor's price fluctuates from $299 to $399. Dell offers many different discounts that disappear as quickly as they appear and for no apparent reason. Frequently the Dell Refurbished site offers the SX2210T for $299 as well.
Comparing this Dell monitor directly to the Sooloos Control 10 (~$5,000) or Control 15 (~$7,500) "monitors" is really like comparing apples to oranges. The Sooloos "monitors" do quite a bit more than just display the screen contents of a computer. The Sooloos units are computers with digital outputs, disc drives, and now storage. Thus, the comparisons to Sooloos "monitors" should, and will, stop here. Remember, It's the overall concept of an inexpensive Dell and JRMC 15 that's considered Joe Sixpack's Sooloos. This isn't a head to head competition or comparison.
As I said earlier the Sooloos database and handling of metadata is outstanding. Since there is no such thing as a Sooloos software only package, us Joe Sixpacks of the computer audio world have to use what we can afford to run on our computers. Not only is J river Media Center my go-to playback application on the PC, it's a great application for touchscreen control. Out of the box JRMC 15 comes with the Obsidian Touchscreen Skin that runs in JRMC's Theater View. (Note: JRMC is used behind the scenes on some touchscreen music servers available today). What makes this combination of the Obsidian Touchscreen Skin and Theater View so powerful is JRMC's customizability. The default layout is great and will work for 99.99% of users. Since I like to customize everything I can I spent countless hours working on the touchscreen layout. I simplified the main screen by excluding links to Images, Videos, and the like. After trying many different layouts I settled for a simple Artist, Album, Genre, and Sample Rate navigation menu. Creating the Sample Rate Selection menu was a little more difficult than most JRMC customizations. The great thing about this menu is that it will create special sections for all the sample rates and bit depths in my library on the fly. No user intervention is required. when I add a new album that contains a sample rate not currently in the library a new section labeled with the bit depth and sample rate is automatically created and "touchable" via the Obsidian / Theater View interface.
One issue I have with the J River touchscreen interface is its poor search feature. This could be my own lack of understanding of how to configure this feature, but it shouldn't require a Ph.D. in JRMC. As the video below shows when searching for an artist every song by the artist appears in the search results. It would be great if just the artist appeared then all the albums by that artists etc… I hope this is my error and the search feature works much better than what I experienced.
Some additional info on the Dell SX2210T Multi-touch monitor:
Video interfaces include Analog (VGA), DVI-D (HDCP), and HDMI.
A USB connection from the monitor to the PC is required for the touchscreen feature to function.
Currently the touchscreen features are only available for Windows. Mac users have been seeking third party drivers for a long time but so far come up empty.
The software and drivers required for Windows & touchscreen features is very minimal and noninvasive.
There is no VESA mounting option for this monitor.
Here are two videos I put together of the Dell SX2210T Multi-touch Monitor & J River MC 15 operating in Theater View with the Obsidian Touchscreen skin. The first video shows the basic navigation of JRMC using the touchscreen. The second video simply shows the Dell SX2210T next to my Apple 24" backlit LED display on my desk.
<b>NOTE: YouTube has just notified me this video is blocked for readers in Germany due to Sony Music's Copyright policies. I did unsuccessfully dispute this blockage. Here is the statement from YouTube <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0821/youtube-block.png">[Link]</a></b>
Here is a CA hosted version of the video for readers in Germany <a href="http://streaming.computeraudiophile.com.s3.amazonaws.com/2010/0813/01.mov">[Link]</a>
<iframe class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="640" height="385" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/2lMgg0xsKtc?hl=en_US" frameborder="0"></iframe>
<iframe class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="640" height="385" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/4zHFJlPVFGs?hl=en_US" frameborder="0"></iframe>
<li>Photos, features, 360 degree view, and more <a href="http://www.dell.com/content/products/superview.aspx?c=us&cs=19&l=en&pageoverride=gallery_view1&s=dhs&xdb=Z2xvYmFsOnByb2R1Y3RzOm1vbml0b3JzOnN1cGVydmlldzptb25pdG9yLWRlbGwtc3gyMjEwdCNyZWdpb24=">[Link]</a></li>
<li>Product Page <a href="http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/products/Displays/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&cs=19&sku=320-1172">[Link]</a></li>
<li>Setup Diagram <a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2010/0813/setup-diagram.pdf">[Link]</a> PDF 1.9 MB</li>
<li>User Guide <a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2010/0813/users-guide/index.htm">[Link]</a> HTML</li>