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    bobfa

    A Tale Of Two Streamers

     

     

    I have been chasing my tail here in audio land, trying to find a sweet spot for digital playback. Most recently, I have been using an Antipodes DX-3 and am still experimenting with their new software updates and different DDCs. 

     

    In my search, I stumbled across two devices that have sparked my interest anew! The first is the WiiM Mini, a $100 streamer developed by LinkPlay In 2021.  The second is the Slim Devices Transporter, upgraded by Dan Wright of ModWright in 2007 at around $5000. 

     


    WiiM Mini

     

    LMS-WiiM-Mini.jpg.pngHere on Audiophile Style @DuckToller has been blogging about his experience with the WIIM Mini: Link


    @DuckToller’s story and experience led me to try the WIIM Mini.   Linkplay is an exciting company, at least from the outside. They are regularly updating the software and their apps.  They listen to input from their customers and act upon it.  Their roadmap is published on their website - Link.


    The WiiM Mini is a product of today’s streaming and smartphone era, supporting multiple streaming and connect services.  Yet it still supports local file playback from your computer/NAS. It pays homage to the Audiophile by providing 24/192 TOSLINK output.  At about $100 on Amazon, the WiiM Mini is affordable.  The combination of the mobile application called WiiM Home and the features of the device itself is very compelling.

     


    Slim Devices Transporter

     

    For a little look back in March of 2008, Srajan Ebaen did a complete review of the Transporter modded by Dan Wright - Link


    Over the last few years, I have used “squeeze” software on anything that would run it.  I have always found it sounds excellent.  Until now, I have never owned any of the hardware it initially ran on!  This was the opportunity to have “the best” version of the original hardware with some significant enhancements!

     

    When Srajan reviewed the ModWright Transporter, he used a stand-alone music NAS, “server” Neal Van Berg’s Music Vault.  The combined price of the system was in the $5000 range (2008 dollars).

     

    Today, the Transporter hardware is not supportable.  That is the risk I take on by acquiring it.  For future reference, I would like to know if one can obtain parts or if the community can fix a failed unit.

     

    We are fortunate due to the long chain of events that allows the community to repair and update the software Slim Devices built so long ago.  Their extensible design and software protocols have truly stood the test of time.  The plug-in architecture of the software has enabled the ability to adapt the user interface to more modern standards.  There are control point  APPs for iOS and Android that brings the experience and playback to the palm of your hand.  

     

     

    Squeeze Server aka Logitech Media Server aka LMS

     

    The server—streamer system is a bit of a throwback to those who value a local music library and do not want to be forced to have an Internet connection to play that music. I count myself in that group and am glad we are well supported.  There is a cost to this system.  I keep my music on a small Network Attached Storage device (NAS). That NAS also runs Minim Server to support the WiiM.  The Squeeze Server portion of the software runs on an M1 Mac Mini that is always on. 

     

    In LMS, there are quite a few buttons you can push and values you can change to make the system your own.  Support from the community is excellent, including a wiki and a very active user and developer forum.  This is more complex than the single smartphone APP to control and operate a WiiM Mini. Forum | Wiki


    In my custom server and streamer construction, I have found LMS, aka Squeeze Server and Squeezelite streamer software, to be the most consistent operationally and sonically.  The community has been updating the system regularly over the years.   There is also an active group developing extensions for the system.  We can play from multiple streaming sources alongside our local music library.  There is even an interface for album and artist info along with lyrics.  


    Today LMS 8.4 (beta) runs natively on my M1 Mac Mini and has a friendly config tool in the System Preferences. That computer is the core of my music computing, with a QNAP NAS storing the music.   This server STILL supports the ModWright Transporter Streamer.  The Core Infrastructure for the Transporter is ready for 2022 and beyond.

     

    With both devices sitting on my Victrola cabinet and connected to my Heavenly Soundworks 517 speakers, I can get a feel for both systems leisurely.

     


    A look inside the WiiM Mini

     

    Control and operation are done with an application on your smartphone or tablet.  The user interface is easy to navigate and operate.  The app has access to most streaming services and can be customized to only show what you have configured.  There is a section for local servers that works well with MinimServer on my NAS.  Navigating my extensive library is problematic, with lots of scrolling.    There are some oddities with playlists and playlist creation that are bothersome.  I know that the current community of users has been asking them for improvements and bug fixes.  Time will tell.

     

    While I have three WiiM devices in the house, I have yet to use them for multi-room music.  One is on my Living Room system, one on the headphone system, and one for the basement/office.

     

    The WiiM Home app is biased toward the streaming world with a reasonable accommodation for local music playback.  Local music playback is a second cousin in the WiiM Home system.  It does not search index the local files, and creating playlists could be better.   With 60,000 tracks in my library, I may be asking it too much!

     

    I want to rewind a few months to a listening experience with my system using the Holo May DAC Kitsune version.  That DAC took the prize on my system.  Stunning, and It spoiled me a bit. Since then, I have been messing around to see how I could get closer.  I have been trying different DDC devices and a couple of DACS.  Nothing stood out.

     

    I recently listened to the Lumin U2 mini with the Sbooster power supply with my friend Rich.   With the Sbooster, there is no way to A/B with the original power supply to understand the value of the upgrade.   So we compared my Antipodes DX-3 and a DDC vs. the U2 AES to the speakers.  The U2 mini performed very well.   We did have some off-center feeling in some vocals, and the bottom end was not quite as tight as I am used to.  

     

    Then we compared the Lumin to the WiiM Mini, and the Lumin did a fair bit better, not as harsh up top, a bit tighter all over, but the WiiM did rather well, considering.  Then since the Lumin was running with an external power supply, we tried an Allo Shanti supply on the WiiM Mini.  The harsher-sounding top end disappeared, and as a whole, the WiiM sounded very close to the U2.  This is a fascinating study on diminishing returns.

     

    Since then, I have gone back to my Antipodes and the little Topping D10 DAC as a DDC, comparing it to the  WiiM, and that again is a study on diminishing returns.  Still, nothing has topped the May DAC…. 

     

    This is almost the end of the WiiM Mini story, and there will be more after I talk about the ModWright Transporter.

     

     

    Transporting myself back to 2007 

     

    LMS-Transporter-Dark.jpgIt was hard for me to remember my music world in 2007. CDs, a few records. Did I put an iPod on the system?  I am not sure I can say what I had running 15 years ago.  Thiel CS3 speakers, Bryston 3B, Threshold FET-9.  Interlink Reference A and Music Hose cables.  Yep, that was it!  I knew next to nothing about the local streaming of music.  I was playing with portable DACs, headphones, and iPods.  Too busy with other stuff.  Yet the Digital Music Streaming revolution was exploding, hiding in plain sight.  

     

    My exposure to things like Squeezebox only happened well after the Logitech days.  I had no real experience until after I started playing with a Melco Server, which led to learning about MPD, MinimServer, Twonky, Squeezebox, and many more.  A computer guy's dream come true:  Computer-based Music Playback.  Heck, I just discovered this forum in about 2018.

     

    When my local dealer took in a Modwright Transporter, I had to grab it!  Part of the attraction is the look, the displays, and the tubes; they are so cool to my eye.  But the best is yet to come.  The Sound; flip that little switch on the back to turn on the tube output stage, and give them a little time to warm up to let the music flow.  Ok, a bit more drama than needed.  

     

    So many audiophile cliches come to mind, so I will try hard to avoid them.  The combination of the original electronics, software, and the tube output stage does something unique; it produces a smooth, rich, detailed sound that I can listen to forever.  While editing this article, I am listening to a few of my favorite albums.

     


    Enya: A Day Without Rain | Jeff Oster: Brothers | BT: Electronic Opus

     

    LMS-Enya.jpg LMS-brothers.jpeg LMS-Opus.jpg

     

     

    While the WiiM mini is impressive, limiting the user interface to a smartphone/tablet and the less-than-stellar support for local music libraries is disappointing.  I am gob-smacked by the sound quality with an outboard power supply. Yet it falls behind in the magic.


    LMS and my local music are a part of the magic for me.  The Modwright Transporter: That is the other half of the charm. 


    A one-minute taste of LMS in a web browser:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Maybe, just maybe, this system setup is my own two-channel “Electronic OPUS.” I no longer pine for the Holo.

     

     

    Living Room System:

    • QNAP NAS for Music Storage
    • M1 MacMini for computing (LMS and more)
    • Modwright Transporter
    • WiiM Mini for casual playback
    • Allo Shanti Power supply for WiiM
    • Heavenly Soundworks 517 speakers
    • AC Power by Puritan Audio Labs
    • Interconnect cables from BlueJeans Cable


    Headphone system:

    • WiiM Mini
    • Chord Mojo
    • HD6xx
    • Allo Shanti Power Supply
    • Logitech Squeezebox Touch

     

     

    LMS-Shanti-WiiM-Chord.jpgNotes:

     

    **** remember to turn the tube stage off when you are done listening and keep it dusted off as the showpiece it is.


    **** OH, and leave the WiiM Mini up and running for casual listening.


    I am happy to find a modern device like the WiiM, which the company is continuously upgrading.  I am also grateful to everyone maintaining the Squeezebox software and systems.  

     

    These devices prove that the right software enhances our experience, and you do not need to go into crazy price land for excellent sound quality.

     

     

    —RJF—




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    This one has been a lot of fun.  I am going to teach my family how to use the WiiM app so it is easy for them to play music around the house.  

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    15 minutes ago, bobfa said:

    This one has been a lot of fun.  I am going to teach my family how to use the WiiM app so it is easy for them to play music around the house.  

    I've understood that the WIIM now streams in 16/48 quality in multiroom mode.

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    Most audiophiles would be shocked if they did a blind comparison of some of these inexpensive streamers to more expensive units.

    Not putting more expensive stuff down (I have an upscale streamer), but some of these low end solutions are the equal, or near equal, of some units costing many times more. 

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    @bobfa, try BubbleUpNP with your WiiM. It should provide the features you are lacking.

    The WiiM Pro looks far more interesting than the Mini, for only $50 more.  

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    21 minutes ago, audiobomber said:

    @bobfa, try BubbleUpNP with your WiiM. It should provide the features you are lacking.

    The WiiM Pro looks far more interesting than the Mini, for only $50 more.  

    @audiobomberClearly biased by the chromcast feature ... 😉

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    51 minutes ago, audiobomber said:

    @bobfa, try BubbleUpNP with your WiiM. It should provide the features you are lacking.

    The WiiM Pro looks far more interesting than the Mini, for only $50 more.  

    I really want the folks at Linkplay to round out their offering!  

     

    UPNP might be interesting.  I will pay with Audirvanna and Jriver because their mobile apps are a bit "better" on IOS.  But I will keep reporting bugs and feature requests to WiiM.  

     

    The WiiM pro is basically the same, faster processor and more memory I think.  The extra interfaces are nice for some of us. I like Ethernet for some use cases.  COAX is interesting.  I am sure someone around here will grab one and start playing with it.

     

     

     

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    25 minutes ago, ted_b said:

    Thanks for this happy memory, Bob.  I had the first prototype (and then actual production version) of Dan's modded Transporter back then, and was referenced in Srajan's review (yellow sidebar box on page two).  Ah, those were the days.  We'd go back and forth on tube ideas, rectifier sizes, etc.   It had a special place on the top of my rack, and visitors would oggle.  I called it my Flash Gordon machine!  Wow, fifteen years ago!!  Neal then swapped me out the production version.  Happy thoughts.  :)

    tpeml3.jpg.52dedb57a381eafe1b4c9648d03c093d.jpg

    Neat!  What is the box on top of the transporter

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    A Squeezebox Touch was my 2nd stop in streaming audio (after the Roku M1001.) It still makes me sad they couldn’t make a longer running business. Why did they fail? Were they just ahead of their time?

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    37 minutes ago, bobfa said:

    Neat!  What is the box on top of the transporter

    That is a Shakti Stone, an older audiophile accessory that sold itself as an electromagnetic stabilizer (EMI absorber).  I put it over the Transporter's power supply.  Later I had it cover my subpanel (attached to subpanel door) and swear it lowered the noise floor and calmed the soundstage down overall.  Who knows.  :)

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    2 hours ago, audiobomber said:

    @bobfa, try BubbleUpNP with your WiiM. It should provide the features you are lacking.

    The WiiM Pro looks far more interesting than the Mini, for only $50 more.  

     

    May be not so lacking in the future - WiiM support have recently mentioned the possibility of providing native LMS support via Squeezelite in a software update:

    https://wiim.community.forum/threads/lms-squeezelite-support-mini.26/#post-192

    image.thumb.png.78325daad5ee04ac9916383f63a2b9dd.png  

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    4 hours ago, bobfa said:

    I really want the folks at Linkplay to round out their offering!  

     

    UPNP might be interesting.  I will pay with Audirvanna and Jriver because their mobile apps are a bit "better" on IOS.  But I will keep reporting bugs and feature requests to WiiM.  

     

    The WiiM pro is basically the same, faster processor and more memory I think.  The extra interfaces are nice for some of us. I like Ethernet for some use cases.  COAX is interesting.  I am sure someone around here will grab one and start playing with it.

    Lots of extra features on the Pro:

    https://wiim.community.forum/threads/wiim-pro-preview.9/

     

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    1 hour ago, audiobomber said:

    Lots of extra features on the Pro:

    https://wiim.community.forum/threads/wiim-pro-preview.9/

     

    Read their new web site that shows the differences between the Mini and the pro.  They are not so far apart.

     

    https://wiimhome.com/WiiMMini/Overview

     

    I am very sure they have the same DAC chip.  Until we have them in hand we will not really know it all.  

     

    1.  The folks at Linkplay are updating software on a regular basis

    2. About one year later from the Mini launch they are releasing more feature rich hardware

    3.  They seem to be open about their roadmap.

    4.  Pricing / Value ratio is very high

    5  It looks like availability is pretty good.

     

     

     

     It is more proof that Schiit Audio has been on the right track.  (My opinion). Think about how easy it would be to add this to an older stereo or the like.    In some ways they are out-doing both Sonos and Bluesound.    They are a killer front end for a basic headphone DAC/amp.  Which reminds me I need to find a tube headphone amp for my Modwright transporter.  Talk about KILLER!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    The real add ons are (imho)

    - Ethernet (function to be tested)

    - analog RCA inputs (I.e. for phono preamp)

    - Digital /Toslink in (I.E. for CD/DVD player)

    And for the users who like it, chromecast compatibility.

     

    Which makes the Pro a kind of Pre with digital & analog inputs, which allows you to receive the input signal via multiroom elsewhere in your house.

     

    And you are right, the DAC chip is unchanged. But I would see the device rather as streamer / transport than an endpoint device.

     

    Edit: they - Linkplay -  use the more powerful A98 module with the Pro, compared to the A97 with the Mini.

     

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    BT Electronic Opus is such a great album. 

     

    I had forgotten about it, and just listened to it again.

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    I have owned a Touch since their introduction...if WiiM Pro adds Squeezelite I am in...Nothing  ever came around that would entice me to change.  Thanks for the article.  Very cool. 

     

    Ebay has a brand new Transporter listed, sans ModWright of course.

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    Indeed - a WiiM Squeezebox would be most appreciated.

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    Just to clarify the obvious since I don't know – LMS has to be supported by the endpoint hardware, mostly likely running Squeezelite or similar, correct?

     

    (I'm just cribbing from the Sonore Rendu output modes because that was the last time I used LMS. Seems like it would be great to have another LMS capable device like this!)

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    I do not know if Linkplay would consider putting LMS (the server) on the WiiM devices.  I think that would be too much.  The endpoint portion AKA Squeeze Lite software would be really cool.

     

     

    I worry that they are over burdening the system I hope that the additional complexity does nothing “bad”

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    The Transporter was a really good design in its day and I thoroughly enjoyed mine while I had it. However, it was limited to 24/96 by it's receiver chip.  The SBT, once the digital out mode was enabled allowed 24/192 and sounded just as good as the Transporter functioning as just a transport into a good outboard DAC. I used one of my many SBT's this way into an NAD M51 for many years until the advent of Roon, the USBridge and better DACs.  Since Roon supports squeezeboxen as endpoints and is a much better interface than LMS, I moved on.  I haven't looked back.  There was much to praise about the Transporter, in it's day.  That day has passed.  It isn't a classic set of Tannoys or a Marantz 10b.  It is fine to enjoy clasic hardware, but good to keep perspective.  I would much rather have an Allo bridge or an SBT connected to a Topping D90 or another roll your own DAC than a Transporter these days if I was setting up a system in that budget bracket. Although I do enjoy the colorations that a tube voltage stage can deliver, that added output stage really negated what the Transporter did best: an ultra-low noise floor better than almost everything else on the market in 2007.  So to me, that just makes zero sense...

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    Very cool / innovative headphone setup with the WiiM Mini! Thanks for the inspiration Bob! 

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    I have always been intrigued by the ModWright Sonic Transporter, then and now. What a neat device and I am glad they're still making music and making people happy.

     

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