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jazzfan
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Slim Devices Transporter - The Good and The Bad

Well I made the leap last week and picked up a Slim Devices Transporter. Here's few comments on the good and the bad that come with this device and the new way of listening to music.

First off I have a lot of music, mostly in FLAC or APE, stored on an external 320GB hard drive. In fact, so much music that I just bought an additional 500GB external hard drive. For most of the music on this hard drive I do not have the original CD either because I sold it or because the music obtained via downloading. Prior to getting the Transporter I listened to this music only via my computer audio system or in the case of some of the downloaded music I burned a CD from the files so that I could listen to the music on my main stereo.

When faced with the prospect of buying the additional external hard drive or trying to make room on my almost full hard drive by burning more CDs I decided to look into getting some type of wireless streaming device since I already have a wireless router. After doing some research on the various streaming devices available I picked the Transporter because:

1) Slim Devices offers a wealth of information on their web site and one can even download the software (Slimserver) used to run the Transporter (and Squeezebox).

2) The Transporter is a stand alone "audiophile" quality device with a very good internal DAC and balanced analog outputs. I do not own a separate DAC and my preamp has a pair of balanced inputs which were not being used.

3) The Transporter (and Squeezebox) use one's existing network to stream the data unlike the Sonos which uses it's own network.

4) The Transporter (and Squeezebox) do not have built-in hard drives and CD drives as is the case for the Olive server and I find that with most music servers with built in hard drives, the cost of those hard drives is way over priced. Besides I already have a computer and external hard drive to rip and store my music on.

5) Doing a simple search on eBay turned an authorized Slim Devices dealer who was willing to sell a brand new Transporter at a 17% discount (and with free shipping and no tax!!) And speaking of discounts, Slim Devices is having a sale (through May 28th on the white Squeezebox for $249 with free shipping and if you use the promotion code LIVE365 you get an addition $20 off - $229 for a brand new Squeezebox, very sweet!)

Okay, so those were my reasons, now what is good about the Transporter and what is bad, well actually it's more like not so good rather than bad.

The good:

1) The sound - I've compared the sound of the Transporter playing back a FLAC file to the sound of the original CD played back on my McCormack UDP-1 disc player and there is almost no difference that I can hear.

2) Ease of set up - since, as i stated earlier, Slim Devices lets anyone download the Slimserver software, after I had ordered the Transporter I tired using the Slimserver software just to get the hang of it and I find it very easy to use. Once I had the Transporter I hooked it up, followed the instructions and had the device playing back my music in no time at all.

3) Lots of bonus features, such as the Slim Network which lets you connect to almost any internet streaming music service. One drawback is that flash based music services, like Wolfgang's Vault, are not supported. Some of the services included and supported are Live365, RadioIO, RadioTime, Shoutcast, Rhapsody, Pandora, Live Music Archive and Natural Sounds plus you can easily add url's of your own.

4) The ease of use - one can find also any piece of music with just a few click of the remote. Simple and fast.

5) The Slimserver software is open source so there are many plugins, additional features and enhancements available for download on the Slim Devices web site. These plugins range from music library tweaks to ways to change the display on the Transporter.

Okay that's those are the good things, now for the not so good things.

1) In order for you to experience the wonderful ease of use and find your music by just pushing a few buttons on the remote your music must be properly tagged!! Luckily the FLAC file format supports meta-data tags and there are several good file tagging programs available for download. Until you have properly tagged all your music finding a given piece can be rather tiresome. And like MP3 files the tags can be misleading to say the least. Moving forward now that I've cleaned up and tagged my existing collection should not be a problem since I just have to make such that any new music is properly tagged.

2) Speaking of new music if you don't use iTunes as the front end for your music collection then every time you add new music to your hard drive you have to manually tell Slimserver to rescan your library (hard drive) to find new music. There may be a plug in available that makes library rescans automatic but I haven't found it as yet.

3) No cover art but this isn't so bad since the older I get the harder it becomes to read the print in those tiny booklets that come with CDs.

Okay, so quite a bit of good points and some minor not so good points. However with all things considered I'd say that the Transporter is a very worthwhile investment and would make a nice addition to any high end audio system.

Elk
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - The Good and The Bad

An excellent review and summary; the best I have seen. Your post is a keeper.

You mention "...several good file tagging programs available for download." I have done all of my tagging "by hand" by loading in the data into EAC prior to ripping. Tell me about this obviously better way!

bobb
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - The Good and The Bad


Quote:
An excellent review and summary; the best I have seen. Your post is a keeper.

You mention "...several good file tagging programs available for download." I have done all of my tagging "by hand" by loading in the data into EAC prior to ripping. Tell me about this obviously better way!

I use foobar2000 for tagging after I have ripped to FLAC in EAC. In addition to great tag editing support, you can apply ReplayGain tags with it.

http://www.foobar2000.org/
http://eolindel.free.fr/foobar0.9/index.php
http://www.bobulous.org.uk/misc/Replay-Gain.html
http://flac.sourceforge.net/index.html

Regards,
Bob

jazzfan
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File taggers and other tools


Quote:
An excellent review and summary; the best I have seen. Your post is a keeper.

You mention "...several good file tagging programs available for download." I have done all of my tagging "by hand" by loading in the data into EAC prior to ripping. Tell me about this obviously better way!

Hi Elk,

Thanks for the kind words. I do appreciate the feedback since when writing a post like the Transporter review I really make an effort to write something worthwhile.

As for the tag editor that I've been using it's called Mp3tag and it's available for free download here: Mp3tag

The usage is fairly straight forward if one is already familiar with tag editors. I don't know the learning curve if one is new to tag editors.

Another useful utility when working with large amounts of files is a batch file renaming program. One I've been happily using for quite some time is Renamer

Again the usage is fairly straight forward if one is already familiar with renaming programs. I don't know the learning curve if one is new to renaming programs. In any case neither Mp3tag nor Renamer is particularly difficult to learn and use and both will go a long way in helping to organize your hard disk based music collection. Renamer is also very useful when dealing with digital photos by allowing one to rename literally 100's of files with a few simple keystrokes.

Having a tag editing program is a must since even with one's best efforts when using EAC and FLAC one can still wind up with file tags that need to be tweaked just a bit. A program like Mp3tag allows for the editing of one file or a whole directory of files. I couldn't imagine using a music server without it.

As for music servers I've been thinking about what a paradigm shift in the way one thinks about music software, by software I am referring to the medium used to store the music, whether it is tape, vinyl or CD. Sure there has been the ability to use hard disk based music storage and playback for quite some time now but never with this level of sound quality or ease of use. By ripping a CD into a directory of FLAC files I now have a perfectly functional copy of the CD available for me to listen to but in a totally different form. By using multiple Transporters or Squeezeboxes I can even listen the music in several different rooms at the same time.

However, as nice as all of those little conveniences may be they pale in comparison to the way having a hard disk based music library coupled with a high speed internet connection can change the way one thinks and goes about collecting music. A high quality music server means that one can now treat lossless compressed music files the same way that many people have been treating lossy compressed music files. The Music Giants and other online stores which feature downloads of losslessly compressed files now can finally reach the potential that was only hinted at before. Things are finally starting to look up for high quality downloads.

Elk
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Re: File taggers and other tools

Thanks for the tagging info guys! I'll take a look.

I agree, the music server does create a shift in thinking. I am still getting used to the concept. For example, I didn't expect to find the ability to play any disk from a remote control would be that big of a deal, but I have come to really enjoy it.

jazzfan
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Slim Devices Transporter - Update

Okay so I've had the Transporter now for a couple of weeks and I've learned a few things which I would like to share.


Quote:
2) Speaking of new music if you don't use iTunes as the front end for your music collection then every time you add new music to your hard drive you have to manually tell Slimserver to rescan your library (hard drive) to find new music. There may be a plug in available that makes library rescans automatic but I haven't found it as yet.

I've since discovered that there is indeed a setting in the Slimserver software that enables automatic rescans of one's music library.

Although streamed audio via the internet is usually, if not always, done using some type of compressed file format that does not mean that there is not plenty of worthwhile things to listen to or that it sounds all that bad. by using the "Favorites" feature of the Squeezenetwork one can easily set up a Transporter or Squeezebox to play streams from a vast number of internet radio stations. This is great for listening to European stations and many stations outside of one's local area.

When connected to the one's slimserver there many ways to browse one's audio collection. There are the standard browse by Artist and Album but there is also the ability to browse the actual music folder or by Genres, Years, New Music, Favorites, Random Mix and Playlists.

However in spite of all of these wonderful features the thing taht I find the most liberating about listening to music via the Transporter/Squeezebox is how easy it is to listen to any given selection. All one needs to do is press a few buttons on the remote control and the music instantly appears. No more hunting for CDs and no more having to put away the CD once one has finished listening. Plus a 500 gigabyte external hard drive takes up almost no space and one can easily add new music to one's collection without having to worry about where to store the CD. have you ever tried to add new CDs into a existing 1,500+ CD collection that is filed alphabetically? I have and it's not all that much fun.

All in all, I like the Transporter so much that I bought a Squeezebox to use in my bedroom system and I will most like buy another Squeezebox for use in my home theater system. Yes, JA and WP have it right: hard drive based music systems are here to stay.

RGibran
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - Update

Don't forget to dust the Linn occasionally

RG

ohfourohnine
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - Update

Terrific information, Ralph. Thanks for letting us all benefit from your experience. What an irony, huh, all the recent fuss about the lack of worthwhile stuff on the forum while this fine thread was growing. Hope Stephen took note.

smejias
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - Update

I have taken note. I even forwarded this entire excellent thread to a few of our writers.

jazzfan
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - Update


Quote:
Don't forget to dust the Linn occasionally

RG


Quote:
Terrific information, Ralph. Thanks for letting us all benefit from your experience. What an irony, huh, all the recent fuss about the lack of worthwhile stuff on the forum while this fine thread was growing. Hope Stephen took note.

--------------------
Clay

I'm quite glad that people are enjoying these posts. While the Transporter is a great device and does create a whole new way of listening to and collecting music it is still a digital format and I still love the sound of analog, so my Linn has yet to gather any dust.

And speaking of new ways of collecting music I been thinking ways that music can be offered for downloading without having to sacrifice such things as liner notes. Very simply the liner notes can be part of the download as either scanned images or a PDF file. It's really easy to do and in fact is already done this way with Grateful Dead downloads. All one would then need to do is print the information and store it in a looseleaf binder which is kept within one's listen room. A hard drive based music collection need not mean the loss of artwork and liner notes.

tomjtx
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - The Good and The Bad

Wellcome to streaming audio, isn't it great?

I bought my Transporter last Nov. and am still enjoying it. I have found it sounds best in my system with the balanced outs like you are using.

You should be able to display album art, it just needs to be in the flac file.

Itunes stores album art in another place but there is a program, Cover Scout ,that will retrieve art and store it in the music file.

I run slim from a laptop on my couch and can access my entire cd collecton from the macbook.....the ultimate couch potato.

What is great is the TP DAC is SOTA and sounds as good as anything else I have heard so we don't have to sacrifice sound for convenience.

BTW I still listen to my Linn/Graham combo :-)

buelligan
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - Update

Dear Stephen,
Maybe when you send the writers this fine thread, you could bring up the intriguing possibility of ripping LPs via a high quality digital recorder of some kind (i.e. the Sound Devices 722).

I'm sure that as an analog lover and new convert to hard drive based digital audio, I'm not alone in my curiosity about what kind of results are possible.

Given that the SD Transporter can play back 96k/24 bit audio, I'm sure many vinylphiles would like to know how that would sound if encoded by a high-quality A/D converter (JA has a pile of them!). Having just read the announcement in Manufacturer's Showcase that Steve Hoffman will be starting a very ambitious mastering project with Warner/Reprise, the idea of being able to enjoy at least a good facsimile of these recordings over the network player just makes my mouth water.

Please oh PLEASE get one of the writers, or our esteemed editor to try this out!

Thanks and happy listening,
Buelligan

Elk
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - Update

Michael Fremer has described a number of times how he gets good results recording analog to digital using a Alesis Masterlink.

I have done the same using a Tascam DVRA1000, also with excellent results. These sound excellent, whether played back as 16/44 or 24/96. The machine also records DSD but these files can be played back only on the unit as it does not burn SACD's (to my knowledge there isn't any SACD burners).

buelligan
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - Update

Dear Elk,
Your point is well taken. In fact, Michael's results (wowing people at shows) is one of the reasons I am so taken with high quality digital recording.

What I am trying to get at, though, is how much higher, if at all, can the quality be taken?

The Alesis and your Tascam are very fine machines, but I am curious about what, for example, JA's dCS A/D would sound like. No meaningful difference? A big whopping difference? Or maybe just noticeable, but not worth the money?

I guess I'm just curious how far the results can be pushed. I would also prefer not to have to burn a disc and then rip it onto the hard drive, a la Alesis. Does the Tascam have a USB or Firewire port? If so, my salivary glands will get very active.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with the Tascam.

Happy digitizing,
Buelligan

Elk
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - Update

Better external ADC's and DAC's would make both units sound better. That is, use a high end external ADC and send the digital data to either unit to record it, and then play it back through a high end DAC would be better still.

Also, there are excellent mods available for the Alesis that are well worth the money. I haven't looked for mods for the Tascam but they are probably out there.

The Alesis records to hard drive. To get the files out one can either stream it via S/PDIF in real time or burn it to either a high resolution data CD or to Redbook (16/44.1) CD. If saved as a high resolution data CD, the file isn't really ripped to the computer's hard drive; it's just copied over.

The Tascam records to either DVD-RW (or hard drive with this version of the machine). One can get the data out via either USB 2.0 or by putting the DVD into the DVD drive of a computer - easy either way.

I had the Alesis and sold it afer buying the Tascam as I didn't need the duplicate machine but I wouldn't hesitate to buy the Alesis again. The Tascam sounds better and I prefer the DVD format, but the Alesis is still excellent in all respects.

My experience is that a higher sample rate is more important than greater bit depth. I do prefer DSD over PCM, but the difference between high resolution PCM and DSD is subtle.

rossl
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - The Good and The Bad

I looked through the PDF of the Transporter manual and it really looks good. I would buy one if I needed another DAC. What I really want is a networked streamer that does FLAC 24/96 but without a DAC.

One thing this box is missing that I would really like...

is a digital equalizer loop. It has digital ins and outs, but not a loop. It would be really cool to be able to insert a Behringer DEQ2496 in a loop to equalize for room corrections.

buelligan
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Re: Slim Devices Transporter - The Good and The Bad

A DAC-less SD Transporter that supported all of the common sample rates would be perfect for me. (Not to disparage the Transporter's DAC, but I already have one that I like.) When I originally saw that the Transporter had digital ins, I thought you might be able to connect an A/D converter (say, fed from one's phono stage) and stream that back to your computer's hard drive. THAT would be cool; a kind of streaming digital Swiss army knife at about 1 k$ would really blow my hair back.

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