...to RIO Central or not to RIO Central... - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 05-15-2002, 03:37 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm trying to come up with a good reason to explain to the wife why I *need* to pull the trigger on a RIO Central. Problem is that I've been using the RIO Receiver for about 3months now with no problems using a networked PII400 and a networked Intel Storage Station (to house the MP3 files). My wife would imediately ask "why?" since the RIO Receiver works so good with a PII400. The other problem is that I could get a DELL 1.something GHZ for about $1,200bucks with a 15" flat panel LCD screen and do (I'm guessing here) more with it than with a RIO Central.

Please give me a good argument. ;)

Thanks for any ideas...

Jerz
(yeah, I know; justification sometimes sux)
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post #2 of 20 Old 05-16-2002, 03:12 PM
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I don't have a Rio Central, but have an Audio Request home mp3 player, which functions in pretty much the same way (plus, it has WAV file support, web streaming so I can listen to my music at work from my home unit, and some other cool features). Having almost filled my 100 gig. hard drive on it, I cannot speak highly enough about having all of my music on this unit and the ability to play it on my stereo.

I do agree they are pretty expensive for what they are, though.
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post #3 of 20 Old 05-16-2002, 06:39 PM
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Hi Jerz,
Well, I saw the demo of tjhe Rio Central at the CES show in January, ordered one, and have been using it now for about 3 months or so. One of the first things I did was upgrade the internal 40 GB drive with a 120 GB Maxtor drive for more space (that was a very easy thing to do, by the way, with their startup CD).

I currently have it about 25% full and have copied a boatload of CDs. I think I'm set for space for awhile, although it takes a considerable amount of time to rip all of your music from scratch onto the Central. At some point, I have a plan to copy the MP3's to another drive on my LAN to keep them safe and secure...

Anyways, I like the Central a lot. I'll try to do a brain dump to give you some ideas about the unit...

* The display is east to read, but you have to be within a few feet away from it. There is no video connection to the TV.

* The unit has an internal CDDB or Gracenote database (about 400MB) that was able to recognize a great deal (95%) of my CDs that I ripped. You're probably familiar with CDDB, but if not, that is how the player gets titles and genre of the CDs and songs. For those songs not in the internal database, the unit goes out to an on-line version of the database that it gets the information from. New CDs released on Tuesdays are frequently in the database right away or within a day...

* I like the fact that it is quiet, sits in my A/V rack, and looks like any other stereo component. A PC would have been cheaper, no question, but I don't have the space to house one in or near my HT system and I wasn't crazy about setting up a music server PC in another location.

* It runs Linux and the source is available on the SonicBlue website.

* It has a USB port on the front to download music to portables, but I haven't used that yet. It will also accept a USB keyboard. I just got one of those and haven't hooked it up yet, but you are supposed to be able to get a shell prompt if you're so inclined.

* It can stream music to as many as 8 Rio Receivers like your PC setup. That works well...

* They provide Emplode software so that you can edit the database on the Central from your PC and fix any errors in the CDDB entries with your songs, etc. That works well also.

* There is a digital output on the back of the unit (contrary to the Sound&Vision review last month).

* Of course, you can choose the bit rate for ripping, I decided to standardize on 256K. When playing back the Central through my audio system, I have not been able to tell the difference between original cDs and the Central. I will admit, however, that I haven't sat down and done real critical A/B testing. It serves my purpose.

* The unit has the ability to go out on the Internet and update it's software. Since I'e owned mine, there hasn't been any software to download, but they say that an update is coming that will make it easier to hook up the Rio Riot player and download songs that way.

* When you insert a CD, it reads the directory and songs, displays the CDDB data and lets you either Record, Play, or Record & Play the CD. If you choose Record and Play, the CD drive still rips faster than real-time and it seems that the player then begins playing the ripped songs from the hard drive as it rips to the back end at the same time. So you can remove the CD after a few minutes when it finishes and the playing will continue. It doesn't seem to rip any faster if you use the "Record only" function.

* The sound quality is excellent and the unit doesn't make a lot of physical noise at all. Even after upgrading the hard drive to a larger unit, it still runs pretty quiet.

* Because you have to relatively close to see the display, I don't seem to use the remote very much. I know they were trying to keep the cost down, and a TV interface would have added to it....But I would have used it since my TV is right next to the Central.

* There aren't that many controls on the front panel, most of the functions are controlled by software and they have 4 position selection switch on the front that has different functions depending on where you are. You rock the switch in any of 4 directions to make a choice such as Play, Select, Forward, Backward, etc.

* You have to use a very specific USB to Ethernet connector if you want to hook the unit to your LAN. They only support 3 or 4 different brands. I bought one from Linksys and it worked right out of the gate.

* Let's see, what else...I really enjoy using the unit, the cost is a little high but they were throwing in a free receiver and a $100 or $200 discount (depending on when you ordered). I'm glad I bought it and find that I use it every day (either in person or streaming to another room)...That say it all to me...If you love music, then this machine will be something that you'll get a lot of use out of...

If you have any other questions, please let me know and I'll get back to you....Thanks, Randy
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post #4 of 20 Old 05-17-2002, 07:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Randy:

Cool...I was wondering if the drives were upgradeable because 40Gigs did seem a bit small if I'm going to keeep this thing for a while. How did you do it? Is there a patch out there similar to the ReplayTV's? Was the startup CD the only thing you needed to perform the upgrade?

I've already ripped most of my CD's (about 18gigs worth) is it easy to copy these across my lan? I guess it might be a little slow since you're having to use a 12mbps usb port (that kinda sux) to connect an ethernet adapter to.

Does it display the Album covers like Real One, Windows Media Player or Music Match?

Will it connect to the internet through a lan instead of dialup? (I'm sure it will but *had* to ask).

Yes a TV interface would have been WAY cool since it will be sitting next to my TV as well.

How hard is it to make play lists? Does it enable you to select multiple albums to play in any certain order or random?

Are they still offering any discounts that you know? That would definately persuade me a little more... I guess I'm wondering if I should wait for the next generation or just go with it. As I've said in my other post, the Rio Receiver works awesome with my existing setup and I love the fact that I no longer have CD's everywhere (my wife is even happier) it is definately the way to go but I'm debating on whether it is *really* ready for prime time.



Thanks for posting!

Jerz
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post #5 of 20 Old 05-17-2002, 07:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Alan:

I haven't heard of one of those. How much is it and can you connect inexpensive (<200bux) receivers via a lan to it to serve multiple rooms?

I agree ripping your CD's to a server is definately the way to go. What I like about the RIO is that I can put a inexpensive receiver in my office, wifes office, kids bedroom, living room, basement etc pretty inexpensively AND you don't *have* to use an amp or reqular receiver with them; simply plug in some speakers.

Thanks.

Jerz
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post #6 of 20 Old 05-17-2002, 09:01 AM
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Don't bother with AudioRequest unless 1) you can find a used original ARQ-1 unit cheap or 2) you are rich.

The original AudioRequest ARQ-1 was a consumer MP3 jukebox that came out back in 2000. It cost $800 for a 20GB model, $1200 for a 30GB model and had a nice TV interface (unlike the Rio Central). Larger disk upgrades were not *officially* supported, but it was very simple & common for owners to replace the original drive with a larger 80GB disk. Sound quality was OK, but not great (no digital output).

The AudioRequest originally lacked any remote "receiver" options, but they recently released a software upgrade for the ARQ-1 that allows it to stream music to any PC with a web browser.

Unfortunately AudioRequest decided they couldn't make any money on this product, discontinued it, and got out of the "consumer" market altogether. They now sell only very expensive, high-end products thru custom A/V installer dealers. Price starts at $5000 for the ARQ-2 Pro jukebox, and $3500 per additional "Zone" unit for multi-room, whole-house distribution.

If you have some money to burn, their web site is http://www.request.com.
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post #7 of 20 Old 05-19-2002, 09:58 AM - Thread Starter
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post #8 of 20 Old 05-22-2002, 12:41 PM
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Wish I could help you, but I find it hard to justify Rio Central or anything similar:

1. Rio Receiver or Auditron available at 10% to 20% of the price.

2. You don't need to have your PC anywhere near your stereo components. That's what the LAN is for.

3. If you want something that looks like it fits your audio rack, get the Audiotron.

4. No need for internal CDDB, it's redundant. Just go straight to the source on the web. In fact most MP3-based applications now include a CDDB button to gain instant access into their database.

5. Sound quality is a based on bitrate and external audio components, not the mp3 receiver (ie, it's all 0's and 1's at this level). So anything above 128 kbps and a line-level connection to a good receiver will give you excellent audio quality.

6. Neither the Rio Receiver nor the Audiotron (I have both) make any noise. And since the PC can be located remotely that shouldn't interfere with your enjoyment either.

Bottom line: $250 Audiotron + $400 PC = Rio Central and then some.

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post #9 of 20 Old 05-22-2002, 02:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by RSongco
5. Sound quality is a based on bitrate and external audio components, not the mp3 receiver (ie, it's all 0's and 1's at this level). So anything above 128 kbps and a line-level connection to a good receiver will give you excellent audio quality.
It's also based on the quality of the D-A conversion, which is a function of the mp3 receiver, assuming the receiver is doing the D-A conversion. With an Audiotron connected to the HT system via digital outputs, then yeah, the receiver contributes nothing. In the case of the Rio Receiver, which has no digital outs, then it's still up to the receiver to do a good job in the analog domain.

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post #10 of 20 Old 05-22-2002, 08:44 PM - Thread Starter
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RSongco: If you can't justify the cost of the RIO Central, how did you justify the cost of that Ferrari? :D :D :D

<ok, just had to say it>

Anyway, I already have the PII400 setup across the lan. The PC is on the second floor and the place I hang out (bar area, ping pong, pool and such) is in the basement. I just don't like to walk up two flights of stairs everytime the wife shuts down that computer, especially when I have a few of my buds over and the wife and kids are up there (yes I am stretching for excuses at this point). And it really would be nice to have the easy user interface with that LCD screen AND the quick boot-up time AND the very easy ability to rip mo' CD's AND the interface to easily download to my Rio Riot (which I use at the office) and the easy interface to download to the RIO 800 (for working in the yard) AND....

OK, still trying to justify. Thanks for your comments and any other ideas you may have. A pull the trigger price for me would probably be around 800bucks (or at the current price after about 6 guiness).

Jerz
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post #11 of 20 Old 05-24-2002, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, thanks everyone for your input. I went ahead and ordered it last night and it shipped today.... Somethimes you just have to say "what the F*&%#"

I wanted a good place to store my CD collection without messing with Windows and this seemed like the simplest thing. And what sold my wife was she would actually be able to play her tunes *very* easily without trying to read the display on the rio receiver or trying to find amoungst 150 CD's where "her" music was.

Somethimes justification is much easier than you think.

Cheers!

Jerz
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post #12 of 20 Old 05-27-2002, 05:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Randy:

How do I upgrade the drive to 120 or preferable to 160 (my unit will be here tomorrow)? If I have to burn one file at 320kbps and one at 128kbps that will take a lot more than 40gigs to burn all of my CD's.

Does anyone know if it is *really* necessary to rip at a rate higher than a 128? Will I *really* hear the difference?


Preesh!

Jerz
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post #13 of 20 Old 05-28-2002, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by smhughes
RSongco: If you can't justify the cost of the RIO Central, how did you justify the cost of that Ferrari? :D :D :D
Same way you did with the Rio Central: just say "What the f**@.." :)

That said, if you find it anyplace for 800 bucks I'd seriously consider giving it a go myself. What did you finally end up paying?

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post #14 of 20 Old 05-28-2002, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
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LOL...I ended up paying full retail $1499.00 plus I had to run out and spend 45bucks on the Linksys 10/100 USB Adapter; I couldn't find where they were currently offering any discounts and I'm actually playing with it here at the office and I have to say it is WAY cool. :cool:

I agree though a good price point for this thing is between 800 and 900 bucks. Also, I think larger hard drive alternatives are almost a necessity since at 128kbps I've got around 15gigs worth of mp3's (and cd's for everyone of those files). The Rio central has the highest recordable rate at 320kbps plus another setting for a portable device (which I assume is added to the 320kbps) so the 40gig drive is going to be used up REAL quick at those rates, so I'm sticking to 190kbps and 96kbps for portables (for now anyway).

Too bad I'll have to re-rip all of my cd's that are currently burned at 128kbps (if I want the higher quality that is, which I *think* I do).



Jerz
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post #15 of 20 Old 05-28-2002, 11:52 AM
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I've ripped all my CDs at 192Kbps, VBR (Lame), and am generally (if not completely) satisfied with the results. I have them all on a 40G USB drive, and find that I can fit about 450 albums (= about 450 hours) at that bitrate.

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post #16 of 20 Old 05-28-2002, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks toots! I think what I'm gonna do is use this cool empeg software that comes with this thing which allows you to drag and drop your mp3's (which mine are 128kbps) to the Central (slow but very easy to use and much faster than reripping my cd's). I may go back and selectively rerip some of my existing cd's if I can *really* tell a difference.

;)
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post #17 of 20 Old 05-28-2002, 03:22 PM
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I gotta tell you that copying 40G of MP3s over USB 1.1 is gonna take a day. I did a backup of one 40G USB drive to another, and it did indeed take a day. So frustrating that when I had to back up again, I went out and bought a USB 2.0 card (these drives are 2.0 compatible).

Sadly, you don't have that option with the Rio Central.

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post #18 of 20 Old 05-28-2002, 07:13 PM
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As I read this thread, I'm sitting in my basement located home theater, where I have setup a comfortable spot to work on the theater's computer doing many things, including ripping CD's to the PC. The PC serves as my home's central media pc, largely providing streaming MP3's. What do I stream them through? a Rio Receiver here in the theater / listening room and to a Rio Receiver in my den on the first floor. I have an ethernet network in the house so strategically placing the Rio's has made it simple to share music.

For this reason, I continue to find it hard justifying the expense of an 'all-in-one' MP3 server such as the Rio Central. Adding more disk space to a PC is easier and less expensive. The cost of distribution is also less expensive with the Rio's and provides equal quality output. I rip all my music using MusicMatch Jukebox and build specialized playlists (holiday music, etc.).

I'd rather take the money spent on an all-in-one device and upgrade the PC to continue to serve my ever growing MP3 collection.

IMHO

Quote:
Originally posted by smhughes
I'm trying to come up with a good reason to explain to the wife why I *need* to pull the trigger on a RIO Central. Problem is that I've been using the RIO Receiver for about 3months now with no problems using a networked PII400 and a networked Intel Storage Station (to house the MP3 files). My wife would imediately ask "why?" since the RIO Receiver works so good with a PII400. The other problem is that I could get a DELL 1.something GHZ for about $1,200bucks with a 15" flat panel LCD screen and do (I'm guessing here) more with it than with a RIO Central.

Please give me a good argument. ;)

Thanks for any ideas...

Jerz
(yeah, I know; justification sometimes sux)

------------
Regards,
David
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post #19 of 20 Old 05-28-2002, 09:07 PM
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Hi Jerz,
Welcome to the Rio Central club....I hope you are enjoying your unit...

As far as your question about replacing the hard drive, it isn't difficult to do at all. The bad news is that the internal IDE controller will only support 137GB of addressable drive space. So I bought a 120GB Maxtor drive from Jazz Technologies (they are now listed at $145).

This is how I did the upgrade....

I took the Audio Center apart, by undoing the 6 screws on the bottom. After gently taking the top off (you have to pry it a bit with your fingers), I was inside the box. The HD and CD are attached to a bracket assembly that uses 2 screws and a latch to hold the bracket and drives intact. The good news is that the old HD and the new one have the same screw holes, and the same power cable and data cable locations. So it's an easy replacement.

After removing the IDE cable and the power cable from the HD/CD assembly to the motherboard, I was able to remove the bracket with the entire CD/HD assembly so I could work on it up close.

Next I took apart the data and power cables from the old drive, unscrewed it from the bracket, inserted the new (empty) HD, attached the old screws in the bracket where they lined up with the new HD, replaced the data and power cables and then re-attached the bracket to the base of the case.

The CD that ships with the Audio Center has a dual purpose. It will run in your PC and let you read documentation, install the Emplode software, etc. But when you insert the CD in the Audio Center with an uninitialized hard drive, it asks if you want to restore it to an "As New" state. That's for me, I thought...

So that's the option I chose, let it run while it copied the software over, the CDDB database, etc. When it was all done, it rebooted and came up as it did when I first plugged it in.

I re-entered my setup data, network data, and was off and running. The "About my Rio" menu choice scrolled down and said I had 112 GB free space, so I know that the unit recognized the new drive okay. It has worked for several months now with no problems at all...

I haven't found a real elegant solution yet, but am contemplating taking the hard drive outside of the Rio Central and installing it in some sort of removable caddy that will allow me to insert additional drives for more music, etc. and make backups easier....That's another project for another day...

I hope this info helps you out as you contemplate the upgrade of your unit.....Thanks, Randy
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post #20 of 20 Old 05-29-2002, 12:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Randy: After you initialize the new drive can you put both drives in a pc running WinXP and copy your mp3 files over? Since it's a Linux box I would assume that the files on the original drive would be readable with WinXP (but then again I really don't know anything about linux).

I'd hate to think I'm wasting my time ripping these CD's since I'm not through "F" yet and I've used 63% of the hard drive. It turned out that I decided to rip at 256kbps and 64kbps for portable.

Thanks,

Jerz
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