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Well, as no one else has replied I'll take a shot.


My guess as to why you're not getting any feedback is because not too many people own this machine. I looked at it when it first came out, saw the $1500 price tag, and quickly forgot about it - too much. Many others probably did as well.


Your posting's making me take another look, however. I found another thread that talks about this same (?) deal a few months ago:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...hreadid=307385


In searching other forums today I find the same theme as posted in this thread: negative feedback, but only from people who don't own it! The (very few) messages from those that own it are positive. CNET and PCMag both like it, except for the now-outdated $1500 price tag.


Most of the complaints seem to be about setting it up - *too slow*, USB from computer, etc. I myself would load 95% of my collection from CDs, not the computer, so I don't care about the slow download time. I *would* prefer a faster burn (read?) time, but I figure loading one CD every 15 mins or so while watching TV isn't all that horrible. Once done, it's DONE.


I'd been leaning toward a thin client at my entertainment center, perhaps an Audiotron or Prismiq, but they would both rely on other peripherals to get the job done, either a PC or NAS always running. *And* you'd still have to load the CDs on those machines - no big benefit there. I would like a video out, however, which the RIO doesn't appear to have.


I then tried to get to the manufacturer's site - where the heck is it? I tried RioAudio.com (only offers the portable players, but buried way down you can find some firmware updates for the Central from just last month). I then tried SonicBlue (doesn't even open - are they officially out of business) - then I tried DNNA, which just pointed me back to RioCentral. Is this a no-longer-manufactured item? The firmware update makes me think no, but the lack of any manufacturer selling it anymore makes me wonder.


OK, that's it. Let me know if anyone can enlighten me, especially someone who's actually seen/used it. Is it worth $500?


Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Dave -


Thanks for your insightful post. I agree with all that you say. Personally, the fact that it does not need video out is a asset for me as I use a front projector and don't want to have to turn the projector on just to select some tunes.


One thing that looks lame to me is the fact that once you take the time out to load all those CDs, the music is kind of "stuck" there. In other words, you can only stream to Rio Receiver units, not a PC.


Indeed it looks like you can synchronize all the files, but to me that is a waste of disk space and it defeats the purpose of the Rio Central!


A manual is available at
http://media-server.amazon.com/media...L000009601.pdf


CG
 

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Diamond Multimedia/S3/Rio/Sonic Blue/RioAudio are all the same company, in different carnations, bought and sold a number of times.


I think the guys that still work there are the ones who did the Empeg car stereo, and the Rio Reciever, but they've 'restructured' to focus on their core product that made their name: portable mp3 players.
 

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"I use a front projector and don't want to have to turn the projector on just to select some tunes."


That's exactly the position I'm in. What I'm thinking about doing is buying a $30 5" TV I saw at Circuit City to put in my built in rack (it will fit nicely next to my sub amp.
 

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Well, I did some more looking around after my post yesterday (and will probably do some more today - shh) and found an answer to one of my questions - something everyone else might have already known.


The Rio Central IS a discontinued item, and will no longer receive any software updates. I confirmed this by calling RIO customer care - 1-800-468-5846. That said, the lady I spoke with said they would continue to honor the 1 year manufacturer's warranty, and provide (telephone?) support. The software update I found under Support on the RioAudio site is dated from just a month ago - I guess that's the last one.


Though this disappoints me, I still am seriously considering it. First off, I assume it wouldn't be $500 if it weren't discontinued, so I can't have one without the other. Secondly, once I have my music on the server, and assuming it's working alright, how much software tweaking would I need? Besides support for downloading to more Rio portable players (I have my eye on the Karma) I don't think the software updates are doing more than providing more on-board CDDB database (redundant, I know) information. If I'm wrong let me know.


Also, Fredzy, you answered a question I was going to look at today - could the Central 'upload' music to the computer, or is it just a one-way street. I was hoping the former due to thoughts about offloading to other portable music players - if the Central can't do it, I wanted to do it via my computer.


That's it for now - still hoping to hear from a satisifed customer, who I can pump for additional information!
 

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David -


Are you saying that there is an built-in CDDB database ?!? If so, that is just silly, since that information can be easily obtained on the internet.


Also, does anyone know if the Rio Central will play internet radio ?


CG
 

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fredzy - 1) Yes and 2) No.


I can't tell you what the developers were thinking, but I would guess they included the CDDB (entire? - doubtful) database to speed up album recognition. It appears from the manual that it will only go out to the internet to receive the info if it's not found internally.


By the way, I found a pretty good forum (of actual owners!) that deals with the Rio Central and Receiver units:

http://rioreceiver.comms.net/php/ubbthreads.php
 

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Hi folks,

I'm an owner of a Rio Central box and several connected Rio Receivers...I have owned my unit since the beginning and use it almost every day, so I can probably answer most of your questions about it....


Right at the beginning I'll say that there will be folks who will say that they can build a cheaper PC that will serve music. True statement, no problem. If price is the total equation, then the Rio Central or other non-PC solution probably isn't for you. But like many folks, I was looking for a self-contained solution that I could install in my stereo rack. There also weren't many products in this category two years ago, but now there are more to choose from. I think the Overstock $499 price is a good one for this unit...


I've always thought the unit sounded very good through my stereo, but I do find that I listen to most of my music streamed through the Rio receivers that I have throughout the house and garage...I have all the music ripped on the Rio Central at 256KB. It will go up to 320 KB if you want and you can also store duplicate smaller song files for portable upload (I've never done that to maximize my space).


You can upgrade the 40GB drive that comes installed in the Rio and re-install a new operating system on the new drive with the CD that they include with the unit.


I installed a 120GB drive right away and have it on a removable drive bay/cartridge so I can remove the drive for backups, etc. I also have a smaller 40GB drive with only Christmas music (and some of my essential stuff) to listen to in December....That way the Christmas stuff doesn't take up space on my main 120GB drive...I guess I have about 90-95 GB of music stored on my main 120 GB drive right now. At some point, I'll probably have to split it to two drives when the collection gets too large. That's probably the main disadvantage of the Rio Central right now (at least to me!)...


It seems that a 120GB drive is the largest one that you can install unless someone does some software work on the box. After reading posts on the Rio Central forum, I don't think that a larger drive breakthrough is in the works. The reason for that is that there seems to be some boot code written in flash on the motherboard that is not LBA48 or large drive compliant. The Linux kernal on the hard drive itself seems to have the large drive support. So in order to try and get a larger drive to boot, I think reflashing the motherboard is a requirement....Too much work, I'm guessing. And you could ruin your box if you don't get it right...


The Rio Central has a USB jack on the back, so to connect it to the home network you need a USB to Ethernet adapter. I bought one of the supported models from Linksys and it has always worked fine. It will also work with a "phone line network", if you have of those in the house...I don't know many who do, but there are still some around...


Someone mentioned that a new software release was just done, that is true. The main benefit from that release is to fix a stability problem when ripping CDs to the box, especially in multiple mode. The old software had a tendency to reboot in the middle of a multi-disc rip, which was inconvenient. They also added some support for some of the Rio portables, but not the latest ones like the Karma. Even though the date of the software update on the support website is December 2003, it was held back from an earlier release date.


We don't know yet if the CDDB database is updated in the new release because the 540+ MB zip file has an error in it and can't be unzipped. They should fix that soon, I hope...


I believe a full CDDB database is included with the unit, and like someone else mentioned earlier, the purpose of it is to save time when ripping CDs on the box. If a CD isn't in the database, then the unit goes out to the Internet and looks it up. It's just an extra step. Out of the 800 CDs I have ripped on my drive, about 110 of them needed the Internet lookup. Mainly because they were newer than the internal CDDB database. If you rip a CD older than 2001, it will most likely be found in the internal CDDB database.


The internal screen on the Rio Central is nice and lets you control the unit without having to squint too much (unlike the Rio Receiver!).


The box runs the Debian version of Linux and the complete source code is available on the Rio Central support website...

http://www.digitalnetworksna.com/sup...asp?prodID=100


You can also plug in a USB keyboard on the front panel and get a shell prompt. I am not a Linux expert, so I haven't explored that too much...


There is a program available for download on the net called Emplode 2.0 that lets you communicate to the Rio Central from your PC. This is handy to fix up the song/album titles, although you can do it from the Rio Central itself (better with an attached keyboard).


Using Emplode, you can copy MP3's from a PC to the Rio Central. But, currently, you cannot copy MP3's from the Rio Central to a PC. There is another third-party program that was originally written for the Rio Car unit called jEmplode that may allow this functionality with the Rio Central, but the latest version of jEmplode doesn't work well with the Rio Central. The good news is that the author for jEmplode now has a Rio Central and is supposed to be making the software more compatible across platforms...


You can select certain MP3's on the Rio Central and burn a mix CD on the internal CD-RW drive. I haven't done that too much, but it is possible. It isn't quick about doing that, however, because of the MP3 to WAV file conversion and then slower speed burn....


The unit also has a Standby mode that spins the hard drive down automatically when it isn't in use. That's the mode I use most of the time. When I ask the box to serve music, then the drive spins up and I get music after a 5 second delay or so. Then when I'm done, the drive shuts down automatically...


There's RCA line outputs for stereo system connection and also a digital audio output that you can use to optically connect to your stereo system. The remote control has most of the front panel/menu items duplicated, but the buttons are a bit small....


I have always liked this box and will continue to use it for awhile until something else comes along with more features and larger storage space. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have about the Rio Central and I'll try to help...


Thanks, Randy
 

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Randy -

Thanks very much for taking the time to write such a long (whew!) post - it's great to finally hear from someone who owns one of these machines.

You've confirmed a lot of what I've read/assumed during my reading up on this machine - I'm very tempted to purchase a Central and a Receiver from Overstock - the whole thing would 'only' set me back $600 or so.

The main thing stopping me is my continued interest in the Mediatron (Audiotron?) / NAS alternative. If I were to purchase the Tritton NAS unit (high 200's) and a couple $300 (?) Mediatrons to support 2 rooms (family room / office) I'd be spending a couple/few hundred more but getting 120GB out of the gate, a non-discontinued product, video output, a NAS that I could use for purposes other than music, and the ability to view photos on the screen (not a big wish of mine, but hey, why not?).


Do you have any insights on this decision? You can probably tell I've never owned any of the equipment mentioned.


Also, you mentioned swapping out the hard drive immediately. I saw where that was mentioned by others, but I've never found the instructions on how to do so. Is it difficult? Can you post a link to the instructions? I've swapped out hard drives on PC's before, but never one in a different device.


Thanks again for your help and post.


Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #11
randy -


can you also give more details as to how you use

a removable bay ? does this fit inside the

rio central ? or, can the rio access a usb drive ?


thanks for the informative post !


cg
 

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Hi Guys,

Attached is a photo of my Rio Central setup with the external drive bay...The only difference is I made some nice wood side panels for the drive case to make it look more finished. The ribbon cable and extended power cable for the drive slip in through the rear (I didn't tighten the case all the way down)....Not the most elegant solution, but it works...


The hard drive has to be jumpered master and the CD drive must be jumpered as slave to function correctly. Someone posted on the Rio Central board that the software (based on the Rio or Empeg car player) might work with two hard drives installed and no CD drive. I can tell you that my testing didn't work for that....


I don't see how a USB drive would work, as there is no USB drive controller or USB interface for a hard drive. So it's IDE all the way....


Dave, I wrote a post on the Rio Central website mentioned above about swapping out the hard drive. I would classify it as pretty simple. The hardest thing may just be knowing where to press in on the case after loosening the screws so the latches allow it to open (and I can help with that). The basic steps for drive swap are: Take case apart, remove bracket that holds CD and hard drive, disconnect cables, disconnect 40 GB hard drive, jumper new Maxtor 120GB drive as master, re-install in bracket, connect cables to drive, re-attach bracket to Central, plug in power and IDE cable and re-assemble case. Then you use the supplied CD to install the operating system on the new hard drive. Not a problem at all....


As far as your note about your alternative solution regarding the Mediatrons, it does sound like a viable solution...One thing to keep in mind is that the Rio Receivers do have a built-in amplifier. So all you have to add are speakers and you have a self-contained stand-alone solution...I'm not sure if the Audiotron or Mediatron have an internal amp or if you need something external....I thought they just had audio outputs for a stereo system...But you are right about the "not discontinued" part of it, that does count for something.


If you pursue your previously mentioned solution, then you'll probably be using a PC to rip your CDs to MP3 format to store on the NAS and play. One thing I wanted to mention is that you'll want a high quality ripping program to make sure that the MP3s sound good. Something like Lame is considered a pretty good ripping program. I'm not sure what Rio uses in the Central (I should look at the source code), but it is definitely a good ripper. After taking about 5-6 minutes per CD to copy the .WAV files to the Central, it then takes about 3-4 minutes per song to convert the .WAV files to .MP3, so it isn't fast. But that conversion is done in the background, so you can continue to keep shoving more CDs in the drive and queue up the songs to be converted. But the quality of the final product MP3 is very high...The one thing you want to avoid is re-ripping your music collection because your software choice or bit rate isn't quite right, etc.


I hope that helps and best of luck with the decision....


Randy
 

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Randy - Once again I want to thank you for your very informative post; it is much appreciated! I'm going over to the Rio Central forum now to search for your 'swapping hard drive' post...
 
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