Giving Back - [Howto]: Gapless audio on PWD II with Bridge


#1

I have had the Bridge installed in my PWD II for almost two weeks now, and for me setting it up (without a glitch) was straightforward. Thing is, I’ve worked in the tech industry for almost 20 years, and have a solid understanding of networks, and operating systems etc. I realized, that someone without a technical background in computer science or IT would likely find much of this networking audio stuff a challenge.



It has been said on these (and other forums) that a requirement for stable audio streaming is in fact a robust network – and my experience aligns with that statement.



Even prior to the arrival of the bridge, while experimenting with DLNA / uPNP between two servers, there were several issues. Random dropouts, 3-4 second gaps between songs… So, in light of all the flack (no pun intended) against the Bridge, there is allot one can screw up with their home networking and software configuration that will net a less- than-positive experience when going the Ethernet to DAC route.



I decided to write this article to provide an easy means for folks on the windows platform a how-to, to get gapless working on the current version of the Bridge. I was able to do this by finding bits-and-pieces of information scattered across the net, plus listening tests, and playing around for the past couple of weeks.



In this article, I will refer to the bridge as the renderer, and the Foobar player as server.



The Network:



Regardless of what Internet provider you use, ensure that your server and renderer are connected to a dedicated switch or router. Even if your Internet provider provides a modem-switch combo router, ensure you have a dedicated switch for your server, renderer, and wifi. If the Internet provider provides an all-in-one modem with wifi, I would still go out and by a “wireless router” from one of the following vendors:



For Wifi, switch, and router, my favorite is the new Asus routers:

- Asus AC1900 RTAC68U dual band wireless router (this is the fastest wireless router on the market at the moment. I use one, and get excellent wireless signal strength throughout the house without any droupout, or dead zones:

- Check out the Asus web page for additional information: http://www.asus.com/us/Networking/Wireless_Routers_Products/

- Other brands with great offerings are NetGear, TP-LINK and D-Link



If you are just looking for a wired switch:

- Cisco 8-port unmanaged gigabit switch: Cisco SG100D-08 (http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=27_1045_350&item_id=050775)



- D-Link 8-port gigabit switch: (D-Link DGS-108): http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=27_1045_355&item_id=048294





I have Internet through my cable provider. They install a cable modem, which also serves for my phone. I use an HP 48 port commercial gigabit managed switch (way overkill for this), but my whole home is wired with gigabit. Good deals can be found on Ebay for these switches used (which is how I bought mine).



In my home, Wifi and routing to the Internet is done through the Asus AC1900 RTAC68U – yes they are a bit pricey, but in a two-story home, I get coverage everywhere throughout the home – even in the garage and back deck :slight_smile:. Other than an Ethernet connection between the Asus and HP 48 port switch, nothing else is connected to the Asus. It is my default gateway out to the Internet and is connected on the WAN side to the cable modem.



Cabling:

No need to spend $$$ on fancy “audiophile” network cables – however, it is important to buy good, shielded, well made Ethernet cables. There is allot of junk labeled as CAT 7, or CAT 6, that won’t pass a CAT5e certification testing.



Blue Jeans Cable makes excellent, well tested CAT6 / 6a Ethernet cables. They also test each one, and provide test results with each cable: http://www.bluejeanscable.com/



There are also some excellent makers of bulk-cable available at your local computer store – ask your local computer dealer for Ethernet cables with certification testing, and you should never have an issue with Ethernet wiring.



Setup:

In my home, my media server is a custom made PC configured around the latest Intel i5 processor @ 3.4GHz. The case is aluminum (made by Fractal Designs), well damped with products from the following vendors:



Mechanical damping: http://www.soundcoat.com/ProductsDamping.htm

As well as Dynamat Extreme: http://www.b-quiet.com/dynamat.html



EMI / RFI shielding by Stillpoints ERS Fabric (yes this stuff works good): http://www.stillpoints.us/ers.html



The server sits on a two inch maple butcher block, and black-diamond-racing cones pointing upwards towards the base of the server, in a server rack in a different part of the basement from the main stereo.



Optional config: My media server has two network cards. This is a more advanced method to connect to a bridge, and may not be possible in some installations.



One network-card is dedicated to a separate network that connects the media server directly to the bridge. I use CAT6 cabling made by Blue Jeans, as well as a crossover adapter:



http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=87&item_id=80541J



The second network card is connected to my HP switch, and is visible to my home network and WiFi.



Note: each of these two networks are class-c networks, but they are different networks. Because we will be controlling the media server directly, and not relying on a DLNA control point, the wi-fi network does not have to directly be visible to the PWD (in my setup where my media server has two network cards). The media server must be able to see the PWD, and this is easy to test by pinging the network IP address of the bridge from the media server.



In a traditional single network setup, the wifi controller must absolutely be able to see the bridge.



Do not use DHCP on the bridge – it is easy enough to set a dedicated IP address on the bridge, in a two-network configuration the only two devices on that second network are the PWD DAC, and the media server. You do not need a default gateway, because there is no router involved, and the bridge will not need to talk on any other network.



So in my network, my bridge (or media renderer) has an IP address of 192.168.0.20, subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. The media server has an IP address of 192.168.0.3, and a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0.



Single Network (traditional setup): The two-network configuration is not required to make the bridge work in gapless mode, you can alternatively connect the bridge to your switch and assign it an IP address on your network. If your router or cable modem assigns IP addresses via DHCP (which it likely does) – it is important to reserve an IP range for DHCP, leaving everything else open for hard-coded IP addresses. So if your home network is 192.168.1.x and class C, you can configure your router to use 192.168.1.100 – 192.168.1.160 for DHCP addresses. Using this example, your router (or default gateway would likely be assigned an IP address of 192.168.1.1, with a subnetmask of 255.255.255.0). Once a DHCP reservation is set – you could then set the PWD bridge to 192.168.1.5 (using this example). Note: you would not need to set a DHCP reservation if you are doing the two-network setup





There is additional information here: http://www.highend-audiopc.com/

On how to further optimize networks.



Optional: I run Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 in core mode, and optimized as per http://www.highend-audiopc.com/. Server 2012R2 is not necessary to get gapless working on windows with the bridge.



Note: Whether you choose to do a single-network , or more advanced two-network setup, the key is that from your media server (running your favorite version of Windows), you will need to be able to ping the ip address of the renderer. In a single network setup, you will also need to see the bridge from your wifi controller.



Software:

Foobar2000 – Although not the prettiest software, is so flexible and configurable, has a beautiful plugin written by the author that makes it possible to output a single upnp stream to the bridge - making it possible to do gapless.



I’m not going to go into details of how to configure Foobar because the possibilities are endless.



There are several great resources:

http://www.foobar2000.org/FAQ

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?act=SF&s=&f=28

http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=Foobar2000:Foobar2000



I will describe how to make gapless work:



Once Foobar is installed, and you have imported your music into the Library, you will need the following additional components:



1) foo_out_upnp: http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_out_upnp

Do not confuse foo_out_upnp with foo_upnp (like I did a couple of weeks ago).

Foo_out_upnp will allow you to configure foobar2000 to output a upnp stream, and will see the PWD Bridge as a playback device. Foo_upnp is a bundled DLNA server (library server), control point, and renderer – none are needed in this exercise -unless you want to share your media with other renderers in your house – for example a J Rivers Media Center PC in your bedroom.



2) Additional Components depending on what remote app (controller) you use:

In my setup, my media server is headless, meaning – no screen, keyboard, mouse, etc. Everything is controlled via an iPAD or my Samsung Note III cellphone. See below for control apps.



Once Foobar is installed foo_out_upnp is configurable via settings>playback>output within foobar (I may need to revise, as I am writing this from memory). You will see a dropdown output device within the foo_out_upnp section, and from there you should see the name of your PWD bridge. In my configuration, it’s named PWD II. Select the name you gave your bridge. This will now be the output device for foobar to use.



Control:



I have tried several remotes, IMO, the best ones are the following:

For any iOS (iPAD, iPhone) device:



I use MonkeyMote www.monkeymote.com - You will need to download and install the foobar component. Follow the instructions provided at www.monkeymote.com.



Once the Foobar server component is installed, you will need to restart Foobar2000



For Andriod I use FoobarCon Pro: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.wan.foobarconpro



Follow the instructions for FoobarCon Pro – it also requires a component to be installed.



Once this is all set up, you will be able to play gapless to your bridge, the key difference here is that foo_out_upnp streams the current playlist as a continuous stream to the renderer, versus a different URL for each track, so the bridge does not have to re-buffer each track.



Sound quality is amazing, and both remote software packages are great.



Note: you will not see artist / album information on the screen of your PWD using this method, because it is being streamed as a continuous data set - but who cares, I leave my screen off anyway, and the display on a tablet or cellphone is much larger anyway :wink: .



Time permitting; I will author a second article on how to set up foobar2000 as a headless app running on Windows 2012 R2.



#2

@louawalters This is great. Thanks very much. I’ve been using foobar2000 with MonkeyMote and the streaming plug-in for some time now with very few problems. Too bad there isn’t a Mac version.


#3

Lou

Thanks so much for this.

I will announce this thread for a couple of weeks so most will notice it.

I am sure there are many who will benefit from the set up as well as those who have lusted for gapless for a long time now.



For MAC users [ myself included] there is also the option of using Parallels or Bootcamp which enable the running of windows on a MAC.

Meanwhile we will continue the search for a Foobar alternative for MAC.

I hope the PSA Bridge2 project solves most of this soon but a robust network can only make everything work better.

Thanks again for sharing.


#4

:wink: better late than never I guess… Thanks Gordon. I wish I bought the Bridge two years ago.


#5

@louawalters

After reading this thread you probably are not the only one.



FYI- the train is on the way and has your tel number.


#6

Great article! It occurred to me a while back I didn’t have a clue how to set up a good network and I should do some research. Well my procrastination paid off, it’s now spelled out, thanks! It will be interesting to see what others have to add. One question, how do you determine you have a Class C network? I did a quick search and got a lot more information than I wanted … One other thing, thanks for pointing out Blue Jeans Cables, I just saw they had them and was wondering if they were a better option. I’m sure you’ll get some pushback on the audiophile Ethernet cables though!


#7

@pmotz



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_address is the best summary for IPV4 network classification.



Class A networks are usually networks held by ISPs, they are external IP addresses on the Internet. Their subnet (network mask) is 255.0.0.0 - this is class A meaning meaning there are 128 networks available

[from 1.0.0.0 through 127.0.0.0]. 127.0.0.1 always refers to localhost. In class A there are 16+ million hosts available / network (2^24).



Class B networks have a balance between the available networks and number of hosts (almost split). Subnet for class B is 255.255.0.0. There are 2^14 networks available, and 2^16 available hosts for each network. IP ranges are:

128.1.0.0 through 191.255.255.255





Class C networks have many available networks with a small number of hosts available in each - which is why it is used for internal networks (not on the internet). Class C subnet is 255.255.255.0 IE class C networks are not visible to the internet. 2^21 networks are available with 2^8 (256 hosts available in each network). IP range is 192.0.0.0 - 223.255.255.255



On the ethernet cable front, I didn’t want to imply that they do not affect sound quality - I believe they do. And I believe the reason for their affect on sound has to do with their grounding scheme, conductor profile, and connectors. In order to really hear what they do, you will need to take any switch or router out of the equation, and go direct from your media server to renderer. I like the Blue Jeans cables, and for me spending any more $$$ on ethernet over the cost of BJ is not worth it. I.E - tune your system first, drivers, power cords, double conversion UPS for your computer, isolated power, etc… YMMMV, but this is just been based on my experience.


#8

Thanks!


#9
louawalters said: I have had the Bridge installed in my PWD II for almost two weeks now


Following the above line from your post, I was lost. I will get one of my college kids to interpret. lol


#10

Network classes do not matter anymore if you use a proper network mask. I would suggest to use a private network which is easier to remember and type.



Compare:

192.168.254.1

with

10.0.0.1



Which one is more convenient? :wink:



The mask is the same: 255.255.255.0



#11

Lou,

Thanks so much for taking the time to share all this information. I’m not going to be able to use your insights to get gapless (I have my library on a Synology NAS running Minimserver feeding the Bridge). But you have inspired me to upgrade my network with better cables and gigabit switches. My question is: how important do you feel it is to have a dedicated switch for the server and the PWD? My library on the Synology also serves a Squeezebox with the Logitech Media Server running on my household computer. So I have 3 options:



1. Dedicated switch for the Synology and PWD, disconnected from any other switches or routers (downsides: A - Must plug cable from the dedicated switch into my central router when I want to add music which I rip on a networked computer; B - Must keep a copy of my library on my network so it is accessible to the computer and Squeezebox.



2. Dedicated switch for the Synology and PWD which is also connected to my central router (no need for a separate copy of my music library and no need to connect a cable for adding music).



3. No dedicated switch for Synology and PWD. Plug them along with all other networked devices into a central gigabit switch.



I will really appreciate any thoughts about this. I’m not interested in saving money, only in best sound quality.



Thanks in advance,

Rich


#12

@richs I think option #2 would be your best option, because it would still allow you to add / remove music to your Synology (through your home network switch) while still having a direct connection to the PWD. I’m assuming the Synology has multiple NICs on it? If so, one would connect directly to a gigabit switch, the other NIC could be direct connected to the PWD. You will either need a crossover ethernet cable or a regular ethernet cable + a crossover adapter.



You could then connect your gigabit switch to your wireless router… to be accessible from any wifi device.



It would be cool to see if the author of Foobar could make the app compatible for a NAS. Right now I think foobar is the only way to get gapless to work on the bridge. Unless you can find a UPNP output module for your NAS.



I just sent an email to BlueJeans cable to see if they could make me a cat 6A crossover cable. Right now I am using a Cat 6A BlueJeans cable into a crossover converter (direct from my media server into the PWD). I would rather go direct and not have to use any adapters. The adapter I am using is specified as Cat 5 (which is sufficient for PWD traffic, but from what I have read, any time you have additional connectors you run the risk of impedance mis-matches). I’m not an electrical engineer, so not sure… Plus the BJ cable is solid core copper, the crossover converter is just some cheap stranded cable. I think the sound would get even better by using a crossover cable, instead of a straight-through + crossover adapter.



Mind you all that said, the sound quality on my PWD is better than I have ever heard it sound.


#13
louawalters said: Mind you all that said, the sound quality on my PWD is better than I have ever heard it sound.


hehehe, just wait. :D

#14

Interesting tip on the crossover ethernet cable directly into the PWD, Lou. I’m going to test that out this week as I use a Synology NAS as well. Right now I have both the PWD and the NAS linked into my central gigabit router with CAT7s.



I tested mimimserver on my NAS a few years ago, but it sounded bright and a little lean. Haven’t used it since. Maybe using this new setup with the crossover cable will tame some of that.


#15
radioclash said: I tested mimimserver on my NAS a few years ago

Minim is at a completely different development stage nowadays. For example, you can choose two different transcoding libraries.

#16
louawalters said: Mind you all that said, the sound quality on my PWD is better than I have ever heard it sound.


hehehe, just wait. :D


:D

#17

Hi Lou,

Thanks for your help. Sadly, my Synology only has one ethernet port, so I can’t direct connect to the PWD with a crossover cable. Given that, would you still recommend option 2, in which the Synology and PWD are both connected to a dedicated switch, which in turn is connected to my main router?



Thanks again,



Rich


#18

@richs In that case I recommend getting a really good gigabit switch and using the switch in addition to your router for wifi. So the only thing connected to your router is the WAN connection (internet), and 1 LAN connection from the router to the separate gigabit switch. Here are some good examples:

http://www.amazon.ca/D-Link-16-Port-Unmanaged-Rackmount-DGS-1016D/dp/B0002TPFZO

http://www.tp-link.com/ca/products/details/?model=TL-SG1016#spec



The key is to ensure that the switching capacity is double the number of ports - both of the above 16 port switches have 32 Gb/s switching capacity.



The next level up would be a smart switch (I have an HP - Ver 1 of the 24 port HP 1810-24V2) http://h22150.www2.hp.com/3F01725C-5577-4316-8FE7-EAD353CDEB07/index.html#image-hotspot



In almost 4 years, I’ve not once had a problem with the switch, it is on full UPS power and runs 24X7X365.


#19

Hey Lou, thanks again.



I’ve found the HP switch for $209 on New Egg, which seems a pretty good price. So, here are my final questions. Do you recommend:



1. Plugging the Snynology NAS and PWD directly into the HP switch (about 25 ft cables) with all other household devices.

2. Getting a smaller gigabit switch (sitting in my component cabinet) with is wired to the big HP and then connected to only the Synology and PWD (with about 2-3 ft. cables).



It seams that the benefits of #1 are a high quality switch and no connection though the second switch for the 2 music devices. The downsides are longer cables to the music devices and many devices plugged into the HP along with the Synology and PWD.



Thanks. And sorry for the repeated questions. I would like to get this settled before my self control breaks down and I pull the trigger on the DS.



Also, thanks for the tip on the wireless router. The specs look great. I may spring for one as well. The wireless range might reach to my dock, which would be lovely. Though my wife objects to me being plugged in when I should be enjoying the lake.



Rich


#20

Hey Rich, those are good questions and I too am curious as to what the recommendations are.



J.P.