Eumeles - Media Player & Stereo Amplifier

  1. System
  2. Player
  3. Amplifier
  4. Integrated
  5. History
  6. Roadmap
  7. Contact

It took more than a year and several stages to get to the current state

  1. Background
  2. Off-the-shelf
  3. HTPC based
  4. Works-like, looks-like

The only element needed is an off-the-shelf HTPC - a nice small box which is not too intrusive. It should be able store and play all media, so it needs a hard disk. Searching the market revealed that the ASRock ION 330 is a good fit, because it is cheap, quite small, claims to be quiet and can play back all sorts of media with hardware support.

The ASRock is connected to the HDTV over an HDMI cable. The HDTV will be used to play back all media, including audio, i.e. no need for an additional amplifier and speakers.

There are some media software solutions on the market and a few well maintained open source solutions. I prefer the latter as I can modify them to suit my needs. Exploring the web, there is in essence:

  • MythTV, written in C++, based on Qt. Nice code, but looks a bit old-fashioned and probably due to the use of Qt tends to be a bit slow. People on the community were not very welcoming or supportive
  • XBMC, written in C/C++, based on custom GUI library designed for speed. Looks very nice and is responsive. There is a very active community, very helpful and open to suggestions.

The conclusion is to install XBMC on the ASRock, using GNU/Linux as it can exploit the NVIDIA ION hardware playback facility.

The solution works to a large degree. I succeeded in adding simple code to display lyrics stored next to a music file, same name, and different extension. We have enjoyed listening to music with the lyrics being on screen, or watching a DVD, or our pictures. We found a few issues by using it over a period of several months:

  • The ASRock is noisy (26 dB advertised) and gets quiet warm
  • Even the power block is noisy and also annoying to have lying around
  • It takes too long to boot, but this could be optimised with some work
  • The TV has to be on to listen to music.

Due to these issues, my wife only uses it to listen to FIP which she cannot from the small Teac Hi-Fi. CDs are still stacked on the Teac Hi-Fi because it is simply easier and faster to start playing them: pop in a CD and press start, or change the volume using a knob.