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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A cheap simple solution for auto turning on/off amps and other devices and peripherals

I am currently planning a budget whole home audio system, Initially I plan on having 4 zones, Lounge, Master-bedroom / Bathroom, Kitchen. This will consist of using Logitech Squeezebox Server software installed on my WHS box and software Squeezeboxes (SqueezeSlave) installed on my HTPC in the lounge and on the WHS box itself which will serve the kitchen. I will be using iPeng’s new iOS device playback which I recently wrote about, for the master-bedroom / bathroom as I will use my Apple iTouch in a dock connected to a local amp.

The problem I wanted to solve was how would I automatically turn on and off the amp serving the kitchen? This amp will be hidden away in the cupboard under the stairs and connected to the WHS boxes audio out, which will be in the same location. Possible options were an audio signal sensing amp that can automatically turn itself on when an audio signal is detected. However these types of amps are more difficult to source and can be more expensive, plus I’ve heard that on some of them if you are listening to music too quietly they can turn off when you don’t want them to.

Another option could have been to use an amp that had IR control, however IR isn’t much good when the amp is in a cupboard, although I do have a Logitech Harmony RF remote control so I could have used this I guess. The other idea I had was to use active powered speakers in the kitchen and not use an amp for this room at all, but even then I’d need to be able to turn on/off the powered speakers, or just leave them turned on all the time? If you are looking for a small pair of active powered speakers by the way, after reading many reviews on the Internet, the Audio Engine A2 and A5 speakers sound great!

I also looked on the Squeezebox forums there are some plug-ins for turning amps on and also some diagrams of circuits you can make to achieve this, but they all sounded like to much effort. I then saw something called the Intelliplug and then searching on eBay I saw the E-On Power Down plug which is based on the Intelliplug. There are 3 types of E-On PowerDown plugs so make sure you purchase the correct one, which in my case was the Desktop Computer PowerDown plug, there is also a TV and Laptop PowerDown plug.

E-ON Desktop Computer PowerDown Plug:


What these plugs do is allow you to turn on and off automatically connected devices and peripherals, such as monitors, printers, scanners, broadband modems, speakers, sub woofers. So if your PC is turned on any connected peripherals are then automatically turned on. If you turn off your PC (S5) the peripherals are automatically turned off.

This is a scan of the instructions on the box:


My WHS sleeps, it is not running 24/7 I use the excellent WHS add-in called Lightouts which allows my WHS to sleep when there are no active clients on the LAN. If a client turns on, for example my HTPC the WHS will then also automatically wake from S3 Sleep.

The E-On PowerDown plug works with S3 Sleep! So when my WHS sleeps it would turn off my amp, if the WHS wakes it would turn on the amp. I bought two of these plugs on eBay for less than five pounds delivered which was a great deal!

Friday, 11 February 2011

iPeng iOS Playback– Sync options

With regards to my last post here, looking in the Squeezebox Server options there are some delay settings in the sync options. I increased one of them to 15ms from 0 which has slightly improved the issue of iPeng on the iTouch being a little out of sync. However its not perfect and when skipping through tracks it can become out of sync again but its better than what it was (I think).

Logitech Squeezebox Server – Settings.

It looks like they have based this new iOS playback feature using SqueezePlay. I did have SqueezePlay installed on my WHS initially and SqueezeSlave running on my other HTPC machine. I did not really notice any major sync issues then.

I then later uninstalled SqueezePlay on the WHS and installed SqueezeSlave instead as I wanted to run it as a service. Again with SqueezeSlave on both the WHS and HTPC boxes I have not noticed any major issues with sync. Only now using iPeng’s new playback feature has this become something of an issue. But for £2.99 to add an extra audio zone you can’t go to far wrong!

I renamed my iTouch here to iTouch – Kitchen

Changing this delay setting here affects if the iTouch is in sync or not with the other two SqueezeSlave players. However getting this value just right is tricky and I found when I thought I had it correct and all the players were pretty much in sync, but then skipping to the next track on the album the iTouch could come out of sync again. Some tracks start with everything in sync other tracks start and the iTouch is way out of sync. It still needs more investigation I think.

Overall I’d highly recommend iPeng if you have real Squeezeboxes or emulated ones like me. Its certainly the best app I have installed on my iTouch to date.

Update: Below is a response from the iPeng developer.


Syncing is currently not really supported. It can work but it's - as you have found - not reliably keeping sync. We're working on that.

(UPDATED) iPeng now has iOS device playback!

I’ve been using iPeng for a while with my Logitech Squeezebox Server and emulated Squeezebox’s (SqueezeSlave running on HTPC and on my WHS). This has given me a two zone audio setup where I can play music in sync in the two rooms! iPeng is a remote control app for Squeezebox on iPhone / iTouch / iPad.

iPeng recently released an in app update (£2.99) to enable playback to the actual iOS device itself. So for £2.99 I now have 3 zones which is my iTouch in an iPod dock in the kitchen. The update works but I think there is some room for improvement, I found that the iOS device lags and is not fully in sync with the other rooms. Also I had to exit the iPeng app a few times as it seemed to lock up. But it does work and I can stream my MP3’s to the iTouch.

You can read more about iPeng’s new update here.

Happy 2011, iPeng Users!

Here’s the first new release in 2011 and it brings you a long-awaited functionality for iPeng: Playback.
How Does it Work?

iPeng Playback will make your iOS device show up on a Squeezebox Server like any other Squeezebox Player and you control it just like that, too. With iPeng Playback your iOS device will have essentially the same music management capabilities as all your other players, so you can queue up tracks for a playlist or just play an album or even use plugins like Dynamic Playlists.