Streaming, Switching, Sweating

Gently Down the Stream
I'm not a PC guy, and ease of use for my fiancé and me is key. I'm planning to rip all my CDs to some 1TB drives and access the files via my Mac and iTunes. I was going to use the Denon AVR-3808 A/V receiver, as I've had a long, happy history with the brand, and I want decent amps and HD radio.

According to Denon, its docks only work with AAC and MP3 files. I've made a "test" CD of some Donald Fagen cuts using those two encoders and Apple Lossless. The Apple Lossless files are almost three times the size of the others, and they sound much better to me. Is there any easy way to get these files into the Denon, or do I need to go with another brand of receiver?

Isaac Bouchard

You are talking about two different things here. Accessing a media server is one thing, and Denon's "dock" is something else; I assume that refers to the iPod dock, which is just another local source for the AVR. I asked Denon about this and found out that the ASD-3 iPod dock supports AAC, WMA, MP3, FLAC, and WAV files, not Apple Lossless. It does support WMA lossless if Windows Media Player is used as the media manager.

Accessing a media server is something else entirely. You need a receiver that can be connected to your home network and access the files on the Mac. The Denon AVR-3808 has this capability—it's got an Ethernet port and is DLNA certified, so it should be able to access media files on the Mac and stream them. However, you need to install DLNA server software such as TwonkyMedia on the Mac. As I learned from Denon, this network-streaming function supports the same file types as the iPod dock—AAC, WMA, MP3, FLAC, and WAV, but not Apple Lossless. FLAC and WAV are lossless, so you could use one of those codecs with the Denon. I don't know of any AVRs that can stream Apple Lossless.

The Old Switcheroo
I want to buy a HDMI switcher (minimum 5 inputs). I have a Sony KD-34XBR970 CRT TV and would like to connect a Motorola DC T6412 III cable box, Panasonic DMR-EZ48V DVD recorder, Sony PlayStation 3, and Cannon Vixia HV30 camcorder.

I am considering three switchers, one from Atlona ($399) and two unnamed models ($159 and $70). Is there a difference in the picture quality of a $70 switcher versus a $399 switcher if they both support the same resolution (1080i/p)? Do you recommend one of these or another HDMI switch with at least five inputs?

Howard Perry

I don't know any of these switchers, so I can't say if any of them are any good. Two of the three you list are not identified by brand at all, which makes me very suspicious. Also, the $159 one says it's compatible with HDMI 1.2, which is a deal breaker for me. Make sure that whatever you get supports HDMI 1.3.

HDMI switching is a very tricky business because of HDCP copy protection and EDID (extended display identification), which is why I tend to stick with known brands such as Key Digital and DVIGear. Gefen is another known brand, but I've had some trouble with its HDMI products.

Don't Mess With Texas
I am trying to assemble an outdoor stereo system for my pool and cabana area. My plan was to use the Onkyo TX-SR607 receiver with seven outdoor speakers. However, I am now concerned about the environmental temperature range of the Onkyo. I live in Texas, and the temperature can easily reach 100 degrees. I called Onkyo, and they said the upper limit of the operating temperature is 80 degrees.

Do you know anything about using receivers in these conditions, and if so, is 80 degrees the best I can hope for? Is there a better choice for a receiver that has a wider range of operational temperature? If I bought a receiver with an onboard fan for cooling, would that help, and if so, do you have any recommendations?

David Nichols

I know of no AVRs intended for outdoor use in high temps, or for outdoor use at all; Texas can get pretty humid, which would not be good for electronics, even if the temperature didn't exceed the specified operating range. Is there any way to put the AVR indoors and run speaker wires to the outdoor speakers? That's what I'd recommend.

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VidaBlue2U's picture

Issac-I have a Mac and stream Apple Lossless files to my Marantz sr7001 via an Airport Express. The Airport Express (about $100) has a digital output, so the receiver gets the full lossless file. Another option if you want to see on your TV the info would be an Apple TV (somewhere around $250) and also has a digital out. Either way you could keep your Denon, Mac, Apple Lossless, and iTunes setups.

Raymond's picture

is there a media server out there that can store all my dvds and cds? Whats the brand?

willdao's picture

Raymond,A "media server" is nothing more, really, than a generic computer server: able to store and "serve up" any files and formats that your home computer--or preamp/processor or receiver in this specialized case--can decode. This includes ALL compatible applications and application data for a computer, but only the limited formats that the pre/pro or receiver is designed to decode (i.e. naturally, only music and video files). The ability to store "all" your DVDs and CDs is limited only by the size of the storage built into the server; just as with a PC or Mac, the capacity of the hard drive(s) in the server (and the encoding or transcoding format chosen and their bitrates) determines how many of your DVDs and CDs can fit.

Jim Lasher's picture

Before paying a premium for an A/V receiver with networking/media streaming capability, be sure to check out your TV provider's hardware (HD DVRs specifically). Newest DirecTV HD DVRs and FIOS DVRs have this capability. I believe DISH Network also has receivers that can stream media files as well. Many folks may have this ability in their homes right now and are not aware of or are not taking advantage of it (this ability has not been loudly called out by some TV providers). Relatively simple steps are needed (powerline ethernet adapters for instance) to get your media files (music AND photos) from a computer to your HD DVR.

Flash Gordon's picture

I second the comment about using Apple TV. I have the Denon 3808CI and Apple TV, and about 1,500 albums ripped using Apple Lossless (almost half a terabyte of storage). The Apple TV plays them flawlessly through the Denon, and has the best on-screen interface I've seen. And as a bonus it can display my photos as a screen saver while songs are playing.