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Pagey
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Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:34 am

Gerbils, I need your audio input! Here's the scenario: we have a family cabin (off grid) on my paternal grandmother's 75 acre cattle farm. This cabin has a solar panel, so as long as it's getting decent sun, one can run wired electronics from the wall outlets. I often take my 13" Asus Zenbook and a pair of entry-level Sony headphones with me, as the speakers on the Zenbook are so bad as to be for "emergencies only" listening. I like the Sony cans, but they block out any ambient noise, and some of that I do enjoy listening to: the 3 little streams that converge behind the cabin and gurgle, wild turkey scratching about and roosting, the Blair Witch sneaking up on me, etc.

So, what I'd like is a portable mp3/speaker system that can run off battery or the wall outlets at the cabin. I don't need something that will give me a full on floor-thumping experience, as I don't want to totally kill off the ambient sounds. But, I want something that is clearly a step up from the tiny little Zenbook speakers (aka, treble cannons).

Something along the lines of this: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K7CE0EM/re ... B01H4YXITE

However, with that said, I know nothing about that particular device/brand. That's just a starting point for reference. So, fire away. I look forward to your input and thanks in advance!
 
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:39 am

An inexpensive all-in-one device like the one you linked is probably a recipe for mediocre performance and shoddy build quality. If I was in your shoes I'd probably look for a decent set of speakers to play the Zenbook through, unless part of your motivation is to ditch the Zenbook.
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Pagey
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:46 am

I'm not averse to using the Zenbook as the output, as I have a ton of my favorite mp3s on that laptop. However, with that said, a "standalone" type speaker system with either/or/both USB drive input/micro SD input would be fabulous.
 
Pagey
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:04 am

This looks promising for under $20.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AR ... Y5BGJWKEAL
 
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:02 am

Pagey wrote:
This looks promising for under $20.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AR ... Y5BGJWKEAL

All such devices tend toward mediocre, although if your goal is simply to step up from integrated laptop speakers, almost anything will be better.

Are open-back headphones off the table?
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Pagey
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:18 am

I was looking at a speaker system so as not to be tied down to headphones at all times, yes.
 
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:33 am

I have a Sony SRS-X55 that I purchased at Costco for around $120 that I've been pleased with. Reasonably compact, decent sound, and about 8-10 hours of usage battery life.

Connects via the normal 1/8" headphone jack or Bluetooth, and has a USB power out on the back for charging smartphones or iPods.

http://www.sony.com/electronics/wireless-speakers/srs-x55
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:35 am

Pagey wrote:
I'm not averse to using the Zenbook as the output, as I have a ton of my favorite mp3s on that laptop. However, with that said, a "standalone" type speaker system with either/or/both USB drive input/micro SD input would be fabulous.

Well, here's the thing... for a given amount of money you'll probably be able to get better sounding speakers if you get just speakers, instead of an all-in-one device.

Pagey wrote:
I was looking at a speaker system so as not to be tied down to headphones at all times, yes.

Might Bluetooth headphones be an option? Or a Bluetooth adapter for the existing headphones?

https://www.amazon.com/Mpow-Bluetooth-R ... 00MJMV0GU/
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:40 am

Agreed, I could just get a set of speakers and run the 3.5mm out from the Zenbook to the speakers. I was considering an "all in one" type device for the convenience of having mp3s on a USB drive or MicroSD card and not requiring the Zenbook. Honestly, I'm not trying to be difficult. I've just never really researched the options for portable speaker systems, so most of this stuff is new to me.

Anything is going to sound better than the Zenbook speakers (I've never heard such poor speakers, to be honest). Again, I usually use headphones, but there are times it would be nice to open the windows, sit on the porch, and still be able to adequately hear what's playing.
 
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:45 am

ludi wrote:
Pagey wrote:
This looks promising for under $20.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AR ... Y5BGJWKEAL

All such devices tend toward mediocre, although if your goal is simply to step up from integrated laptop speakers, almost anything will be better.

Are open-back headphones off the table?

You can pay a bit more for Sony, Samsung, Bose, or Jawbone's bluetooth speakers. They are still no match for real speakers, but should still be a bit better than no-name $20 ones. I don't recall the model, but some you can buy 2 of them and get Stereo (or was that a phone feature?).

If you are ok to spend more, get an AptX dongle and you get higher bitrate sound over bluetooth.

For a crazier alternative, how about bookshelf powered speakers with a 3.5mm plug? That should give you the best sound and more choices. But the speakers will not be exactly "portable".

Agreed, I could just get a set of speakers and run the 3.5mm out from the Zenbook to the speakers. I was considering an "all in one" type device for the convenience of having mp3s on a USB drive or MicroSD card and not requiring the Zenbook. Honestly, I'm not trying to be difficult. I've just never really researched the options for portable speaker systems, so most of this stuff is new to me.
Or just use a phone or used phone with some storage and use as a portable music player.
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:47 am

Bluetooth should reach to the porch, given that this sounds like it is a small-ish cabin.
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:48 am

I know this is going to sound strange, but I am the only tech/IT guy you will ever meet that does not own a cell phone, smart or dumb. And until the bank makes it a condition of employment, I refuse, lol.
 
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:50 am

just brew it! wrote:
Bluetooth should reach to the porch, given that this sounds like it is a small-ish cabin.


I can't recall the exact dimensions, but yes, it's relatively small. It's 14' x 20', maybe.

Image
 
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:54 am

Pagey wrote:
I know this is going to sound strange, but I am the only tech/IT guy you will ever meet that does not own a cell phone, smart or dumb. And until the bank makes it a condition of employment, I refuse, lol.

I understand completely. In that case, there are a huge number of 4" to 6" Android tablets that I could recommend. Some with loudspeakers good enough for headphone-free listening.
 
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:55 am

Pagey wrote:
I know this is going to sound strange, but I am the only tech/IT guy you will ever meet that does not own a cell phone, smart or dumb. And until the bank makes it a condition of employment, I refuse, lol.

I did not have a smartphone until about a year ago.

Before that I used a Sansa Clip+ for my portable music listening.
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:44 pm

Audioengine A2+. Has RCA, 3.5mm, and USB input.

Audioengine B2. Two channels in one box. Has 3.5mm and Bluetooth aptX.

Buy either from the Audioengine website and you get 30 days trial period.
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:16 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
Audioengine A2+. Has RCA, 3.5mm, and USB input.

Audioengine B2. Two channels in one box. Has 3.5mm and Bluetooth aptX.

Buy either from the Audioengine website and you get 30 days trial period.

I think we have a winner here if the budget is that high. :D

In order to use the DAC inside the speakers, given the "no phone situation", the Zenbook will still be required, and you need a player app that can send the digital audio over USB instead of sending analog audio from the 3.5mm jack (I don't think WMP/Groove does that, so have to be Foobar2000? Or will VLC work?). This means it will not be "portable" with the Zenbook, but the sound quality may be well worth the bulk.

Those "all-in-one" smallish devices that you are looking at, yes they are handy in reading the USB/microSD directly, but most of them suck in terms of using it as a music player. Most have limited screen or even just a row of LED letters, can't read ID3 tags properly, and/or have lack of playlist capability (you can forget visualization, album art, and all that while you are at it). It is pretty much just plug in and play sequential/random with little choice. If portability is your priority, you need to understand the compromise here.

You can always get a used smartphone, enable airplane mode permanently and treat it as just a music player. Or get an even older music player like JBI's Sansa Clip+ or an iPod and get your portability that way.
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:27 pm

Bah, lucky devil--an off-grid redoubt is the one thing in life that I want but can't currently have. Serves me right for moving away from Knoxville, land is cheap there.

Anyway, I agree with the idea of just using the laptop with a basic speaker set. Unfortunately there aren't many good music players anymore, the market got killed off by smartphones.
 
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:48 pm

NovusBogus wrote:
Anyway, I agree with the idea of just using the laptop with a basic speaker set. Unfortunately there aren't many good music players anymore, the market got killed off by smartphones.

Yeah, Sansa Clip+ (modded with Rockbox firmware) was excellent but they were discontinued a long time ago. Remaining stock is now selling for 2.5x to 3x what they used to cost when they were new, and lithium batteries which have been sitting in a warehouse for years may be a little questionable in terms of holding a charge. I finally retired my Clip+ about a year ago, after getting my LG G4.
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Re: Portable mp3 player/speaker system

Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:21 pm

Alternative: Behringer Studio 50USB (5"), $150: link here
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