• Joe Sixpack's Sooloos - Dell SX2210T Multi-touch Monitor & J River MC 15

    Many of us computer audiophiles, and audiophiles looking to get into the music server game, have long wanted a music server that rivals the Sooloos touchscreen interface without paying the Sooloos price premium. What many people don't realize is how advanced the Sooloos product is as a complete package. Notably how it handles metadata and library navigation using this extended metadata. I continually research music servers and every related product under the sun but I've yet to find anything that duplicates or equals the quality of Sooloos metadata support and library navigation. For example browsing an album's credits to find the producer then searching for other albums in the library that were produced by this person. It's all a couple touches away and without manually entering the information at any time. As the saying goes, there's no free lunch. This is certainly true with what I call Joe Sixpack's Sooloos.



     




    This article is not meant to be a comparison between an inexpensive solution and the Sooloos package. It's more of a look at a viable option for budget conscious audiophiles.

    The Dell SX2210T multi-touch monitor has a full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 21.5" screen with a nice glass feel. Somewhat similar to the feel of an iPhone. The SX2210T also offers pretty good color rendition although it's not even close to the Apple backlit LED 24" display. Compared to the Sooloos standard touchscreens (17") the Dell has larger size, better resolution, better feel, multi-touch navigation, and better color. The best thing about the Dell SX2210T is its price. Depending on the day of the week this monitor's price fluctuates from $299 to $399. Dell offers many different discounts that disappear as quickly as they appear and for no apparent reason. Frequently the Dell Refurbished site offers the SX2210T for $299 as well.

    Comparing this Dell monitor directly to the Sooloos Control 10 (~$5,000) or Control 15 (~$7,500) "monitors" is really like comparing apples to oranges. The Sooloos "monitors" do quite a bit more than just display the screen contents of a computer. The Sooloos units are computers with digital outputs, disc drives, and now storage. Thus, the comparisons to Sooloos "monitors" should, and will, stop here. Remember, It's the overall concept of an inexpensive Dell and JRMC 15 that's considered Joe Sixpack's Sooloos. This isn't a head to head competition or comparison.

    As I said earlier the Sooloos database and handling of metadata is outstanding. Since there is no such thing as a Sooloos software only package, us Joe Sixpacks of the computer audio world have to use what we can afford to run on our computers. Not only is J river Media Center my go-to playback application on the PC, it's a great application for touchscreen control. Out of the box JRMC 15 comes with the Obsidian Touchscreen Skin that runs in JRMC's Theater View. (Note: JRMC is used behind the scenes on some touchscreen music servers available today). What makes this combination of the Obsidian Touchscreen Skin and Theater View so powerful is JRMC's customizability. The default layout is great and will work for 99.99% of users. Since I like to customize everything I can I spent countless hours working on the touchscreen layout. I simplified the main screen by excluding links to Images, Videos, and the like. After trying many different layouts I settled for a simple Artist, Album, Genre, and Sample Rate navigation menu. Creating the Sample Rate Selection menu was a little more difficult than most JRMC customizations. The great thing about this menu is that it will create special sections for all the sample rates and bit depths in my library on the fly. No user intervention is required. when I add a new album that contains a sample rate not currently in the library a new section labeled with the bit depth and sample rate is automatically created and "touchable" via the Obsidian / Theater View interface.

    One issue I have with the J River touchscreen interface is its poor search feature. This could be my own lack of understanding of how to configure this feature, but it shouldn't require a Ph.D. in JRMC. As the video below shows when searching for an artist every song by the artist appears in the search results. It would be great if just the artist appeared then all the albums by that artists etc… I hope this is my error and the search feature works much better than what I experienced.

     

    Some additional info on the Dell SX2210T Multi-touch monitor:

    Video interfaces include Analog (VGA), DVI-D (HDCP), and HDMI.
    A USB connection from the monitor to the PC is required for the touchscreen feature to function.
    Currently the touchscreen features are only available for Windows. Mac users have been seeking third party drivers for a long time but so far come up empty.
    The software and drivers required for Windows & touchscreen features is very minimal and noninvasive.
    There is no VESA mounting option for this monitor.

     

    Here are two videos I put together of the Dell SX2210T Multi-touch Monitor & J River MC 15 operating in Theater View with the Obsidian Touchscreen skin. The first video shows the basic navigation of JRMC using the touchscreen. The second video simply shows the Dell SX2210T next to my Apple 24" backlit LED display on my desk.
     

    NOTE: YouTube has just notified me this video is blocked for readers in Germany due to Sony Music's Copyright policies. I did unsuccessfully dispute this blockage. Here is the statement from YouTube [Link]

    Here is a CA hosted version of the video for readers in Germany [Link]




     





     

    Links:

    • Photos, features, 360 degree view, and more [Link]

    • Product Page [Link]

    • Setup Diagram [Link] PDF 1.9 MB

    • User Guide [Link] HTML


     

     
    Comments 55 Comments
    1. Lowlands's Avatar
      Lowlands -
      That is a VERY nice interface Chris! Thanks for the demo. Pitty you still have to get out of your seat...<br />
      <br />
      Can somebody PLEASE build such a beauty for the iPad as a remote app. for iTunes. !!!!! :-)<br />
      <br />
      Hans
    1. Chris Heinonen's Avatar
      Chris Heinonen -
      I'm a PC guy, but for my listening machine would consider moving to a Mac to keep things easier, but could you use the Dell display and it's multitouch with a Mac Mini to then feed your DAC of choice? Combined with Pure Audio or something else on the Mac side, it seems like you could then have the iTunes interface that everyone knows to make it easier for people, and if you wanted to do the J River interface, just setup Windows on a partition as well. Either way, it looks like something I'd like to try in the future.<br />
      <br />
      NOTE: I just looked back at the article and noticed there are no Mac drivers. Alas, though I might still try running it on a Mini just to hopefully have the option in the future, and since the Mini is so quiet.
    1. adamskogman's Avatar
      adamskogman -
      Hi,<br />
      <br />
      I'm had some issues with performance in theater mode with my C.A.P.S. server on a 1680x1050 screen. The built-in Intel 3150 gfx card seems inadequate. I'm worried that this full-HD screen will be too much.<br />
      <br />
      Any thoughts?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Adam - Right now I have the touchscreen running on another server, not the C.A.P.S. server. I will try it and let you know how it works for me. I also have the Broadcom hardware video decoder I can use in my C.A.P.S. server. I don't know if it will make a different though.<br />
      <br />
      I'll let you know.
    1. PorkChop's Avatar
      PorkChop -
      eom<br />
    1. JR_Audio's Avatar
      JR_Audio -
      Hi Chris, nice writing and a nice movie about using JRiver in Theater View.<br />
      <br />
      As I have already written in some posts, I like JRiver also very much (also on my Mac Book Pro, running Windows 7 via Boot Camp). Using AIFF as listening format, so I can use the identical files for Pure Music (on the Mac side) and JRiver (on the Windows side).<br />
      <br />
      Everyone has its own habit, how one wants a software to work, but for me, JRiver has so many features that I like, that I didn't find in other high quality sounding apps.<br />
      <br />
      Sound wise, using the identical hardware for Win 7 and OSX, it plays in the same top rank as Amarra 2 (that I also own) and Pure Music, so I am happy with it.<br />
      <br />
      Sure, also for my taste, I do like OSX more than Win 7, but with the feature list, that JRiver does offer to me, I am using mainly JRiver, at HiFi shows.<br />
      <br />
      Juergen
    1. jriver's Avatar
      jriver -
      Hans,<br />
      There are several ways you can remain on the couch. You could start here:<br />
      http://wiki.jrmediacenter.com/index.php/Remotes<br />
      <br />
      MC15's WebRemote uses a browser as the control on the remote PC.<br />
      <br />
      Tremote lets you run the same interface on your big screen PC and on your remote. It requires more resources on the remote.<br />
      <br />
      Chris,<br />
      We'll take a look at your problem.<br />
      <br />
      Juergen,<br />
      Thanks! Nice to hear.
    1. Dan Gravell's Avatar
      Dan Gravell -
      I always thought it would be cool to mount such a touchscreen inside a wall, so the screen is flush. Assuming you have drywall or plasterboard you could probably rig up a decent mount. Does the monitor have ventilation areas that must be kept open? Sometimes the drywall may back onto a cupboard, so it's still a possibility.<br />
      <br />
      That price for the touchscreen is also excellent. I expect it's not so cheap in the UK though!<br />
      <br />
      Chris, I'm interested as to whether you have compiled a list of Sooloos's excellent metadata facilities? Sounds like you really recommend it.
    1. IceClass's Avatar
      IceClass -
      What are the options for Mac users who want a Touchscreen incorporated into their digital stack to play iTunes etc?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Right now there isn't any inexpensive options for Mac and the options that do exist are just OK.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Here are the Mac options from a company called Troll Touch<br />
      <br />
      http://www.trolltouch.com/page4/products.html
    1. IceClass's Avatar
      IceClass -
      Frankly that Troll Touch stuff looks clunky and dated.<br />
      <br />
      Does anyone have any experience with the Mimo USB mini monitors in a mac based system?<br />
      <br />
      http://www.mimomonitors.com/
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi IceClass - I've used them and talked about one of them in this article -> http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Computer-Audiophile-Pocket-Server-CAPS (toward the bottom)<br />
      <br />
      I recommend <s>walking</s> running from them as quick as you can if you want a touchscreen monitor for audio playback.
    1. IceClass's Avatar
      IceClass -
      Eww. Thanks for the link and write-up.<br />
      <br />
      As a long time Mac user I have to register a certain disappointment that Apple haven't given more thought and support to touchscreens in their set-ups.<br />
      <br />
      I guess I'm going to have to make do with an ipod touch on a stand and as a remote.<br />
      <br />
      Not quite what I was hoping for.<br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Adam - I connected the touchscreen to my C.A.P.S. server and it was pretty ugly. The processor/graphics combo just can't perform fast enough. Browsing the theater view, even with reduced quality graphics, was way to slow. I hoped the JRMC setting for reduced graphic quality in the Theater View settings would help but no luck. The C.A.P.S. machine just won't cut the mustard with this screen :~(
    1. jriver's Avatar
      jriver -
      Chris,<br />
      There is another Theater View setting you could try reducing. It's called frame rate.<br />
      <br />
      Jim
    1. SKoo's Avatar
      SKoo -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      I've been reading up on your CAPS lately which I think is a very cleverly designed DIY music server. I'm sorry to hear it won't work well together with a touchscreen, since that would have been my preferred config. <br />
      <br />
      Now, since the D945GSEJT is a bit underpowered graphics wise, wouldn't the Intel D510MO, also a fanless design from the Intel Essential Series be a good alternative for the CAPS. It builds on the NM10 express chipset which together with the faster Atom D510 should yield better graphics performance.<br />
      <br />
      I would appreciate your comments on this.<br />
      <br />
      Regards,<br />
      <br />
      Simon
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Simon - I wish I could give this a try. it appears that the D510MO would work much better, but I hate to offer an opinion without testing the config. It's probably time for C.A.P.S. v2.
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Or try a ION based motherboard - then you get nVidia graphics chipset.<br />
      <br />
      Eloise
    1. SKoo's Avatar
      SKoo -
      Hi Eloise,<br />
      <br />
      I didn't look at the ION yet. I'm sure the ION will drive a touchscreen with ease. However (afaik) it requires active cooling.<br />
      <br />
      Perhaps the ION platform could even turn the CAPS into a nice little video server?<br />
      <br />
      Zotac.com builds a small and affordable ION barebones system. Found a review here: http://hothardware.com/Reviews/Zotac-ZBox-HDID11-and-Next-Gen-ION/?page=1<br />
      <br />
      Ciao,<br />
      <br />
      Simon
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      There are some passively cooled ION boards. Some of Zotac's single core boards and Asus have passive cooled boards. Alternatively (and for less than the cost of Chris' M10 case) you can look at mCubed / HFX cases with additional passive heatsinks for cooling.<br />
      <br />
      Eloise