IR Controlled SPDIF Optical Audio Switch (TNP Toslink)

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I continued dealing with some audio problems after replacing the TV that our son destroyed. The audio output, when routed through the TV from different devices, often had a significant delay when playing via the soundbar. The soundbar received the audio signal over an optical cable from the TV. I tried adjusting numerous audio settings on the TV itself, as well as the connected devices, but no configuration would ensure that all devices worked without a delay (in some cases one device might be good but others experienced problems).

It’s likely that simply using the TV’s speakers would have resulted on no audio lag but that’s simply not why I have a soundbar in the first place. In order to test this problem I grabbed an old optical audio switch out of the closet and set it up with each input running into the switch. It has a single output that I connected to the soundbar. This was a manual switch, so in order to change inputs one had to turn a large dial on the device to physically change the active connection.

Sure enough, it worked without any problems. I decided to order something more modern, that could be controlled via infrared (IR) in order to allow the Harmony Companion system to handle the audio switching.

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After reading through several reviews on Amazon I settled on the TNP Toslink SPDIF Digital Optical Audio Switch with Remote Control and ordered one. We’ve had this in place for a while. The product itself seems to work great but I’ve had some issues with using it in the Activities. Specifically, it doesn’t always change the source input. However, I don’t believe this is a problem with the unit itself but simpy the fact that the IR receiver for the optical switch often becomes slightly misaligned relative to the Harmony Companion IR blaster. I suspect this is the result of my son moving the soundbar from time to time. It may also be in need of some tweaking within the Activity setup as it usually works when I manually change the source via the Harmony Companion app.

Overall, I think it works well and it’s much better than the manual switch I was using. I think it will work perfectly once I take the time to rework parts of the Harmony Companion setup, including the physical location of devices.

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Comcast X1 DVR Experiencing Distored Video and Audio Problems

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Our run as cord-cutters has come to an end after several years though it wasn’t by choice; the apartment complex where we live has made a fee mandatory that includes the cost of cable and since there’s no point paying for cable and not using it we decided to cut some of the online streaming services that we’ve been using and get a DVR from our cable provider.

Living as cord-cutters for over six years worked great but that’s a post for another time.

I opted to get an X1 DVR from Comcast so we could record shows (we chose to drop Hulu and HBO) that we would have watched via Hulu as well as some other series that we’ve been purchasing through iTunes over the years.

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TaoTronics Bluetooth Transmitter

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Several months ago I decided to purchase a set of Bluetooth headphones so I could, on occasion, watch TV in the bedroom late at night without disturbing my wife. At one time I had a wireless headphones set that worked well for this purpose but they were simply very bulky (both the charging unit and the headphones themselves). I attempted to use a jail-broken iPod as well but I wasn’t satisfied with that either.


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The TV itself doesn’t support Bluetooth so I decided to purchasing a Bluetooth audio transmitter. In this case, one manufactured by TaoTronics, which is small and reliable. Overall the device is very good but there is a slight delay in the audio that is noticeable relative to the action on TV, especially with dialog, though I grew accustomed to it rather quickly.

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Simultaneously Pushing Audio to External Speakers and Bluetooth from a Mac

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A couple of months ago I had the idea to see if there was a simple way to play iTunes music from the built-in iMac speakers while also playing it through a Bluetooth speaker (in this case a JBL speaker). My goal was to have the music playing from the computer in one room and also playing from a Bluetooth speaker in the dining room. Sure enough, OS X has a way to do this (I’m running 10.9 so I don’t know how widely this feature is supported across older versions of OS X).

Thanks to user Eric Ross in the Apple Support Communities I didn’t have to do much searching to find the answer. As detailed in his response, the solution is to open the Audio Midi Setup application located in the Utilities folder and then simply create a Multi-Output Device that has both speaker types selected. Note that in order for this to work the Bluetooth speaker needs to already be connected to the Mac.

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At this point we’ve only created the multi-output device. One additional step is required – setting it as the current output device (System Preferences -> Sound -> Output) :

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I originally did this with my iMac but the screenshots in this post were created using my MacBook Air.

And that should work. The Bluetooth audio (at least with the settings I used) will have a slight delay in comparison to the system speakers. Bluetooth has a relatively short range so the practical applications of this method may be limited by obstructions within one’s home and the receiving capability of the Bluetooth device that is used.

 

JBL Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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A couple of months ago I finally decided it might be convenient to have a portable Bluetooth speaker that I could use to play music from my phone or other device. The idea was that it would be something I could use when we’re playing a card game or outside grilling. After scrolling through numerous reviews on Amazon I encountered this little device, which I eventually received as a gift from my wish list.

The JBL Micro Wireless Ultra-Portable Speaker provides amazing sound considering its size. According to the documentation it will run on battery for about five hours, though some reviewers have experienced longer usage times. It’s also possible to use the device while recharging it.

Considering its size and relatively low cost (about $50), I am very impressed by this piece of tech. So was my wife. The first time I tried it out she immediately stated that she wants one. Friends have made similar comments when showing it to them.

There are other very similar JBL models. This particular one has a built-in bass port.

It’s been useful in cases when I didn’t expect it. For example, the turn-by-turn navigation instructions from Google Maps sounded excellent.

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Using a 4th Generation iPod touch with a 2006 Scion

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The Short Version: The Scosche passPORT Charging Adapter for iPod & iPhone can restore full iPod/iPhone integration with a 2006 Scion but the connections may not hold up over time.

This information may be useful for more than just 2006 Scion owners. It might work for anyone using newer iPods or iPhones with older accessories that were once fully compatible with previous editions of those devices.

In this case, I bought my wife a 4th gen iPod touch for Christmas. On a short road-trip we were happy to learn that her car’s iPod integration worked with the new 4th gen… mostly. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t charge the newer iPod touch (everything worked great with her older 1st gen iPod Touch).

I wasn’t sure there was a solution available, short of buying a new cable or head unit, but I surfed over to Google and started browsing forums. It didn’t take more than a minute before I found several references from other Scion owners to the Scosche passPORT Charging Adapter for iPod & iPhone.

The adapter arrived today so we took it along with us for a short drive we already had planned. Sure enough, it worked great. Note that it does make it so the iPod/iPhone won’t fit as elegantly into the center console as it did, but integration for the new iPod touch is working as it did with the older iPod touch.

Updated 04/16/2012: While the adapter does function properly we’ve found that it doesn’t fit tightly on the iPod touch any more. As a result, it often comes slightly loose – just enough to lose connection. I think this product would work better if it was a cable rather than a short adapter. The added flexibility would reduce stress on the connectors and make it easier to set the iPod touch down in a better position.

Waking Wireless Speakers from Standby for Audio Output (Windows 7)

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I recently purchased a set of wireless speakers, which I’ve connected to my ASUS EeeBox PC. They work well but I have encountered a problem that is common to wireless speakers – they go into a standby mode and require a few seconds to initialize. For playing music this isn’t a problem. However, using the speakers for text-to-speech can be a problem as the speakers may not initialize before the computer has finished speaking. In addition, Windows text-to-speech output doesn’t seem to have a signal strong enough to wake up the speakers anyway.

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