You may or may not be aware of a new inexpensive playback device. The Google Chromecast Audio is a poker chip (Hmm, do they still have poker chips?) sized device. Has built in Wifi, a micro USB port for wall-wart power and a 3.5mm stereo audio output jack. $35.00 here in the USA. When set up, and plugged into the aux input of a legacy stereo receiver (or any other device like amplified computer speakers), you can use software like BubbleUPNP on your phone or laptop to control it and play music, etc from your DLNA/UPNP server (read Asset) on the legacy system.

I'd been looking for something to play from my server through an old but serviceable stereo in one room of my house. I planned to get a Raspberry PI and program it to do this but never got around to it. Saw the announcement of the Chromecast Audio, and got one yesterday. Setting it up was not quite as easy as the instructions, at least from a laptop, as they never said you had to tell your laptop to change the wifi from your router to the open default stream from the Chromecast until you gave it your Wifi particulars (at which time the Chromecast Wifi joins your hopefully encrypted network), but once that was solved, very simple. Also had to get Bubble UPNP to update before it recognized the Chromecast, but once that was done, it works very well. While I didn't run any actual audio performance tests, informal listening seems to indicate its specs are decent (see also below for a laugh...) I heard no hits or dropouts in the half hour I used it listening (mostly) to FLAC. It does support gapless, so I'm told, but apparently Bubble doesn't support replay gain, sadly.) And the price is definitely right.

You can name the Chromecast Audio units, so you can have multiple units at once, each listening to its own stream (at least until the wifi runs out of bandwidth). DLNA for whole house audio controlled by the smart phone in your pocket. Neat.

Now the funny part... When I went to test it, I chose recently added albums on Bubble/Asset. Picked one, it said there were duplicates, but I knew that it was there twice, once as FLAC and once as m4a, as it is a CD I had ripped some years ago using Winamp to m4a originally for my Ipod, and recently reripped in dBPoweramp, multiencoder to FLAC and m4a, and hadn't deleted the old Winamp rip. Now Asset (on a QNAP) was supposed to be looking at the FLAC directory and a directory with the old Winamp rips in it (until I finally rerip all the Winamp stuff). But Bubble said there were three copies. Puzzling, but I added the whole thing to the Bubble playlist and hit "play". The first two copies of the first song sounded fine, but the third copy sounded like a fifth generation copy on a messed up never cleaned cassette player, rather muddy and with horrid flutter, painful to listen to. What the ...?? so I went on to the second track. Same thing, two good copies, one awful. I stopped and looked at the track data on the bad one. It said it was m4a at 16 KB/S! 16??? No wonder it sounded bad, in fact at that bitrate, I'm surprised the music was even recognizable.

So now the question, where did those files come from? Well, examining the files on the NAS, I discovered that somewhere between April 3 and April 4 of this year, the setting for the quality of the m4a codec in the dBPoweramp multiencoder setup got changed from 160 K to the minimum... How, I don't know, but things happen. The m4a copy of everything I had ripped since then was at 16K or so. I hadn't noticed, as the only (normal) use of the dbPoweramp rips to m4a is for my phone, and I haven't transferred anything new to it in many months. As to how Asset had indexed it: somehow, very recently, the directory listing in Asset changed from the two correct sub directories, the FLAC directory and the legacy Winamp rip directory, to the root media directory above it which also includes the new m4a directory (as well as my work directory with thousands of work editing and backup files of location recordings I have done, which most definitely don't belong in the DLNA database!) I never did this meaningfully, I am suspicious this changed itself either with an update to Asset or to the QNAP operating system, both of which occurred fairly recently. Anyway, it is now reset.

Now about those several thousand files at the very wrong bitrate. Batch Converter to the rescue. However, I discovered a "weakness" in Batch Converter, possibly a thought for a wishlist item: Batch converter lists the directory contents alphabetically. No other choice. Now, I only wanted to convert FLAC files written since April 3rd to m4a. The FLAC directory has over 23,000 files, on an NAS, gigabit Ethernet. Since there was no way up front to select the directories/files by date, I planned to use the "list" function, order by modified date and unselect the old files. But it became quickly apparent that it would take hours just for the batch converter to read the metadata and populate the list table. So I changed plans, deleted all the bad files, and restarted Batch Converter and selected "convert", with the intent of telling it not to convert duplicates. It still took about 45 minutes to check all the files and ask me whether to replace existing files.

This could be speeded up immensely if there was a way to tell Batch Converter to list directories/files by things like last modified date, instead of just alphabetically Then I could select just the directories that need to be converted up front, instead of after it had read them all. This feature would also be useful if I wanted to ditch the multiencoder and convert new rips to m4a routinely using the batch converter.