Gramofon WiFi Music Player

Here we’ll look at the Gramofon WiFi music player for your speakers.  Basically what this unit is trying to be is something akin to a low cost Sonos alternative.  You plug it into a pair of speakers, or to your stereo via an RCA jack, and you can stream your music via Wifi to the device.  The benefits here being that instead of Bluetooth, it uses WiFi which enables your device to be freed up for making calls, playing games, or whatever you like without disrupting the music.  Basically what happens is when you start to stream to the device, the Gramofon takes over and your device is just used to switch songs.  Being that it’s WiFi and not Bluetooth, it outputs better sound quality.  Also, it is a Wifi extender, so you can add it to somewhere in your house to get some added range out of your WiFi network.  They also allow for multi-room sound if you have multiple Gramofon units, you can stream in sync to multiple rooms, or play something different on each one.

Setup of the Gramofon is quick and easy.  You just need to download the Gramofon app and run through the setup.  I’ve seen reviews of the setup prior to receiving mine that said it was complicated, or they ran into problems, but I was able to set mine up without a hitch.  I’ve also seen reviews that state they are not pleased with the device creating a public hotspot, but this device created nothing more than an extension of my wireless connection that could only be accessed by those that have my network’s key.

Playing to the Gramofon is limited at the moment to a few apps.  The ones of interest to me were Spotify, which is a great music service, but requires a premium account, and the AllPlay Radio and Allplay Jukebox.  AllPlay Radio will allow you to stream local radio stations to the device, and the Jukebox offering will let you stream from your personal collection.  There are some others such as Rhapsody, DoubleTwist, and Napster, but I didn’t test those out since I don’t use them.  Streaming from either AllPlay or Spotify is a breeze.  Just start your music, then click the button to cast to your device(s).  Sadly, if you’re a Windows Phone user, casting from the Spotify app is not an option.

DSC_0198

On the back of the unit you’ll see the jack that you can use to plug directly into your speakers, or you can attach to your stereo via the included RCA plug.  If you have a nearby ethernet port, you can connect the Gramofon directly to your network which should effectively make it better at extending your wireless network’s signal than if it were attached wirelessly.  I should note that is based purely on my knowledge of how wireless networks work, so take that with a grain of salt, but generally speaking, devices like this connecting wirelessly to your network would in effect act as a repeater, halving the output to connected devices.  Also on the back is a port labeled Computer, but I didn’t find any documentation on that, and haven’t played around with it yet, so I don’t know what that is used for.  It came with a plug in that port, but I pulled it out for the picture.

While I find the Gramofon to be an excellent piece of hardware for situations such as use in my garage where I have an old set of decent computer speakers with a subwoofer, and was in need of an extension of my Wifi, I don’t think this is a device that I would have spread out to a bunch of rooms in my house.  Due to the overhead of having additional wires for power and connecting to the speaker, I’d much rather sacrifice a bit of the sound quality and just use a wireless Bluetooth speaker.  There is the option to hook it to a stereo, so that could be a good alternative.  The downside there is you’ll need to power everything on and switch inputs on your receiver to get things going.  I think one thing that would have improved the design is a usb power out jack to plug your wireless speakers into for charging, so as to have less wires running to your outlets, but that’s a minor quibble.

Overall, this is a well crafted device that has great sound quality (depending on your speakers of course), and is easy to operate.  It also fills a niche in that it extends your wireless to places where you may not have the greatest coverage.  At the end of the day though, you may find it easier to just use a wireless Bluetooth speaker, or opt for the less pricier Chromecast Audio that works about the same minus the Wifi extender capabilities.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Roku

Today we’ll delve into the latest Roku experience from a cord cutters experience.  What I originally intended to do was showcase the Roku Streaming Stick, then compare to the Roku 3, but I think it better compare the overall Roku experience compared to some other options out there at the moment. At the end of the day, the experience on all the Roku devices is fairly similar, with the exception being that the higher priced equipment is generally going to give you a better experience. So with that said, with any streaming device, you’re probably not going to be super impressed with the basics out of the box, but once you buy into one or a few of the subscription services, you’ll likely see that dropping your cable is not out of the option.

What I find most impressive with the Roku platform vs the fireTV is that it natively has apps for all of your NHL, NFL, and MLB sporting needs.  There are apps for all three major US sports that allow starting at the beginning of the game or live, have fast forwarding and rewind, and don’t require loading and configuring something like Kodi (XBMC) to get that content.  That right there is what really makes Roku stand out for run of the mill streamers is the no-hassle sports availability.  With the Amazon fireTV, you don’t get that kind of capability out of the box without some modification, so for the non-tinkerer, I really feel like the Roku is the defacto, easy to use device that’s going to be the go to device for most streamers that want relatively easy access to sports.  The caveat here is that you’ll need to jump through a few hoops on the back-end side of things to bypass blackouts, but generally speaking, Roku so far has been the best sports streaming experience to date for those with subscription services.

Where the Roku fails, in my opinion, is the gaming front.  This will only strike a chord with those looking to play some basic games on their new streaming device, but is worth mentioning.  It appears they tried to showcase that capability with the Roku 3 initial offering, having Angry Birds available with the motion controls, which was actually a pretty decent offering.  The problem s that Rovio has since dropped the game from Roku, and the game selection is quite limited.  If gaming is something on your radar, you’re better off with the Amazon offering, or better yet go with something like the Nvidia Shield TV.

That said, I think for the general streamer, the Roku is probably at the moment the best streamer out there for the price.  It’s easy to use and has the best available options in terms of streaming channels. Subscription sports is definitely where this one shines.  If you’re not a tinkerer, than this one is for you.  If you are a little more prone to hack your devices, so to say, then something akin to the fireTV may be a better fit for you as you can load Kodi which allows the sports add-ons and an exorbitant amount of extra media that may or may not be of the socially conscious type.  For those that just want something to  watch streaming media that is easy to use, and gets pretty much all the legal content you want, then this is my recommended device.

 

 

 

Cosacasa’s Red Wood Cigar Cutter

Cigar smokers, here’s a cutter for you that’s built to last – and impress!  I recently received a Cosacasa Red Wood cigar cutter to try out, and I instantly fell in love.  This little beauty is made of stainless steel and has red mahogany inserts, and is quite the looker.

This guillotine style cutter has a nice weight to it and feels nice in the hand.  The design lends itself to be self sharpening, so you should never have to worry about a dull blade tearing your cigar leaf.  Sliding the cutters together to snip the tip off a fine Honduran Sandwich or your cigar of choice is more than satisfying as it cuts through cleanly with little effort.  Best of all, it comes with a lifetime guarantee.  With little play in the blades, this cigar cutter both looks and feels solid, and is sure to impress both you and your friends.

DSC_0193