Category Archives: streaming

Problems with Roku 3 headphone sound?

Are you having problems with the sound cutting out on your headphones plugged into your Roku 3 controller?  This doesn’t seem to be a well known issue based on my searches of the internet, but something I ran into with my Roku 3.  Should you be one of the few that runs into this issue, fear not.  For me the simple fix was to update the firmware on the controller.

To do this you need to access one of the Roku’s secret menus.  Just grab your remote and press the following:

  • Home button x 5
  • FFW
  • Play
  • Rewind
  • Play
  • FFW

You should now be on a screen titled Platform Secret Screen.  From here, open the Wi-Fi Remote Menu, choose the Firmware OTA update, and install the latest available firmware.  Once complete, return to the Wi-Fi Remote Menu, click Audience OTA update, and install the latest Audience firmware and you should be all set.  You can then press the Home button to return to the regular main menu.  This was all it took to get the sound working properly on my remote, so with any luck, it should get yours working as well.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

fireTV stick

 

Say hello to my little friend.  That friend would be the latest Amazon fireTV stick.  I haven’t tried out the full blown fireTV box yet, so I have little to compare it to its big brother, but essentially they are one in the same except that the stick is lower powered, and lest costly.  Even with the lower power, this little device comes with a good deal of potential for the price.

Stock, out of the box, this quite capable of streaming all your favorite content from the web.  Well I actually shouldn’t say all.  That depends on what it is that you want to stream.  The basics like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime services, Pandora, etc. are pretty much all there, but for sports fans, you’re going to have to put in some extra work.  The available apps are limited to a subset of what you might find in the Google Play store, so you’re not going to get your NHL and NFL from your standard apps.  At least not yet, anyway.  There is a workaround for that though, which I will walk you through in a later guide.

In addition to your streaming music and video apps, you’re also able to install games.  I can’t really say I spend a lot of time with these apps since the controls with the included controller are pretty basic, and the games available wasn’t really super intriguing to me.  There are a few gems in there though for those of us old schoolers who like pinball simulators and Pac Man.  There should also be the ability to run emulators on this stick through something like Kodi or potentially though apps from the store, but I haven’t got around to exploring that yet.  Sometime down the road I may look into that and create a guide if it’s a workable option.  With the limited space on the stick, I can’t imagine there’s much room for a big library, but given the processing power available on the stick and minimal requirements of older games, I would have to think it’s feasible.  Given the ability to add a controller, I would think it to be more than capable.

All in all, this is a pretty good low cost streamer on its own, but it really shines once you get an instance of Kodi up and running on it.  With that, you have access to way more content, though some may question the ethical side of some of the available content on there.  Ethics aside, with Kodi installed, you can legally add great features such as NHL and NFL, additional radio and TV broadcasts, and can even make it boot directly to Kodi and use it as a home theater on a stick.  That ability right there is the one reason I really like this media stick.