Topping NX1 – an alternative to new headphones (for now).

I like Topping products. With the recent acquisition of a TOPPING NX1 Portable Audio Amplifier Headphone Earphone Amplifier, 3.5mm USB Rechargeable Battery (which is a nifty little gizmo but more of that later) I now have three of their mini amplifiers in various places around the house.

The original Topping TP21 acts as a headphone amp next to my bed and is plugged into a Squeezebox Touch and a pair of AKG something headphones. I use this rig to listen to music in bed when she who must be obeyed (“SWMBO”) is watching TV.

I also have a Topping TP20 in the same bedroom which acts as a much needed replacement for the TV sound. It is hooked up to the TV and a pair of Wharfedale Modus Cubes. The sound of the speakers built into the TV – a Toshiba 26″ thing – was woeful. The Topping is plugged into the headphone out so the TV remote still operates the volume. A high WAF (“Wife Acceptance Factor”) as I don’t think she even knows there is an amplifier and speakers there. Also attached to the TV via HDMI are an Apple TV and a recently acquired Amazon Fire TV. The latter has the SB Player app loaded so if it want music from speakers I can use the Fire TV as a music player.

The new Topping NX1 has been acquired to provide a solution to a problem in my Living Room. For years I have had a pair of Sennheiser RS130’s which are RF wireless headphones and with some trickery involving the multiple live outputs on a Squeezebox Classic, a Zone 2 facility on my AV Receiver, a long cable under the carpet and a separate Sony amp I have used these to listen to music in the Living Room when SWMBO is watching serious stuff on TV like Emmerdale, Coronation Street and my current favourite I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. The Sennheiser’s are however reaching the end of their useful life. They suffer from interference and the volume control on the right hand earpiece has started to play up to an extent where if you are adjusting the volume you can cut out the right hand output altogether instead of making a minimal upward or downward adjustment. The problem (to me) is such than I started looking for alternative RF wireless speakers. I don’t want bluetooth.

While I have been researching options – only Sennheiser and Sony make serious contenders in the non Bluetooth wireless headphone arena – I have been using an old iPod touch with a pair of Sennheiser HD201s. The iPod has a copy of iPeng installed with the in-app player purchase so the combination is an effective alternative to the RS130s. The only downside being that the iPod’s onboard headphone amp is a bit weak. Step forward the Topping NX1.

It arrived on Friday and I had it connected and plugged in within minutes. It provides a set of Velcro tabs so it can piggy back the iPod. In this configuration there is very slight interference from the wi-fi signal but it left non piggy backed there is no interference whatsoever. It will also work as a great headphone amp while travelling. Nice clean sound and my HD 201s no longer feel as if they have run out of steam. I will need to trial some other wired headphones with this combo as the HD 201s have 3 metres of cable. A pair of B&W P7s has 1.2 m of coiled cable. Far more suitable but £330!

Amazon Fire TV – a review

I had an Amazon Fire TV on pre-order from those nice people at Amazon for its UK launch. This mini-review was posted elsewhere after about a week of use. Nothing has really changed as yet.

SB Player (an Android Squeezebox player) bought (£1.86) and loaded. Sounding good. Music sorted apart from the now playing that I would really like but …
I am not at this stage going to sideload the Squeezebox now playing app which I have on my Galaxy Tab because it seems highly unlikely that it is going to look any good (apologies to the developer) and the manner in which you would need to launch it (see later) instead I have uploaded some photos to the Amazon Cloud for screensaver purposes.

Movies & TV
Amazon Prime
TV Player – live UK TV incl BBC, ITV, C4 & 5 but SD I think.

Catch Up TV
BBC iPlayer
5 OD
No ITV or C4 as yet
NB. The only devices that have all UK catch up services I have found so far are Samsung smart TV & networked Blu Ray players, Sony PS3 and Roku.

Movies stored on my NAS.
Tried VMU Player an official app costing a few pence which said it would do the job. It played the video but with no audio. Rubbish.
Sideloaded XBMC (Xodi). Up and running in no time. The only downside is that you can’t it seems add the app to the home screen you have to launch it via System/Applications/Manage Applications/ scroll to XBMC and then launch. The Fire TV remote controls it for the most part but won’t let you do a select and hold. iPhone remote will however so no big issue.

Other Apps
Haven’t tried anything else as yet.

The hardware is very good (Ethernet/Wireless, HDMI,Optical & USB) and at £80 is about the real price of a Raspberry Pi once you have added in the SD card, case etc
So far impressed.