Could use some help with iTunes, Alexa, etc. and a new network-capable receiver

TomCarp

Novice Member
This forum was great helping me navigate through the technical terminology when I was looking to replace an older Denon stereo receiver. Have bought a network-capable stereo receiver (the Denon DRA 800H) and now have some questions about accessing a couple music sources.

We have a very simple configuration with the receiver driving a couple indoor and a couple outdoor speakers. We only used either the tuner, or a Denon dock for an old iPod. What drove the new purchase was an apparent problem with the dock, with the idea of being able to Bluetooth connect a newer iPod. Installed the receiver, and have gotten back to where we were (i.e. tuner or BT iPod).

When consulting this forum earlier, I had some thoughts about accessing music from our NAS, and also about using the Alexa voice assistant for playback. In looking over the receiver manual, I'm not sure I understand either well enough to decide if those are worth the effort.

Starting with the NAS, my thought was to move our iTunes library, currently on a infrequently used PC, to the NAS. The iTunes library has a bunch of playlists that we used almost all the time for playback via synced iPods. If I understanding the research, an iTunes library on a NAS is not accessible in the same way as on the PC, meaning, additions to the music or new/changes to playlists cannot be done directly on the NAS. If true, that's not such a big deal; just means keep the iTunes library on the PC for changes, and then copy the library to the NAS when changed.

However, I haven't seen anything yet in the research that says existing iTunes playlists stored on a NAS can be selected from the receiver. If there is capability to select a playlist if the library were on the PC, it won't work since we rarely power on the PC.

Am I better off just staying with an iPod connected to the receiver?

Regarding the Alexa assistant: I see that there is capability to access streaming services, like Alexa. Today, the Alexa unit is used to voice-select music and create playlists. With the new receiver, is there a way to still have voice-control, via the existing Alexa device, with playback going through the receiver?

I'm very willing to do homework, so if someone is aware of a link to a simple explanation of these topics, I can do the detail work.

Thanks

Tom
 

Onlythesound

Active Member
I use an Echo dot in the kitchen which is linked to my DRA 800 H through the settings on the Echo itself. Essentially you go to the tab on Alexa’s App settings on your phone or tablet etc, which says add device. In my case, I call the Denon, ‘Living room’ (0 points for originality) so add eg. living room to the list of devices and then, Provided you have the Denon switched on, you can tell Alexa to play what you’re listening to in the kitchen on the ‘living room’ device too. I don’t think Alexa will switch your living room Device on for you but better minds than mine might know this.

More later....
 

TomCarp

Novice Member
Perfect! Will try it today.

Am assuming the voice-assistant would not have the capability to power-on a device, so manually powering-on the receiver is a small price to pay to have the streaming audio play back through a much better system than the voice-assistant device.

Slicing things a bit thinner: I'm assuming this simply adds a playback device (i.e. the receiver) to the capabilities we've already been using (i.e. Alexa, play a song, genre, etc.) from the Amazon streaming service. In other words, the new capability is to voice-select the playback device, but the audio source is still the same.

The other part is using the voice assistant to select from other audio sources. In writing this, I realize the answer may be a big "no" if devices like Alexa and Echo are an integral part of the business of streaming services vs. being a more generic voice-assistant.

While on the topic, I assume the Alexa, Echo, etc. capabilities in the receiver just move from the voice-assistant for playback selection to something done through the receiver interface (i.e. non-voice).

Thanks for taking the time to help. Very useful.

Tom
 

Onlythesound

Active Member
Hi Tom,

The problem is with setting up is that you usually only do the action once unless you’re unsuccessful or something breaks! Anyway trawling back through my redundant brain cells, reminded me that I downloaded the DRA 800 H manual here http://manuals.denon.com/DRA800H/EU/EN/download.php?filename=/DRA800H/EU/EN/pdf/DRA800H_EU_EN.pdf
which is pretty impenetrable at times. Sorry if you already have it but one shouldn’t assume. I noticed there is a section there on using NAS and PC stored files which might be helpful to you.
I also downloaded 2 skills from Alexa’s library, which help with what we’re talking about. The HEOS and the Apple Airplay skills. The former enables Alexa to ‘talk’ to the Receiver using examples such as “Alexa...Play Beatles on Spotify on Living Room
....play Ella Fitzgerald on Apple Music in
Living Room”
and so on.
The latter enables me to ‘wander around’ with my I phone whilst giving commands! There’s also huge potential to connect up any Airplay compatible smart speakers in the future with the Denon.
Personally, we use CDs, internet Radio, Spotify and Apple Music (which has incorporated my I tunes songs) . I’m thinking of adding an Apple HomePod. to my universe too when we move house where I hope the set up will be something like this:

DRA 800-h driving B&w 606 speakers and a small Yamaha sub. There will also be a separate power amp connected (not chosen yet) to drive a pair of Q Acoustics Concept 20s in a separate room (Zone 2).
Voice control will be either provided by Alexa or Siri. Sources are Blu-ray (Sony UBP 800X m2) for CD, YouTube, Blu-ray Disc etc. and TV. I’m still learning the ins and outs of the Denon but so far it’s excelled itself.

Cheers

David
 

TomCarp

Novice Member
You're the best!

I had the 800H manual, but, not unique to Denon or the 800H, I find those guides useful at a "how-to" level, but not very useful in navigating some of the tech-talk. Both of my posts to this forum are driven by the frustration of having to deal with the terminology. No complaint; just an observation.

I was aware that the 800H could retrieve from the NAS, but, hadn't gotten far enough to understand whether to move/copy the iTunes library. I don't think the NAS works like having the library on a PC where you can manipulate content, which means just copy the library (keeping the library on a PC and updating the NAS as needed).

The other part of the question about iTunes on NAS accessed by the 800H is whether playlists and individual songs can be selected. Before losing a speaker channel on the iPod dock that started all this, we were simply using an iPod with a sync of some of the iTunes library, to select playlists and, infrequently, individual songs. Except for having to use a newer iPod (w/ Bluetooth), we're back to where we were.

Getting the iTunes library in the network would eliminate the need for the iPod, and be worth the effort, IF selection it's as easy as the current technique.

Thanks for the additional description of the Alexa-type capabilities you have. Visualizing what it actually "looks like" is very helpful to deciding what we're willing to do. I'm assuming the first step will be a Bluetooth connection between the voice-device and the 800H. We've done the connection between the 800H and the iPod, and, in the past, have done a connection between the voice-device and an iPod. Does it matter in the Bluetooth universe where the connection originates, or does the connection, once established, go both ways? Perhaps in better English, to allow the voice-assistant to select the 800H as a playback device, do you configure the Bluetooth from the 800H or the voice device? Or, does it matter?

Sounds like this may be your first Denon. The 800H replaces a Denon DRA297 we've had for years, and continues to provide easy-to-use front face controls. The 800H goes even further by adding some tone controls. Both easily drive a pair of Definitive Audio indoor, and pair of Niles Audio outdoor speakers.

Because we had lost a speaker channel, the possibility existed that the speaker wiring had been compromised (they run in the crawl space under the house). Looked into wireless speakers at the time. Along with being a bit pricey, they required power at the speakers. Indoors was not a big issue, but outside had some challenges. Although still haven't confirmed that the Denon iPod dock was the source of the channel failure, there's no problem with the 800H driven by a Bluetooth iPod. (...very grateful not to have to crawl under the house). This also means there's no need to investigate wireless speakers.

Tom

Tom
 

Onlythesound

Active Member
Some interesting issues you raise there Tom which I l’ll reply to fully tomorrow but did you see elsewhere on the forum, that the 800 h can now handle Roon?

I’m not familiar with it as it’s another cost so I’ve avoided being drawn in 🤨. It might though, be a good future possibility for NAS/PC organisation.

Cheers

David
 

bruny

Active Member
There is a way to tell Alexa to turn on devices. You need a harmony hub, which supports thousands of devices. I have mine set for movies, music and tv. Just say Alexa turn on music and it switches on my receiver and my Aries mini network player and Sets the receiver to the appropriate input/output. All this is set up in the harmony and Alexa apps. I can also say Alexa turn on movies and it turns on Tv, receiver and Dune media player and sets them to appropriate inputs/outputs. e.g Tv to hdmi2 receiver to hdmi3 which is where the dune is connected. As I said these activities are set set in harmony and Alexa apps. There are plenty of youtube videos on it. To play iTunes Playlists and local music stored on a Nas you need this.
Not free.
 

Onlythesound

Active Member
Hi Tom,

A bit of a ramble from me now and more observations.

Interestingly I’m not a complete stranger to the Denon universe having owned an am/fm receiver as part of a separates set- up some years ago then more recently a RCD n-9 all in one driving a pair of Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers. I had that little set up for a short time but found it most enjoyable and a surprisingly powerful match.
That was part of a journey that took me to the DRA 800 h. After that I tried a Naim Muso 2, then an Audiolab 6000a plus the other machines in my current set-up. My ITunes lists played from my IPhone, were never far away from whichever receiving device I had at the time. I moved them from my IPod as source back in the day of the RCD n-9 (usually by Bluetooth) to IPhone played either via Bluetooth or Airplay up to the present day.

I copied this extract from the Denon’s manual which I didn’t know about:
“Playing back a Bluetooth device
This unit supports the following Bluetooth profile. 0 A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile):
When a Bluetooth device that supports this standard is connected,
monaural and stereo sound data can be streamed at a high quality. 0 AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile):
When a Bluetooth device that supports this standard is connected, the Bluetooth device can be operated from this unit.”

So I guess if your iPods support A2DP, then they can be controlled via User input on the Denon. Out of interest are your IPods WiFi capable? The reason I chose the Sony player to go with the system is it’s huge versatility, playing just about any file you can throw at it and having its own version of Bluetooth (LDAC) which can send as well as receive.

David
 

TomCarp

Novice Member
Interesting.

It may be time to move from the iPods to the cell phones. The iPod Classic we were using wasn't even Bluetooth capable; interfaced via the Denon dock. The other is a 7th gen Nano that has Bluetooth capability, but assume it's not wi-fi capable. (There is reference to Nike+ but don't think that means wi-fi).

I'm assuming that there's no easy way to select playlist/song from the Touch other than via the iPod's interface. For now, that's fine since it has us back to where we were. I did try to use it a second time recently, but it appears the Denon manual source selection (i.e. via the face controls) does not include Bluetooth. Stopped the attempt at that point. Next, I'll try using the Denon remote which is what we used when first trying this. It'll be a little disappointing if we have to use the remote for source selection when wanting to play back via iPod Bluetooth.

Will post back with test results, and with some more NAS research.

Tom
 

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