In a previous post, I discussed a plugin for Volumio to add Spotify connect ability to this headless audio-player OS. I also pointed out that the competing OS, Max2play did not seem interested in incorporating this feature in their OS. A missed chance in my view, as there was a clear appetite for it if you checked the feature requests on their forum.
But they clearly took up the gauntlet, and after perfecting their plugin infrastructure and suggesting to the user community they could create a Spotify connect plugin, they came with such a plugin themselves. It is still a beta version, with still some stability issues but if it is running, it works as it should. This plugin has some prerequisites: It will only work if you’re a Max2play premium user (€9,99/year) and a Spotify premium user. In this sense, Volumio with the Balbuze plugin is still the cheapest solution.
Installation is quite straightforward, but also a bit more hassle than Volumio, especially when you are also using also other audio-players such as Squeezelite on Max2play. You can find my video tutorial and demonstration of the functionality below. As already said there are some stability issues. After some time the device Max2play with the Spotify connect plugin installed and running disappears from the list of available devices in the Spotify App. Stopping and restarting the instance of the plug-in will deal with this, but this should not be needed.
So far my blog and video’s has been about DIY tech stuff with a focus on audio. This time we stay in the realm of audio but go back time. Way back even before even I was born, because I would like to show you an old audio device that I saved from the skip somewhere in the 1990’s but was produced in the late fifties early sixties. It even still works (sort of). It’s an old table-top reel to reel tape recorder made by the technology pride of the Netherlands: Philips, more specifically the EL3515A model. This EL series of reel to reel tape recorders have been produced by Philips from 1957 onwards to 1968. But this EL3515A is an early model. The “A” indicates that it is a more luxurious version of the basic EL3515, with a wooden case covered with fake leather instead of a plastic case. It is pre-transistor device and its electronics is still based on radio tubes. One of the tubes is used for the “magic eye” which is in the big stop button, which lights up green when the device is on and should show the recording level. This is one of the first models with such a “magic eye”. The whole package comes in the form of a carrying case that is 370 mm wide, 160mm high and 320 mm deep.
The power cable and a separate mono microphone can be tucked away in a small compartment on the right side of the case with a removable lid. The whole thing has a hefty weight of around 8 kg, mainly because all the electronics and moving part are mounted in a cast-iron frame that resides in the wooden case. Because of this, I would not call it a mobile device. It runs off AC power switchable between 110, 127, 220 and 245 Volts. It is a mono device with around 2-2.5 Watts output. When you remove the plastic cover, you can see that it uses 9 to 13 inch tape reels. It plays and records two mono tracks (two sides) running at a speed of 9.5 cm/s.
After plugging in the power socket, you can switch it on by turning the left volume button. The whole thing directly springs to life with the hum of the drive motors, but playback can only be heard after a short warm-up until the “magic eye” is at its full intensity. It is very basic machine, the extreme left and right buttons are for winding back and forth, then you have on the left, a pause button, on the right the play button and the big button in the middle with the “magic eye” is the stop button. Between the two reels there is also a counter present, but this is broken on this machine. The turning nobs on the extreme left and right are on/off and volume left and the recording level on the right. The smaller nobs next to them are tone adjustment on the left and the red recording button on the right.
The “magic eye” lighting up in the stop button
When I rescued it from the skip somewhere in the 1990’s, it still worked fine and I used it as a novelty when my little nieces and nephews were visiting to record their voices and playing them back to them. That was always a lot of fun. Now it seems that the amplifier part of the device has deteriorated, playback and recording levels are low. It first off all would need a thoughrough cleaning. As it is now standing in storage, I am thinking to sell it off. Its seems that there are still some enthusiast out there who collect these things or scavenge them for the radio tubes. These tubes seem then to find their way into all kinds of DIY projects. When researching this device for this blog and my youtube video. I also came across an advertisement from the Leidsche courant from 1959 with prices for the EL3515, EL3515A and the more advanced EL3538. The EL3515A was priced at 398 Dutch guilders in 1959, which translates in a value of € 1 219.42 in todays money (Calculated with the tool here.), but I think I will make my asking price as a serious lot lower! If you want to see the EL3515A in action please watch my youtube video below.
In previous posts I already talked about all these different headless audioplayer operating systems there are for small single board computers such as the Raspberry Pies (eg. Volumio and Max2Play). I also discussed that I am a Spotify user and love the Spotify Connect feature and the multiroom speaker possibility it brings. But the two audioplayer OSes that I am current testing did not support Spotify Connect so far, so I am currently resorting to a multiroom setup using Max2Play, Logitech Media Server (LMS) and the “triode” Spotify plugin to control several devices (RPis with Squeezeplayer software/Squeezebox duet receiver) for audio playback. It works, but the look and feel of LMS is very dated, so I am still on the lookout for improvement and I am not alone. The requested features section of the user forums of both Volumio and Max2Play show major interest in Spotify Connect. However the developer(s) of Max2Play does not seem to warm-up to this feature, while it trumps to be the multiroom audio centered OS. A missed chance in my view. In the meanwhile, Volumio has beaten Max2Play to the punch via support of third party plugins and the coding work available at Github of user “Balbuze” which seem to be based on previous work of “Fornoth” and “Plietar”. I am planning to test Balbuze’s Spotify Connect plugin “Volspotconnect” in Volumio shortly on my Pi Zero that currently runs Max2play. The plugin is specific for ARM6 and ARM7 chip based computers such the Rasberry Pi’s, so if you are running Volumio on a Intel machine, bad luck for now. It is a basic plugin that just makes your Volumio device show up as a Spotify Connect device. It has no connection with the Volumio interface yet, so no control via this interface or cover-art. This is no problem as you would rather use the Spotify software or app to control playback. It is clearly a work in progress. I also thought that you also needed a Spotify app developers key, which your can request here. However commenter Wim, indicated that this key is already present in the zip file provided by Balubuze. That makes it even simpler, I hope to have time soon to get this up and running. This also seems a good topic for a Youtube tutorial so stay tuned!