Getting to know the Melco S100
Patrick Cleasby, Hi-Fi Journalist
Working with a bunch of hardened, time-served BBC engineers, as I did until very recently, it was hard to advance any notions of the hi-fi perfectionism that occupies the contentious end of the hi-fi industry. Anything to do with posh cables, posh power supplies and even posh DACs tended to get dismissed emphatically. Imagine what these ultimate exemplars of the ‘bits are bits’ crowd would have thought of an audiophile ethernet switch?
In truth I was originally of a similar bent myself. Yet people from our own crowd who I know and respect had repeatedly reported good findings from their digital explorations, revealing the benefits of their hardcore and arcane tweaking via blogs buried in the dusty parts of the internet. It was almost like the good old analogue days.
From this I acquired a strong urge to experiment with the electrical isolation and distance capabilities of fibre around the house (especially now that I am blessed with fibre TO the house). In principle the SFP port-equipped S100 would give me a very straightforward option to feed the switching hub of my A-V operation directly with fibre. I still have a bunch of wiring work to do before I get to that point though.
Until the various lockdowns I had none of the time, funds or energy necessary to explore any of the digital improvement options. Some downtime recently allowed me to try one of the oft-favoured, fan-less and second-hand Cisco industrial switches in the place of my commodity TP Link switch. These legacy marvels are beloved by some, and there was indeed some audible improvement, but nothing earth-shaking. There does however appear to be something gained in the move from a standard gigabit-fed/gigabit-switching box to an ‘old-time’ gigabit fed/100BaseT-switching model. But there is a downside - there is some stuff you may wish to run at gigabit speed alongside, such as Sky Q UHD downloads…
After I saw the Melco switch at Bristol last year the first person who rhapsodised to me about its capabilities in situ was Simon Nash of MinimServer. Interest piqued, by the end of the year I had the opportunity to try an S100 in place of my own switch gear and the findings were indeed revelatory. I am not an audio-only purist, and if one sensibly eschews wi-fi a full living room setup needs a fair amount of switch capability. The gigabit allocation of half the S100’s RJ45 switching ports is useful to enable all that go-faster UHD download stuff (gigabit also helps responsive app control), and while that side still sounds mighty fine when used for the streaming playback of high-res music there are easily discernible benefits of switching the pure audio stuff to the 100BaseT-aspirated ports alongside. While the former tightens up the bass, the jump to the latter just causes the sound staging to leap outside the locus of the speakers. I recommend a comparative audition.
There is much still to think about if I’m to put together the ideal network topology to take advantage of these findings, but that will have to wait until I’ve saved up!
Managing and sorting large music collections with SongKong
In case you haven’t been keeping up with SongKong (and, of course, SongKong for Melco),
there has been a steady stream (!) of updates in recent months.
Highlights are many, but of note include:
- Do remember that when trying SongKong actions, you can always use the UNDO FIXES
to restore the original situation.
SongKong also lets you save your settings with a profile name and to clone and rename as profiles are modified.
When browsing and searching to play music, the information usually comes from metadata
associated with the music files.
SongKong is a powerful tool for ensuring that the metadata is accurate, complete and is consistent within a library.
However, metadata is not used by Windows File Explorer or Mac Finder – these file and folder finder computer interfaces use filenames to identify the music files and folders, rather than the metadata.
So, sorting music on a PC will give different results compared to using metadata on a digital player such as a Melco or your car.
SongKong offers a handy and very powerful function if you like to organise music on a PC: you can set SongKong to make new filenames based on the metadata. This will move the position of albums within a Windows or Finder view as the folder and file names will change to match the metadata, of course. So, be prepared for what will happen if you use this function.
You can rename files based on metadata whether matched or not – it’s safer to select ‘if matched to a release’.
- This function on is located in the BASIC menu tab
Default is set to ‘NO’ so that normally whatever happens to metadata, the file stays in Explorer
or Finder in the same place with the same file name.
So let’s go back a step: why are we wanting to rename files when the player does not use file names anyway?
The main reason is housekeeping: the tidying up of libraries when viewed on a computer and to allow sorting (and possibly division) of a library to categorise classical, or HD, for example. Or create small, specialist libraries of all HD classical, perhaps.
For this situation, there is an even more powerful function within SongKong: the Rename Mask function on the FILE NAMING tab.
You can create a rename mask for your purposes, but there are many already created by SongKong
The selection below will create a new file name prefixed with HD, providing that the album is indeed Hi-Res.
Similarly, the IsClassical/ HD etc. mask will identify HD which is also classical.
- We can see how this works with this small library:
After running the rename masks
- We get this revised view within Windows for the same library:
- And within the newly created HD folder, we see the HD artist folders and albums:
If we run a different Rename Mask IsClassical:
Then, new folders are created CLASSICAL and ROCK/POP; anything not definitively sorted remains for manual sorting.
- So within classical we now have:
- And similarly within pop:
So the rename mask is a very powerful tool for renaming the album file and folder names to allow for easy maintenance when using PC or a Mac.
Status reports are provided at all stages as either HTML or a spreadsheet.
The metadata itself is not alerted beyond the initial processing that SongKong performs to optimise the metadata.
SongKong: more than a re-tagger
As always, the SongKong website is a valuable resource for discovering the power of indispensable music library management tool which is so much more than a simple re-tagger.
So aside from the power of SongKong in creating accurate, complete and consistent metadata for libraries, SongKong is also a great tool to assist managing libraries using file and folder names.
SongKong is within the Melco on V4.10 machines, but the same full license will also apply to SongKong on a networked computer that can also access the Melco Music library and might be a more convenient way to apply SongKong for large libraries.
If you have any questions on how SongKong for Melco can work for you, please speak to your local Melco dealer or comment below.