After following the message in Control:PC that a new Sooloos System version was ready and auto installing it, I got a message stating that "the version of Control:PC isn't compatible with the version of software that your Sooloos is running. An update is required." Upon clicking ok an update is performed, and Control:PC works. But as soon as it is quit and restarted, I get the message again, and again. I even tried downloading the software again manually via the link in the web browser interface but everytime I restart the application, I get this annoying message. Solution: it turned out that the installer hadn't overwritten the older software but instead installed in another folder, inside the original folder. The shortcut I was using was still pointing to the older software.
The Meridian Sooloos system is best suited to importing entire cd's directly. That way user interaction is minimal and the results almost always flawless. The system isn't however very well suited for importing various separate audio files or even incomplete CDs rips. While importing music, the system looks up various aspects and compares with the AMG database. Strangely though, embedded tags don't seem to be used in this process, as evidenced by supposed matches that have entirely different artists or album titles, in spite of perfect metadata. Apparently the number of tracks, or at least the presence of the last track, are also very important for the result, as evidenced by some tests I ran. While a CD rip done by dB poweramp will find a 100% match via the Sooloos import as long as it is transfered in its entirety, the same rip will fail to be recognised if you leave out the last track. If everything is ok and a match comes up, then the resultant info is very complete and extensive, including various tags, moods, collaborating artists and sometimes even a review. But if a match isn't found, you're forced to do a lot of work renaming it all. Especially if you have lots of files for which you know the title and artist, but not the album. For some reason the Sooloos service will start guessing and seemingly assign random artists, albums and track titles to such files.
It seems that Meridian has foreseen this and for that reason implemented an option on the settings part of Control:PC to "prefer local metadata". However, this function doesn't seem to work: Sooloos database is always queried no matter the setting. Either on or off: approximately half my files end up with wrong results, despite proper tagging. Lots of my files weren't tagged when I collected them years ago but they are setup in a well-ordered iTunes-like folder structure: artist-album-tracks. Many playback applications can simply deduct at least the 3 tags from this structure. The Sooloos however, can't. So, before I started the big import process, I made sure that all my files were properly tagged, assuming that this would allow for a smooth import. Alas, it seems that artist and title tags are bypassed when the album tag is labelled as unknown, resulting not in a partial match, but a totally wrong outcome. There is a button labelled "revert to user data". This will work, except for any tags in the embedded metadata that are left empty. Those fields will retain the wrongly matched data (year, collaborating artists etc). Also, if the album is labelled as "Unknown", then Sooloos will keep its (wrongly) found match instead of reverting to "Unknown". There's also a button that clears all data and that works well, but as soon as you then click "revert to user data", the situation is brought back to the one described above, a partial success, partial wrongly matched data. The results with tagged AIFF's were better than with tagged WAV's: while properly tagged WAV's are sometimes imported correctly, the success rate for properly tagged AIFF's is almost twice as good.
For albums that were initially identified incorrectly,and were then manually corrected, the album title is always reset after pasting new artwork. This is especially annoying when the original tag was labelled "unknown album" and you have edited it manually to be correct but Sooloos insists on a non-matching result.
You can't click Album Info from a search on album. However, when using search on artist, then click on the album, it is possible. This is counterintuitive and quite annoying if you quickly want to edit something, or delete the album because if you only recall the album name and don't know the artist name, you'll have to search twice.
please note: The functionality for Core Control may be tied in with the functionality of firmware offered by the Media Drive.
When browsing through the albums on the iPad, it isn't clear if you're looking at all albums or a filtered selection through focus. I'd suggest keeping the focus symbol highlighted (blue?) as long as a filtered result is shown.
The distinction between the currently playing song in bold white and the songs not yet played in regular white is not clear enough. Additionally, the files played in grey makes the playlist look more cluttered and IMHO doesn't help navigation.
While both albums and artists are visible when using a focus (artwork-based) while browsing, you can only see the album title when using a focus in (text-based) explore. I would like to see the artist there too.
Adding tags can be done both from Control:PC and iPad Core Control, but it is an elaborate way of doing things. I want to be able to easily and quickly enter a tag from the regular now playing album info screen by directly going to the tags tab, not having to go to browse mode, find the album, go into edit mode, select it, etc.
Changing album or track ratings isn't possible for past items in the playlist, only from the currently playing album, and only from Control:PC. If you want to change tags for past items, they have to be located in browse or explore first. I'd like to be able to access this from the regular album info screen,which should be accessible for example by clicking and holding on any particular track in the playlist.
When listening to music, particularly in swim mode, oftentimes you come across a song that you'd like to add to a (pre-existing or new to be made) playlist. This isn't directly possible as in iTunes or Winamp. Instead you have to take a huge detour, by remembering the artist and track, loading the playlist you want to add them to, locating the artist and track manually, add them to the playlist, and re-save the playlist under the same name. This is not user-friendly. Why not provide the option to "add to existing playlist/add to new playlist", if you tap and hold any track or album?
Have the iPad app also display samplerate, bitrate and actual format (WAV/FLAC), not only CD or hires. According to Viertron, most customers aren't interested in these details. I suggest to include the option for this in settings.
Add manually selectable standby or sleep mode for the hard drive. According to Viertron, this isn't done in order to keep access times to a minimum. It doesn't have to be an auto-sleep function, but I'd like to option to choose sleep, instead of shutting down.
Add "Replace Cue" to popup window after tapping Play Tracks.
In addition to Replace Cue, also add a default action to be preselected as preference (cue or play now) when clicking a track or cd. By this I mean that you don't always have to click twice for a track to play, but have a default action that you can define once beforehand.
Add the possibility to overwrite the current (unsaved) playlist with a new selection (an entire CD or a focus-result). This means that in one go, you can clean up the current playlist entries and add the newly selected ones.
No matter what I try, I can't get Control:Mac to work on my Macbook Pro running OSX 10.6.8. The application installs fine and launches, then crashes. I may try again after a clean install of the operating system but for now I'll stick with Control:PC.
I would like to see a "Replace Cue" in this popup. Also, I'd like to be able to add/remove tags and album/track picks right from this Album Info section.
Why not display the audio file type, bitrate and samplerate? If some users find it clutters the clean look, then why not make it an option?
Sooloos compared to Widealabs Aurender
Recently I reviewed the Widealabs Aurender S10. I was amazed at how well their iPad app works. To add to that, Widealabs use an open architecture that allows free drag and drop and native support of all common music file formats. Meridian: please take note: sound-wise you're still at the top as far as I'm concerned, and the Sooloos system used to be the absolute best, but you are losing territory fast! The annoying bugs in the Control:PC software should really have been fixed a long time ago, and the CoreControl app is in need of added functionality. Finally: the closed Sooloos architecture doesn't help.
By comparison, Aurender offers:
Add file to new or existing playlist from any location without having to alter the current play cue and while current playback continues. Also: option to replace current playlist cue with new selection.
Faultless interpretation of tagged audio files without the need to import. Add to that being able to sort on filestructure level and search combining the two. Also: total control over the folder hierarchy and naming conventions.
Even faster scrolling by means of a localized database on the iPad itself.
Free add/copy/delete of material, be it entire albums or single tracks.
Albums consisting of a mix of audioformats, eg FLAC and WAV.
Virtually silent Hard Disk operation, making it a breeze to use the unit in the living room.
By now regular readers will know that I have sold my Meridian Streaming Audio System components (formerly Sooloos), mostly due to the lack of development in areas of operation that I consider to be very important. Before I sold the system I had the MD600, MS600 and 818 Reference Audio Core. Additionally I have reviewed the MS200 and C10.
Below is a summary of what I think could be improved, plus a list of the bugs and bug fixes with version history, from June 2012 onwards.
Incorrect metadata handling/non-functional "prefer local metadata" setting (see current status on top of this article) still present.
Firmware update for ID41
An issue that could sometimes lead to doubling of albums in the lists of albums ‘by this artist’ has been resolved.
An issue preventing setting a TwinStore to static IP from the device manager of a Control One/Ten/Fifteen has been resolved.
Various background system and stability enhancements
Further official fixes/new features
Firmware update for ID41
The ID41 card supposedly now sounds better due to new firmware. However, I hear no differences with my 818 that I bought new in June 2012.
2.394 (build 323)
Artists doubling up, then tripling, then quadrupling etc until a system reboot. Apparently an old problem cropping up again, not only seen by me but also reported by several other people with various systems. I haven't seen the problem in over 2 months now so it might have been addressed.
Import of 48khz mp3 produces ragged noise for at least half the instances that I tried this. Sometimes the problem persists even after first converting the file to an AIFF. The only solution then is to convert to a 44.1khz file. This bug may have been in the system for longer but I only recently discovered it.
Partial fix - the option "Prefer Local Metadata" now seems to work, but only on albums that are recognised as album, not when they are first seen as Loose Files. The latter are still looked up and will more often than not still display incorrect data, in spite of perfect tagging, and these tags being visible in the "Loose Files" section. With "Prefer Local Metadata" selected, and importing whole albums or track selections recognised as album, Sooloos will display artist/album/track data according to the data it found in the tags, even if it found a perfect match in its online database. I verified this by intentionally adding wrong info to the ID3 tag. With "prefer local metadata" selected, Sooloos will indeed use my wrong data. When not selected, Sooloos will use the matched (correct) data instead. Sooloos will also still fetch and apply any other data that it finds, such as credits and release date.
"Tag all completed imports" data field now accepts an empty field as containing no data and will no longer add unwanted tags. Before it would not register the deletion of previously entered data and kept adding tags to all imports. The only means there was to prevent a wrong tag to be added was to enter a space, still resulting in an extra tag but at least it was empty.
Artwork seems to be cached on the iPad and browsing on it seems faster after the initial caching.
Further official fixes/new features
Improved signal processing of high-resolution content (The improved signal processing is specifically with Control:10 & Control:15, to help them play some high resolution files. It's not really an audio performance upgrade, it's really about making the system more robust.)
Support for updating MS200 firmware
Firmware update for ID40 and MS600
iTunes export in Control:PC has been further improved
Various background system and stability enhancements
2.384 (build 313)
When adding cover art to albums after the music has been imported, the result only shows on the album info tab, not in the generic album browse area. This means that the only way to properly attach artwork is to do this before the import. Not a bugfix, but a recent discovery: the artwork will become visible only after a restart of the MD600. In spite of reports I read elsewhere, that the artwork problems were still present in version 2.368, for me this seemed already to be fixed before I upgraded to 2.384. Perhaps it is to do with newer firmware on my new MD600?
Artwork seems to load faster in browse on the iPad 2.
When importing WAV files ripped with dB Poweramp via the ControlPC app's "import folder" function, and playing them back, there is loud noise at the last second of each track. This is not the case when playing back these same files in iTunes or Winamp, nor when importing the CD directly using ControlPC's "import CD" function.The loud noise is in fact the meta data chunk, added to the WAV file by dB poweramp, that the Meridian couldn't deal with. Instead of reading the data and skipping it on playback, it actually plays this data chunk. Further experimentation showed that AIFF files with the same meta data tags made in dB poweramp do not exhibit this problem. So, I converted all my WAVs to AIFF and the problem was solved while the Meridian still does read the information in the tags. Update 1-7-2012: with version 2.384 this problem has been fixed: tagged WAV's now play back without problems.
Further fixes/new features
Media Drive 600 can now be configured as System Core from the device manager or from new version of the Meridian Sooloos Configure application.
Zone linking with the Core Control iPad app is now supported.
Improvements exporting into iTunes and native export of FLAC audio.
Improvements in playback of Internet Radio via TuneIn.
Update of album art across the Digital Media Platform Control interfaces.
Enhancements to Rhapsody streaming.
The Sooloos name is now removed and provision has been made for the iPad 3's Retina display.
The playlist occasionally doesn't show the individual entries, only a total numer of tracks in the CoreControl app (see image above). Restarting the MC200 and (hard-booting) the CoreControl app will solve this. Since the new version of Core Control for the iPad I haven't seen this behaviour anymore. It may just have been fixed!
CoreControl will occasionally crash when browsing through artwork for too long. This is most likely an iPad-memory problem. Restarting the MC200 and (hard-booting) the CoreControl app will solve this.The new version of Core Control for the iPad adressed this issue and I haven't seen a crash since.
The following is taken from a forum post by Ronnie, which I thought could help understand some of the system's inherent problems:
"The Original Sooloos Designers / Developers chose a SQL Database Design and Structure. The Database Table Design and Structure chosen was a poor one.......especially when they choose Not to have a separate Table Structure for Track based Metadata. This is that single design oversight which continues to cause many of the issues that we see today in all of the Sooloos Apps. Now that the Sooloos SQL Architecture is in place, it is a VERY intensive job to change it; whilst still keeping all of the Sooloos customers happy. For example, it would actually be quite easy for Meridian to implement a completely new Structure, which incorporated Track Based Data.....as well as a different way of handling Artwork......and this would be great for new customers. The problem with that approach, is that the new design would necessitate leaving behind the older Sooloos Components.......which likely would be unable to work with the new Structures."
You can select either folders or separate files, but you can't make a selection of folders to import. Folders (albums) that contain only one track are not albumized by default, even if they obtain a correct match so they'll have to be selected and made into an album manually. This can mean lots of repetitive labour. What's really nice though is that when you're on the import tab, you can just drop audiofiles anywhere on the Control:PC window. This is very comfortable and can be a lot quicker than navigating to them one by one or folder by folder.
When a corrupt audio file is encountered during import, the process is terminated, resulting in no import at all for that particular album. There's no option to skip the faulty file or to resume. The faulty file is indicated however, so what you'll need to do is to locate it manually and delete it. Then click away the stagnated import for that album and reselect it for import. The same is true for mixed sample rates within an album. Control:PC lets you do the naming and doesn't warn until it is actual import time. The import will fail and there's no way to re-sort or re-using the carefully renamed files, neccesitating a cancel and redo of all actions.
Once an album is imported, you cannot add files to it. So if you inadvertedly hadn't selected all files belonging to a particular album, and you find the missing ones after the import, all you're left to do is to delete the album and import it all again. Likewise, you can't delete tracks from an album. You can however unstar them, which marks them as not to play, unless specifically selected.
Importing a CD using Sooloos can only be done in FLAC. I'd like the option to go for WAV or AIFF, too. (nb: you can import other formats if the CD is ripped in an external program such as DB Poweramp.)
The possibility to delete individual tracks. All you can do is flag them to not play unless selected, which means that the track won't play when playing the CD in order or in swim mode. You can however delete the entire CD. According to Viertron this is because the music isn't stored as individual tracks but as one FLAC file per CD, increasing access times and overall speed.
Editing multiple albums by the same artist, for example adding the same tag, isn't made easy because focus doesn't allow sorting by artist and the search functionality only produces a drop-down menu of which only one artist can be selected at a time. Why not add "artist" to the focus criteria?
Manually selectable standby or sleep mode for the hard drive. According to Viertron, this isn't done in order to keep access times to a minimum. It doesn't have to be an auto-sleep function, but I'd like to option to choose sleep, instead of shutting down.
A big issue is that for any Loose Files, manually made into an album, are still looked up in Sooloos Metadata Service in spite of setting the "Prefer local metadata" setting, more often than not resulting in a wrong match, requiring manual relaboring the tags. Even still more annoying is that the "Revert to user metadata" button only reverts certain fields. Album name for example remains incorrect and the Release Date isn't cleared.
As can be seen in the image above, prefer local metadata has been selected. Upon importing tracks with perfect metadata from one album, the tracks are correctly recognised in the bottom section of Control:PC.
Yet, after making them into an album, Control:PC connects to a remote database and comes up with a wrong match.
That the match is wrong is one thing, but all fields have now been filled with incorrect information and there's no revert! You'll have to enter the correct data manually!
Some news from Meridian regarding metadata enhancements
The following section in cursive text has been taken from The Hitchhiker's Guide To Meridian (meridianunplugged.com), an excellent source of info for all matters Meridian:
We are continually working to improve the overall user experience with our Digital Media Systems and one significant improvement we have introduced is in the area of metadata “hits” on import.
A recent change we have made now ensures that users importing music will get more, and more accurate, cover art, as well as a greater population of credits, genres and reviews. These enhancements help users find the music they want to listen to more easily and also enable even more refined “focuses”.
As part of these changes we are no longer auto-populating Moods during the import process however these fields are still available for the customers to enter and edit information.
If your collections are missing cover art or metadata you might want to check to see if new metadata is now available. To check for new metadata:
Select “” across top to see Forensic Focus
On the “Cover” option select “Exclude”
Select “X” in top right had corner to exit back to Album Cover Browser
Now your collection is “Focused” on albums without cover art
Select an album
Select “Edit Album Metadata” in lower left-hand corner
Select “Retrieve Metadata” at bottom centre of screen
Select “Select All Updates” in lower left-hand corner
Select “Apply Selected Updates” to update album metadata select
A detailed description of the biggest remaining bugs since updating to 2.397 (build 328) on 20 January 2013
The following bug has been very persistent. It hasn't been addressed in the last 4 software updates and it bothers the heck out of me.
Metadata mismatch upon partial import
Upon importing incomplete albums (one or more tracks left out), as before, most of the time the album isn't recognised by the Sooloos Metadata Service. That's fine and understandable. What's finally changed though is that as long as the album is accepted as an album and appears in the top section (not as Loose Files), with "Prefer Local Metadata" selected, Sooloos now neatly takes over whatever data is present in the tags, instead of filling in seemingly random album names, release date and track data. Deselecting this option makes Sooloos lookup the album and fill in the fields according to the data it finds online.
When the album is displayed as separate tracks in the "Loose Files" section in the bottom however, you're in trouble. In spite of perfect ID3 tagging and these tags being correctly shown in the bottom section, and in spite of selecting the option "Prefer Local Metadata", after making them into an album, Sooloos will again look up the data, and more often than not will find a wrong match and fill in this wrong data in place of my correctly entered tags.
Even still more annoying is that the "Revert to user metadata" button only reverts certain fields. Album name for example remains incorrect and the Release Date isn't cleared. This means that for any albums that are treated as Loose Files, in spite of perfect metadata, you'll have to re-enter various fields manually.
The big question is why Sooloos recognises the tags correctly in the "Loose Files" section, and not after making them into an album.
Another question is why Sooloos sometimes creates albums while leaving out certain tracks, even if all tracks that belong to the album are properly tagged and display correctly in the Loose Files section.
What's partially working now is the "prefer local metadata" option. When selected, and only when the album is recognised as an album, not as Loose Files, Sooloos will display artist/album/track data according to the data it found in the tags, even if it found a perfect match in its online database. I verified this by intentionally adding wrong info to the ID3 tag. With "prefer local metadata" selected, Sooloos will indeed use my wrong data. When not selected, Sooloos will use the matched (correct) data instead and will also still fetch and apply any other data that it finds, such as credits and release date.