DLNA Audio Streaming and the WD TV Live

Feb 05, 2011

DLNA streaming to a networked device is becoming increasingly popular with more HDTVs supporting DLNA certification. DLNA is a wonderful thing particularly if you are a Win7 user. The DLNA "Play to" functionality built into Win7 is extremely easy to use. The Western Digital WD TV Live (and Plus) media players support both:

(a) DMP (Digital Media Player ... can stream from a DMS .. Digital Media Server) and
(b) DMR (Digital Media Renderer) which allows it to be controlled and streamed-to from, for example, a Win7 computer.

(1) Using the WD as a DMP device, I first tried connecting a USB thumbdrive to one of the ports (a 1 GByte drive is shown below which contains the complete Beatles and Ventures collection as MP3) to one Playback from content on the USB drive and navigating using the WD menu options worked flawlessly.
(2) Since I am more interested (currently) in controlling music playback from my laptop computer using DLNA to stream my very large digital music library to my sound system via the WD player as a DMR device, I will only describe my experience with the "Play to" functionality here. I will add further information as acquired:

My Configuration

Dell Studio 1558 Laptop (i5 processor) with Win7 wirelessly networked to the LAN router 802.11g 50 Mbps
WD TV Live Plus with composite video connection to a Pioneer VSX-9140TXH receiver (a HDTV is pending)
WD TV Live Plus Optical S/PDIF output to optical input of VSX-9140TXH (for audio)

(L to R: Power, Optical (S/PDIF) Out, Ethernet, Compos. Video, USB Drive)

Optical S/PDIF input at the VSX-9140TXH receiver.


DLNA streaming was enabled by default on my latop computer so I right-clicked an audio file to open a "Play to" window, dragged a bunch of audio tracks into the Play to window (including MP3, wav stereo 14bit/44.1 kHz, wav stereo 24bit/96kHz and wav 5.1 24bit/48kHz):

Although the WD TV Live Plus specifications show that uncompressed wav/pcm audio is only supported up to stereo 16 bit / 44.1 kHz (or 1.4112 Mbps) the "Play to" functionality allowed ALL wav files to play back over the streaming connection. My receiver status indicated that indeed the incoming SPDIF audio stream was always at a sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz as claimed by WD. It is unclear if it is Windows which does the conversion during the DLNA "negotiation" phase of playback, or if the WD TV Live does the conversion. Even though downsampling occurs, it is very satisfying to have ALL wav files at least play back. The 5.1 multichannel wav examples I tried sounded like a fairly good downmix to stereo. So I am initially very impressed with the ease of configuration, use and transparency of playback.

I noticed that the Mute button and the Volume slider don't function in the Play to window.
It would also be very nice (future upgrade to Win7/DLNA implementation?) to have access to more information directly from within the Play to window on the file being streamed (including what is actually streamed out to the DMR device ... any transcoding used etc.) . Of course being an audio enthusiast, I can only hope that a future DMR player from Western Digital supports higher definition audio (e.g. 24bit/96kHz) which today would be on the cutting edge of the DLNA standard. Nevertheless being able to "push" stream CD-DA quality wav via DLNA from my wireless laptop is fantastic (not to mention pushing slide-shows and videos .... when that hard decision of what HDTV is finally made!)

This technology totally ROCKS, even if only used for audio!