I have a bit of a difficult issue here and would need some help from the community to pin down the source of my problems.
Please excuse if this will become a lengthy post, but I am gonna try to be as precise as possible. I also know, that the scenario described is unusual and that my problems might very well not be related to MediaMonkey at all. So please forgive me for posting my questions here, but I simply know that my chances of finding an answer are much better here then elsewere...
After using MM for many years I wouldn't wanna miss it for anything - not for love nor for money. It is my player of choice for any audio playing in my home. I have been playing around with many multiroom audio solutions in the past, but most of them lack the flexibilty in automated playback that MM together with some of the great plugins and scripts available offer. I've tried Linksys Wireless Home Audio, Logitech Squeezeboxes, Sonos, I've looked at many forms of UPnP devices, I've tested many different audio or AV clients, I have network cables as well as optical cables (TOS-Link) running through my whole appartment - but I keep coming back to MediaMonkey as the perfect source/player. MM's great Auto-/Last.fm-/Scrobbler-/MusicIP-/Similar Artists-DJ-functionalities are absolutely unique and the best and only way for me to really enjoy my large music collection. So for me there is only one multiroom scenario that really works: A powerful and flexible audio server running MM, a convenient way to select and control the music remotely and several simple (i.e. dumb) and not to expensive audio clients throughout the appartment. I think I have found the perfect setup for me now - if I can get it to work flawlessly that is:
- Audio server: MediaMonkey running on a Windows 7 virtual machine hosted on a beefy Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V enabled (which I happen to be running anyway)
- Remote controls: iPod Touches and hopefully soon an iPad to control everything via MonkeyTunes (awesome)
- Streaming: In order to get any sound out of a machine that has no soundcard (Hyper-V doesn't), I tried several ways like USB-via-LAN, Virtual Audio Cable, Airfoil and Remote Speakers Output - I am using the latter right now.
- Clients: 4 Airport Express' hooked up to active speakers in every room.
Whatever OS I use, whatever resources I assign to the VM, however I configure everything, I have drop outs. I have been researching the possible causes and have eliminated many of them: Network bandwidth itself is sufficient (Gigabit to the first Airport Express, excellent HP switch, the WiFi itself is running as 802.11n, nothing else is on that WiFi network, radio channel is completely free, I have checked all other remedies re dropout issues with airfoil/airtunes/RSO that can be found on the internet). CPU power is not an issue, MM is the only task running on that machine, CPU usage is very low, I disabled all other VMs for testing
So I have been digging deeper, looking at Windows' Ressource Monitor and found out, that every time I hear dropouts, I can see the network throughput within Windows dropping This could simply be the logic consequence of audio dropouts resulting in "nothing to stream".
I have also watched the latencies of the 4 four threads streaming to port 5000 of the Airport Expresses going up on such occasions. But what really got me wondering was that I could observe MediaMonkey's playback time counting irregularly on such occasions, sometimes even stopping a little while, then catching up again. I can also see the little VU meter/visualization shortly dropping at those points.
atm I am trying to find a way how to measure or analyze what is happening there. Is MM waiting for the Remote Speakers Output plugin to "receive more audio"? Can the plugin affect playback stability in such ways? Or is MM somehow running wild within the VM? How would I measure the output latency? Or is the network latency the culprit and MM is simply struggling as a consequence?
I know that there are very many variables in this whole setup making it hard to isolate the real isssue. But I so want this to work and I'm not gonna give up.
Maybe some of you have any input, any ideas? Do you know any tools, that could help my analyze what is happening there? I am going to send this to Eric Milles (dev of RSO) too, he might know much more about this. But I am not sure at all, if this is a RSO issue, because it happens with Airtunes and Airfoil too (just much more frequent and regular dropouts there)
And, before I forget it: The whole setup is running flawlessly, when I do this on a physical computer. But I don't want to be running a PC just for MediaMonkey (I will in the end if I have to, but first I would like to try to eliminate the problem in the VM)
Thanks for your patience, if you have read until here, you are as much a geek as me