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Teufel Connector review

Already for some time, I was thinking of buying a music streamer to connect to my hifi set in order to listen to my audio cd collection I ripped to my computer (using whipper, and tagged with Musicbrainz Picard). Because I have many mix albums, gapless playback support is important. I would prefer a very broad codec support, at least including FLAC and Ogg Vorbis but by preference also Opus. Because the proprietary applications by the music streamer vendors don’t always get very good reviews, I would like to be able to control them with a third party app like BubbleUPNP, still with gapless playback. And of course I don’t want to break the bank too much.

I recently thought I found the perfect device for that: the Teufel Connector. Because of a sale I could buy this streamer for less than 140 €.

The Teufel Connector is a little box, unfortunately not being of the same size as a standard hifi component. It does not have a remote control and it also does not have a display, so the only way to control it is via the Raumfeld app on your smartphone or tablet. You can connect it via Ethernet or wifi. It does have analog and digital optical outputs, and features also analog inputs, which allows it to stream any other audio device to other multi-room Raumfeld devices in your house.

Setup

The Raumfeld app guides you through the setup process. In contrast to some information I read on the Internet, I did not have to connect my device with an Ethernet cable to set it up: you can immediately set it up to connect to your wifi network via your smartphone. I had some trouble that when I entered the wrong wifi password, not only did I have to restart the device in order to restart the startup procedure, I also had to delete all data of the Raumfeld app in order to get back to the setup screen. Maybe there is another way, but apparently this was not very intuitive. In the end I managed to set it up and the device became available.

The Raumfeld app

Playback from UPNP/DLNA server

Adding a remote UPNP/DLNA server to the Raumfeld app can be done through the app’s settings. It should list all UPNP servers, so you just have to pick it from a list. All music will then appear in the My Music part in the application.

It properly shows the album art, even if they were not saved in the music files or directory. However a serious problem shows up: it does not properly show albums containing tracks by different artists, such as compilations. Even though the Album Artist tag is correctly set (e.g. to Various Artists for compilations) Raumfeld will not create one album which contains all tracks. Instead it will create a different album with the same name for every single different artist on the disc. Obviously this is a huge problem, because it makes it impossible to play back entire compilation albums in one go. There is a tab Directory Structure in the app, but when trying to browse the directory structure of the server, it states that browsing is not available for remote music servers. So this is not an alternative either to browse albums correctly.

Playback from SMB server

So if Raumfeld does not show albums correctly when accessing them via UPNP, does it do any better when accessing them through SMB?

Adding an SMB share happens again through the app’s settings. The app never mentions SMB but only uses the term “network sources”, so this was a bit confusing. You have to enter hostname or IP address, username and password, and then you will be able to select the share you want to use. Adding your library via SMB takesa much longer because now all files have to be indexed by the Connector itself, while with UPNP this is done server side.

The good news is that this time, the problem with the compilation albums does not occur. What I don’t like however, is that albums containing multiple disks are still shown as multiple albums, one for each disk. The first disk just has the album name, the second one the album name followed by [disc 2], and so on. This way, playing a complete album requires a manual action again to switch discs, which is a pity. I would have preferred them to be shown as one album, with a division between the different discs in the track listing. Gapless playback works fine.

Several times while playing it would all of a sudden randomly switch to another track. This seems to happen especially while it’s scanning the music on the SMB source. This is very annoying and a serious bug which needs to be fixed. When it has finished scanning, this problem does not occur any more. In the app, you can set it to scan automatically every day, or to scan only when you manually ask it do so. Anyway, scanning your library is needed when you added new music files, so this is a huge problem if your library is not static. I contacted support for this problem, and they even do not consider this to be a bug. They blame the wifi network, and tell me that it probably would not happen if I would play MP3 files instead of FLAC. This seems complete nonsense to me: while scanning the music files, there is about 120 KB/s traffic between server and Connector, and when simultaneously playing a FLAC file it would jump occasionally to less than 2 MB/s. With the server connected by UTP to the router, and the Connector being less than 5 meters away from the router in the same room, bandwidth problems cannot explain this at all.

Playback from a local USB device

The Connector has a USB port to which you can connect an external disk. The Connector automatically indexes all music files and adds them to the library. I have not extensively tested this feature.

Playback of Internet streams

Raumfeld supports playback of a number of different Internet sources, such as Spotify, TuneIn, Soundcloud, Tidal and Napster. Maybe this is not the most complete offering of streaming services (for example Google Play Music, Amazon Music and Deezer are not there), but these other services can usually by accessed by means of Chromecast. More on that later.

TuneIn

For radio streams, TuneIn is used. You can check if your favourite station is included on the TuneIn website. If it’s not available, you can always add a custom stream in the Raumfeld app, but currently you need the beta version for that.

There is no way to link Raumfeld with your TuneIn account, so it is not possible to import your TuneIn Favourites in case you used TuneIn before.

Unfortunately many radio streams use a bitrate which is a bit too low for perfect quality. Of course this is not Teufel’s nor TuneIn’s fault, but keep this in mind in case you consider replacing your FM or DAB+ tuner by a network streamer.

Spotify

The Connector supports Spotify Connect, which means you can play Spotify music on your Connector directly from the Spotify app if you have a Spotify Premium subscription. I don’ t have such a subscription at the moment so I did not test it.

Soundcloud

To use Soundcloud, you need to log in with a Soundcloud account. Then all the artists you follow, tracks you liked, etc. will appear in the Raumfeld app. For an unknown reason to me, I could not find some tracks available on the website, such as the Purified radio show.

Unfortunately it is not possible to like tracks and follow artists on Soundcloud via the Raumfeld app, so you still need to do this via the website.

Use of the Raumfeld app

The Raumfeld app contains the basic features to get your music playing, but they should definitely take a look at the Spotify app to see how things can be made much more user friendly.

The Raumfeld app has a permanent notification in your notification list, where you can see what is playing, pause playback, switch to the previous and next song, and change the output volume (at least if you are using the analog output to your amplifier). There is also a widget available if you prefer that.

Playing just random tracks from your library, but it’s not as easy as it could be. Unlike Spotify, there is no big green Shuffle button in the All tracks tab page of the app. Instead you have to start playback by choosing a random song yourself and start playback, and enable the Shuffle option in the now playing window. Actually, after a while I discovered that there is actually an easy option hidden in the Playlist section, where there is a pre-defined playlist “My Music Shuffle”. This could be easier to find.

In the Now Playing window, there there is no option to go immediately to the album of the playing track, or to the list of all tracks of that artist. This is a handy feature that can be found in Spotify and other music players.

There is no way to properly close the Raumfeld app, except for going to Android’s settings and killing the app there. I have noticed several times when going away from home, and then connecting to another wifi network, the permanent notification would still be there as if I can start playback immediately. After some time eventually, the notification will say that the player is not available, giving you the options to close the app by pressing the X in the notification. I think there really should be a way to manually quit the application at any time.

While it’s possible to add different network sources to your music library, they all get mixed up in one big library, while I would prefer them to be in two different libraries. For example, I have two different SMB shares, one for classical music, and another one for pop music. When I want to play music, I want to have the possibility of seeing only the albums from the classical music library or only albums of the pop music library. This could be done by creating subitems for every single network sources under My Music in the menu. Choosing My Music would bring you to a combined library, while tapping one of the subitems would only show the contents of that network source. Unfortunately, the app does not make that possible, and you end up with all network sources mixed up.

The Dutch translation of the Raumfeld app needs some work. For example there is a button “Verwijder bron” (= Remove source) in the sources settings. When choosing this option it asks for confirmation: “Verplaats bron?” which actually means “Move source”. When clicking on the Delete button in a playlist, the possible answers to the question whether you are sure are “Geen” (= None) and “Ja” (= Yes). And in the Playlist section, the wrong word Schuffles is used. Even if not really a great translation, at least Shuffles would more acceptable. I noticed other errors too, so they really need to do some work proofreading the Dutch translation.

Playback via BubbleUPNP

I had a disappointing experience using the Raumfeld app, when playing either from my UPNP server or my SMB server. What if I use BubbleUPNP instead?

BubbleUPNP sees the Connector in 3 different ways: one as a single Connector UPNP render, one as meta-device named after the room (this would contain all Teufel UPNP devices you have added to that room), and once as a Chromecast device.

When playing music to the Connector, the playback time is not updated in BubbleUPNP. You cannot go forward or backwards within the track and get the error: “Seek mode not support (code: 710)”. When the song is finished and it continues with the next song, BubbleUPNP does not even notice that it went to the next song. So this is not usable.

When using the virtual room device as a renderer, plaback time is updated and seeking does work. However, gapless playback is not supported at all. This is also the case when letting BubbleUPNP stream to the Chromecast device.

All in all, the Connector does not have flawless UPNP support making it BubbleUPNP not a usable alternative to the Raumfeld app.

Chromecast support

Every application which supports Google Chromecast, and many music applications in Android do, can cast their stream to the Connector. It’s as easy as pressing the cast button in the application, and then selecting your Connector. It works simple and good and allows you to listen to streaming services which are not natively supported by the Raumfeld app.

Audio quality

Hifi magazines usually spend the most time writing about this subject when reviewing audio hardware, but I have the feeling that this is purely psychological and that there is rarely any audible difference between different audio source hardware. I can only say that there is nothing wrong with the audio quality of this device, and I don’t believe a device which costs 5 or 10 times as much can sound any better.

Of course all depends of the quality of your source material. I am using FLAC files directly ripped from CD, so there is no quality loss there. When listening to lower bitrate Internet streams (and unfortunately many of them still use older codecs such as MP3 in combination with a not high enough bitrate), you will of course clearly hear that it’s far from CD quality, but that is not something your hardware can fix.

The Connector should support playback of hi-res audio files up to 24 bit 192 Khz, but I have not tested this.

Support

On the Dutch website, there is contact page mentioning e-mail and a contact form, however no e-mail address nor contact form for technical support questions can be found there. On the repair and returns page there is the address service@teufelaudio.nl. This should be easier to find.

Support has been useless to me. I contacted them regarding the problem with the compilation albums on UPNP but seemed clueless, and they blamed the problems on the automatic switching of tracks on my wifi network, denying any bug there.

Conclusion

The Teufel Connector is a versatile machine supporting many codecs (including Opus and high-res music files) and gapless playback. Thanks to the Chromecast support, you can stream many online services to the device, even though the Raumfeld app itself only supports a limited selection of sources. The price is low, as is power consumption. So in theory this should be a great device, at least if you can live without a dedicated remote control, display and control buttons on the device itself.

Unfortunately the Connector is completely let down by the buggy firmware and Raumfeld app. UPNP was totally useless to me because it does not correctly show albums containing tracks of different artists. SMB on the other hand, requires a lengthy scanning process, during which it is impossible to listen to music from your library because it randomly switches tracks the whole time. BubbleUPNP is not a usable alternative for the Connector, because the Connector’s implementation as a UPNP media renderer also appears to be incomplete and buggy.

Several times during usage I encountered hangs in the Raumfeld app, or of the Connector device itself, requiring to disconnect the power to force a hard reset. Whether I used the stable version of the app or the beta version, did not make any difference. I did not try the beta version of the firmware.

All these problems could still be fixable by firmware and app updates. But is it realistic that they still will get fixed, knowing that this device is already on the market for years, and is being superseded by the Teufel Streamer now? The Raumfeld app only gets a score of 3.0 in the Android Play Store and there are many complaints, also in combination with other Teufel Raumfeld devices.

In conclusion I cannot recommend this device if you want to use it mainly to play your local music library. If you want to use it only to listen to online streams, than you could consider it, but otherwise, look further.

It’s disappointing that in 2019 finding a good streamer is still not easy. Much more important than the hardware, is the firmware and software. If you have to choose which music streamer to buy, I strongly recommend reading the app reviews on the Play Store instead of reviews of so-called hifi and multimedia magazines. Looking at the app reviews, then Sonos with a score of 4.0 seems to be the best one, followed by Heos from Denon and Marantz (3.6). Cambridge Audio’s StreamMagic (2.9, however only 7 reviews now as it is brand new), Onkyo’s Controller (2.9), Pioneer’s Remote Control (3.0), which appears to be the same as Onkyo’s, Yamaha’s Musiccast (3.0) don’t seem to be any better than Raumfeld unfortunately.

What’s your experience with this or with other streamers, such as the Denon DNP-800NE or Marantz NA6006, the Yamaha NP-S303, or anything else? Do they support gapless playback, also when using BubbleUPNP? How stable are they and is the app user friendly? Can you create multiple, separate libraries in it?

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