Nirvis is a small outfit, and their web site is pretty bare-bones. Ordering through the online store was a minimalist affair of providing shipping address and credit card number. Not much feedback at the point of buying, other than a message saing that the unit was backordered, which was pretty annoying. Why not state that up front before taking the order?
In a few days, I received an email saying that a unit had been shipped UPS, and giving me the tracking number. Because the voltage is 220v in Singapore and to save weight, the unit shipped without a power supply. The price was not reduced to reflect this however. I picked up a 9v 1000ma power supply while waiting for the package to arrive.
In the meantime, I downloaded the CD management software for the Slink-e from the Nirvis web site. This package is called CDJ. It can be used without the Slink-e, but really shines when controlling the changer. It has the usual links to CDDB so that your CD collection can be automatically
"discovered" and catalogued. In addition, it allows for the downloading of cover art and lyrics. Like most player programs, it allows drag and drop music selection, sorting, printing, and exporting to an Access format database.
I intended to run CDJ on my IBM ThinkPad X21 which is small, light, and has pretty good battery life. What I completely forgot was that it does not have an external 9 pin serial port. The port is only available when the laptop is in its dock. Plan B was to use my IBM ThinkPad T30 from work which is big, heavy, and has lousy battery life.
While MP3's are a convenient way of managing music on a computer, they are still a nuisance to create and store (I am assuming you would not have
anything to do with piracy...) MusicMatch offers a pretty painless way to
handle the process of ripping and indexing, but you are still left with a
compromised version of the original music file, even when encoded at
With an extensive CD collection, I have often looked at CD changers, but was
put off by the management problem. So you load 400 CD's into a changer -
are you really going to sit there and type in 400 titles? And most players
limit the title entry to 14 characters or less, which is pretty useless.
So the CD's gathered dust on the shelves, and I just didn't listen to the
music as often as I would have, if not for the hassle of finding and loading
During a periodic search of the Internet for info, I came across references
to a changer controller manufactured by a company called Nirvis -
http://www.nirvis.com. It claimed to be able to send commands from a PC to a Sony CD Changer, and to come with free software to manage your CD collection.
I was intrigued enough to start shopping for a changer just as Sony Singapore decided to stop selling them here. Various plans to import or pick one up on business trips came to naught, and the project died while I played with network enabling MP3 playback.
Sony finally released in Singapore a new model of their changer that can handle MP3 encoded CD's as well as regular discs. It is called the Sony CDP-CX455, with a capacity to handle up to 400 CD's. It is possible to stack up to 12 units for a total of 4800 CD's - enough for even my collection!
Reviews were generally favourable, but people complained about the usability issues. Since I was planning to use the Nirvis controller, rather than enter data into the changer directly, I went ahead and picked one up. The unit looks like a normal stereo component on steroids. It is 21 inches deep and about double the height of other components. CD's are loaded from the front vertically into a rotating tray. Once the door is closed, you can just dial up a CD by number and it plays.
Next step was to order the Nirvis Slink-e. The controller works by connecting to a PC using a serial cable, and outputting commands to the Sony's SLINK interface. This is a little used port on the back of many Sony components that allows the sending and receiving of remote control instructions. The Slink-e converts the PC instructions to SLINK instructions. It also has additional ports that allow you to attach IR transmitters for more elaborate home control projects.
This page was last updated on: November 5, 2019
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The Slink-e finally arrived and packaging material was discarded with abandon in the rush to hook everything up. The package included a 6 foot 1/8 inch mono cable to connect the Slink-e to the Sony CDP-CX455 SLINK port, a 9 foot serial cable to connect the Slink-e to the PC, and an IR transmitter which I will get to later. Everything appeared to power up, and I launched CDJ. No Slink-e found.
First thing to check was whether the COM port was correct. Nothing in the documentation actually mentions which COM port is used, nor does it state which parameter settings are required. Turns out that the software automatically scans for available ports and polls to find the Slink-e.
After much fussing around with the BIOS, device manager, and various utilities, it dawned on me that the problem wasn't the COM port at all, but conflicting applications. The T30 has an infrared port which I use to communicate with my Nokia phone. What I didn't realize was that the Nokia Connection Manager program grabs any and all ports it can see when starting up, and so had taken over the COM port as well. That was easily remedied in the program, and a restart of CDJ showed that it had found the Slink-e.
One final wrinkle. Because the CD changer is in the living room, I do not have wired Ethernet access available. I popped a Linksys WPC11 card in the T31, and connected to the LAN. And then things proceeded to run as advertised. I clicked on the "auto discover all" command to start the process, and lights started blinking, the CD changer started whirring, and data started populating in CDJ as it found and labelled all the CD's.
Three quarters of the way through the process, the battery on the laptop died. I unplugged the Slink-e, took the laptop back to it's home in the other room and recharged while having dinner. An hour or so later, I plugged the Slink-e back in, re-started the process, and successfully finished indexing 379 CD's. CDJ also allows for cover art and lyrics to be downloaded, so I let that process run over night since there was no need to be connected to the Slink-e, just the Internet.
The hit rate on cover art and lyrics turned out to be pretty low - about 25% of the collection I would say. I suppose that has more to do with my tastes and age than anything else. I have been able to find pretty much all the cover art at other web sites. The process of adding it is as simple as saving an image file and clicking the album name.
You are probably thinking that the great weakness in this whole set-up is that you now need a laptop just to play CD's. This aspect of the set-up did not go unnoticed by my wife, giving things a generally unacceptable SAF. The short term fix was to to import the CDJ data base into MS Access, and then print out a listing by artist, title, and slot. My wife can now look up the number of the track she wants, and just dial it into the CX-455 directly.
My intention is to have a low end PC integrated into the stereo set-up Real Soon Now. The challenge is to find the right form factor and noise profile to co-exist with all the other gear. ExtremeTech have done some good articles on this area, but I am still torn.
A laptop is a great device to have for this application, except that it is expensive, takes too long to boot, and has short battery life. CDJ does not work on a Pocket PC (and they have lousy battery life as well), so the only other possibility is one of the new tablet PC's if they turn out to be any good.
In the meantime, the next step is to eliminate the serial cable and get the Slink-e to work on the LAN, so that any computer can become the commander.