Listening to my mp3s on my stereo via the magic of wireless technology....
July 27, 2009 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Sending my music across the room... So I have a 25 year old amp (Technics if it matters) and a record player on the ground floor of one end of my apartment. On the other end, on the second floor, is my computer, which has all my non-vinyl music on it. The music is on an external drive. The computer is an aluminum iMac. Is there a way to get my mp3s to play out of the stereo? Note that at present I have no wireless stuff except a d-link modem and whatever wireless is built into the computer. There are no walls between the computer and the stereo. Please explain it to me as if I was an idiot. A bit more info inside.

A bonus would be if there were some sort of interface next to the stereo that would allow me to navigate through the music. Note that I do not have a television so using one as the display is not an option.

Also note, and this may be important: I DO NOT listen to music using the computer. That is, I do not sit in front of my computer and listen to music. So if there is some device that allows me to plug my hard drive into my stereo directly, and navigate through it, that's fine too. However, bringing the drive upstairs to copy new tunes on it will probably be a pain in the ass. (I get 5 - 20 albums a week).

Presently my solution is to copy music to my iPhone and plug that into the stereo but the storage capacity is a pain as is transferring the tunes and having my phone ring through my speakers every time someone calls or rings the doorbell.

For the most part, cost is not an issue. Well, it is, but please answer as if it isn't.

I have read the past Ask threads about this topic but they're 3+ years old. I suppose those solutions will still work but I'm wondering if those solutions have been improved upon.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy to Technology (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, in case it matters, the space between the computer and the stereo is about 60 feet horizontally and 14 feet vertically.

Is there some reason why really long wires won't work?

1. No interface.
2. Ugly.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:34 PM on July 27, 2009

Best answer: 1. Buy an Airport Express. Connect it to your stereo.

2. Install Remote on your iPhone. Use it to control iTunes remotely.

3. There's no step 3.
posted by Mwongozi at 3:39 PM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

My comment from one of those threads still holds true: I've still got the exact same setup, a Squeezebox that plugs into my amp and serves up music from my hard drive. The Squeezebox has an interface that allows me to browse the music from my stereo.

From the date on that thread it means that both my Squeezebox and wireless router have lasted nearly four years, probably longer since that comment refers to a newer version of the hardware being released.
posted by flipper at 3:45 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Airport Express
Pro: Tiny, plug it up, run the audio cable to your stereo, hide it.
Con: requires iTunes running on your computer even if you use your iPhone as remote. Requires wireless (or wired) network connection. No display, no remote (unless you use your iPhone or iPod touch.)

Roku Soundbridge
Pro: has it's own remote and LCD display. Looks cool.
Con: requires server software running on your computer. Requires wireless (or wired) network connection.

Logitech Squeezebox
Pro: Works about the same as the Roku.
Con: Costs more.

Almost any worthwhile solution is going to require a well-functioning wireless network and a server side application.

Of the three listed above I own both the Roku and the Airport Express. The Airport just replaced the Roku which I was never really satisfied with. Of course, you have to use iTunes with the AE, which has it's own host of headaches...
posted by wfrgms at 3:54 PM on July 27, 2009

I really like my Squeezebox, although there may be better alternatives out there since I bought it. I have all of my music on a Linux box, which is also running the Squeezebox server. I use Samba to allow my PCs and Macs to connect to the server directly for things like iTunes. One really handy feature is that the Squeezebox will act as a wireless bridge.
posted by dhalgren at 4:11 PM on July 27, 2009

Response by poster: Hmm. Thanks for the answers thus far.

I downloaded Remote for the iPhone and installed it. I turned on the WiFi and am trying to add the library and it gives me a passcode but I don't see where to enter the passcode in iTunes.

Also, since I'm a wireless noob, some questions:

1. How do I make my computer make sure the wifi network is always on. In the past when I've played with it it always just seems to randomly turn itself off and not reappear when I reboot. Do I have to recreate it every time?

2. Is having WiFi turned on on the iPhone risky regarding having it download stuff? I do not use my iPhone for data--just as a phone and iPod.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 4:15 PM on July 27, 2009

Get an Airport Express, use it as a wifi station / audio bridge with Remote on your iPhone. I do this in my apartment and it's the greatest thing ever.

Also I believe the passcode in iTunes is under "Devices" in the settings menu.
posted by bradbane at 4:27 PM on July 27, 2009

An AppleTV (229$) will also work, and won't require a computer running iTunes (since it is a computer that runs iTunes.) That'll work great with the Remote app on an iPhone or an iPod touch, and you can hook it up to a TV to control it directly.
posted by blenderfish at 4:47 PM on July 27, 2009

Or get a bluetooth receiver, like this one [amazon] for 56$. If your computer speaks bluetooth [or you get a bluetooth adapter, which is pretty inexpensive,] and you have the range, you could set up your amp like you would bluetooth headphones.
posted by blenderfish at 4:52 PM on July 27, 2009

Also, note the Appletv can work both as a standalone device, and as a output device for a computer running iTunes (in a manner similar to the Airport.)
posted by blenderfish at 4:56 PM on July 27, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, so I got remote to work from where the stereo is, which I assume means my wireless access is good and is a good indicator that this'll all work if I get an Airport Express.

So... how can I make my computer always create its own network with a password that my phone is on. I had to reboot to get iTunes to prompt me for the passcode and the computer defaulted to someone else's wireless connection.

posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 5:12 PM on July 27, 2009

Best answer: I use the Airport/iTunes/iPhone combo too - very easy to get going and use, although I can't seem to get the remote application to update my music ratings.

On your iPhone, open the Remote app, and go into the settings.
Select "Add Library..." and you will be given a 4 digit passcode.
Now go into iTunes on your computer, you should see a new thing in the left hand bar (where it shows "Music", "Movies", "TV Shows"... "iTunes Store") - there will be a section called "DEVICES" and your phone listed with an icon similar to the app icon on the phone.
Click once on this, and you will be presented with a big window called "Add Remote for iPhone & iPod touch" with 4 boxes - type each of the numbers shown on your iPhone screen into the appropriate box.
It will verify, and give you the message "Your remote is now able to control iTunes".
Click OK to get rid of the window.

On your iPhone, you can now browse the playlists, artists, albums, etc. and select which ones you want to play.

Note that on the settings page of the iPhone app, once you have an Airport Express set up and connected, you will have some options here to select the different speakers to play through. By default it will probably play through the normal computer speakers, but you can select any Airport Express devices - even multiple outputs, so you can stream the same music to different rooms.

PM me if you need a hand with anything when you come to set it all up
posted by Chunder at 5:13 PM on July 27, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks Chunder... it wasn't working at first. Had to reboot before I got prompted for the passcode.

Is this the thing I now need to buy? Was expecting one of those flying saucer looking things but this just looks like a plug.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 5:17 PM on July 27, 2009

Some very cheap generic DVD players include a USB port that allows you to plug in an external drive and play stuff off it. You might be quite impressed by the bandwidth of Sneakernet if your packet size is 1TB :-)
posted by flabdablet at 5:55 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, that is the Airport Express. That and a Walkman (3.5mm) to RCA (red/white plugs for the back of your stereo) will get you what you want. I've been doing this with a Powerbook in place of the iPhone for years now.
posted by rhizome at 6:43 PM on July 27, 2009

posted by notyou at 6:45 PM on July 27, 2009

If money is no object, you might also consider buying a dedicated media-center PC, with or without a television (or a monitor). If your time isn't worth anything, you might consider building one.
posted by box at 6:54 PM on July 27, 2009

My RocketFM gizmo rules.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:24 PM on July 27, 2009

That and a Walkman (3.5mm) to RCA (red/white plugs for the back of your stereo) will get you what you want.

Actually the Airport Express' 3.5mm jack doubles as an optical output too. You just need a mini-toslink cable. This was a huge selling point from me as it cuts down on interference (and to my ear sounds better.)

OP, if your stereo amp has optical inputs (my lovely H/K 3490 does) you should use those.
posted by wfrgms at 10:20 PM on July 27, 2009

I have an Airport Express as well, but I've also shelled out for Airfoil which runs on your PC (or Mac) and allows any audio source to be streamed to the Airport Express. This means you're not limited to iTunes as an audio source - we listen to Hype Machine and WFMU over the web constantly, so being able to stream from Firefox or RealAudio is awesome. You can also get Airfoil Speakers which turns any PC or Mac into a speaker for Airfoil, so you can stream to your stereo and laptop at the same time.
posted by Gortuk at 8:48 AM on July 28, 2009

The Squeezebox costs quite a bit more than the Airport options, but then, the squeezebox offers quite a bit more. It can handle just about any audio format, from lossy mp3s all the way up to uncompressed cd rips. Audiophiles don't sneer, too much, over the stuff that comes out of the wires and into their amps. It features a local cache to even things out if your connection is hinky or the file is huge. It can connect to the Internet, via your wifi router, for Internet radio, streams, pandora & co, podcasts, and all the rest. It can pull RSS headlines from BBC, say, and display them on its little green/black display. I has an alarm clock.

You can control it from your iphone, or your itouch, or your Nokia N800, or your web-capable cella, or whatever else you can connect to your network.

Slimserver, err, SqueezeCenter, its accompanying software, which is available to anyone, whether or not one owns a squeezebox, can transcode files on the fly (so, if you want true lossless audio files on your system, but don't want to send them over the network, you can). It can drive multiple squeezeboxes, delivering different playlists to each (and with softsqueeze, SqueezeCenter will drive virtual Squeezeboxes hosted on laptops or netbooks or other pcs -- inside your home network, or across the internet).
posted by notyou at 11:34 AM on July 28, 2009

On the strength of this thread, I ran out and bought an Airport Express last night. It's awesome and does exactly what you say you want. From the best answers, it looks like you decided the same thing!

It also lets you print wirelessly, though I haven't tried that yet, since it involves moving the printer...
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:56 PM on July 29, 2009

Response by poster: Indeed, I bought one. However, though it works, it's a little troubling.

I know nothing about wifi so thought the manual was pretty much useless, not discussing really any of the prompts the AE gave me.

I cannot seem to get the AE to exist with my own created wireless network (which allows my macbook and my imac to talk). Instead, I have to make it attach to some other wireless network that is present in my building, which I'm not happy about. It work, though.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:44 AM on August 9, 2009

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