How to make my house sing with media server?
September 11, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Multimedia home server solution controlled by iPhone/iPad and plugged into existing speakers/sound system - does it exist?


We just moved into a big house and suddenly plugging your iPod/iPad/iPhone/PC in order to listen to music starts to be more and more cumbersome.

What I imagine as a solution is a device that has some storage (1TB for example) or uses external storage. This device should be connected to the home network (WiFi) and also connected via an normal audio cable to my speakers.

This thing should have an autonomous audio player on it which can be controlled from all my devices by the most natural and easy way. I presume that later in my life it would be good to have the same function for video also.

I checked some solutions but all of them are all-in-one devices that also have the built in speaker. Am I missing something obvoius here?
posted by tseo to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A Squeezebox will do what you want; I believe there's an iPhone app to control it.
posted by emilyw at 10:32 AM on September 11, 2011

For audio, you could get an Airport Express. This will act as an Airplay target, so that you can either A) stream music from your iPhone/iPad directly to it, or B) use the iTunes remote app on your iPhone to stream music from a desktop computer to it. I have used this setup and it works fine. An AppleTV would also work, and these days I believe there are some receivers that act as Airplay targets without any extra hardware.

Video is a slightly tougher nut to crack (and something I've been fooling around with). To do that, you can use an AppleTV if you limit yourself to video content obtained through the iTunes Store (unless you jailbreak it—that's a whole 'nother ballgame). If you want to play other video sources, you need something else.

I've been messing with a Mac Mini hooked up in the living room and playing with Boxee/Plex/XBMC on it. So far that has not been an entirely seamless experience, and I'm not entirely sold on it.
posted by adamrice at 10:44 AM on September 11, 2011

We have an 2nd generation Apple TV that covers a lot of this. Music and movies are stored on a computer upstairs with iTunes (you can store locally as well, but it only holds 40 GB or so). Video doesn't have to just be via iTunes: you can rip DVDs and import them or import mpeg files. You'll learn a lot about video conversion if you insist on using iTunes for all video though.

We had an older (i.e., useless) 1st generation Apple TV that I put Boxee on; it's essentially XBMC and was fairly easy to get video into. It has an iPhone app as well. However, the whole setup was a lot more cumbersome than the native Apple interface. It's gotten even better with the 2nd Apple TV + iPhone/ iPad where you can find audio & video on the device and then fling it to the TV & amp if you want.
posted by yerfatma at 11:11 AM on September 11, 2011

Airport Express for audio, Apple TV for Audio + Video. It will be most simple to control everything through your iTunes library. If you have DVDs or other video sources, you'll want to figure out how to convert them to an iTunes compatible format.

Than, just use the free Remote app for iPhone or iPad. You can also have multiple devices in different rooms, and it's fairly simple to use the Remote app to select content and choose where to play it.

I set this up for my parents recently and it works well. The only radio they listen to is NPR, and I was able to add their local NPR station as a stream in iTunes, so they can use the iPhone to turn on NPR now.
posted by reeddavid at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2011

posted by reeddavid at 1:52 PM on September 11, 2011

I +1 the suggestion of airport express/itunes. I have a custom mythtv build as well, but nothing beats the simplicity of iphone/ipod/ipad control of any music via the remote apps.

my only addition would be to suggest the possibility of an itunes library serving NAS. i have the DNS-343 which can serve the itunes library to any desktop version of itunes. that way you don't need your pc to be on in order for your phone to turn on the NPR or what have you. this would also accomplish the external storage component of your question. the 343 serves 4 disks, there is also a 323 that serves 2.
posted by slagerst at 4:45 PM on September 11, 2011

You're pretty much asking for my home setup. I have a Synology NAS with a large hard drive which stores all of my music. They also provide an iPhone/iPad application that reads music directly from the NAS (no need to turn on your computer, or have all of your music on your iPhone/iPad). Then, from that application, I output to the Airport Express that is plugged into my receiver via an optical cable.
posted by kag at 4:34 AM on September 12, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.
Squeezebox looks a nice although a little bit expensive. The good thing is that it is easy to setup - more or less just plug and play. The other good thing is the easy access to Pandora and other radiostations.

The Airport Express requires another computer or at least a NAS device running which complicates stuff a little bit. I checked the other variant - Airplort Extreme - which definitely looks like a better way to do it with more options and on lesser price.
posted by tseo at 6:04 AM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: Please disregard my previous comment regarding Airport Extreme, I just now noticed that it doesn't have the Airplay function :(
posted by tseo at 7:09 AM on September 13, 2011

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