Please input your output
May 29, 2012 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Having acquired a couch on which to sit and an 8 bit Nintendo to play whilst sitting on said couch, my girlfriend and I are now getting audio and network stuff. Please help us fill in the gaps!

We've just gotten an OK amp/receiver and some beautiful Mirsch OM71 speakers, and having hooked up her old vinyl player we're trying to plan ahead of our needs and ambitions.

I've outlined one possible solution for how to combine the sound system with our largely digital library, as well as making use of the broadband and whatnot, and the sketch is available here:

The all-in-one-box in the middle could be a Qnap 112 or similar, but I'd be interested in alternative brands or even homebrew solutions if they're stable enough. I'd much rather not have to use a computer to control the box, so if there's an iPhone app for it — or a web interface good enough to run on the phone — that would be just super. (An alternative would be if the box was running an iTunes server and the iPhone controlling playback through Remote on either the box or a computer which has iTunes running)

The Gb switch and two wifi routers could be exchanged for one router which could handle two separate connections - one open, one closed - and have some software both to run a TOR client and perhaps some port blocking capabilities for the open network. I guess that the switch does add some security for the LAN from the open access, or is that redundant? Are there any routers capable of running a TOR client?

My iTunes library resides on my Mac Pro at the moment, and my GF has another one running on her laptop. I'd love it if we could share the music library, or even just the music files and run our own libraries separately. As it is I don't have any music on my laptop and have to boot the tower to sync my iPhone, and I bet there are smarter solutions than that.

The solutions I've outlined lack product names mostly cause I really haven't paid attention to what is out there the past couple of years, and would appreciate it if you could push me in the right direction. If there's something else missing here, or if I'm overlooking the most important feature of all, do let me know. Cheers!
posted by monocultured to Technology (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
An Apple TV sounds like it may be the easiest, and a relatively inexpensive, option. For $99, it will let you stream music from any iOS device, or any computer with iTunes. The only gotcha is that it's all digital outputs - HDMI and Optical - so your receiver needs to be able to take them in. For the remote locations, an AirPort Express with speakers attached, or an AirPlay capable set of standalone speakers, would work.

Beyond that, you'd need to decide if you want media storage or not. Sonos devices fit the bill for what you want, but lack actual storage (they pull from another device, like a PC or a NAS, or stream online radio). Several NAS devices out there (I have a ReadyNAS NVX, personally) will store and stream media, but won't actually play it back themselves. Also, are you looking for Audio only, or potential video as well?

The last thing to consider is that many media devices these days (TVs, Receivers, Blu-Ray players, and Game Consoles) can also stream media to your TV.

My overall recommendation would be a ReadyNAS device, along with a Sonos sound setup for the main system and remote locations. This won't be cheap, but if you're serious about building a long-term media system, it will pay off in the long run.
posted by GJSchaller at 10:06 AM on May 29, 2012

I like the Synology line of devices. I'd go with something Logitech Media/Squeeze server as iTunes is designed to be run on a client machine.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:58 AM on May 29, 2012

Misc thoughts.

Having personally used Squeezebox devices for the last five years, and having interrogated friends with Sonos systems, I am unconvinced the Sonos systems are worth the extra cost unless you need their mesh network or the seriously magic line-in redirection.

iOS and android devices make lovely Squeezebox remotes.

Powered speaker (often marketed for computer use) work great paired with Squeezebox devices.

I have happily deployed a dozen qnap devices in various places. I would continue to recommend them. While they have a squeezebox package for their devices, it's not exactly up to date and based on the lackluster maintainance of that package I wouldn't recommend a QNAP as a squeezebox server. Note, that reasonably priced qnap devices (anything with Atom or Marvell CPUs) can be slow if used for multiple services at once (i.e. file serving and squeezebox serving). I would recommend a dual core device at the least.

The only solution to "sharing" music between itunes libraries is to host the music files on a network drive and manage completely independent itunes libraries (set such that they don't do touch the actual music files). Home sharing doesn't cut it because it assumes you wish to duplicate content to each computer.

itunes "integration" with squeezebox and Sonos is laughable. You really want to point either system at a directory full of music.

upnp can "work" if you can work out the quirks between which server you wish to use, which clients you wish to use, and what your media files are. Each time I have considered (yearly for the past few years), I was left dissatisfied.
posted by fief at 9:20 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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