Many devices, one output?
October 16, 2014 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I need help designing an audio solution for our house.

We currently have an old (circa 2006), dying iMac that we want to get rid of and not replace with anything; trouble is, it's sort of our music hub at this point. There's an external 1TB HD full of music attached to it, and we use iTunes to play music through it and AppleTV to stream music from it to our bedroom speakers.

But we have a ton of other devices too, and we'd like to dislodge the iMac from the center of our...thing which isn't really a hub, and create a genuine music hub that can output music from that HD to a number of (ideally platform-agnostic) places.

Our current setup is:

iMac with external 1TB HD full of music (assume all media lives on the external HD)
2 windows laptops which are not currently tied to the music hub in any way
Apple TV
HTC One Android phone (not currently part of the music hub)
iPhone 6+ (not currently part of the music hub)

Ideal future setup:

Music HD which can output music via (this is where I need help!) to:
2 windows laptops (main priority)
Apple TV or Roku (have both, currently use Apple TV to AirPlay music to bedroom)
Tuner with bluetooth capability (which we currently have, but which is not connected to the music currently so this is more of a nice-to-have)
Android phone

Able to work both with iTunes and with non-iTunes players (I want to get away from iTunes, but my wife just bought a 6+ and doesn't mind iTunes)
Able to stream music to either laptop (priority)
Able to work with Apple TV/Roku (priority)
Able to stream to tuner (nice to have)
Able to stream to/control with phones (nice to have)

So I guess my questions are:

1. Is there some sort of magic box/media hub that will allow me to do what I want? If not, is there a software solution I can run on one of the laptops that would get me there?
2. Is there a realistic hope of abandoning iTunes, or does the existence of my wife's iPhone in this environment require it?
3. Am I being wildly overoptimistic by hoping I can also use our phones as media devices in this environment?

I'm totally at a loss for even where to start, so any and all tips would be greatly appreciated.
posted by pdb to Technology (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly if you subscribe to iTunes match you could throw away your 1TB drive and iMac, and just stream music from your iPhone or AppleTV to any AirPlay compatible receiver.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:32 PM on October 16, 2014

Seconding iTunes match as a solution to this problem.
posted by doctord at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2014

Response by poster: Itunes Match won't work for us, sadly. According to this:

If, when first attempting to match your music collection, you have more than 25,000 tracks, iTunes will refuse to match any of it.

We're closer to 30,000 tracks, and it keeps expanding from there. For a lot of reasons, I don't want to cull.
posted by pdb at 3:02 PM on October 16, 2014

"If, when first attempting to match your music collection, you have more than 25,000 tracks, iTunes will refuse to match any of it."

I'm not sure how iTunes works, but can you temporarily halve your library so that they can do the initial match and then later add in the other half of your library?
posted by ethidda at 3:27 PM on October 16, 2014

That seems odd to me. I don't see a way to get the count of tracks from my phone, and I'm not near my computer right now but I'm pretty sure I have more than 25k tracks and I use iTunes match without a problem. Have you tried it and seen it fail?
posted by primethyme at 3:45 PM on October 16, 2014

Response by poster: primethyme - haven't tried it yet, because I wasn't thinking of iTunes Match as a solution (I was thinking more platform-agnostically).
posted by pdb at 3:57 PM on October 16, 2014

I suspect that a Synology NAS might suit your needs. It has an iTunes server in it that the windows machines could use via iTunes but also offer their own media servers.

I'd probably recommend installing Plex on it and using Plex apps on Roku and your iDevices and the Plex web interface on your computers.

For the AppleTV, you'd AirPlay and for the receiver with bluetooth, you'd connext from one of your devices.
posted by reddot at 3:59 PM on October 16, 2014

Oh and Synology also has their own media server and player apps and interfaces. I'm a big fan of Plex though.

The great things about Sybology is that they support their devices and are always improving the software and they have units across all price points and storage needs.
posted by reddot at 4:01 PM on October 16, 2014

Best answer: I'm going to 2nd the suggestion of looking into a Plex setup to output your music.

Most people use Plex to dish out video to devices but it handles music pretty well. It catalogs, grabs metadata and streams media files by scanning your music folders file by file, but it also has an iTunes plug in to read from an iTunes library as well (I don't think it can act as an official iTunes server).

It will even stream to clients outside your home network if they create an account on the Plex website

The Plex server software, Roku and desktop clients are free. The Android and iOS clients around $4-5. There are also clients for samsung smart tvs. I imagine on the glorious day Apple TV opens up an app store there will be a Plex client for that as well. Actually since the server is DNLA compatible, a Plex client isn't even required required to playback media (my Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 recognizes it without any configuration).

Clients can also be remote controllers for other clients. For example I can browse my media files on an Android phone and use it to control playback displayed on an iPhone. I dunno know why you'd ever want to do that but there it is.

I'm not sure if buying a NAS just to run the Plex client is a good idea unless you want to move your media files to a bigger hard drive or do some kind of RAID style redundancy. If you want to keep the drive you already have, just get a cheapo or used PC or Mac (I have made Plex servers from 5 year old Macbooks with a 2ghz core duo and it's fine), plug your drive into that and then run the Plex server to dish out your music to everything but the Apple TV. You can run iTunes on it for that. For your bluetooth enabled tuner, just get a bluetooth doohicky for it or use your mobile phone.
posted by sammich at 12:17 AM on October 17, 2014

Put 25,000 tracks (including all your wife's) on iTunes and then Google Music will accept 20,000 IIRC.

There's a google music app for android and I suppose iOS too.

Phones and laptops are your bluetooth tuners and music controllers,

Bluetooth speakers can be paired with phones.

Not too sure about Apple tv or Roku, but an $18 chromecast can stream your google music to a tv... not Itunes yet though
posted by guy72277 at 8:01 AM on October 17, 2014

if you're interested in test driving the plex client w/ some of the wierdo music i have, send me a msg and i'll add you to my server.
posted by sammich at 10:17 PM on October 17, 2014

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