Make my TV a wifi jukebox (difficulty level: nitpicky requirements)
January 11, 2015 8:49 AM   Subscribe

My personal music collection is divided between vinyl records (easily played over the stereo, no problems there) and over 70GB of music mp3s on my laptop. I almost never listen to my mp3s anymore because laptop speakers suck and I'm past the point of listening to my music on headphones only; and also because I still haven't figured out a way to wirelessly send/access (either via wifi, bluetooth or cloud storage) the music to my TV or to my amplifier directly.

Hooking my laptop up to the TV or amplifier using hdmi/other cables is a pain and just generally lame given that I know this can be done wirelessly, somehow. At this point I'm so frustrated I'd rather listen to no music at all than mess with wires.

Ideally, I'd like to put my music in cloud storage (like Google Drive or Dropbox) and have a way to access it via my Roku box (I have a Roku 3) with an interface that is on par with iTunes or MediaMonkey or the like. However, I would accept keeping it on my laptop hard drive if I could get this same arrangement, or at the very least, control it from iTunes or another music player interface on my laptop.

What I've tried so far that has failed:

- The aforementioned "hooking laptop up to TV with HDMI" (fail: can't really use laptop while it's hooked up because the cord is only so long, don't have a good place to set the laptop while it's hooked up except on top of my turntable, which is awkward and looks tacky)

- The aforementioned "hooking laptop up to the amplifier" (fail: same reasons as above)

- Roku PLEX channel (fail, because the interface sucks: I can't easily scroll through my music or the songs, it does a somewhat pitiful job of pulling the metadata from the songs)

- Roku Spotify channel (fail: pointless and poorly designed app! It is bad enough that Spotify's desktop application doesn't let you intermingle your local music files with your 'saved' Spotify songs/albums; it's even worse that the Roku channel version of the application only lets you play pre-defined playlists from your account or else you have to search for each song or album you want every time you want to listen to it - you can't use the Roku Spotify channel to pull up your local files, or any music you've already saved on Spotify - this is incredibly tedious and limiting)

- The 'bem' wireless/mobile bluetooth speaker (semi-fail: this worked briefly - I set it up so that the bem speaker was just a conduit to my real speakers/amplifier, and sent my music to it via bluetooth - now I can't get it to recognize the bluetooth signal from my laptop - and I'm tired of messing with it)

- I have Chromecast, which I know can sorta kinda play things from your Google Drive account (again, this is assuming I go the cloud storage route rather than accessing the music from my laptop hard drive) but am not sure if it can play music; even if it can play music from Google Drive, won't the interface be kind of crappy because it's just folders rather than a music-specific interface like iTunes/MediaMonkey?

What am I missing? My laptop isn't a Mac, so Airplay isn't really an option unless I move forward with uploading my music to Cloud storage and then operate Airplay from my iPhone. I am willing to consider any other Roku channels or set-top boxes or Chromecast-like things that would make this easier.

Bottom line: Need a way to wirelessly play my digital music/mp3/mp4 collection on my stereo system while still having access to a nice music interface like iTunes/MediaMonkey; can be done from either my laptop hard drive or from cloud storage; Roku or other TV set-top boxes that can enable this are welcomed. (One final note: Of course I'd prefer the solution be free, but I realize that's not likely since Cloud storage for 70GB costs money - which I accept; I also accept that the best solution may require spending a bit of dough and that's fine, too. Anything to resolve this!)

Thank you in advance.
posted by nightrecordings to Technology (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't really found anything great for the Roku either. One question I have for you: are you definitely against just plugging an iPod or computer or whatever into your amp and playing it from there? That's going to be by far the cheapest way, and if you're okay with walking to the turntable and putting on a record it seems to be just as convenient.

Another option would be to plug in a computer, and use Apple's Remote App from an iOS device to control iTunes. This works pretty well, and I've done it in the past.

Finally, I think the Apple TV has a pretty robust iTunes connection, but I haven't ever used it and it would be redundant in your setup as far as the Roku and Chromecast go.
posted by papayaninja at 8:59 AM on January 11, 2015

Sonos? You don't need to use their speakers. You can just get a unit that connects to your existing amp. We use ours paired with a USB drive attached to our router to store media files and then you play them via the Sonos app on your phone or computer, but the computer doesn't need to be on for this to work. Even a large USB thumb drive would work for 70GB.
posted by ssg at 8:59 AM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I use Intel WiDi for exactly this; it mirrors my laptop screen on the TV, which I have hooked up to an amp and component stereo system.
posted by divined by radio at 9:00 AM on January 11, 2015

Best answer: You can get an AirPort Express, connect it to your stereo, and run iTunes on your laptop.

I'd love a better Roku based solution also.
posted by beowulf573 at 9:03 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Papayaninja: Yes, I am pretty against plugging my computer directly into the amp at this point. I listen to records when I'm not feeling lazy and am willing to get up and change or flip the records as needed; I listen to my mp3s when I am too lazy to do that or just need constant background music while I'm cleaning or working on something that requires complete focus.
posted by nightrecordings at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2015

I think it will cost you to store that much music, but you can cast Google Music to your TV. The Google Play Music web app isn't the greatest, but it's better than just browsing folders.
posted by Poldo at 9:08 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can subscribe to iTunes Match ($25/yr), which will make all your music accessible via the cloud, and then an AppleTV can play it directly from Apple's cloud - your laptop won't actually even be directly involved, and your iPhone can act as a "smart remote" to make searching easier.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:26 AM on January 11, 2015

Nowhere Music is a private Roku channel which allows you to stream your Google Play Music from your Roku. It does require you to give your Google creds to an unknown closed-source application (or at least an application password if you use 2FA), but it does work (usually - occasionally Google will update Google Play and it will stop working for a brief period of time).
posted by jferg at 9:33 AM on January 11, 2015

I've used Nowhere Music and I find it isn't usually worth it. It takes a long time to refresh the library every time it's opened, and the interface is mediocre. Still, it may be better than nothing.
posted by papayaninja at 10:19 AM on January 11, 2015

Why not get an external blue tooth speaker(s)?
posted by NoDef at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2015

Not sure if this sort of thing was tried or recommended, but I use a Bluetooth receiver that hooks up to an audio system or TV.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2015

Best answer: Note that if you care about audio quality at all, or don't want to double-compress stuff, you don't want a bluetooth solution. Bluetooth runs all your mp3s through *another* audio codec that degrades quality even more.

Bluetooth is also really tiresomely finnicky, in my long experience. Every bluetooth thing i have needs to be put back in sync mode and re-paired probably every 3rd time i use it. Hate hate hate.

I think dumping that music in to itunes(NOT itunes match or anything, just the itunes app) and using airplay is the easiest, highest quality solution here. You can get a used airport express fairly cheap. Plug it in to the line in cable you had for your stereo amp, problem solved.

It's super easy, during its setup you just select "connect to an existing network" and bam, you're done.

I don't have an airport express, but i've played around with them. I do have an audio receiver with built in airplay and a network jack though. I haven't had a single problem with airplay. I've never needed to reboot the machine to make it work or anything. I can't say that for bluetooth, or any of the google solutions that let you "push" stuff from a phone or laptop to the receiving device.
posted by emptythought at 12:53 PM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Googling around for "wireless stereo audio" I found the RAM Electronics WA2200 and the Audioengine W3 system, which, as far as I can tell, use your existing media software, and just output the music via either USB or your standard line out jack to a small wireless transmitter, then a small receiver near your stereo lets you plug in to one of your stereo's inputs.

Similar, I think, to what TheSecretDecoderRing linked above, although they use an extra piece of transmitter hardware rather than using your laptop's internal Bluetooth capabilities.

No first hand experience with how well these work, though.
posted by soundguy99 at 1:32 PM on January 11, 2015

In my house there's 3 or 4 different sets of speakers I might like to play music on. One of the most common ways I do this is taking an old phone or tablet, plugging it in via Line In and opening the Spotify app. On Android phones like the Galaxy S3 and newer, the Spotify app is very slick. Fully supports Spotify Connect, local music (probably not 70 GB though) and browsing saved albums or artists. Of course you probably would want a premium subscription for this to be feasible. But if you just need an extra mobile device for a player you could probably buy a pay-as-you-go Android phone for some mobile provider on sale for $30-$60 and then repurpose it as a wifi enabled music player.
posted by thepdm at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2015

ITunes Match and an AppleTV. You don't need to have the laptop turned on, and everything is available on your tv. Simple.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:21 PM on January 11, 2015

I just gave an answer to another Ask that sort of answers this. Focu letter summary: UPnP.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:49 PM on January 11, 2015

That should say "four letter summary." Eh well.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:03 PM on January 11, 2015


Subsonic on your laptop + Subsonic Channel on your Roku.

AppleTV + Airplay from your PC laptop via Air Parrot 2.
posted by bluecore at 3:09 PM on January 11, 2015

Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm pretty sure I do this exact thing using my (Win XP) desktop computer via iTunes and an Apple TV box. The Apple TV plugs into the TV via HDMI and the audio goes to the receiver from there via an optical output.

This is not using any cloud or other storage, but playing the music directly from the desktop. It seems like you can eliminate that step via iTunes Match, but I defer to others above on that, as I've never tried it.
posted by dg at 4:15 PM on January 11, 2015

I'd just use the Chromecast with Play Music, but I much enjoy my (currently free) Play Music All Access subscription, so I only had to upload a small subset of my collection to cover the stuff that Google doesn't have rights to sell. IIRC, the sub gives me unlimited music storage, but it's only around 15GB.

I've never had occasion to try casting from the web app, though.
posted by wierdo at 5:06 PM on January 12, 2015

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