Best way to play audio wirelessly from Android to home theater system?
March 6, 2015 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I use an Android phone as my main audio player (both music and podcasts). I'd like to use it to play audio wirelessly over my home theater system. The Bluetooth receiver I got for this isn't cutting it. What's the best way to do this?

I use an Android phone (Droid Razr Maxx running Android 4.4.2) as my primary audio player. I use it for both music and podcasts. I primarily use the GoneMAD Music Player app for music and DoggCatcher for podcasts; a handful of other apps much less frequently. I am usually playing audio which has been downloaded to the phone itself, not streaming as I listen to it.

I'd like to use my phone to play audio wirelessly over my home theater system. The system has no wireless capability of its own. To that end, I bought this Satechi Bluetooth receiver. I find it unsatisfactory. The audio cuts out for a fraction of a second fairly frequently, which is annoying. I don't think it's a matter of range — at least not completely — because I have the phone within 25 feet of the Bluetooth receiver, which is theoretically within Bluetooth range. Plus, if I move the phone very close to the receiver (say, within 3 feet) it reduces but does not entirely eliminate the problem.

So, what's the best way to do this? If there's some way to improve the Bluetooth connection between my phone and the Bluetooth receiver, I welcome suggestions along those lines. If it's just that this particular Bluetooth receiver sucks and there are others that work better, I welcome recommendations for those. But some of what I've read suggests that this is a problem inherent to Bluetooth, so it seems the solution may be some technology other than Bluetooth. What is that?

Important: I'm looking to continue using my current apps to play audio. GoneMAD and DoggCatcher both have a number of features which I like, so I'm looking for something that can play audio from those apps (ideally, from any aribtrary audio player app). Not something that can only play audio from its own proprietary music player app.

It looks like something DLNA-based might be what I'm looking for, but after trying to educate myself about DLNA I'm still kind of confused. An explanation of why DLNA is or is not what I want would be helpful. And if it is, recommendations for particular DLNA devices are welcome as well.

I do not need to control the audio playback from any device other than my phone.

Ideally I'd like something under $50. That's not a hard limit, but I'm not looking to buy an entirely new $600 home theater system, for example.

WiFi is available, if that matters.
posted by DevilsAdvocate to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: DLNA is a protocol that allows a receiver or device to pull music, video or image files off of a server. You can make your Android phone a DLNA server, but selecting and playing media is ultimately client-based - ie, you would need to purchase a device to browse the DLNA server on your phone to hook up to your stereo, and you would choose the files you wish to play from that. Not quite what you're looking for.

Apple users have Airplay, and there are ways of emulating that on Android, but pretty much everything that will get Airplay working on your stereo will cost more than $50, and you may run into various application incompatibilities.

I would just try a different Bluetooth receiver first. I've tried several, and the curiously-shaped Moto Stream is the only one that has worked for any length of time without dropouts or artifacts.
posted by eschatfische at 8:18 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Chromecast? I did this when I was fiddling around with my Android 4.4.4 (OnePlus) phone and a new chromcast dongle. Although I have not done it in a while, instead of casting straight from an app such as YouTube, cast the screen and it will cast whatever app is in use. (Note: I am no expert on this.)

Also, if your phone is rooted and you can run BubbleUpnP I think it does this. It works with Chromecast too.
posted by 724A at 8:26 AM on March 6, 2015

Best answer: I use the Amazon Basics Bluetooth Receiver for this and it works fine as long as the distance isn't too big. Caveat: I have it hooked up to a stationary HP android slate mounted on the wall and not my phone that walks around with me in my pocket. I don't know if this impacts the bluetooth connection or not.
posted by cmm at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2015

I have two methods (separate speaker systems in separate rooms). I have a belkin bluetooth receiver in one. All of the reviews pointed out a large bit of metal in the device apparently just for weight which impaceted receiving/distance. Sure enough, when I got it, if I was even 10 feet away with LoS I would get cut outs, and 20 feet through one wall was my max distance. I opened it and removed the metal weight, and 20 feet, through one wall, is absolutely fine and I only get a few sputterings if I'm about 35 feet away through two walls (and possibly a fridge). Perhaps your device also has something in for weight (if it's too light, apparently it doesn't feel "premium" and they consider it better to make a low quality product that might be perceived as better quality) that might impact the connection?

Secondly, for another set of speakers I have a media system. I run mpd and our android devices can connect as remote controls. But that's a separate media library, unrelated to the phone.
posted by nobeagle at 8:58 AM on March 6, 2015

As long as you have HDMI in on your receiver, chromecast seems like the obvious choice. I do this with my home theater system. It's super easy to set up, very cheap, and the sound quality seems fine. Both apps you mention seem to have built in chromecast support.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2015

DLNA is a protocol that links data server, renderer and control nodes. Controllers can request that a chosen renderer plays music from a chosen server on the same network. Servers, controllers and renderers all find each other automatically via a service discovery protocol.

As a concrete example, I have a DLNA server (a Linux box running in a corner somewhere) with all my music on, and I can use a DLNA app on my phone to either play that music on the phone itself (perhaps sending the audio output via bluetooth to the speakers in the kitchen) or I can have the DLNA app control the renderer in the amp under the TV to play music on the speakers in the living room. If you can connect all your devices to the same network (wired or wireless) then it all works fairly seamlessly.
posted by pharm at 10:47 AM on March 6, 2015

Is your television hooked into your audio system? If so, I'd say get a chromecast and use that to play audio from your phone through the TV and into the audio system.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:21 PM on March 6, 2015

Response by poster: Sounds like, yeah, maybe it's just that my Bluetooth receiver sucks, and a different one is the first thing to try. The Satechi is pretty light so I don't think it's the specific issue of extra metal added just for weight that nobeagle suggests, but his story does add further evidence in support of the notion that some Bluetooth receivers are decidedly better than others.

My audio system actually is pretty old and doesn't have an HDMI input (I am almost pathologically incapable of replacing outdated technology as long as the old stuff still works—that's also why I still have only SD TVs), so Chromecast is only an option if I also add in an HDMI to RCA converter, which puts the cost up above what I was hoping to pay, but I'll keep it in mind as a possibility if the other Bluetooth receivers don't work out.

Thanks also for the DLNA explanations—I understand now that it would require a player that supports DLNA, it can't just take aribtrary audio output and stream it, and GoneMAD doesn't support DLNA, so that's that.

Thanks for all the responses, and I'll report back on what I try out.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:19 PM on March 6, 2015

I just ordered a Rocki today after looking for a DLNA/wifi audio receiver. Clocks in under $50 with a coupon from RetailMeNot.

Reviews indicate it still has a few bugs that will need to be worked out, but I hoping it'll work well enough for my purposes. It might work for you if you end up going the DLNA route..
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:50 PM on March 9, 2015

Response by poster: I got the Amazon Basics bluetooth receiver (not as cool looking as the Moto Stream, but notably cheaper) and am happy to report that it's working much better than the Satechi did. Thanks, everyone!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:52 PM on March 10, 2015

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