Network Music Player Appliance, DAAP or MPD
May 24, 2023 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a standalone hardware gadget that can play music from a local network server via DAAP or MPD. This will replace a dying Roku M1000. Not interested in a phone app or a player that runs on a desktop computer. Apple-phobic.

For the last ~15 years, I've been using a Roku M1000 network music player to play music downstairs. This is a gadget with Ethernet, a two-line VFD, and a remote. It has a line-level stereo output, to which I have connected an amp and speakers. It has a rudimentary interface for browsing and searching the music library.

My problem is that the display on this device is slowly dying. I need a replacement. And before I go buy an M500 off eBay or something, I thought I should ask the hive-mind what options are available. I didn't see a lot of great options in a preliminary search; apparently, if you're young enough to need to get off my lawn, you jam to a mobile phone with some kind of Bluetooth speaker.

Anyway: The M1000 has no local storage. It gets music over the network from a headless Linux box running OwnTone (formerly forked-daapd, even more formerly mt-daapd). OwnTone supports the DAAP and MPD protocols (among others).

I'm not much interested in changing the server software, as various other devices around my house are happily using it.

Ideally, I'd like a plug-in replacement with minimal setup and maintenance required. (I know I could set up an old Android phone, or a Raspberry Pi with a touchscreen or something. But I'm willing to pay money to not have to do that.)

Wired Ethernet slightly preferred, but various flavors of WiFi are also OK. (WEP-only is not.) Decent search and navigation are a plus. I do not need support for "Internet Radio", Spotify or similar (though I won't balk at it as long as I can play local stuff). I don't require multi-room synchronized play.

Anybody have a network music appliance that sparks joy?
posted by sourcequench to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Would it be an issue to run other server software in tandem with OwnTone on the Linux box? Adding Samba and/or SimpleDLNA for SMB and UPnP/DLNA support would open up the possibilities tremendously, and you can leave OwnTone running, pointed at the same directories. (Back in the dark ages, I ran mt-daapd with Samba and a DLNA server on the same headless Linux box to share the same music files with various devices without any difficulty.)

Also, is it necessary that you be able to browse and select music directly on the device or via an infrared remote? Many local music streamers these days are headless, or have limited controls like pause and skip, where they're designed to use phones or computers to browse and create playlists, even when the device is streaming directly from a local server.

Having migrated through many generations of hardware devices to play music from my local music collection - AudioTron, the Rokus, Squeezebox, and various homebuilt things both client and server side - I gave in, forked over the cash, bought into Sonos a few years back and really haven't been happier.
posted by eschatfische at 11:35 AM on May 24

Response by poster: Samba is already in place and set up, so creating a new read-only share for the directory tree with my music in it is easy to do. That would be fine.

I'd be OK with adding something like SimpleDLNA if it enables an otherwise-compelling solution.

Being able to control the music directly on the device itself (via touchscreen, hardware buttons and/or dedicated remote) is a requirement.

Thanks for the response!
posted by sourcequench at 12:35 PM on May 24

I've been through lots of these options (owntone, mt-daapd, mopidy, mpd, squeezebox) as well.

In your position I'd consider simply adding another lightweight mpd instance running on the music host server, having it output to streaming mp3 (e .g., shoutcast), then using an old tablet as UI and local audio player via HTTP in your living room.

It's not perfect (no ethernet) but it's easy enough to do and you can find multiple client options. If you are ok running a web server on the music host, there are several decent browser-based options (mympd, rompr being ones I use).
posted by allium cepa at 7:58 AM on May 25

Unfortunately, I believe that hardware controls and screens for browsing music are now exclusively the domain of the audiophile streamers, $1000+ boxes like the Arcam ST60 or the Cambridge CXN. Both of those should support your requirements, although since they're out of my price range, I can't speak to the convenience factor in terms of browsing local DLNA music. Reviews linked.

There are still a lot of affordable streamers out there too, but because of the wide ubiquity of phones and tablets, the affordable streamers pretty much require them for browsing and advanced control. While I understand the desire to not have a phone around while listening to music, what many do is have a used or cheap phone or tablet with all notifications turned off and on silent mode, stripped down to basically just the app for their system as a remote or on a dock next to their streamer. I would seriously consider it - setting up playlists (or even searching for an album) on a phone or tablet touchscreen can be infinitely quicker and easier than via hardware.

If you're willing to consider that, I think a used Sonos Connect Gen 2 (make sure it's Gen 2, doesn't need to be the Amp version) would be a nearly plug and play replacement for your M1000. For ~$200, it has wired Ethernet, line level outputs, can index and play from an SMB share, has great sound, and does have play/pause and track skip controls on the device. It's also compatible with just about everything in the streaming world right now, so it would be an upgrade... except for the screen and track browsing function.

Before going Sonos, I had built touchscreen Raspberry Pi + Max2Play hardware devices, which worked well for many things and provided local browsing, but became flakier as time went on.

I think most people who have servers and multi-room systems with needs greater than Bluetooth these days have either bought into Sonos, or are using Roon, a more advanced multi-room server/client music ecosystem, that supports many manufacturer's hardware devices - including all three of the devices mentioned above.
posted by eschatfische at 8:00 AM on May 25

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