Dedicated Network Streaming ...or... PC?!?!

Discussion in 'Music Streamers' started by BlueWizard, Sep 4, 2018.

  1. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2007
    Messages:
    22,021
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Ratings:
    +4,135
    I suspect I can't be the first person to think of this, but I've never heard it mentioned before.

    Generally speaking Network Streaming Devices run between £350 and £1500, and in that range you can buy some pretty nice dedicated Streamers but ...

    It occurred to me that with PC Prices so low, in the same £350 to £1500 price range, you can get a pretty nice PC. In fact, in the £1000 to £1500 range you can get a pretty decent Gaming PC.

    And a modern PC will have a Network Connection for Streaming, and will have video with HDMI out. So, it becomes very easy to connect a PC into your TV/Stereo System and use it for -

    - A general computer
    - Network Streaming of Audio (local and Internet)
    - A Server for Storing your Audio files
    - Network Streaming of Video (local and Internet)
    - a Server for Storing Digital Video Files
    - PC Gaming


    And all for the same price as a dedicated Network Streaming Device.

    While I previously used ROKU, I now use the Audio and Video Services built into my Sony BluRay, and many TVs and other video devices come with the same ability to Stream for various Audio and Video sources.

    But ... I generally do not like the Remote Control oriented interface, I much prefer to use the PC interface. Just as one example, if I pause a video on my PC, it just pauses. If I pause a video on the ROKU/SONY interface, the video shrinks and all kinds of useless information appears on the screen, and covers part of the video. If for example, I pause the video to read a Closed Caption, I can't do it because that part of the screen gets cover with extraneous information.

    So, for the same amount of money, would you rather have a full gaming or near gaming PC connected to your Stereo, or would you rather have a single purpose dedicated Streaming Device?

    While my budget says - neither, my heart says, the PC does everything a Streaming Devices does, and much much more, but with very little down side. The one down side is that it tends to be bigger than a typical dedicated Streaming Device. So you need room for a PC.

    I'm open to any opinions on this suggestion. Good? Bad? Indifference? Flawed in some way that is not immediately obvious to me?

    Usually the ventilation on a computer is on the Front, Back, or the Left Side, so laying it horizontally on the Right Side should not be a problem, and there are still a few chassis that are intended to be horizontal, so that's not a problem.

    Really it is a discussion about PRICE and what brings you the best value for your money.

    If you are on the lower end of the price spectrum, you aren't going to have great gaming capability, but the price will be modest, and you will get a full PC more than capable of Audio and Video Streaming including the ability to be used as a PC, assuming you have a large enough screen.

    THOUGHTS?

    Steve/Bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
  2. Jamie

    Jamie
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    Messages:
    5,197
    Products Owned:
    2
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    136
    Location:
    Harrogate
    Ratings:
    +1,332
    Personally I prefer neither of those 2 options. My current streamer of choice is a Chromecast Audio (in fact 4 of them plugged into various systems around d the house. I've also used a few different streaming systems running on a raspberry Pi.

    The CCA has both an analogue output and an optical digital output so can be used with pretty much any amp you have, it can even utilise a higher end DAC if that's what you fancy. Cyrus have recently launched the Cyrus One amplifier and bundle a CCA with it for streaming purposes, pretty good endorsement I guess.

    A cheap PC is probably going to be fairly noisy with cooling fans, you can built a much quieter rig but not at the low end price wise. Add in potential maintenance requirements (Ike software updates and Windows updates for example) and a PC is the last thing I want for my music listening.
     
  3. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2007
    Messages:
    22,021
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Ratings:
    +4,135
    Good point, the ChromeCast-Audio are dirt cheap (£35) and very compact. Though perhaps not the most versatile. But, it won't give you the same function as you get from a Personal Computer.

    As to the fan noise, I currently have a fairly straight forward general purpose Dell Inspiron Computer. When the Computer first turns on, the fans roar, but then immediately quiet down. I think cooling management slows the fans down to almost unnoticeable, then cooling regulates the temperature by changing the fans speed to maintain a safe temperature.

    Though in an open cabinet, my computer is about 38" from my head, and I can't hear the fans. In fact when I first installed the computer, I thought there was something wrong with it. I could hear the fans when I first started the computer, but then they went silent. I thought something had broken. But ...no... that's just how they work.

    But there are fans in computers, so you do have something of a point.

    Though I have not tried, I have heard, that if you install 3rd Party Server Software and a 3rd Party Apps, ChromeCast-Audio will function as a full DLNA Streaming System just like a full Network Streamer costing 15 times more money. But again, no direct experience, just Internet Rumors.

    But for those on a budget, very very hard to beat the ChromeCast-Audio.

    However, with a Personal Computer, Audio Streaming is only one aspect of what you gain, you also have Video Streaming, a PC Gaming Machine (if you spend that much), and a general purpose PC.

    Now, realistically I understand that this would not be for everyone, it is not exactly svelt, but it does represent an alternative that could work for some people under some circumstances, and the cost is consistent with most other Streaming Options. Of course, ChromeCast-Audio being the extreme exception.

    Thank you for the feedback. For someone who just wants basic Internet Streaming, it is hard to beat the ChromeCast-Audio.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
  4. andy1249

    andy1249
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2006
    Messages:
    8,533
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Ratings:
    +2,581
    Doesnt have to be.
    Streacom FC10 ALPHA Full Aluminium Fanless Chassis

    Ive had one of these for years, doing pretty much all you describe.
    You are essentially talking about a HTPC here, and all the many options and tasks they can be used for.
     
  5. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2007
    Messages:
    22,021
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Ratings:
    +4,135
    Thanks for the link, interesting PC Case.

    The reason HTPC (home theater PC) haven't caught on is because they are crazy expensive. For a basic Audio and Video Server, a common £500 PC is more than enough. You only need to go to £1000 if you are a hardcore gamer, in which case, you already have a Gaming PC.

    Desktops - Home/Office | SCAN UK

    Desktops - Gaming | SCAN UK

    And they make Fanless and Small Form Factor PCs.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  6. andy1249

    andy1249
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2006
    Messages:
    8,533
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Ratings:
    +2,581
    A HTPC has no defined spec and can be built to any budget depending on requirements.
    I built one using a streacom case as linked with an i5 processor , a mini itx mainboard , some storage , and graphics are intel built into the processor.
    Its a streamer for music and video.
    Thats all I wanted it for.
    No gaming.
    Its powerful and completely silent.
    Its running Jriver
    All in it was about 500 quid.

    There is no off the shelf streaming unit on the market as good as it.
     
  7. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2007
    Messages:
    22,021
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Ratings:
    +4,135
    In the past several companies tried to build Home Theater PCs, but because they had "Home Theater" tack on to the name the cost was THREE, FOUR, FIVE times the cost of an equivalant PC. Not a bargain in my book.


    Good to hear. Can we assume this was for one specific location? That's all I want and need, and even if I had whole house audio from Sonos, Cambridge, Bluesound, whatever, I might still want a PC on my Stereo. Just seems like a good idea.

    This occurred to my when I was contemplating how I would implement Networking. I don't like the idea of the music being stored on my main Home Office PC. So, that means I would have to transfer everything to NAS. But then it seems I have to worry about the NAS Server software.

    Then I started looking at the price of various Streaming components, and realized that it's the same price as a computer ...so... why not buy a computer dedicated to that task? As I said, and you confirmed, for simply Audio/Video streaming, a common £500 Home Office Computer is more than enough. And not only do I get Streaming (Audio and Video) but I also get another computer.

    I think, though at this stage I speculate, that even if I had whole house Streaming, it would still be good to have that computer on my Stereo, giving me NAS storage (or the equivalent) ...AND... a whole lot more.

    As mentioned, I find the ROKU/Sony/other Remote Control Based interfaces to be annoying. Strange layout and quirks that annoy me.

    So, a Dedicated Stereo Computer does make some sense.

    I just wondered if it also made sense to anyone else. Thanks for confirming that ... I'm not crazy.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  8. JasonPSL

    JasonPSL
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    Messages:
    79
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Location:
    Glasgow
    Ratings:
    +12
    The issue I would have with a standard form computer as a streamer would be having it on all the time. Sometimes you just want to press play and listen to some music, and having to turn on the computer, wait for it to boot up and install any updates would be annoying (I know SSD drives boot a lot faster nowadays). Also, in small rooms, having a standard PC sitting in the living room might look ungainly.
    Having an energy efficient NAS or NUC (small form computer) running continuously and a separate streamer (such as chromecast for £30 or any of the more expensive devices) suits me much more. The NAS/NUC does not need to be in the same room and there is no concern regarding noise or aesthetics.
    There are then lots of software that can be used from free to the paid for (such as roon).
    In my view, this would be more flexible and cheaper than one of the higher end dedicated streamers.
    Jason
     
  9. kit1cat

    kit1cat
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2002
    Messages:
    1,499
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Plymouth
    Ratings:
    +97
    Raspberry pi/dac combo with usb drive or nas? Cheap, quiet, high quality and plenty of software to choose from.
     
  10. Khazul

    Khazul
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    1,820
    Products Owned:
    3
    Products Wanted:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    116
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +654
    There was another similar thread as a question recently - something about pc vs hardware streamer.

    Some replies in that may be worth a read.

    For about 120 or so you can buy a raspberry pi 3b+ With a 7’ 1080 touchscreen. Plug in a USB DAC and install a suitable media player configured is image and you are good to go. These tend to be arm7 32 bit Linux - Debian based. Many people assume they are little little hobby project machines - no they are quite powerful little arm based computers that are very cheap and for which quite decent daughter-boards DACs (AKA HATs) can be bought.

    From about 120 quid upwards are a variety of tiny intel NUCs - basically micro pcs. Others make/sell similar some in passively cooled silent cases. The much cheaper kit version are ideal if you want to set up a Linux based streamer/media player. These days there are plenty of near-zero config easy to setup options. Some can probably easily handle 4K video (the more expensive ones from 350 or so).

    X64 based NAS from the likes of Synology, QNAP etc can also serve as good media streamer combined with media storage. Most run some Linux derived OS and some media players are available on the relevant apps stores. Most have a local desktop/media player with HDMI out to a screen option as well (so basically similar to using a NUC, but with 2/4/6 etc bays for HDs).

    Combine a bunch of the above together and you can have what I think is about the best multi zone audio streaming system there is right now in the form of Roon. You have to pay for the Roon software and it isn’t cheap, but the whole system is very good if NAS TIDAL and internet radio service covers your needs included hi-res and MQA playback with quite decent DSP that can even do convolution based room correction, eq headphone cross feed etc.

    Server runs on your NAS or a pc or Mac or a standalone intel NUC with a specially configured Linux OS or other more off the shelf hardware hosts.

    It can use chromecasts, airplay receivers or its own high resolution network audio transports that can be run on a variety of machines including raspberry pi which as an end point can yield a relatively cheap high end hi-res endpoint+dac if you connect a suitable USB DAC. There are also some networked hifi DACs that include the Roon bridge software, so can be used directly with Roon.

    It can also use pretty much any audio device on a NAS, pc, mac, iPhone android etc as an audio zone. It’s own network transport allows from grouped zones that seem to have very good sync.

    UI is on any pc, mac or android or iPhone (and is one of the best with rich metadata links embedded). The players are the server. There is also an extension to integrate with Logitech harmony and other extensions for various avrs to integrate volume and input selection.

    Some people run really high end sound multi-zone systems with it, some people just run it on a laptop. I run it on a QNAP NAS with my main hifi zone output by means of a raspberry pi with a touch screen (now playing view and basic transport control) and a pro-ject s2 digital DAC (hires and MQA support). All controlled by Logitech harmony (through a freely available extension I created) and it also uses harmony itself to auto switch on my hifi and control volume from with its UI apps.

    Well worth a look and I think there is nothing else like it. Expanding it to add a zone is the cost of a chromecast or a raspberry PI + suitable DAC.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  11. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2007
    Messages:
    22,021
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Ratings:
    +4,135
    Thanks for all the replies. I think I just like the idea of having a computer attached to my Stereo System. It seems it could come in handy, and after thinking about it, I think if I had decent Network Streaming (Network Audio Player) I might still have a computer.

    I think this is a very individual thing, and very wallet dependent. I'm not in a position to make such an upgrade just yet, at least not in my current house. My computer is within sight of my Stereo system, so I can just sit at my computer and listen to music.

    I still don't like the interface on most Streaming Devices, and by that I mean ROKU and my BluRay Player. I much prefer that of the Computer. But again, stereo and computer are within sight of each other, so not really need in my current step up. But I still like the idea. Whether I will still like it or not after I have it is another matter.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  12. Khazul

    Khazul
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    1,820
    Products Owned:
    3
    Products Wanted:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    116
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +654
    Funny - I actively dislike having a general computer tied to the hifi and usually doing anything like changing whats playing means going to the computer, fiddling around etc.

    OTOH the advantage is a vastly better UI for direct interaction, but often no useful remote support and even then, the computer screen has probably gone to sleep anyway. Computer quickly gets annoying for me. If its my laptop I don't want it wired to anything at all either. OK, so there is airplay - until someone shuts the lid.

    Agreed - too much like keyhole surgery. Even iOS controller apps dont seem to improve things that drastically.

    It seem like you are sort of where I was before I jumped onto Roon.

    I also had my Yamaha AVR being used for streaming duty via its Zone 2 outs but while I accepted the limitation of the musiccast app as a controller, I often thought this has only been thought about as a glorified multi-zone remote control and not really as a full on decent media player and as such it falls way way short of many decent PC/Mac based media players in terms of getting at your library to browsing your streaming service(s). Use of tidal through musiccast is just plain horrible. I'm not a fan of the Tidal app either.

    Of course it was very easy for me to fully explore Roon to it limits as I already had a suitable NAS and a Raspberry PI (with a touch screen) and a suitable USB DAC, so I could trial it as a complete hardware streaming system and try some of the community extensions etc to fully see how such a system could work.
    Many people just end up trialing it as standalone PC/Mac media player initially and quite understandably struggle with justifying the software cost in that scenario next to other perfectly decent PC/Mac media player apps. It is when you stick it on dedicated always on hardware and reduce the PC/Mac to just being another remote along side your phone, harmony or whatever that it becomes something way more unique and justifies its cost because then you don't see it as just a bit of software and instead get to see it is a system.
     
  13. Timmy C

    Timmy C
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2003
    Messages:
    5,548
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    136
    Ratings:
    +544
  14. Shimrod

    Shimrod
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Messages:
    327
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Ratings:
    +75
    An interesting debate - I've gone the opposite way from having a PC to using a small device instead (Nvidia Shield). The big issue for me with the PC, as others have mentioned, was the noise from all the spinny things inside. So having spent a reasonable amount of money on a case that was 'acceptable' for display on the Hi Fi stand, there was then the cost of a decent fanless power supply, large copper heatsink (no fan) and finally an SSD (which was expensive at the time). This gave me what I needed, but I never got on with the remote control that came with the HTPC case, so a keyboard and mouse lived nearby.

    Fast forward a bit and the Nvidia Shield now does everything I need in a tiny package. I used Kodi on the PC, but find the Plex interface delivers a slick experience for navigating through music and films (stored on a server elsewhere). Soundwise, as a streamer, there is no difference between the Shield and our Cyrus Stream X2, although is still used to talk to Asset which is much better for organising classical music than Plex.
     

Share This Page

Loading...
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice