Home Network Media set-up - media server/amp options

Discussion in 'Networking & NAS' started by Steve Kelly, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. Steve Kelly

    Steve Kelly
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    I have just got wired network set-up at my home.
    As of now my network hardware comprises of (the wired bits):
    - Netgear Router – gigabit ports/wireless/DLNA
    - Win 7 (64-bit) PC – i7 processor/gigabit port/soon-to-come-Blu-ray drive
    - Panasonic GT30 TV – 3D/DLNA
    - Sky HD box (not really relevant for this, but just saying, most of my TV viewing currently comes from this source)

    I also have, not on the (wired) network:
    - Panasonic Blu–ray player - could be connected wirelessly if req'd, though going forward, this hardware will become redundant in the main (not entirely)
    - Denon amp – she's old now, not sure it even has HDMI connections! But I still love her so! (plus have a 5.1 speaker system)

    What I can currently do, in terms of streaming media to TV:
    - Watch video files on my TV which are streamed from my PC, using Windows media server – for sound, only can use TV speakers (the Amp is connected to Sky box for TV sound, and not directly to the TV)
    - Listen to music files through my TV (don't worry, I never have/would want to do this, just saying that it's possible)
    - View photos on TV (…I assume, haven't actually tried yet)

    What I want to be able to do:
    - Have a central media server that is not my PC (I want to be able to stream media without my PC being switched on)
    - Watch video files on my TV streamed from mdeia server
    - Sound for video files: Have the choice of using the Amp or not i.e. I only usually turn the amp on for films (that are 5.1 or above), not for tv shows. I want this option to remain
    - Listen to music files through an amp that's connected to the media server – I would like a nice UI somewhere (preferably on a remote? Or not on ‘just the amp', anyway) so that I could browse my music without having to turn on the TV/get right up close and squint at the amp).
    - Internet radio through the amp – nice-to-have
    - add DLNA-enabled TVs/other devices to the network at any point and be able to share the media (that's a given, I know)


    Comments/Assumptions:
    - assume all media video files will be compatible with TV.
    - probably 4 to 6 Tb is enough space for media for me for quite a while. So I would like that to be available from the off.
    - ‘upgradable disk space' & ‘being back-up-able' are nice-to-haves
    - I expect I will get the media server first, before being able to (afford to) get a new amp too


    Questions:
    - So basically, I want a DLNA NAS that can connect to router/network (via Ethernet), then to TV (via ?) and to Amplifier (via ?)

    - What are my good options re: hardware for a media server? Note: I don't want to spend in the high-hundreds/4-figures on this (low hundreds is ok). I don't want to build something from bare bones, I would prefer something that is built exactly for the job in hand, and has some sort of OS/software already built in to do this. (at least I think this is what I want, anyway!)

    - As part of this solution I guess I should be looking at a Network Amp when I replace my current one, right?

    - When watching movies on the new set-up, I guess in terms of the Amplifier, the sounds source will be the TV (right?), so I will need to connect the Amp direct to the TV, and it will just output the sound automatically, right? (sorry, that will sound dumb to most of you. I just haven't got my TV connected to my amp as I always assumed being connected direct to the sound source (Sky box/Blu-ray player) was best)

    Sorry for the epic thread-starter note, believe it or not this is the condensed/succinct version!
    ... and if you got this far, well done and thanks in advance for any responses/advice. :):smashin:

    I have checked old threads/bit of internet research, but it's one of those subjects where the possible answers change/grow at a rapid rate (as the technologies evolve).
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
  2. next010

    next010
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    Synology NAS DS413J is a 4 bay model you could start out with.
    * Easy enough to setup and install with a nice UI.

    * Built in DLNA server supplied by Synology (no transcoding support) you can also use alternate media servers like Serviio (more profiles/plugins) and Plex (for Plex clients but also works as DLNA server).

    * Audiostation service in the NAS has companion Android and iOS apps called DSAudio, you can also set the speaker output for Audiostation as it works with DLNA and Airplay audio renderers on the network. So when you play music it goes to whatever speakers are plugged into the audio device.

    So that means you could hook up something like these Homeplugs (which do DLNA and Airplay, connect up to amp via 3.5mm audio jack) or an Apple Airport Express to your amp then use a tablet/phone with DSAudio or web browser on PC to control playback.

    Your media player for videos be it the TV or separate set top box has to be plugged into the amp to pass audio to it, you cant bypass it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
  3. Steve Kelly

    Steve Kelly
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    I don't want to involve homeplugs or stuff like that. Put simpler (than my OP), I want a box for media, I want it be able to plug directly into an Amplifier, and a TV.
    For music files: I want to be able to play music files from the box through the Amp, and have some UI somewhere (that's not the Amp fascia) to be able to navigate through folders.
    For film files: I want to be able to watch on TV, and where the film file audio has more than 2 channels, I want the audio going through an Amp.

    Now, being blindly ignorant to what type of cables are capable/good for carrying audio/video signal (ethernet, USB, etc) then I don't know what I need.

    i.e. if the Amplifier is Network-enabled, and obviously the media box will be too, and so all on the network, can all the audio/video signals travel through the ethernet cable?! I know it can from my PC to TV, but then my TV is just stereo audio, so not sure what happens to the 5.1 audio. if it was sent to a (Network enabled) amp, then would it carry 5.1 audio to it?
    if so, that would be the solution, right?

    if that's not possible, then re: connecting media box to amp... looking at the Synolgy box, the only ports on the back (other than ethernet) look to be USB. I see that's where you solution fits with those homeplugs.
    but surely this can't be the only option I have for what I need?!

    is this not a popular requirement, this requirement of mine? Shouldn't it have a simple solution by now?

    There surely must be lots of people that have media, and like to watch films with the (surround) sound going through an Amp/Speakers, that need a straight-forward solution for it.

    PS re: the Synology, that one does fit most of my req'mts, all except the port connections I think! (unless my 'network amp/ethernet cable/5.1' theory is a goer)
     
  4. cjed

    cjed
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    Well, yes. The simple (not nescesarily the best) solution is to have the following :
    1. NAS or Microserver to store media files and make available on network
    2. Media player on Network (low end : WD TV Live, high end : HDI Dune or XBMC based HTPC)
    3. HDMI capable, multi-channel AV Amp that supports HD audio formats
    4. HDMI TV (or other display device).
    The NAS and Media player are both connected to your home network (preferably by wired ethernet), HDMI from Media Player to AV Amp, HDMI from AV Amp to TV.

    The Media player renders the audio/video from the media files on the NAS, it's responsible for selecting what to play, it'll have a GUI which at worst allows you to select a file/files from the NAS, at best will have Album/Movie art and a "video wall" interface, often there'll be a smartphone app to control the media player as well. The Media player outputs both HD Video and HD (multi-channel) audio over HDMI. The AV Amp plays the audio and passes video through to the TV/Display on HDMI.

    There are only two types of connection, Ethernet to the data devices (NAS, Media Player) and HDMI to the AV devices. This is essentially the setup I have at home.

    Ther are a number of variations, some media players will provide various audio paths to support older AV receivers that don't have HDMI (such as optical, SP/DIF or multi-channel phonos), if you want to get a media player to decode HD audio formats you'll need a higher end one.

    Your storage device (NAS/Microserver) might also run a DLNA service (special network support for media data) and the media player receives data from that rather than directly reading the media files from the network store. Typically the GUIs provided in this case aren't as rich and fully featured.
     
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  5. next010

    next010
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    A WDTV Live media player will do that provided you have a smartphone/tablet.
    * The WDTV has ethernet and wireless built in for networking, HDMI and optical audio outputs.
    * The WDTV can pass audio to the Amp (connect via optical or HDMI pass-through and enable pass-through in WDTV settings.
    * The WDTV can play most media types.
    * The WDTV is a DLNA DMR (digital media renderer) which means it can be controlled via a DLNA DMC (digital media controller), there are a ton of these controllers on the app stores for iOS, Android etc.

    You could even use DSAudio app from Synology, though that only covers music but it does have a much better UI than regular DLNA controllers.
     
  6. mickevh

    mickevh
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    These type technologies don't carry "signals" - they carry "data" in discreet little units called "packets," like letters in the post. The data could be anything, the network infrastructure (switches, routers, w-fi, etc.) have no regard for what the data is; they simply move it from A to B in just the same way that the posties don't "care" about the content of the letters they are delivering.

    HDMI is similar but different in that it only conveys data that encodes audio and video in (IIRC) uncompressed form and a little bit of "control" information. Whereas ethernet et al are "general purpose" technologies designed to get data from A to B, HDMI is designed with a specific purpose (A/V) and is designed as an "equipment hookup" techology to connect a "rendering" device to an "output" device - "output" in the sense of either something that makes coloured lights for pictures or vibration in the air for sounds.

    Would it help if we tease out the differences between "media storage" "deliver" "rendering" and "output...?"

    Unless you amp is farily recent, I suspect it's unlikely that you will be able to "push" any media to it over a general purpose data network such as ethernet. Such "play to..." technologies exist, but they are fairly recent innovation and we'd have to check whether the amp supports it. Much more likely is that you amp have to "pull" the media from a remote storage unit over the network, which entails fiddling around in the amps UI to find and select the media.

    Alternatively, you'd need to have a separate "media rendering" device hooked up to the amp & TV using HDMI and/or fibre/phono(!) This would work like any other "playback" source for the amp delivering digital "signals" into amp and/or using HDMI and/or fibre like any other playback source. However, you'll have to use such a devices own UI to find/play your media.

    I use a similar set up: I have a networked media player that has fibre into my amp for sound and HDMI into my TV for pictures. One interacts with it through an "on screen" UI displayed on the TV but controlled with the media players own remote. If I'm playing back audio only, once it's off and runing, I can turn the TV off. This can playback any sound format my media player can render and my amp supports. (My media player will even "downmix" a few formats that my amp doesn't understand to ones it does.) And it can reach out over an IP data network to "read" any media files from remote locations (PC in my case, but could be a NAS and once upon a time it would even talk to YouTube and some Internet radio stations. These days, I'd be looking for "NetFlix" type service support and BBC iPlayer integration.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2013

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