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Newbie Question - Is There a Server That Meets My Needs?

Toki

Standard Member
I’m quite new to the whole media player / server / streamer technology and is something I don’t know a huge amount about to be honest. As with a lot of people, I have heaps of music on my PC, but no way of playing it through my HiFi in good quality. I have used my headphone jack on my laptop but it’s poor as most of you will know.

I’m looking for a device that allows me to play FLAC / MP3 / WMA audio files that I have stored on an external (or can transfer to 500GB+ internal on player/server I want to buy) hard drive via my HiFi phono connections. I’m not really interested in streaming music over my wireless network, as all my music is stored on the hard drive, any new music I get, I’m quite happy to disconnect and manually add in via my PC. I’m not interested in movies or any other media and I want to be able to control it via touchscreen (like Squeezbox Touch) or via touchscreen remote or iPhone.

I’ve looked at Sonos (too expensive) and Logitech Squeezebox Touch so far but neither exactly meet my needs, Squeezebox Touch is closest. I believe the Squeezebox is designed to play music over either a wired or wireless network and not for attaching a hard drive via the USB connection as the server can only support so many tracks before the server struggles. I do like the idea of the Squeezebox screen to show which track is playing and the ability of controlling via my mobile but feel if I go down this route I’ll have to either leave my PC on all the time that I want music, or have to go down the NAS route, which means more expense and hassle. This is what puts me off the Touch, if it had a better internal server, capable of handling an external hard drive I would get this. I also like that it has an onboard DAC with digital and analogue outputs as I intend to upgrade my all in one HiFi to a separate amp and good quality speakers in the coming years, once I save up some cash.

Other ones I’ve looked at WD HD Live HUB and LaCie LaCinema, both of which require the TV on and are primarily designed for TV I believe. I want to be able to listen to music without having my TV on, as I do with a CD or radio currently.

So in short I’d like -

Digital music/media player/server with USB connection for external hard drive or internal drive within device, not to be used for streaming via network but possibly for internet radio / Last FM (not crucial).
Able to play FLAC and MP3 files
Touchscreen remote or mobile compatible
Digital and analogue outputs
Able to play device on its own and not need TV or PC or NAS on to listen to music

Not bothered about –

Connecting to TV
Being able to play movies or connect to TV

Any ideas anyone? If you want more info on my requirements then please ask.

Thanks in advance.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
I have the NAS + squeezeboxes solution, which you have clearly considered but ruled out due to cost. Which is fair enough. I'm very happy with my choice, but as a cheaper option...

Are you due an upgrade on any home entertainment devices like DVD/blu-ray player? If you budget an extra £20 or so on one of them than you were originally going to pay, you can get a DLNA one which will play music from your network, along with internet radio. They usually come with wired connection, and then if you want wireless you buy a dongle separately.
My Philips BDP and Bravia TV both do it, and both have free iphone interfaces (and probably android if that is your preference)

Going down this route might just miss one thing off your list of requirements - the ability to play FLAC files. I had this problem when I was using the bravia as a new player before I got the squeezeboxes, so simply wrote a script to convert all my flacs on the NAS into mp3s in a directory that pretty much mirrors the original flac directory.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
I've re-read your post, and think that I mis-understood you. I now can't see why you need a server. Surely what you're after is effectively just a hard drive music player? You sound like you want to listen to music on a HD, from the same location as the HD. Not storing the music in one location and acting as a server to other locations. Correct?
So you can do this with

A high-capacity MP3 player,
Any old laptop
Something running XBMC, such as the foxconn netbox 330i.

The last one might be your best bet as it would be controllable from any wi-fi device in the house, is low-powered, and should play pretty much anything. It would also work as a client if you were to get a server or NAS at some point in the future.
You generally buy them as 'barebone' systems, then add things like memory, hard drives etc. to suit your performance requirements.

Also the option I gave in my previous post about the DLNA-compatible BDP might still stand. They usually have a USB port for viewing photo slideshows, you might well be able to attach a storage device full of audio to it, and control it with the iphone interface.
 
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nacmacfeegle

Distinguished Member
How large is your library? (number of songs, not Gbs)
If its too large for the Touch to be happy with, you probably need a 'proper' server anyway.
I had about 35,000 songs on mine at one stage and it wasn't painfully slow.
 

Toki

Standard Member
I've re-read your post, and think that I mis-understood you. I now can't see why you need a server. Surely what you're after is effectively just a hard drive music player? You sound like you want to listen to music on a HD, from the same location as the HD. Not storing the music in one location and acting as a server to other locations. Correct?
So you can do this with

A high-capacity MP3 player,
Any old laptop
Something running XBMC, such as the foxconn netbox 330i.

The last one might be your best bet as it would be controllable from any wi-fi device in the house, is low-powered, and should play pretty much anything. It would also work as a client if you were to get a server or NAS at some point in the future.
You generally buy them as 'barebone' systems, then add things like memory, hard drives etc. to suit your performance requirements.

Also the option I gave in my previous post about the DLNA-compatible BDP might still stand. They usually have a USB port for viewing photo slideshows, you might well be able to attach a storage device full of audio to it, and control it with the iphone interface.

Yes you're right, essentially a high capacity MP3 player with good audio that plays FLAC. However I haven't come across any that can stores 500GB to 1TB of music, is there such a thing?

Ideally, I'd like something that can be controlled from my living room seat, either a controller like the Sonos CR200, but would take something that would work from an iPhone.

I did look at using an old laptop but it's too noisy and has no audio out, only the headphone socket which is awful sound.

I've searched for XBMC (never heard of it until now!) Nor the Foxconn netbox 330i, correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't look like the foxcon has RCA or phono outputs?

Thanks for your advice.
 

Toki

Standard Member
How large is your library? (number of songs, not Gbs)
If its too large for the Touch to be happy with, you probably need a 'proper' server anyway.
I had about 35,000 songs on mine at one stage and it wasn't painfully slow.

Currently I have around 100GB but a lot of that is MP3 / WMA and I'm in the process of getting everything done in FLAC so would imagine it will grow to over 200GB quite quickly.

The Squeezebox Touch almost exactly meets my requirements, apart from being able to manage a large library via the USB. Maybe an improved or new version will upgrade the internals to allow the device to cope with external hard drive with large library?
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
Yes you're right, essentially a high capacity MP3 player with good audio that plays FLAC. However I haven't come across any that can stores 500GB to 1TB of music, is there such a thing?

Ideally, I'd like something that can be controlled from my living room seat, either a controller like the Sonos CR200, but would take something that would work from an iPhone.

I did look at using an old laptop but it's too noisy and has no audio out, only the headphone socket which is awful sound.

I've searched for XBMC (never heard of it until now!) Nor the Foxconn netbox 330i, correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't look like the foxcon has RCA or phono outputs?

Thanks for your advice.

Yes you're right, it doesn't have RCA outs, just a headphone socket.
In that case look for something that has intel atom processor and an ion core in it, that meets your specs. You'll basically get a small low-powered computer, specialised to playing media. They'll usually come with a remote, and should be controllable with another wi-fi device such as a smartphone.

I don't know which ones are out there that are any good at the moment, but a quick search found me the following example that seems to do what (I think) you want:
LinITX.com - Jetway 1.6GHz Dual Core ATOM 330 + nVidia ION Nettop Barebone with Built In WiFi - Black

They actually do a fair bit more than you originally wanted. They play video and surround sound too, and will work as a client for a server if you get one. So this is the slightly overkill solution, in case you can't find a cheaper one.
They'll have USB ports to connect your HDD, but some will be large enough to fit one inside. Some will have DVD/blu-ray trays too, so could be the centre of your living room entertainment system.

Bear in mind that any HDD plus its controller probably won't be much quieter than a laptop though.

FYI, XMBC is a versatile media player that can be controlled locally or remotely (it sets up a webpage on your network that devices can visit to control it). I believe that an operating system version has been made, so you put it on a USB stick and a small PC will boot directly from it.

Or if you want something that's actually designed as a hard drive audio player not video or anything then I'm sure the Naim HDX would do you quite nicely. (you never specified a budget!)
 
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Toki

Standard Member
Yes you're right, it doesn't have RCA outs, just a headphone socket.
In that case look for something that has intel atom processor and an ion core in it, that meets your specs. You'll basically get a small low-powered computer, specialised to playing media. They'll usually come with a remote, and should be controllable with another wi-fi device such as a smartphone.

I don't know which ones are out there that are any good at the moment, but a quick search found me the following example that seems to do what (I think) you want:
LinITX.com - Jetway 1.6GHz Dual Core ATOM 330 + nVidia ION Nettop Barebone with Built In WiFi - Black

They actually do a fair bit more than you originally wanted. They play video and surround sound too, and will work as a client for a server if you get one. So this is the slightly overkill solution, in case you can't find a cheaper one.
They'll have USB ports to connect your HDD, but some will be large enough to fit one inside. Some will have DVD/blu-ray trays too, so could be the centre of your living room entertainment system.

Bear in mind that any HDD plus its controller probably won't be much quieter than a laptop though.

FYI, XMBC is a versatile media player that can be controlled locally or remotely (it sets up a webpage on your network that devices can visit to control it). I believe that an operating system version has been made, so you put it on a USB stick and a small PC will boot directly from it.

Or if you want something that's actually designed as a hard drive audio player not video or anything then I'm sure the Naim HDX would do you quite nicely. (you never specified a budget!)

Thanks for that, take it there isn't any "out of the box" solution to what I require? I'm surprised to be honest, thought a lot of people would want to be able to play their digital music collection through the HiFi without having a wired/wireless network and / or a TV / PC on at the same time.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
If by 'out of the box' you mean containing everything you need, then probably no. For this sort of thing everybody seems to have slightly different requirements so retail units are left relatively generic. You'd at least have to add the hard drive yourself.
Do none of these suit you either?
STYLUS AUDIO VISUAL HIGH DEFINITION NETWORK AND HARD DISK MEDIA PLAYER - available from Superfi UK Visit http://www.superfi.co.uk/index.cfm/page/moreinfo.cfm/product_id/7703 for details
Full-HD Network Media Player with USB port and Card Reader on Front Panel (HDP-031-MX) - Electronics and Gadgets - Free Shipping Worldwide - Real Price

A search on google shopping for
hard disk audio player flac
seems to bring up a reasonable amount of things, but pretty much all of them also do video. Not all will have both digital audio and RCA analogue out.
 

amcluesent

Distinguished Member
All in ones for music are really just :

Brennan JB7
iPod Classic and digital dock
Touch and USB disk
Olive 3HD
Naim HDX

>I haven't come across any that can stores 500GB to 1TB of music, is there such a thing?<

Once you're pushing to 1Tb, then IMHO you should be looking at as NAS if only for RAID1 to protect against a single disk failure after you've spent so much time ripping/tagging. Even with backup...
 
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formbypc

Active Member
If the laptop is within cable's reach of the HiFi, then get the starter solution - the Behringer UCA202 - is a USB DAC with twin phono outputs.

Takes a feed from the USB port, D/A converts, and feeds your HiFi. If this gives you acceptable results, you can upgrade to a better DAC
 

Toki

Standard Member
If the laptop is within cable's reach of the HiFi, then get the starter solution - the Behringer UCA202 - is a USB DAC with twin phono outputs.

Takes a feed from the USB port, D/A converts, and feeds your HiFi. If this gives you acceptable results, you can upgrade to a better DAC

Thanks, may get one of these for now since they can be got for under £30. Give me some time to save up for a NAS or until the device I am looking for becomes available. Thanks everyone for your help. Surely only a matter of time before Logitech upgrades the Squeezebox Touch to support hard drives holding loads of music, I'm hoping anyway!
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
I am looking at exactly the same issue as the OP. I was considering using a reasonable spare PC with Vortexbox and an Ipod touch to control it. Does anyone have any experience of this before I commit the time to this project :lease:
 

amcluesent

Distinguished Member
Vortexbox have their own forums, of particular note would be the soundcards that are supported by their build of Squeezeplay.
 

nacmacfeegle

Distinguished Member
"Does anyone have any experience of this before I commit the time to this project"

I used it for a while about a year ago and was very impressed, definitely worth looking at it and reading up a bit.
 

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