By Steve Bennett


2012-05-06 07:43:40 8 Comments

I'm interested in being able to play music that's on my computer through my phone - mostly so I can plug the phone into speakers in different parts of the house. Looking for apps, I realise that there are actually some pretty different ways you can do this:

  1. Run a music server that's accessible over the internet, access through app or web browser on phone (eg AudioGalaxy, Subsonic)
  2. Run an audio streaming server that provides a single audio stream (eg SoundWire - you drive the choice of music from the PC, and the phone is just a passive receiver)
  3. Share your music folder, and use a Samba (or equivalent) file share app like ES File Explorer to access the files on your phone and play them from there.
  4. Use DLNA-supporting apps at both ends to play and share music (eg, Windows Media Player on PC, and AllShare or Skifta on phone)
  5. Sync music from PC to phone regularly, and just play it from there.

Am I missing any? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach? One concern for me is I'd rather not have music going via the internet, because then it would count doubly out of my internet usage cap.

Also, are there apps (with the right combination of PC software) that can combine these approaches? It would be great to be able to either drive a playlist from the PC, or select songs from the phone. Extra bonus points for solutions that work for video (ie, films) as well.

My PC is Windows XP, my phone is Samsung Galaxy Note.

EDIT Incorporating answers from below into the original list.

8 comments

@Paul Sanders 2018-06-17 22:00:56

Well, here we are in 2018 and I have a cunning plan. It doesn't quite answer the question as posed but I hope it's close enough.

I have an old HTC phone that has a micro SD slot. 128GB SD cards are available on eBay now for a handful of $ / £, so, objective #1 is to find out if this phone (it's Android 4.4.2 I think) can utilise all the space. [Update: it can, woohoo!].

Then I will copy my entire music library across from my PC.

Next up is a Bluetooth audio receiver that will pair with the phone and that you can simply plug into a spare input on your amp. Again, these are incredibly cheap on eBay. I don't know yet if they are any good, but people have posted some enthusiastic reviews so I couldn't resist buying one. It's in the post, will report back.

Then, install the music player of choice on the phone and to start streaming just press (I believe) the 'pair now' button on the receiver and then fire up the app. The phone should then play through the receiver to the amp.

Pros:

  • Nice and simple.
  • Dirt cheap, if, like me, you already have an amp and speakers and a suitable spare phone. Even if you need a phone, it should be easy enough to pick up something second-hand, you just need that SD card slot. Or you could use an old tablet, but that would obviously be bulkier, clutter the place up more.
  • No monthly fees (unlike, say, Spotify Premium).
  • Should be easy to use.
  • Choice of music players, pick your favourite.
  • Cheap to run - no need to leave the PC on.
  • Also works for Internet radio, podcasts and YouTube music videos. And indeed any other streaming service, most likely.
  • Should also work from an iPhone (my partner has one, I'm hooked up with the wrong woman, what can I say?)

Cons:

  • I don't yet know how good the sound quality will be, it depends entirely on the receiver. But if it's not good enough I will buy a more expensive one. I'll let you know.
  • 128GB might not be enough for your entire music library. You can get larger cards at modest cost on eBay but I think it's wise to avoid the very cheap ones.
  • If you have a second music system in another room you would need to buy a second receiver. But they cost peanuts so it doesn't matter.
  • Unlike some WiFi devices, such as (I believe) Chromecast Audio, you can't stream the same sound source to several receivers at the same time. But I don't care about that, and those devices seem to be focussed on (paid-for) streaming services anyway and I that's not what I want.
  • Have to charge the phone or keep it plugged in. Maybe I can find a cradle for it.

So, a few unknowns still but I have high hopes. I'll let you-all know how it goes, should be fun.

@Samsonite801 2016-09-11 00:17:11

Here's my method..

I have an old Samsung tablet I leave connected to the stereo and powered-on at all times, where it has all my cool audio apps installed and configured. I then install Android VNC Server on it (in my case the one I got to work was VMLite VNC Server which can work with or without 'root' access in Android). My tablet happens to be rooted so VNC server can auto-start on boot for me.

Then I connect the free RealVNC client to it which gives me a remote desktop type window to have full access to the home screen of the Android.

Then on my laptop I can launch it and get into the tablet and launch all my cool sound apps like Folder Player, iHeart Radio, Tune-In Pro, Scanner Radio, and maybe 25 others. That stereo is wired to speakers in multiple rooms which allows the content to be everywhere.

They also have VNC Client apps for Android so one could access the tablet from a phone, but I haven't tried it since I am always using my laptop when at home so Windows VNC client works fine.

Some may find it crude but for me it is the most versatile.

@Xavier 2014-03-07 01:42:34

Subsonic. It is extremely robust and easy to use.

It is open source but there is a licensing. However as it is open source you can remove easily the license. (and this is perfectly legal) See https://github.com/KHresearch/subsonic

@barrymac 2013-09-20 15:57:44

I've had a squeezebox streaming media player for years and the software which is also downloadable free is pretty good so I use that. I can stream remotely, as per original question, when I'm away from the house and I've used XiiaLive as an android player. It's not as light as player as I would prefer but it works.

The server also looks after submissions to last.fm which keeps me happy.

All free software. The Squeezebox server is also cross platform.

@ale 2013-09-20 15:59:14

Links would be helpful.

@CjS 2012-05-07 09:32:26

I use option 4 (DLNA) quite beautifully for streaming both music AND video to my phone/tablet/PS3 and tablet within wi-fi range in my house.

My setup is: PC MediaTomb running on Ubuntu-linux (If you run Windows, I'm sure there are alternatives)

Tablet / Phone: uPNPlay (free on Google Play) linked to your favorite media player

Pros:

  • All media sits on one machine
  • All my devices (phone, tablet PS3*) can stream media from that location
  • Secure over encrypted network
  • No bandwidth issues

Cons:

  • My PC has to be on 24/7.

*PS3 only recognises some divX codecs

@Steve Bennett 2012-05-08 06:22:56

Thanks, didn't know about UPnP AV. Which leads me to: superuser.com/questions/226636/…

@CjS 2012-05-08 07:23:11

Interesting, I didn't know that.But uPNPlay does supprt both. I see I made a typo in the app name which may have been confusing. Fixed that.

@Liam W 2012-05-06 16:28:55

Have a look at SoundWire.

@Steve Bennett 2012-05-07 03:12:29

Ta - that's one of the category 2 solutions: sharing all audio from the PC to passive receivers.

@Logos 2012-05-06 09:35:09

If you're looking to just play music anywhere in the house, the option to just access a file share from your phone and play music from it is probably your best bet. ES File Explorer has a Samba plugin that should allow just that, and most music players should be able to do playlists.

As an aside, no matter which option you chose you don't have to worry about bandwidth so long as you are using a locally hosted option to stream your music (ie, not a cloud service like Google Music).

However, if you want a lot of control and the ability to stream to multiple devices simultaneously like an internal house radio station over your local network, I would strongly recommend Subsonic. You have an enormous amount of control over your media via the app from any machine running the Subsonic app, and they have apps for all phone and PC platforms. The only catch is that there is a $20 license to use the phone apps. However, that wouldn't stop you from just tuning into the streaming feed from your phone and using the browser based interface instead to control your music.

@Steve Bennett 2012-05-06 14:35:28

Cool - well that works. The Android app looks great. The straight web interface is pretty bad on a mobile (even on the note). Its huge window requires lots of panning around. Also, it needs flash player which doesn't seem to work for me. So I'll have to think about that $20...

@Logos 2012-05-06 19:32:24

Personally I think it's well worth it myself. It's quite spiffy.

@Logos 2013-09-23 11:38:25

FYI, if you're worried about data and you're just using it around the house, list the Subsonic server as the local IP address and it should then only be accessible over wifi.

@Android Quesito 2012-05-06 09:26:24

Generally, Galaxy devices have AllShare app which is DLNA certified software. If your device doesn't have AllShare, install Skifta.

Now, all you need is a DLNA certified media streaming server on PC. Fortunately, Windows Media Player 11 on Windows XP has this capability. So, you don't need extra software.
Media Sharing in WMP11 Media Sharing option in WMP11
Make sure your music collection is in WMP library.

You don't need any extra-terrestrial configurations as DLNA certified products feature UPnP (Universal Plug and Play). Just make sure apps (or, its services) are open & are connected to same network (LAN/WLAN).

Its the best way for streaming media because its UPnP. It was designed to get rid of complexities of traditional media streaming solutions. And, it supports pictures and videos too.

@Steve Bennett 2012-05-06 13:33:05

That looks like a great solution. Strangely, the "Share my media" option doesn't seem to work for me - clicking OK just makes the dialog freeze for a minute, then do nothing. Any alternatives to WMP?

@Android Quesito 2012-05-06 13:50:34

@Steve When you tick Share my media option, WMP searches compatible devices in network. So, tick it after turning on DLNA service in Android device and connecting it to same network. See if it works or not..

@Steve Bennett 2012-05-06 14:41:26

OIC, actually you need the "Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service" running in control panel. See here: samsung.com/us/support/…

@Steve Bennett 2012-05-06 14:47:13

Ok, cool, this works. Seems like there are some limitations (eg, only 500 entries in any list displayed), but it's a pretty good start.

@Steve Bennett 2012-05-19 09:41:56

More info: serviio (serviio.org/download) is better than WMP: much faster (maybe 5x) browsing of media, smarter categories etc.

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