Author Topic: Streaming/Casting audio from Desktop Computer to Main Stereo/Audio System  (Read 11368 times)

Mauser69

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OK, here's the deal - as the world transitions from primarily discrete media, such as CD, LP, tape, etc., played on individual devices hard-wired to a "stereo system" to ==--> all digital media stored and played on some form of computer, I have been struggling with how to effectively and REASONABLY tie the two worlds together (in both cost and complexity).

I still have a reasonably good "stereo" consisting of many components, and speakers that cost many thousands of dollars, and this is where I want to do most of my listening and watching for entertainment.  But the location of the system is not particularly convenient for wired connections to everything.  While I am fully capably of running new wires to any part of the house, just like I wired the whole place for Cat6 Ethernet, I do not consider that a REASONABLE solution in this current age of technology - there has to be something better.

I have been recently been testing multiple hardware and software options for a simple wireless connection from my computing devices to anywhere I want to hear the music, and I have made a fair amount of progress finding an easy and cheap solution, so I thought I would share that here and ask for the thoughts and opinions of others who are interested in the same thing.

The Setup:

Although I have money I could spend, I prefer not to!  So I start by looking at solutions that are under $100 (preferably under $50).  My chosen computing platform (and music storage) is Windows 10, and my currently preferred media organizer/player is MusicBee.  I really do not want to be forced into adapting to something different just because I do not want to sit in front of a computer with crappy little speakers when I want to listen to my music.  My choice for portable devices is Android.  These are the things that have directed my search so far.

Although I do have a full copy of my library in compressed MP3 format on a NAS/DLNA server, I do not consider this good source material for home listening beyond background music at a dinner party - I use it primarily to sync music files with portable players for use in the car or elsewhere.  I keep full lossless copies of my entire library on one media computer, stored on mirrored RAID disks, and playback from this computer to my main entertainment system is my primary focus.

Possible Solutions:
Hardware
Chromecast Audio - this seems like a great and simple wifi option, but the actual value is hampered by the unbelievable stupidity of Google in their choice to play the "Proprietary Game", just like Apple does, instead of being focused on making this a de facto interconnection standard.  I do have one of these devices, and it works fantastic for my wife to play her music in the bedroom from her phone or tablet, but there do not seem to be reasonable options to cast to this device from Windows computers.  MusicBee does not support it directly, and I do not use the Chrome browser (nor will I ever be FORCED into using it by the stupid "Proprietary Game").  At $35 each, I would be willing to buy an almost unlimited number of these devices if they could simply interconnect with other systems.

"LinkPlay" wifi device (similar to Chromecast, but not Google proprietary) - There are quite a few of these devices available for under $100; LinkPlay is the underlying hardware/software solution that is used my many different manufacturers.  Two examples are the Muzo Cobblestone ($100) and the IDER Wireless Wifi receiver ($37).  I am currently testing the IDER device with promising results.

Bluetooth receivers - Although easy to find and implement, especially with many newer computers and all portable devices having Bluetooth built-in, I generally consider all Bluetooth streaming to be garbage quality; it may be fine for listening in a noisy car or something like that, but not serious music.  So I have not given this option any real consideration.

TV built-in wifi receivers - This works great on my Samsung TV, but who wants to have their TV on all the time just to listen to music?  Not me.


Software - something to do the casting from the computer and the remote device
Chromecast-audio-stream - this is a huge download that seems to have lots of hooks into Windows, and it just flat does not work right on any of my computers.

Stream What You Hear - this sounds like a great solution, but it cannot see either my Chromecast nor my LinkPlay device at all - ZERO success or value in this product.

Jamcast - On their web site, this sounds like the perfect solution; it supposedly can connect to just about any wireless receiving device, including Chromecast.  They want $30 for the license.  That is high, but probably worth it if it would work.  Unfortunately, it absolutely does NOT work on my computers, and there is ZERO support available from the company (they don't answer emails, and there are no user forums).

TuneBlade - This is an AirPlay-only solution for Windows (and LinkPlay devices generally support AirPlay).  This little app sits in the tray, and it streams the entire computer audio out to any AirPlay receiver.  It works perfectly for me!  Easy setup and simple connection/disconnection - just too bad it does not support Chromecast also.  There are both free and paid options, and so far, the free one is doing everything I need to send my Lossless music through my MusicBee player to my main entertainment system.  Because it is steaming the full audio output from the computer, it is not limited in any way by supported file formats like Chromecast and DNLA or UPnP solutions - if your computer can make the sound, TuneBlade will send it out.

The IDER wifi receiver I am testing is working perfectly with AirPlay (I personally dislike anything Apple, but in this case, it is tough to argue with simple success).  It also supports Bluetooth and DLNA, along with external memory cards and aux connections.  Vendor support is questionable, but for $37 it seems like you almost cannot go wrong!  It can be accessed directly from an Android device with the Muzo player (works fairly well, but there are much better options), and also virtually any DLNA player.

When playing music with MusicBee, I use the remote plugin and the MusicBee Remote app.  While somewhat flawed in certain aspects, it does provide a great way to control what I play from my listening room by using my Android phone or tablet without having to go back to the computer.

Does anybody else have a good solution for the computer <==> stereo connection?
Last Edit: August 06, 2018, 09:16:23 PM by Mauser69

Freddy Barker

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Does anybody else have a good solution for the computer <==> stereo connection?

I have used https://rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/ with some success in the past but have no need of it now as media centre pc is in the same unit as the amplifier and TV.
I do have the TV on whilst playing music - Theatre Modes in MB are great!

Regards: Freddy

frankz

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Don't get me started on this topic. This is the most pain-in-the-neck aspect of trying to have a music library over just using streaming.  Streaming services are built into everything. In a perfect world, there would be a MB Roku app, a MB Kodi plug-in, etc, and everything would feed off your central library, treating your local files like your own little Spotify.  Unfortunately, we with local libraries are the dinosaurs now and our needs are getting left behind by progress. I, personally, gave up on a blanket wireless solution that would allow lossless playback from my computers to all listening points some time back.  There are too many variables and none of the available solutions are flawless enough to adopt them as a whole-house standard.  Too many trade-offs.  

For me, my two receivers are HDMI and my computers have HDMI output so I just go wired, no powered-up TV required.  Just HDMI from the computer to the receiver. Desktop to my office receiver and Laptop to my home theater receiver.  If I want to turn on the TV to look at Theater Mode I can, but having the TV on is not a requirement.

If you've got an old computer laying around with a Windows license there's minimal cost involved in converting it to a Home Theater PC and sticking it in an entertainment center.  Or keeping it in its existing case and sticking it behind one. A super low cost USB bluetooth receiver (if the computer doesn't have it built in) and a couple of bucks for a bluetooth keyboard/mouse, install MB and point it at your networked library, and you're good.  One can easily rig up old hardware into a HTPC for under $100.  You don't even need the Windows license if you're technical enough to get MB working under Wine in Ubuntu or something.  You'd need the TV on to control it, of course. 

If Google would just develop Chromecast out a little bit and fix its problems streaming full system audio, this would be a moot issue.  Unfortunately Google has a history of just developing products until they reach the point of making them money and then stopping and letting them die off.
Last Edit: August 07, 2018, 06:20:57 AM by frankz

Mauser69

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Yes, I am an old dinosaur, no doubt about that.  I don't want streaming from outside my house; it is generally slow, low quality, and a total pain in the butt.  Besides, I ain't gonna pay a subscription fee just to play the same stuff I have spent thousands of dollars to own over the past 60 years!  I still have over a thousand LPs to digitize, and just doing that is turning into a great hobby in my doddering old age - I am enjoying music I haven't played for YEARS!.

And yeah, I do already have computers all over the house - still have one "media" computer in the family room hard-wired to my TiVo and Hauppauge boxes for HD video recording and Blue-ray burning, and it uses HDMI for connection to the receiver.  I used that one for years as my primary music player with my secondary stereo system.  But the solution is just not ideal, and I refuse to add even more computers in other places with more keyboards, etc.  Your suggestions certainly will work, but I'm not going down that path any further.

No doubt that a hard wired connection is always the "best" when it comes to straight forward stability and quality.  If it was convenient, I'd just run an optical cable from my DAC to the Entertainment Center receiver and be done with it.  But it is not convenient in my current situation, and it lacks flexibility for easy change.

At this point, I think I may have the best current solution without spending $250 - $2,000 on new hardware - streaming via AirPlay to a LinkPlay wifi reciever - it is low cost (under $50), easy to use, and based on both the hardware specifications and my listening tests, it seems to be very high quality sound.  It is not a perfect or universal solution, but it seems to be meeting my needs for lossless playback of anything to my entertainment system.  And I will keep one Chromecast Audio device just for the ease of integration with my Android phones and tablet.  It will also allow me to test easily if someone comes up with a decent Windows-to-Chromecast solution.

LinkPlay wifi receivers can be used together for a whole-house solution, but I do not need that any more - the one on my main system is enough, especially if I keep the Chromecast in the bedroom.

Maybe someone else will chime in with a better option I have not yet discovered - I'll keep hoping for that, or maybe for Google to get their head out in the sunlight.  But until then, at least I'm rockin' again!
Last Edit: August 07, 2018, 03:29:44 PM by Mauser69

phred

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Take a look at SubSonic: http://www.subsonic.org/pages/index.jsp

You can stream in your house, or outside the house. There's a SubSonic plugin for MB here in the forum, but it's pretty much a) abandoned, b) doesn't work correctly, and c) not really needed. Note that the 'premium' version of SS gives you Android, iPhone, Mac, Chrome, Windows Phone apps. You can set up multiple users with different permissions.

I have SubSonic server installed on a Windows 7 machine, which I use as a server for a number of different applications. I have it pointing to my music directory and an exported playlists directory. My MB playlists are exported whenever a change is made to them. I created a port forward in my router that directs that port to the W7 machine. From any browser in the world I can enter my external IP address and the port number, and connect to the SubSonic server. And listen to my playlists or select specific music.
Download the latest MusicBee v3.5 or 3.6 patch from here.
Unzip into your MusicBee directory and overwrite existing files.

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