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setup a media center

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by carpe-diem, Sep 26, 2018.

  1. carpe-diem

    carpe-diem tubes and tubes Subscriber

    Charlotte, NC, USA
    I am new to this. I have over 500gig of FLAC files. I'd like to setup a media center to stream to my vintage system. If possible, I'd like to stream to bluetooth speakers or stream to other devices in other rooms. My questions are; storage? media software? setup? and anything? Should I go with a mini pc or raspberry pi? What's about NAS storage? I think I'd like a centralized location and stream to others devices in other rooms. Any suggestions on where to start? Thanks.


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  2. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

    Hillsboro, Oregon
    This is gonna be a bit long so I'll apologize up front. :D Hopefully you can hang in there and learn from my mistakes. I'm not sure how much of this is not new to you but I will be starting with some history, some digital file basics and end with some recommendations.

    I remember when I read about this new-fangled digital music stuff not realizing that my CDP was playing digital files from those little shiny discs. Once I realized that I could use those individual files, make up a playlist that would play song after song after song and do so without spending hours punching little buttons on the face of a component and listening to that CD jukebox whiz and whir searching for the next song, I knew I had to make it happen.

    I started with an old laptop as my file repository and music player but soon ran out of space. Plus, the PC sound card and the aux sound card I purchased sounded really bad. A lot of that was caused by the PC processing the digital signal and the fact that the CD ripping software was an early attempt in the music world with the output being 128 kbps MP3 files. So all I really ended up with was a poor sounding small portion of my CD collection available to me.

    Then I tried a Sonos connect with a mid-tower case Windows based PC. That worked better but I was still using Windows based music software and MP3s due to storage issues. In reading some info on the interwebs regarding digital music I found AudioStream.com and ComputerAudiophile.com, both of which utilized the talents of Michael Lavorgna as a technical editor and writer. After spending quite a bit of time on the forums there, asking numerous questions and bugging Michael routinely :) I was able to form a plan that I still use to this day. At that point was all about storage, ripping CDs, file codecs (MP3, FLAC, AIFF, etc..) managing the files, building playlists and playing the music. Basically I needed a LOT of storage, a CD ripper, a music player and a way to translate those digital files into analog signals so I could listen to them on my music system.

    First, I got what I refer to as a "benign" storage device, i.e., a file respository. I use a Synology D415+ network attached storage (NAS) box with 8TB of storage spread over 4 2TB Samsung solid state drives. It may be overkill but I won't ever have to worry about running out of storage again. The drives are setup in a RAID configuration, with drive 2 backing up drive 1 and drive 4 backs up drive 3. This NAS does not do any processing of the files, it's just storage. And now all my personal files, pictures and what not are on that NAS and sufficiently backed up.

    Oh, by then I also had a hardwired network installed near my music system and into my home office where the modem/wireless repeater resides. I relied on my friends at Verizon and an awesome Verizon tech who made that happen. I added a multi-switch box so that all of my ethernet enabled devices could be on the network.

    Then I had figure out how to rip all my CDs into FLAC, the digital codec I selected. Since my laptop was wirelessly connected I initially used the internal CD/DVD drive to rip the CDs. I used a freeware package but I kept getting data dropouts on the metadata for the files. dbpoweramp products were strongly suggested to me and I purchased a license. It worked and I've not had a dropout since. But my poor laptop would really heat up and start rattling after 8 - 10 CDs and I've have to let it cool down for 15 minutes or so before proceeding. I had hundreds of CDs to rip so this wasn't good. I purchased an externa USB connected CD/DVD drive and no more problems. I still purchase CD's to this day, some of which come from members here at AK, as I am always looking to add to my diverse collection.

    So then I had to have a music player and some sort of connection/interface to the NAS and DAC. That turned out to be a lot of fun.
    ldatlof, 1koolcat and awillia6 like this.
  3. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

    Hillsboro, Oregon
    Time for a music player, a box to manage that player and access the files, then a DAC.

    I was not happy with Windows Media Player and it was not going to be my solution to the player software needs. Back to AudioStream and ComputerAudioPhile for more reading. I selected JRiver in 2007 and initially used ver. 12. It was sorta clunky to set up and configure but I had help, both at JRiver's forum and from Michael Lavorgna. Since then I've updated a few times and currently run ver. 23 as ver. 24 seems to be a video only update.

    I mentioned Sonos earlier and my experience with it was not good when trying to play higher quality MP3 files, namely drop outs, buffering, etc... That pretty much soured me on using it for FLAC but I suspect they do a better job these days with the larger files. Even so my interface was going to be something entirely different.

    A friend of mine and I were consulting with each other regarding this matter over some adult beverages one evening. We had both gone down similar paths and had experienced the same lack of success in achieving our desired level of SQ. The topic of music servers came up and we dug in to our individual research modes. It was decided we would each build our own C.A.P.S. V3 server aka the ZUMA. This is a Windows based box that sits on the network and handles the management and processing of the digital files and playlists. It also has ethernet connectivity, HDMI outputs, digital, USB and computer analog outputs. There is now a V4 version. We purchased the suggested materials, Windows software, constructed the servers at his airplane hangar, loaded JRiver on them and connected them to our respective DACs. More info on these versatile boxes can be found here:


    With that box in place I now had all the tools needed to store my files, rip my CDs, manage my files, develop playlists, play music and enjoy it for hours on end.

    I eventually added a freeware called TeamViewer to my laptop and the ZUMA box so I can remotely manage the music vs. running back and forth to the system to bring up JRiver and manage it solely on the ZUMA. The ZUMA does have HDMI outputs and web connectivity so I can turn on my 70" Sony XBR and stream music, watch stupid videos and round out my entertainment with streamed movies if I choose.

    I hadn't done much with zones until early this year. I wanted to access my music collection from the garage/shop and my friend suggested the Chromecast Audio device. We got it set up on the network (wirelessly), added it as a node in JRiver, I connect to it via JRemote on an iPad and now my system out there plays whatever I want.

    I'm sure this long-winded post leaves you with too much information and you may have some questions. Ask away!

    Bottom line: I believe in a backed up central file repository, a healthy ethernet network, high quality files and quality software to build a nice digital system.

    Early versions:



    Midway through the process:


    As it sits today...and I'm very happy with it:

    ldatlof and awillia6 like this.
  4. cpt_paranoia

    cpt_paranoia Well-Known Member

    If you want a single server to act as your media repository, then a NAS will do that, yes. It will provide a file server, and it may also provide a DLNA media server. Your router may even create a 'poor man's NAS' if you plug your HDD into its USB port; check out what your router can do.

    Then you need to decide what client devices you use to will access that NAS, and how they will stream music to renderers around your house.

    If play counts & dates are important to you, then you probably want a central media server (not the NAS DLNA media server) to keep track of that stuff. I don't really bother with such things.

    Renderer devices could be Chromecast Audio devices, with a suitable app to stream music to them (allowing simulcast to multiple renderers).

    Or they could be DLNA renderers. Or even, if you're in the Apple walled garden, Airplay.

    Or renderers could be standalone things that maintain their own database, accessing the NAS file server; e.g. Volumio, running on an RPi, with a DAC hat of some sort.

    Once you have the media server and renderers, you can use any number of control apps to control the system to stream media from the media server to any or all of the renderers. The apps I use are MediaMonkey & MusicBee on the PC (both are media managers and players), and BubbleUPnP on my Android devices (which will also act as media server, media controller & media renderer...). Like this:

    You will find plenty of ideas on this sub-forum:


    For instance:


    ldatlof and awillia6 like this.
  5. yockmyer

    yockmyer AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Toledo, Ohio
    Great thread! I'm in the same boat as the OP and the replies were very informative. Thank you Yamaki and cpt-paranoia for the info.

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