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Serve your MP3 collection to your stereo Network
After I had ripped most of our CD collection to a spare drive on my Mac, my wife asked the next logical question - "So how can I listen to this down in the living room?" I didn't have a good answer for her until recently. On the advice of a friend, I checked out the Turtle Beach Audiotron.

So what's an Audiotron, you may be asking? The Audiotron is, in a nutshell, a networked MP3 player. The device has no hard drive, no fan, and it's designed to look like a standard piece of audio gear so it will fit right into your existing rack. It includes both analog and TOSlink fiber optic digital outputs. You plug in a 10-base-T cable, a power cord, and then connect the thing to your stereo system. Just like that, your entire MP3 collection is available through your stereo.

How is this related to OS X? Event though Turtle Beach disclaims any Mac support, the Audiotron works just fine with OS X (via a Samba server). After some initial snags, some help from a key web page had our Audiotron up and running without any further difficulties.

Brief editorial aside: I truly think this is the future of home audio, at least in some respects. With the Audiotron installed, we now have a catalog of 2,300+ songs (the machine can handle 30,000+, according to the specs) available at the touch of a few buttons. No more getting up to grab another CD for the player, forgetting where you put the CD you wanted to hear right now, etc. Just thousands of songs, always available as long as my Mac is up and running! I think the Audiotron (and SonicBlue's similar device) are just the tip of the iceberg in this product category.

Read the rest of the article for a summary of the steps required to get an Audiotron working with OS X...

As much as I'd like to take credit for this hint myself, I really can't. My first attempts at setting up the Audiotron were quite frustrating. Sometimes it would find the Samba server, sometimes it wouldn't. Sometimes the song list would start downloading and then stop, other times it would claim there were no songs available. After only a bit of digging on the web, however, I found Paul Guthrie's excellent OS X / Audiotron page. Here in one location is everything you need to get up and running. Since I can't improve on Paul's write up, I'll just summarize a few key points here.
  • Make sure you have a Samba server installed and running before you start. You'll save yourself much aggravation. I already had Samba serving our MP3 collection to my wife's PC before I started the Audiotron project.

  • I don't believe a PC is required in any way, but I can't say for certain. I used the PC setup program to initial the internal web browser, but this may be possible from the front panel as well (I haven't read that far yet!). Paul's page doesn't mention the need for a PC, so I doubt one is required.

  • Follow Paul's advice on settings for the server and shares within Samba. I had trouble maintaining a connection before I switched my settings to match his recommendations. After adjusting the settings, I can't get the player to skip downstairs, even while playing Quake3 on my Mac! This was the heaviest network load I could think of to test for stuttering in the player under difficult conditions. Just in case Paul's page ever goes away, here are the tweak lines I added to (in 10.2) /etc/smb.conf:
      ;No skipping settings:
    max xmit = 65536
    read size = 1024
    socket options = TCP_NODELAY SO_KEEPALIVE
    SO_RCVBUF=2048 SO_SNDBUF=2048 IPTOS_LOWDELAY
    dead time = 15
    getwd cache = yes
    Note: The "socket options line is shown on two rows; enter it as one line with a space replacing the line break.
  • I found it easiest to use SWAT to make the changes in Samba. If you do this, you'll need to show "Advanced settings" for both globals and shares in order to see all the options you'll need to configure.

  • I set the Audiotron to use a static IP address. This seemed to help it make faster and more solid network connections, but I can't prove that statistically.

  • If you're using an iTunes library, make sure you follow the tip at the end of Paul's page for converting your MP3 tags to a format that the Audiotron can read. The conversion is relatively speedy, taking only a minute or so to convert all 2,300+ songs in the library.
That's about it! After I followed Paul's advice, the Audiotron was up and running within 15 minutes. Now all that's left is to route the Ethernet cable through the crawl space.

There are two principle products that I'm aware of in the "networked MP3 player" space right now. In addition to the Audiotron, SonicBlue makes the Rio Receiver. The Rio is much cheaper ($160 vs. $299), and has quite a different design philosophy. It's also a "Windows only" product, but there is a UNIX version of the control program available (a Perl script, no less!) which runs on OS X. Where the Rio unit does everything on the host (playlists, indexes, groups, etc.), the Audiotron does everything on the receiver itself. The Rio software, since it's third party, is open source and can be modified by anyone with knowledge of Perl. The Audiotron software is closed, but there are firmware upgrades available. The Auditron also includes the digital output, and is designed to fit in with a traditional stereo stack.

In the end, I chose the Audiotron due to its nicer display, integrated web server, more professional look, lack of need for Perl knowledge ;-), and digital output. The Rio unit is also a good choice, and will be even nicer if a friend of mine releases the modified Perl script he's created. It's much more generic than the present script, and will probably handle iTunes libraries just fine. I'll post a blurb if and when he makes the software available.
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just use soundsticks
Authored by: RobA on Feb 26, '02 05:46:50AM

I just plug the Soundsticks with iSub into my iBook and the whole living room is full of music. Isn't this easier ??



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Hard to move...
Authored by: robg on Feb 26, '02 09:03:49AM

Well, I tried lugging the G4 tower down to the living room every time my wife wanted to listen to our MP3's, but the thing is a bit heavy to move regularly! ;-)

With the Audiotron (or any other such device), the computer no longer has to be located anywhere near the stereo system. All you need is an ethernet connection, and you've got music whereever you want it. You could even hook up a couple of them to pipe different tunes to different areas of the house.

My ideal version of this product would have an internal Airport card, so you wouldn't even have to string wires (or live in a pre-wired house). Just plug it in and it talks to your existing Airport base station, and off you go! Someday soon, I would guess...

-rob.



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Hard to move...
Authored by: DavidRavenMoon on Feb 26, '02 09:25:28PM

OK... I listen to MP3s on my G4, and I have really nice speakers (Monsoon MM-702s) just so I dont have to go into the living room to get my favorite CDs... but when I'm in my living room where my stereo is, I listen to the real CDs! Why would you want to listen to MP3s of CDs you already have, presumably where your stereo is? The real CDs sound much better!

This is neat in a geeky kind of way, but doesn't make much sense to me.



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Convenience...
Authored by: robg on Feb 26, '02 11:43:04PM

We're not necessarily audiophiles here, and the MP3's (ripped at 192khz) all sound fine to my very untrained ear. The major benefit to this system is having every song that I've ever bought available at the touch of three or four buttons. That beats getting up, digging through the stack of CD's for a few minutes, not finding what I was looking for, and then finally remembering the CD I wanted is at work!

Now our music is always available, regardless of the location of the master CD. And we never have to change the disc in the CD player again! It's also nice for background music at parties; pick a genre and go. No futzing about with stacks of discs, just hours (or days, if you throw good parties!) of music.

This high level of convenience makes up for a slight loss in sound quality for us -- others may have different conclusions!

-rob.



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Hard to move...
Authored by: xSmurf on May 09, '03 02:51:45AM

Just add and Ethernet to Wireless adapter to it, it's not ideal,
yet it will do the job!

---
PM G4 DP 800 / 256Mb / 80Gb+40Gb /SuperDrive / SCSI: AGFA SnapScan 1236s / Jaz 1Gb / Zip 100Mb
- The only AAP Smurf ;P



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If you like that, take a look at this:
Authored by: j3f on Feb 26, '02 06:55:28AM
SliMP3 Player [slimdevices.com] This device is an LCD + MP3 decoder + Ethernet + RCA out device. I've had one since December and use it daily. It uses your current collection of MP3's and servers them directly from your computer via a Perl script. It works out out-of-the-box on OSX of course. It has a couple of other nice features: an optional Web interface for controlling what's being played and it supports MP3 streams such as Shoutcast. It also comes with it's own remote control (IR). I'm not affiliated with slimdevices, yada yada, just an enthusiastic customer. Jeff

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If you like that, take a look at this:
Authored by: dricci on Feb 27, '02 07:22:07PM

That looks pretty neat, however I think the price tag is a little high.. My iSub and Sound Sticks are good enough for now.



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If you like that, take a look at this:
Authored by: anrkngl on Mar 12, '02 08:35:22AM

That's a VFD, btw. It's only 50 bucks less, has rca out and no optical port, and is missing a remote control.

Though it IS cool looking. A nice little simple module.



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Or
Authored by: Diggory on Feb 26, '02 09:10:41AM

An iPod & mini-jack to RCA phono lead ;)



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Waiting on iPod4...
Authored by: robg on Feb 26, '02 09:52:21AM

I figure it'll have a 80gb hard drive, built-in airport card, remote control, and external LCD display unit ... and cost $49.99 :-).

-rob.



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just redundant
Authored by: eddyer on Feb 26, '02 11:05:06AM

Everything this machine does can be done with your computer. I use my wife's iMac to output to our tuner via a red and white RCA cable and set my tuner on "video/aux." What about a remote? I use the Keyspan IrDA. iTunes supports shoutcast and can access all the songs on my hard drive (which this thing needs anyway). If I were to get a component player, it better have its own harddrive. I can't justify $300 for something that just looks like a stereo component but still needs my Mac to get around.



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Added features...
Authored by: robg on Feb 26, '02 12:02:40PM

An RCA cable and the KeySpan remote would certainly work just fine, albeit with some limitations. First, the computer and the stereo need to be relatively close together, if not actually in the same room. In our case, though, I'd need a 50' RCA cable, which isn't really practical. Second, there's no remote display, so you can't easily do things like select by artist or album, or build new custom playlists on the fly. Third, your Mac needs to be running iTunes (or some other MP3 player) all the time (at least, I think that's a true statement based on reading the product spec for the remote). This makes it somewhat harder to do something CPU intensive (like Quake3!) while the MP3's are playing downstairs, as iTunes will be competing for CPU time.

With the Rio and the Audiotron, there is no foreground application required. And with the Audiotron, there's nothing at all running on my Mac other than Samba, which runs all the time anyway. The Rio's script would be running on the Mac, which is one more reason why I chose the Audiotron - to help minimize the work my Mac is doing. But both these solutions are notably less CPU intensive than iTunes or another MP3 player.

Everyone will, of course, have to decide if this is something they'd like to do. If it is, as the comments to the story have shown, there are a number of ways to use your computer as a remote MP3 player, for anywhere from $0 to $400 (iPod ;-).

-rob.



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re: just redundant
Authored by: BuD-TheDude on Feb 26, '02 05:11:23PM

there is another simple solution. instead of spending an obserd(sp?) amount of money and just get a pretty component that doesn't really do anything, get an older Powermac G3; make it your component. the computer would be a dedicated MP3 player / server / ect. you can control it via the keyspan remote i think it is, via VNC, on the TV or even hook it up to a computer monitor. think of it, when you have your music on, put the visualizer on the TV for a acid trip of sorts. you can even use it to burn movies or TV shows to VideoCD's. i haven't tried this yet, but will be trying it with the World Cup this summer ;)

-Dude



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Space constraints...
Authored by: robg on Feb 26, '02 05:55:50PM

It all depends on what you want to do; your solution is definitely yet another alternative to consider!

In our case, we didn't want a full-size computer and display (too noisy and too bulky), nor did we want to use the TV to project the computer's screen. We basically were looking to replace a CD player. We wanted no fan noise, minimal power usage, and small space consumption. I also wanted to minimize the workload on the parent Mac (since I'd likely be using it while the MP3's were playing) and a decent user interface. Based on all those criteria, the Audiotron met our needs. But clearly, there's a solution out there for just about every option!

-rob.



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Space constraints...
Authored by: loren_ryter on Feb 26, '02 06:17:52PM

RCA jacks into my amp aux out of the cube audio module and you hae a $6 solution.

i suppose it is true that there are many different needs, but the objection that iTunes takes up too much CPU is silly. I have iTunes running all the time with many other apps going simultaneously with no noticable slowdowns. (if you're playing quake 3 then you don't need to be playing music--and if you just want a dedicated mp3 player for another room entirely, get an iPod, at least you can take it with you. or pick up some old powerbook and run soundjam in os 9). why the complicated solutions for serving via samba??




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Space constraints...
Authored by: DavidRavenMoon on Feb 26, '02 09:33:01PM

So how do you change songs? Is there a remote or do you have to go to where the Mac is? Honestly, how is this better that a CD player? I use a DVD player to play music CDs, since my TV is hooked up to my component system anyway ;-)



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Multiple answers...
Authored by: robg on Feb 26, '02 11:59:02PM

I use my Mac while my wife listens to music. Hence, iTunes is not always running when she wants to listen to music. And yes, I might be playing Quake3. So the complex Samba solution lets me keep using the Mac for what I want to do while she gets to listen to what she wants to listen to. With iTunes as part of the mix, that's no longer true. I don't run iTunes while I compile code, play Quake3, or render DVDs, for example.

Yes, it has a remote control. It also has a display, so you can see what you're doing while you select by artist, album, genre, or track. You can build custom playlists. You can play randomly. In short, it IS a CD player. But it's a CD player with (in our case) a 2,300 song CD inserted into it. All our music is a few keypad presses away.

So for us, this is a perfect device...

-rob.



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ye old MP3 server
Authored by: pubtech on Feb 27, '02 04:18:39PM

Another old-tech approach to this would be taking a 7500 or 7600 (sells for less than $50 on eBay), adding a cheap IDE PCI card (~$50) and a big ATA harddrive (prices keep dropping). Use stardard SCSI drive as system, put OS 9.1 and iTunes on, and fill your ATA drive with MP3s. You can use the composite RCA video ports to hook this to your TV for monitoring use and the RCA audio ports to hook the machine up to your stereo.

OK, this is a non OSX solution (you could put yellow dog linux or use Other World Computing's XpOSfacto and put OSX on) and you need a third party steaming app like iHam on iRye, but as outlined above it's cheap and easy.



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Airport anyone?
Authored by: alajuela on Feb 26, '02 01:17:05PM

I actually like the receiver idea, and I don't really want another hard drive, and I think an LCD w/ a remote control is good as well. For $169 the Sonic Blue/Rio version of this starts to look pretty attractive.

BUT, why would I want to run another Ethernet cable? Why aren't these being made WI-FI capable? Or am I missing something?



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Airport anyone?
Authored by: scottybmac on Feb 28, '02 04:45:44PM

When Apple introduced the iPod, I was thinking they were going to introduce an Airport receiver that connects to a stereo, either digital or RCA, would play from iTunes, had a display and remote. I think this is the future, perhaps there is a speed issue holding up development. 802.11a... gigawire... digital hub spreads another wing??? I'm not trying to start a rumor mill here, just commenting.



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Airport anyone?
Authored by: asxless on May 07, '03 10:26:33PM

I've been running iTunes on an OS X orphaned PowerBook 2400c
with an Orinoco Gold card as a wireless MP3 player plugged into
our whole house Linn streo system since I got my Tibook 2 years
ago. FWIW the full MP3 collection is sitting on a Snap! server
available to any Mac (OS X and OS9) on our wireless LAN. I
control the 2400c via Timbuktu (but you could easily use VNC for
free). This system runs 24/7 serving random play MP3s :)

-- asxless in iLand



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mo' bandwidth
Authored by: petersconsult on Feb 28, '02 03:20:46AM

I wonder how much bandwidth this device requires, I imagine it would give a 10BaseT Ethernet hub a good workout. I understand the appeal of having a 30.000 song library available without changing a CD. But with the ridiculously low price of hard drives these days, why not throw in a 40GB 5400RPM drive to act as a buffer and let your poor network and PC do more important work. You could still have the device rely on the PC's library via the network.
My two cents anyway...
Cheers



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Looks great, but 1 concern...
Authored by: scottybmac on Feb 28, '02 04:15:41PM

The comment on the OS X / Audiotron page:

"One other note of (some) importance. iTunes does not properly store v2.3 Comment tags. It stores them as a tag value of 'COM ' rather than 'COMM'. This causes some software to break, including the Perl MP3 Tag library, MP3::Tags. Other software may also fail because of this. The Audiotron seems not to care."

Robg, Does this affect iPod useage? Have you seen any problems from this?



[ Reply to This | # ]
No idea...
Authored by: robg on Feb 28, '02 06:45:12PM

If someone wants to loan me an iPod, I'd be glad to test it out :-). I converted all the tags and iTunes itself seems fine - I still have artists and genres and all that. But I don't have an iPod to test it with. My portable MP3 player (a basic Rio unit) still gets the song and title info just fine when uploading new stuff to it.

-rob.



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Kima Akoo
Authored by: fitz on Mar 01, '02 10:50:12AM

I am interested in trying the AudioTron, but in the interim, I have the Kima KS-110 system (http://www.kimawireless.com/). By attaching the transmitter to the miniplug on my Mac and the receiver to my stereo via RCA jacks, I can play music from my Mac through my stereo. The Kima system uses the 900MHz range like cordless phones and has pretty decent range. It's also much cheaper.



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Four words:
Authored by: redbeard25 on May 08, '03 10:08:58AM
Tivo - Home Media Option

Sure, it's more expensive than an audiotron or stringing RCA cables through your house... but you get a Tivo too!! Home Media Option is Rendevous aware, so you just plug it in and go.

[ Reply to This | # ]

One word: HTPC (ok, abbreviation)
Authored by: vansie on May 09, '03 02:23:41AM

Have an older PC sitting in a corner somewhere? Why not check out the following sites: http://www.myhtpc.net ... http://www.mythtv.org ... http://freevo.sourceforge.net.

All of these put rather nice looking (and skinnable/customizable) GUIs on things like playing your MP3 collection through your home theater (or just your stereo) plus there's all sorts of expansion options into playing mpeg/avi video, playing DVD's, streaming internet radio and PVR-type functions when coupled with a supported TV tuner card. The HTPC scene seems to be growing fast right now, and with some simple adjustments in OS X you will be able to share your Mac's MP3's.
For more info on the whole thing:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?forumid=11

Maybe it's time to put the strengths of the Mac OS to good use and come up with a Mac-based HTPC application?



[ Reply to This | # ]
Missing the Point
Authored by: ravedog on May 31, '03 02:11:56AM

ALl these external MP3 servers or remote controllers ALL lack one key item... VIDEO OUT. Now correct me if i'm wrong but even the ones with displays have small unusuable interfaces. What someone needs to do is have the unit interface with say, iTunes, or some PC counterpart, take the data, and render it for the screen... making your collection usuable. I have my system set up via TOS Digital link to my theater system and control things thru the KeySpan DMR. But it's pretty lame not knowing whats playing or being able to select the data (in my case all my theater equip is in a closet - so a display in the device would be useless anyway).

The new Tivo Series 2 Home Media Option (works with X) looks like it might have solved the problem... however... requires getting TIVO service... (which we have) but it does not work with the Tivo Series 2 Direct TV sat receiver... looks like DirectTV doesnt want to carry it....

so back to my original statement... make these external serving interfaces add a GUI and have video out... most home audio sys have adio and video tied in and most have some sort of GUI... why not these too?



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Missing the Point
Authored by: Souldub on Jul 14, '03 03:44:49PM

have done a lot of invertigation into these types of devices I found a couple of clear potential winners, depending on the primary purpose, Video-On-Demand, or Audio-On-Demand.

GameShark Media Player aka QCast and SliMP3.

GSMP overs the best VOD media coverage (Divx, Xvid, MPeg4, etc. available) and at $50 US (plus the price of a PS2 + network adapter) will do a very reasonable job playing back MP3's.

www.broadq.com

The out and out champ for audio has got to be the SliMP3.

www.slimp3.com







[ Reply to This | # ]
Serve your MP3 collection to your stereo
Authored by: truhe on Jul 15, '03 04:43:36AM

there are some devices out there which can play a stream. they connect to the itunes stream via an ethernet cable or airport and just stream the music from itunes. this way, you manage the music with itunes like you did before but you can listen to it seamless in other rooms. to control it from other rooms you can use one of the different remote tools, i'd prefer the sonyericsson-clicker and the t610.

of course the easiest and cheapest solution is a long audio cable and the sonyericsson-clicker... :)



[ Reply to This | # ]
Serve your MP3 collection to your stereo
Authored by: Souldub on Jul 16, '03 10:47:56AM

have done a lot of invertigation into these types of devices I found a couple of clear potential winners, depending on the primary purpose, Video-On-Demand, or Audio-On-Demand.

GameShark Media Player aka QCast and SliMP3.

GSMP overs the best VOD media coverage (Divx, Xvid, MPeg4, etc. available) and at $50 US (plus the price of a PS2 + network adapter) will do a very reasonable job playing back MP3's.

www.broadq.com

The out and out champ for audio has got to be the SliMP3.

www.slimp3.com



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