Linux music server?

Discussion in 'All Things Digital' started by billfort, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. billfort

    billfort Administrator Staff Member

    A friend of mine wants me to build him a music server for his home audio system and I'd like to keep the cost down for him. Since my comfort zone with this stuff is Windows and higher priced players like Roon & Jriver, I thought I'd ask here for some advice on what is out there for Linux, as that seems more appropriate (we won't be considering anything Mac).

    He tells me he has an older laptop with a hopelessly crippled install of Windows so we'll probably start with a clean install of Linux of some flavor - whichever works with the player software we try. I may add an SSD for the OS/player but the idea would be to have the laptop connected to the Internet and use a connected external drive for file storage. To start, we'll connect the analog out of the laptop to his Denon HT receiver but a low-cost external DAC might get added at some point.

    The shopping list;

    - playback of wav, flac, mp3 and perhaps, DSD files
    - simple start up and easy to use interface (he is not a 'computer guy')
    - need to be able to play Internet radio streams including flac streams from Radio 2 and Radio Paradise
    - remote control might be nice - this will sometimes be used to play music through the Denon receiver to remote speakers on his patio or other parts of the house, so the ability to control with a (Android) phone app would be huge

    Would love to hear what you Linux guys would recommend.

  2. MikeyFresh

    MikeyFresh Moderator Staff Member

    Based on how surprisingly super well JRiver runs on the Raspberry Pi (so-called Id Pi on the Raspbian Debian Linux variant), I'd highly recommend consideration for either that, or a JRiver for Debian 9.x (Stretch) Linux install on that re-purposed Windows laptop machine.

    While I'm sure you could also use Ubuntu, Mint, and others, I think the only officially JRiver supported distros are Debian Jessie 8.x, or Stretch 9.x.
    TubeHiFiNut likes this.
  3. airdronian

    airdronian Junior Member

    That may be the best option. I just looked at packages to connect with MPD and didn't see much that appealed. If that laptop has an optical out you might be able to use toslink into the HT receiver for it's DAC.
  4. Some of the audio server distros have local play capabilities. I can't remember which offhand, I think Daphile does, IIRC. I've tried a bunch of them over the years and keep coming back to the simplicity and quality of a Raspberry Pi solution.

    A new pi 3 is ~40-50$ USD, I think that's with a wall wart power supply
    A DAC 'hat' like HifiBerry Dac + pro, or Kali, etc. are usually <$100 USD

    You can then use volumio, or similar distro to stream from internet radio, play files from a local NAS, or usb drive, or even Tidal and Qobuz (Volumio supports this now).

    While your friend has the laptop already, it sounds like it may be on it's last legs. It would be rather unfortunate to spend the time setting it up for him, only to have it fail soon after.

    There are less expensive PI DAC 'hats' than the ones I listed. I haven't kept up as I'm building a dac for mine. I suspect a bit of research online and you could find some great options.

    I have a box in my lab closet full of dac hats and pis I've tried over the years. They aren't difficult to setup, though there are a few steps to go through. It is all very well documented on many forums and blogs, etc.

    You can upgrade the pi's and dac's power supplies from the iFi stuff to all sorts of different regulated supplies. My 'current' test bed has a handful of regulated supplies for the pi, the dac, and a kali reclocker. In fact, I was working on it tonight, adding in a new regulated dual supply, trying to find room for everyone in the case. Also realizing I need another transformer, which I can't seem to find in my lab closet..... :D

    So, tl,dr; There are many options, haha.

  5. How about Kodi...there are several different versions of Kodi that run off a Usb flash drive. It is very easy to setup...we are talking minutes.
    MikeyFresh likes this.

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