I currently have about 420 GB of 320 kb/s mp3 albums of mostly classical music. Since almost all of these I ripped from my own CDs, a long and laborious task, I have 4 replicas of my collection. This has saved me at least 6 times. I have had a hard disk crash, and a backup disk erased by the restore program! Nowadays, a 2 TB external drive is only $89, so it does not pay to be chintzy about backup storage.
My preferred method of listening to music is to use a system based upon Squeezeboxes (http://www.logitech.com/en-us/speakers-audio/wireless-music-systems). The audio quality is outstanding--they have garnered rave reviews in Stereophile. But the nicest part of the system is the server software currently called (it is renamed frequently) Squeezebox Server (SBS). It is open source and runs on PCs, Macs, and Linux systems. I run two of them, one on my OpenSUSE 11.4 server, and one on my MacPro.
Alas, since Logitech bought Slim Devices, the Linux QA is not so great, so often you need to be able to build the Linux server yourself when it gets updated. (See http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?p=640679 for an example of what one must do.) The Mac and PC servers "just work." Squeezebox Server has many tricks up its sleeve. It has numerous plugins that allow one to
- Stream Web music
- Receive Satellite radio that is streamed via http
- Listen to the BBC
- Receive weather reports
- Act as an alarm clock
SBS uses MySQL to index all its content, so search and access are fast. It has no problems keeping up with my huge collection. It also will stream many other media types, including lossless ones such as FLAC. I carefully listened to FLAC vs the highest quality mp3 on my HiFi system and could not hear the difference. Hence I decided to use mp3 and reduce storage by a factor of 3.
There is a Java-based software program called SoftSqueeze that will play your music on any computer. There is a nice program called SqueezeCommander for Android. It will control any of your Squeeze devices via WiFi, but will not play music. There is now also a Squeezebox Android app that will play music, but I have not tried it.
Instead, to stream my music to my Android devices, I use Subsonic. The Subsonic server is free, but you need a license (€20) to stream to your Android devices. I run this server on my OpenSUSE system and open a firewall port for it. I also have a dynamic dns address so that I can find my home system from anywhere. It is of course password protected.
I have had the same experience with an Apple TV as the music revser. The basic line outs on these type devices just are not high fidelity. The Tube Magic D1 DAC is so much better with either the solid state or tube output that with lossless or WAV files you can actually do some critical listening. It is very close to a good CD player. I used the D1 with my computer at work for a couple of days to accelerate break-in and was really surprised that the USB DAC+headphone output sounded better than my NuForce Ikon mobile.
If you use a lossless encoding mechanism (e.g., FLAC), the Squeezebozes will play them as well as a CD player. The expensive Squeezebox with digital outputs got rave reviews in Stereophile.
I recently switched from mp3 to FLAC or Apple lossless, and this clears up the background "grunge," especially in loud passages. The Squeeze devices can also handle 24-bit encoding and higher sampling rates.
Alas, Logitech discontinued the Squeezebox line of devices, and there will be no more improvements to the server code. They claim it is too complicated to configure.
This is short-sighted because those of us with a lot of music need a system that can be configured in a multitude of ways.