I have run out of room for CDs and records. All available wall space is taken, and cabinets can cost more than the music media. Hence, all of my music has now been transferred to my computer systems. I have about 120,000 tracks now, which take about 2 TB of storage. All newer tracks are in lossless Flac or M4a, and many are in high-resolution (24 bits up to 96 kHz). To be safe, I have FIVE copies of everything on different disks and different machines. (I have actually managed to lose three backups once...). I also have one copy in my vault.
But how to play the music in three venues: on a computer, at my HiFi, and when I am out and about (or sharing with friends and relatives). I have multiple solutions I use: Logitech's Media Server and their Transporter DAC; Subsonic; and BluOS streaming to my Node 2i - 3855 DAC/Streamer. I also use Audirvana on my Mac, and tried using Roon to also feed the Node 2i.
Playing on a HiFi System
Although I have an excellent wireless WiFi system, if you want to stream Hi-Res music, you should get hard-wired Ethernet connections. I have two such devices:
On the left is the Node 21 - 3855, and on the right (bottom) is a Logitech Transporter.
Logitech Media Server
I have been using the Logitech Media Server (LMS) system since forever. It used to be called Squeezebox until Logitech bought out Slimdevices and dropped the product line. I own 3 Transporters and 5 of their lesser devices. The way the system works is that you install their free LMS server software on a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer. I have mine on a Linux i7 Dell running OpenSUSE Leap 15. This machine is always on ready to serve its clients. The Transporter got rave reviews when it first came out, but it is quite old in the tooth now. It has a 24bit/96kHz limit, and no MQA. But I cannot hear the difference at higher sample rates. You can still buy a new Transporter on Ebay for $500. I have one at my HiFi, and one in my bedroom. Note that if you try to play multichannel or over 96 kHz tracks, bad things will happen!
You access the LMS server via its Web interfaces. There are two:
One is for setting up the system in all its gory details
The other is for selecting your music
Now of course, I could access my LMS collection via any Web browser (say on phone) and use the phone as a controller when at my HiFi. But if you allow LMS access through the firewall, you can also listen to music ON your phone.
Aside from things sounding really good, the LMS is very configurable, which is probably why it was discontinued. Fortunately, Logitech still has one person (Michael Herger) who is maintaining the software and adding new features. There is also a very helpful online forum left over from the Squeezebox days. As you can see, LMS can stream media from all the major streaming services, in addition to your own music collection.
Note that the above Web interface will not play music on your computer, but there is an app called Squeezeplay that will do so.
Generally I am very pleased with the LMS system, and sincerely hope that it keeps going. There is now an open source version of the LMS software.
Bluesound Node 2i
I got the Node 2i to see if it was time to replace my LMS system. It costs $500, and supports 24-bit/ 192 kHz audio streams. It also has MQA.
Notice the Ethernet connector—a sign that this is a music player, and not just a DAC. The BlueOS software is inside the Node 2i, and is accessed via the Web, or an application on your Mac, PC, or phone. Again, this will only play music via the Node 2i, so the phone interface is just a remote control.
As with the other music servers, BlueOS supports all of your networked music (a NAS server is not needed, just a Windows Samba share). It also supports your accounts with all the major streaming services as shown above. The BlueOS software makes better use of album images than the LMS system.
On the left is the Android app accessing my music library, and on the right, it is accessing Qubuz.
Many writers in audiophile publications (Stereophile, Absolute Sound) rave about Roon. I rave AT Roon. I had a free 90-day trial and installed Roon on my Linux server (very easy to do). Roon supports the node 2i and enev my Transporter. However it does not support any of the LMS plugins that make the Transporter so useful—it is my clock and weather forecaster.
The problem with Roon is that it is totally unacceptable for a large classical music collection. I have about 5000 artists (which for me is composers). They are stored in my file system as Last_name, First_name, which is appropriate for classical music. Roon insists on displaying then by First_name, Last_name. Very few people know the first name of obscure Classical composers (Currier, Philador, Shebalin,....). According to Roon
this practice runs contrary to how Roon behaves. This quote is from the Roon KB for Best File Tagging Practices:
One thing worth noting is that Roon will attempt to match up names that you have put into your file tags with Roon database versions of the same individuals who are associated with identified content in your library. You’ll get much better results if you stick with the likes of the following:
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
- Paul McCartney
- Richard Rodgers; Oscar Hammerstein II
than if you use:
- Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
- Rodgers and Hammerstein
There is also an issue with how one transliterates Russian names. I decided upon Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Even worse, unlike in LMS, there is no way to limit the tags used by Roon in making its list. This there are a huge number of entries, many of which are doubled, even tripled (Artist, Album Artist, Composer). And each one is displayed in a large image.
And scrolling on a phone through over 5000 such images is a non-starter. There is supposedly an alphabetical index, but it was hidden on my devices. Roon also lists each act or Swan Lake as a separate album, adding to the plethora of listings. The advice from Roon is to use WORK and PART tags, to correctly identify compositions. But I have 115,000 tracks, and am NOT going to retag them.
Thus, it is impossible to find things to play. Roon is a case where more is worse. On the Roon forum, I got this message:
I guess for a start most users aren’t mainly classical devotees and don’t have such large libraries. You are already a double edge case as a user.
If you have a set way of working and tagging that is at odds with the roon default then this will also be difficult.
Roon are re-doing the classical experience after a lot of feedback such as yours. You might be better off by skipping a few months until whenever the next major release surfaces and see if it is a better fit.
Streaming to phones and your own externally accessible music server
I am a big fan of Subsonic, and use it to access my music outside of my house, or to share it with friends. If you want Subsonic to work on mobile device apps (as opposed to using a Web page), it costs $1 a month. I bought a perpetual license many years ago.
I really like Subsonic's interface. Unlike with Roon, you can rapidly find the composer via the left-hand pane. The right-hand pane shows all users online and what they are listening to. It also has a rudimentary chat capability there. Because this is a software-based system, it actually plays the music you choose from the Web page, or from a mobile app. On Android, I recommend Dsub; In IOS I use play:Sub.
By default, Subsonic runs as root, so you must create a subsonic user and run it as this user to be secure. Also, it is easy to encrypt your sessions with a self-signed certificate, but your users will have to accept this certificate after a security warning.
Subsonic also gives you a detailed listing of network usage by user
As you see, you can configure users to be able to upload or download music. Access is password protected.
You can also configure the Logitech media server to serve music to the Internet, but I much prefer the Subsonic interface. There are Android apps that will play the LMS music on your phone, or that will control your HiFi system.