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    The Computer Audiophile

    Dream Music Server Feature: Part 1

    In the Spring of 2019 I replaced my 2003 Honda Accord V6 Coupe with a 2019 Subaru Impreza. The Subaru all wheel drive capability is invaluable here in Minnesota during the Winter. What's that you say, I could've put a 45% deposit down on a pair of Wilson Alexia Series 2 speakers rather than get a new car? I know, the cost of cars is going through the roof :~)

     

    Anyway, my new car came with AirPlay and Android Auto. After using AirPlay for a few weeks, I had an epiphany. I wanted a home music server that could stream music to my phone while in my car, and it needed an app that integrated with Apple CarPlay. Think about that, the simple navigation of CarPlay with all the MoFi, XRCD, and Analogue Productions remasters streamable to one's car. A music lover's dream.

     

    I'm well aware this is almost possible using JRiver Media Center. I wrote about it in March of 2016 (link). However, not only is it a bit dangerous to fumble through one's phone interface while driving, it's also illegal and being cracked down upon in many cities. JRiver, JRemote, and JRiver's Panel don't integrate with Apple's CarPlay, so one is left with his music or his life (I know that's a bit over the top). 

     

    Let's dig In

    Apple's CarPlay, for those unfamiliar with the feature, provides a streamlined interface to one's phone on the touchscreen located in an automobile's dash. The buttons are large and the options are few. It's a great way to quickly find an album and select play in apps like Qobuz, Tidal, or Amazon Music. These three and many others integrate with CarPlay fairly well, although not perfect. 

     

    I use Qobuz via CarPlay every day and can't remember life without it. Qobuz currently limits browsing to downloaded albums / tracks and playlists, but it's such a step up from nearly running over the neighbor kids playing hockey in the street while I find the new Billie Eilish album. In the future, voice navigation will improve so much that we don't have to tap on the touchscreen, but those of us who like high quality and specific versions of music are still out of luck. 

     

    My problem with the current system is that I can't access all my non-streamable content via the CarPlay interface. Like many members of the Audiophile Style Community, I have hundreds or thousands of special versions of my favorite music. In addition, us audiophiles aren't ones to settle for the second or third best version just because we are in the car. We're on the eve of 2020 yet we still can't easily access this content. It doesn't seem like rocket science to me, so I'm going to lay out my dream feature and hope HiFi manufacturers are reading with interest. 

     

    Main CarPlay screen. Main Qobuz album screen. Qobuz track listing. Qobuz downloaded playlists. Qobuz artists for albums downloaded Individual Qobuz album tracks Now playing Qobuz screen

     

     

    My Dream Feature

    I'm going to use Aurender here as an example because it's such a streamlined system. We can extrapolate to Roon, Lumin, Auralic, etc... because they are all great as well, but it's hard to describe examples with all kinds of slashes and lists.

     

    At home I have an Aurender ACS10 content server that feeds a W20SE. This content server holds roughly 9 terabytes of music. Like all Aurender servers I use the Aurender Conductor app to navigate the library and select music for playback. I can edit metadata via the ACS10 iOS app as well. Before I used the ACS10, I had a W20 loaded with music for an all-in-one streamlined solution. All the music stored on the W20 and the only network activity required is for command and control.

     

    When I leave my house, I use the Qobuz app to stream or listen to my downloaded albums. I'm out of luck if I want to pull up anything stored on my Aurender. Sure there are solutions that I could "bolt on" that would scan my Aurender library and make it available to the outside world and I've used them with success. However, these solutions are too limited. 

     

    I'd love for the Aurender Conductor app to integrate with Apple CarPlay. This way I could use the same app with which I'm familiar (yes I use every app in the book, but just go with me on this one because most users don't have a dozen streaming platforms in their houses at once), the same music collection I've curated over decades, and the wonderful CarPlay interface that's much safer and easier to use than anything stuck on a phone's screen. 

     

    Settings in the Aurender app could enable me to stream at full resolution for digital output to my car stereo, or god forbid resample higher resolution to 24/44.1 and DSD to PCM. Given that all the local content is stored on the Aurender it must come from my house, but all the streaming content could easily be sent right to my phone in the car, from the cloud, via the Aurender app. It doesn't make sense to stream a Qobuz album from the cloud to my Aurender at home, then back to the cloud before it hits my phone. Some basic logic in the app telling it to grab streams from the cloud and local content from my house would be ideal. 

     

    Also, an offline or download to phone feature for un-streamable content would be welcomed. I really don't want to sync my phone with an app anymore. Just browse the Aurender iOS app (would need one for iPhone) and select which albums to copy to the phone for playback when out of mobile phone coverage areas or on an airplane. 

     

    Why not just store everything in the cloud? Sure this could be done, but isn't really necessary for the basic features of library browsing and playback via Apple's CarPlay. A cloud copy of one's music may be nice for backup and for people who have slow home internet connections, as it would enable them to stream to their cars without using their home ISP. I could be persuaded on this one, but it would have to be a simple option in the Aurender Conductor app to upload everything to the cloud. Let's not use technology for technology's sake and make this harder than it needs to be. 

     

    There certainly are mobile phone data caps and cost issues for some people around the world. But, nothing is a one size fits all solution. Holding back progress until everyone has gigabit fiber to their houses and unlimited 5G mobile plans would be nonsense. Based on the speed at which higher data caps and faster connections are expanding to more people, we must look at solutions to take advantage of these technologies now. 

     

    In my dream feature listed above, one could replace Aurender with Auralic's Lightning DS, Lumin's Lumin app, or Roon running on a NUC, Nucleus, or NAS. I'm agnostic about platform and would in fact love if every manufacturer implemented this feature. A little competition brings out the best in all of us. 


    Note: The music playback app Vox (link) may work for some readers looking for access to their local collections via CarPlay. Vox integrates with CarPlay and enables users to upload an entire library, without limits on size, file type, or sample rate, to the Vox cloud. Music can be downloaded to an iPhone for offline listening or streamed directly from the cloud to the phone. The CarPlay interface is pretty good and the app works great. The limitations with Vox currently are lack of integration with streaming services such as Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon, Apple, etc... It only supports Spotify. The cost to use the Vox cloud is $4.99 per month. Vox has apps that can watch specific folders for new content and upload that content to its cloud. These apps are for both macOS and Windows. 

     

    Main VOX screen. Cloud library albums in VOX. Artist specific screen in VOX. Album specific screen in VOX. Now playing screen fo VOX.

     

     

    Wrap Up

    That's the current music server feature I dream about most. I want all my music with me all the time and a safe, simple way with which to access it while driving. Is that too much to ask? 

     

     

     



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    I’ve had terrible luck getting Qobuz to work well in my ‘17 VW with CarPlay. I can access and play Qobuz through the app on my phone, but the interface on the screen in the car is mostly useless. Had similar issues with Tidal so I’m thinking it’s the fault of the VW. There seems to be no way to update the cars firmware. 

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    3 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Thanks @Jud

     

    Another member PM'd me to let me know Plex with the Prism music app will do this. 

     

    Still not a complete integration with my HiFi servers, but it's a start.

     

    Plex doesn't like my aiff files, which is why I switched to Subsonic.

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    I have spend quite some time looking at various solutions, especially cluod solution that would avoid opening an access to your home and having a server running 24/7.

     

    Current solutions that work around discovering your music in a cloud account (i.e. google drive, etc...) are too slow and not very flexible, because they require a very lengthy process to scan your cloud storage and read tags. I would be happy with an application that uploads, from my home, all my music files and stores the tags and artwork in a cloud "database" as well. Doing the hard work when you load the cloud is much more efficient than doing it once the files are loaded...

     

    In fact, I would be happy to even stream my files from the cloud within my home, and just forgo using a network server all together. This would be the simplest solution. All the technology is available to do this, efficiently.

     

    To take it one step further, just give me a cloud solution and let me load files from anywhere, play them anywhere, and if needed download all the data back to a local storage for backup purposes.

     

    Having access to a Qobuz or other streaming service within the same app does not seem to be difficult either, provided you don't expect something as tightly integrated as Roon, where the streaming service metadata is adjusted. Having album grids, and other simple features like that with both purchased (own) and "rented" music from streaming services seems to be pretty basic.

     

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    46 minutes ago, hopkins said:

    especially cloud solution that would avoid opening an access to your home and having a server running 24/7

     

    A cloud solution would be ideal of course, but home server solutions such as Subsonic can be made very secure (for example if you want to get sophisticated you can reverse proxy through a capable server such as nginx and not only run https but require two-factor authentication - see https://apps.nextcloud.com/apps/twofactor_totp ). Regarding 24/7 operation, I don't do that unless I'm away from home an extended period for vacation or work. Otherwise I can just have the server computer running a few hours at a time when I'm in the car or at a friend's.

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    I understand why some want this, however I must be in the minority of people that don't listen to music much in the car unless its MPR. When on a road trip its my wife that plays the DJ with little input from me, ha...

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    16 minutes ago, AudioDoctor said:

    I understand why some want this, however I must be in the minority of people that don't listen to music much in the car unless its MPR. When on a road trip its my wife that plays the DJ with little input from me, ha...

     

    I didn't know I wanted it until...

     

    A neighbor gave me access to his music on his Plex server. Fun to play with, so I thought I'd do it with my music. However, Plex didn't see any of my music files, which are all AIFF or DSF (a DSD format). At that point I got the bug some of us may recognize: "I am going to do this thing, dammit!" So I researched and came up with Subsonic and AVSub. Having my entire music collection at full res in my pocket whether in the car or exercising (I take several-mile desert walks - you might work out at home or in a gym) has proved to be an unexpected treat that I never knew I was missing.

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    19 minutes ago, Jud said:

     

    I didn't know I wanted it until...

     

    A neighbor gave me access to his music on his Plex server. Fun to play with, so I thought I'd do it with my music. However, Plex didn't see any of my music files, which are all AIFF or DSF (a DSD format). At that point I got the bug some of us may recognize: "I am going to do this thing, dammit!" So I researched and came up with Subsonic and AVSub. Having my entire music collection at full res in my pocket whether in the car or exercising (I take several-mile desert walks - you might work out at home or in a gym) has proved to be an unexpected treat that I never knew I was missing.

     

    Maybe, but I would have to remember it's there too. When by myself I almost never listen to anything beyond MPR. When my wife is along for the ride she DJs. Her musical tastes and mine don't always mesh...

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    Synology NAS with enough storage. MinimServer (free) for smart indexing all you music and BubbleUPnP server (free) to allow access from the outside world. You can choose if you want to stream lossless or lossy (when you are on the go..). This setup is extremely effective when you go to your friends and stream music from your NAS. 

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    2 minutes ago, AudioDoctor said:

    But that system @Ran is missing the final link to the car.

     

    You can always hook your phone to the car via Bluetooth, Wire, etc...

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    1 hour ago, Ran said:

     

    You can always hook your phone to the car via Bluetooth, Wire, etc...

     

    Yes but thats not using CarPlay.

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    BubbleUPnP doesn’t work with iPhone yet as far as I know, or is my information out of date?

     

     If it doesn’t, that means it’s not compatible with CarPlay.

     

    One other note: MinimServer organizes your music by tags. Subsonic and AVSub follow your folder/directory organization. So beyond CarPlay compatibility, there’s the matter of how you like your music organized and searched.
     

    I personally prefer my own folder organization, because it’s not consistent. I like to have various versions of Beethoven’s late string quartets or other famous classical compositions in subfolders under the composer’s name, but most of my other music in folders under the names of the artists, for example. Or I might have an album of Grateful Dead covers by other artists in the Grateful Dead folder. This is how it makes sense to me to organize and easily find my music, and I haven’t come across another system that can duplicate it.

     

    Edit: I should add here the important piece of information that although AVSub will use your folder organization by default, there is a setting to have it use tags if you prefer.

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    8 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

     

    Maybe, but I would have to remember it's there too. When by myself I almost never listen to anything beyond MPR. When my wife is along for the ride she DJs. Her musical tastes and mine don't always mesh...

    I guess I'm in the same situation but frequently I drive without any music.

     

    For the sound quality of the majority of vehicles isn't MP3 more than adequate quality?  The desire to have up to high res quality personal streaming in your car seems to be a little bit of a first world problem! 😊

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    17 minutes ago, james45974 said:

    The desire to have up to high res quality personal streaming in your car seems to be a little bit of a first world problem! 😊

    Oh yes, without a doubt. 

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    7 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

     

    Yes but thats not using CarPlay.

     

    You can't have it all with Apple 😉

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    I've come up with a somewhat unconventional approach to having my music library, with all its breadth of genres, available to me in my daily drive/distance drive SUV in 16/44 form. Driven heavily by the age related quirks of the vehicle. A 2014 Mercedes SUV. Its Apple iPod connector is the older type, Mercedes doesn't make one for the Lightning type connector, and using an adapter doesn't work well. It'll only play compressed formats from the SD card slot. So my only options for at least Redbook sound is, iPod, or CDs. It supports the full iPod functionality on the system screen.

     

    (With one bizarre alternative... it'll also play DVD-Audio disks in full multi-channel splendor. Great to have a pricey dead format as my only true multi-channel option.)

     

    I picked up a few 64gb iPods with the old style connector cheap on eBay, along with two with the 120gb internal hard drive. Loaded each with a single or compatible genres at 16/44 AAC, and on the non-classical ones, created a couple shuffle playlists. A small CD rack in my closed-top console holds them all. Color coded them with strips of colored plastic tape on the top edge. If I'm in an Afro-beat mood, I grab the relevant iPod, plug it into the adapter, and off I go bouncing down the road.

     

    As for Qobuz, I load the app on my phone with my current interests, along with a few hours of Radio Paradise at lossless AAC, but can only stream via bluetooth, and for whatever reason, doesn't sound as good as the array of iPods. Good enough.

     

    I've yet to find someone who'll help me get the built in idiotically small hard disk out of the system so that I can install a plug in for external hard disks. That's going to be my goal for the next car.

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    5 hours ago, zerung said:

    Tesla has Spotify integrated with the car - Have been this way for the past 4 years. The Hifi system is amazingly good (Upgraded version) and both Tidal and Qobuz can be streamed via the IPhone to the Tesla Hifi system. I dont need to stream my home system as Spotify and Qobuz has my whole music on demand....

     


    Yep, Qobuz is a treat to listen to in the car or on walks. I like having my home collection available too, because (a) many (all?) Qobuz tracks over the phone app are only available in RedBook, and (b) my own tracks are easy to find - I want a particular Aimee Mann album, I just go to the “A”s, no searches necessary.

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    7 hours ago, ednaz said:

    I've come up with a somewhat unconventional approach to having my music library, with all its breadth of genres, available to me in my daily drive/distance drive SUV in 16/44 form. Driven heavily by the age related quirks of the vehicle. A 2014 Mercedes SUV. Its Apple iPod connector is the older type, Mercedes doesn't make one for the Lightning type connector, and using an adapter doesn't work well. It'll only play compressed formats from the SD card slot. So my only options for at least Redbook sound is, iPod, or CDs. It supports the full iPod functionality on the system screen.

     

    (With one bizarre alternative... it'll also play DVD-Audio disks in full multi-channel splendor. Great to have a pricey dead format as my only true multi-channel option.)

     

    I picked up a few 64gb iPods with the old style connector cheap on eBay, along with two with the 120gb internal hard drive. Loaded each with a single or compatible genres at 16/44 AAC, and on the non-classical ones, created a couple shuffle playlists. A small CD rack in my closed-top console holds them all. Color coded them with strips of colored plastic tape on the top edge. If I'm in an Afro-beat mood, I grab the relevant iPod, plug it into the adapter, and off I go bouncing down the road.

     

    As for Qobuz, I load the app on my phone with my current interests, along with a few hours of Radio Paradise at lossless AAC, but can only stream via bluetooth, and for whatever reason, doesn't sound as good as the array of iPods. Good enough.

     

    I've yet to find someone who'll help me get the built in idiotically small hard disk out of the system so that I can install a plug in for external hard disks. That's going to be my goal for the next car.

     

     

    Get the new GLS and you can literally "bounce" down the road...

     

    https://www.motor1.com/news/354303/mercedes-gls-bounce-out-sand/

     

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    On 11/28/2019 at 2:01 PM, Jud said:


    Yep, Qobuz is a treat to listen to in the car or on walks. I like having my home collection available too, because (a) many (all?) Qobuz tracks over the phone app are only available in RedBook, and (b) my own tracks are easy to find - I want a particular Aimee Mann album, I just go to the “A”s, no searches necessary.

     

    Jealous... because the other thing that drove me to the madness of a pile of iPods is the mobile phone signal where I live, and where I often drive for photography. Where I live, I don't get the LTE symbol on my Verizon Wireless phone, and except for one second floor bathroom, only one bar. Yeah, out in the sticks. On the 7 mile drive out to a major road, with a lot of homes along the road, I go to "no service" notices a couple of times, and don't get LTE until I'm about a mile from the major roads. Verizon Wireless' response has been, that's why your phone can connect via wifi, it's just not economic for us to build out our network in low population areas. (In this neighborhood of a couple thousand houses where both FiiOs and Xfinity built out their wired network. Go figure.) On my 50 minute commuter train trip to work each day, there's a 10 minute stretch of one bar or "no signal" about 10 minutes into the trip. Can't even scroll a book page.

     

    Many of the national and state parks around me have similarly bad connectivity. Surprising since I had good connectivity all over the wide open US western national parks like Monument Valley and Escalante Steps (other than under ground), but here in central Virginia? Bah.

     

    I'd long read about how the network revolution was unevenly distributed and shrugged, but now I'm living the dream/nightmare.

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