I’ve blogged before about a desire I have to be able to listen to any of my music anywhere in the house. My network-attached-storage (NAS) options didn’t really work out (The joys of network attached storage or not) and although my needs aren’t that complicated (Articles I Like: Top 10 Pervasive Tech Myths That Are Only Wasting Your Time), they have shifted a bit. As have the options available to me.
Here is what I want:
- All of our (Andrea and I, and eventually Jacob) music available to all of us all the time;
- Available in our bedroom (i.e. the nightstand);
- Available in J’s room (likely the nightstand or at least near his desk);
- Available in the office on our computers (likely a desktop app of some sort);
- Available in our playroom/kitchen area (likely through the stereo system, or not, as the case may be);
- Available on any of our mobile devices (A’s iPhone, my Android phone, my Android tablet with LTE, J’s iPad on wifi, possibly an old iTouch, iPhone, Android tablet, and a Sony MP3 player); and,
- Ability to stream new songs and old songs, and even store them offline.
If possible, I’d like to have podcasts, audio books, and DJ-based radio.
Yeah, I know, it’s a big wish list.
A. Eliminating home solutions
So I thought I had a plausible working solution. I was going to buy Amazon Kindle tablets, 7 or 8″, and put them in the various locations around the house. Then I would upload all my music to the Amazon servers to be able to stream, while also copying the various music files over to a series of SD cards that I could plug in to the Kindle tablets, and every location in the house would have its own little media centre to kick music out to external speakers or as LINE-INs on existing devices. I would plug them in permanently (rather than charge them occasionally), and I would be good to go.
Except I would want to be able to occasionally use the Kindle tablets for other things. Like maybe playing a networked version of Ticket to Ride. However, I found out that the Kindle tablets are NOT running stock Android and thus the Google Play Store is not available, just Amazon Apps. Most of the time that wouldn’t be a problem, I’ve used both in the past, but here’s the kicker. The games I wanted to play? They’re not available on Amazon Apps. So if I go this way, I’m limited to mostly just the music functionality I was looking for. Okay, no problem, just music. Except the sound from a tablet isn’t awesome, particularly those ones. Oh, and none of the stock Google apps are available, including Google Play Music. Okay, I’ll just use Amazon Music.
Except it won’t let me upload all my music to the cloud anymore (it used to do so). Okayyyy…so maybe I’ll go with just existing devices, some MP3 players, I’ll manually load them. Except that doesn’t help Andrea at all since her phone is already maxed out on her storage and iPhones don’t take external SD cards. For the love of…
Okay, that’s out. What’s next?
Plan B. Focusing on streaming
So back in March of last year, I narrowly averted disaster using iTunes (Averting disaster with my music files). Which means it wouldn’t normally be at the top of my list. Except I need a solution that works well for Andrea and Jacob (both of whom are iFans) and nothing integrates better with iPhones than iTunes. Nothing.
Now, I know it will create a lot of extra work for me if I go that route, and not only because I’ll need to create a super secure backup of all my existing music that iTunes WILL NEVER BE ALLOWED TO MANAGE, and then a second copy that iTunes can do what it wants with. Yep, I’ll have two complete sets of my music. Good thing storage is relatively cheap in the abstract. I haven’t worked out yet how much space there is in the iCloud setup, but it will let you upload your music, more or less. I suspect it copies over the version from the iTunes library still, but that’s good enough for now.
Apple Music is known for having a fairly large library with some brand name gaps who hate Apple, limited discoverability for algorithm suggestions, decent curated playlists to try, and Apple Music Canada has a Canadian artists section. It has a radio section, but I haven’t tried it yet. The only real CON is that it is Apple and therefore like Ford making an Edsel…you can have it in any colour you want, as long as it’s black. You don’t get to tweak the setup for Apple or storage or app interfaces. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. Or you find another system. And while LOTS of devices out there work with Apple, not all of them do. Apparently it is hard to integrate Apple Music with certain streaming devices like XBox or Google Home. However, it apparently has released a new version of the Android App that makes it viable to use now. Pricing seems the same for most of the major offerings, $10 for an individual account per month, $15 for a family account.
As I mentioned above, Amazon was out because of their limited options, and that is a big surprise to me since I’m already an Amazon Prime member, which would suggest AM would be a no brainer to try. Particularly if I could get it all to work seamlessly with an Amazon device like Alexa or the Echo.
Instead, my likely preferred second choice is Google Play Music. It’s the same price as Apple Music, so no issue there, and it allows me to upload 50K songs to the cloud for free. The library isn’t as extensive as Apple Music though and the app is almost too simplistic. Nevertheless, I want to give it a try, and the first month is free for the family plan, so I’ll give it a go.
Those are the major two contenders partly as they are so popular with device manufacturers. Either one will have at least one viable streaming device that I can use it with, no problem. It may narrow the choices, but that’s okay. Both are also default options for future car systems too (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).
Beyond those, I start to get less comfortable with some of the other choices. I wasn’t a big fan of Spotify, wasn’t really using it enough, but Andrea liked it apparently. The discoverability algorithms are apparently first rate, but I’m a creature of habit, so not really an issue for me. It does have a free tier though, so I should make sure I reinstall the desktop version at least.
The other one I want to try is Tidal. It is hugely popular online, but it doesn’t appear to have options to upload your own songs. On the other hand, if you create a playlist of your own songs anyway, does it really matter? Tidal’s big claim to fame is that they have lossless audio quality, but that is just going to suck bandwidth for the month. Deezer is another one in the same realm, and it has a free option to try. And the iHeartRadio app has a free option to see if it adds anything re: radio stations to try. Oh, and Slacker Radio looks interesting. Maybe I’ll try a bunch again. Just for fun. I need a rabbit hole to distract me from some other stuff going on. 🙂
Regardless, I’ll be copying music over to my MP3 manually, so I’ll be keeping my Media Monkey app too. And with that, I can do whatever the apps don’t let me do directly.
I’ve signed up for a month of Google Play Music, let’s see how it goes. But I confess. I’m not totally convinced I shouldn’t just run a home server app (like Subsonic, Plex), and avoid any subscription fees.