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home-hobbies in Home & Hobbies Channel,
Written by: Roger Politis on May 5 2010, 7:06am

How can I stream music in my home through Ethernet ?

I'm trying to solve a simple problem, for which there seems to be no really satisfying solution today: I would like to play music on one computer in my home, and be able to listen to it on a Hi-Fi system in another room, through some kind of (not too expensive) Ethernet adapter, as there is a network connection nearby and my home is wired. Obviously you'd need some sort of virtual sound card on the computer end to address the device remotely and be able to stream music to it, but that's OK.

I know that Airport will do this wirelessly, but I want it to be wired, not wireless, AND I don't want to be forced to use iTunes to play my music (I want to use any music player I want), AND I don't want to buy a whole Airport system as I already have Wi-Fi access points... There are also a number of products that will do it but seem too clunky of expensive, like the Sonos ZP-80 Music system that costs $1000, or the Linksys WMB54G Wireless-G Music Bridge which doesn't work AND is too expensive.

There used to be such a simple device from Devolo, the DLAN Audio Extender, which would use a Powerline connection to stream music, but they discontinued it and I can find absolutely nothing even remotely similar on the market today. This seems strange to me, as I'm certainly not the only one having this problem ? Perhaps the difficulty is that I want to use my existing stereo set and an adapter, not a dedicated music streaming / playing device, of which there are many today.

If anyone has a suggestion, I'd greatly appreciate it!

20 Citizens Answers

Miguel Esquirol says:

I think VLC can do that, here is an article about that.

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May 5 2010, 8:17am | Report

SoftCity Support says:

Roger, I've been using Airfoil at home. It allows you to stream your music to several "speakers" (computers, iPhone). I know you wanted a wired solution but this is could be a good alternative.

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May 5 2010, 8:50am | Report

Roger Politis says:

@everyone: Thanks guys, both VLC and Airfoil are great software solutions, but I'm looking for a HARDWARE adapter!

I don't want to put a PC, Mac or even iPhone next to my Hi-Fi system to play music, I need some kind of device to decode the audio and feed it into it.

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May 5 2010, 12:35pm | Report

Miguel Esquirol says:

There are several different kind of software but in general they are a little expensive. Logitech has a  DJ Music System, and here are a list of the best audio and video devices for streaming. But perhaps it can be much cheaper some Wireless Speakers. it won't feed to the device but will let you listen to your computer's music.

But closer to what you are looking for may be this can be useful: Wireless Audio Transmitter

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May 5 2010, 12:54pm | Report

Roger Politis says:

@Miguel: Thanks, all your recommendations are pertinent, but the "devices for streaming" are all overkill (doing video for most of them) and/or expensive like the Logitech. Oono would fit the bill if it wasn't wireless: it won't work in my setup - too much distance and too many walls...

So my question remains open: I need something to stream music that works over cabled Ethernet..

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May 5 2010, 4:32pm | Report

Miguel Esquirol says:

Black Box Video and Audio over Ethernet Extender seems an interesting option but a little expensive. This is another option also a little expensive. I don't know, the technology is there but apparently all the options are wireless :(

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May 6 2010, 12:22pm | Report

SoftCity Support says:

Buy a refurbished Mac Mini ;) That's what I have and it is very useful. With Synergy, you don't even need a keyboard and mouse, I use my laptop. It is also connected to my TV to watch downloaded or streamed videos.

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May 6 2010, 12:27pm | Report

Adrian Romascanu says:

Hey! I could sell you some Devolo adapters for audio and ethernet via the power network! Exactly the ones you can't find! They are brand new/never opened, they are from an unsold stock! You will be receiving waranty card for 2 years...! I have some installed at home and they work perfectly! Contact me at adrianromascanu@yahoo.com

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Jan 14 2011, 6:17am | Report

R Blawes says:

This is an interesting topic. I've been using Creative Xmod wireless in numerous rooms, and am satisfied with the price/sound quality ratio -- they are discontinued, but can be found for 50 bucks or so on ebay.

One issue is we have a large old home with thick plaster walls. The attic and an extension out back can have touchy wireless signal strength in winter with windows closed. So I too would like to look at adding a compatible powerline ethernet option.

I compared the sound quality of the xmod wireless to a laptop playing the ame flac file through mediamonkey to a good Chinese DAC into the same audio system as the xmod receiver was connected to [NAD M15 per/pro, a Bantam gold chip T-Amp, and Definitive Tech Mythos ST towers] and while the dac definitely blew the xmod away, the sound was still good enough that i use the xmod 75% of the time

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Oct 22 2011, 1:20pm | Report

R Blawes says:

Update: here's what I just read on the mediamonkey forum -- you could do this over ethernet:

 



MediaMonkey + MonkeyTunes + Airfoil = AWESOME!

by MaFt » Wed Mar 02, 2011 11:34 pm

Here's the scenario: My music collection is on my main Windows PC on the middle floor of my house. I do 99% of my work on my MacBook Pro either on the ground floor or the top floor of my house. I like my music but hate iTunes (only use it for syncing iPhone/iPad apps and backups) so using Home Sharing was out of the question - I cannot trust iTunes to look after my music collection properly plus MM is so much better with regards to features and functions.

So, how do I listen to my music while I'm working? MM doesn't work too well in WINE, it's OK in Parallels but running a 2nd OS solely for music isn't ideal...

Someone mentioned Airfoil for streaming music across a network which sounded OK but I would have to physically go to the computer to change tracks / playlists... Then I discovered MonkeyTunes which, put simply, allows you to use Apple's Remote app on iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad to have full control of MM. Sweet

So, now I have my MacBook Pro running as an Airfoil 'speaker', the windows machine running as the Airflow source and I use my iPhone to control it all. I can also use my Android phone as the remote too, or my iPad.

Another bonus is I can install the free speaker app onto my old iPhone 3G and stream it to that if I wanted to connect that to my stereo or the dock when I have guests and the MBP isn't loud enough.

I'm pretty chuffed! So even with iOS 4.3 allowing HomeSharing of iTunes library, I can still use MM for my music AND have all the benefits (and more) of that being shared across handheld devices and computers!

The only thing that annoys me is I didn't discover all this 2 years ago...

MaFt

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Oct 22 2011, 1:41pm | Report

berti grochou says:

Hello Roger !

Your question was excellent. I am having the same for years.

I do not want wifi but Ethernet hard connection.

I do not want to be stuck to Apple.

I do not want an expensive solution. Just a simple piece of hardware with Ethernet + RCA box to take the music from the Ethernet and broadcast in through RCA to my hifi system.

Any recent findings ?

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Feb 27 2012, 2:41pm | Report

harlan murphy says:

I have built a device to do this using a Parallax microcontroller and an accompanying software library for around $25 total in hardware.  The hardware device is about the size of a matchbox, has an ethernet input and simply plays streamed UDP audio sample packets over the LAN.  I can send some schematics if interested.   Here is a link to the software library:

MSX Ethernet Audio

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May 25 2012, 9:02pm | Report

Gordon Morehouse says:

First let me preface this comment with the fact that I know I'm raging because SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET: http://xkcd.com/386/

Please. Anyone who is reading this thread. Listen up.

THE MAN WANTS A HARDWARE TRANSMITTER BOX that can be PLUGGED INTO A STEREO RCA SOURCE and then he can plug in one or more HARDWARE RECEIVER BOXES into his Ethernet somewhere else and get a STEREO RCA OUTPUT.

No software.

No remote controls.

No frigging computer or bloody VLC (ffs).

A HARDWARE BOX.

I would personally add to this my desire to do it over powerline networking (mains), aka HomePlug or HomePNA, and cut the Ethernet out entirely or just hide it from the consumer. Either way. Why is this product not built?

Answer: it is. http://www.gigafast.com/products/audio_14_28.html

And specific data sheet: http://www.gigafast.com/PDFs/PE881-TX_RX.pdf

I found one or two others like this in hours and hours of searching. None for sale. All discontinued or never hit the market in the first place.

I strongly suspect at this point that somebody who makes the overcomplicated $500+ proprietary solutions only available professionally installed is buying manufacturers off at this point, because what the hell.

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Jul 30 2012, 5:24pm | Report

Gordon Morehouse says:

And this is too low-level. It uses CAT5 but isn't Ethernet.

http://www.blackbox.com/Store/Detail.aspx/Hi-Fi-Stereo-Audio-Balun/IC466A

le sigh.

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Jul 30 2012, 9:06pm | Report

harlan murphy says:

I am interested in what people would consider to be a "reasonable" price for two devices providing this capability.

RCA signal in <> RJ-45 <==> ethernet (udp packets) <==> RJ-45 <> RCA signal out

 

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Jul 30 2012, 10:42pm | Report

Gordon Morehouse says:

Me too, actually. After posting my rant last night, I started looking at solutions.

Long story short, in software, let's say you're gonna use RTP-UDP (Real Time Protocol) over UDP or something like that. That's probably overkill (rather not use IP at all) but somebody else has already written it and it's an RFC and other people could easily write software/firmware for it.

You need IP, UDP, ARP, and hopefully multicast support so you don't have to send a stream to each receiver. I don't really know how that works but in theory it's possible. You also need software smart enough to do broadcast autodiscovery, so the TX node needs to either announce its presence or respond to new RX nodes broadcasting "where are you?" and so forth.

You need to be able to take a bitstream from an ADC and chop it up into frames to deliver over RTP, or take frames from RTP packets and reassemble it into a bitstream and throw it at a DAC.

You need to ideally put pink noise or silence in when frames don't arrive in time. Pink noise can be generated very simply in code by even cheap microcontrollers, or just use a sample.

That's about it.

Specify the project to NOT be intended to work out of the same subnet or go beyond a router and you've simplified your life considerably.  Put a 10ms cap on latency maybe, I haven't read the RTP RFC but I suspect this would also make your life easier. Even with a few switches in between, if your latency on a LAN is >10ms you have problems.

I looked at Arduino. Pain in the butt to do this and expensive.

I looked at Raspberry Pi. Very possible to do this and cheap, but the device is actually overkill. You don't NEED 256MB of RAM and a video card. What are you gonna do, chop the video port off the board?

Some tiny little board running an open realtime OS or maybe RT Linux, whatever works and for which lots of libraries exist and will run and for which you don't have to write in some god-awful language, will work.

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Jul 31 2012, 11:02am | Report

harlan murphy says:

I built some devices similar to what you described using a Parallax Propeller microcontroller and an ethernet module. You can build a single one for about $25 if you assemble yourself.  Does require some propeller assembly programming.

The network send/receive ports were hard coded and used as a point-to-point connection.  ADC and DACs were used, along with a software phased-lock-loop for the receiver to match the playback rate of the sender.  It works fine on a LAN, and didn't have to worry about the latency.  Just keep the sender and receiver in sync.

44,100hz 16 bit stereo is achievable.

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Jul 31 2012, 9:37pm | Report

Gordon Morehouse says:

I think multicast (one TX to many RX) would also be achievable using a setup like you describe, but using protocols that have existing RFCs so anybody could build devices that worked with it. I'd LOVE to see that.

http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3550.txt

 

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Aug 1 2012, 3:54pm | Report

Gordon Morehouse says:

http://www.atmel.com/applications/HomeEntertainment/audio/default.aspx

BTW, RTP does support IP multicast, and RTCP is built to deal with adaptive handling of latency/jitter/etc of streaming audio/video to remote devices with varying packet arrival characteristics -- e.g. somebody installs your audio-over-ethernet into a small movie theatre with headphone outputs or something, and the packets go through a mishmash of switches and other things.

Wire up something like the Atmel UC3, pull/push bytes via RTP/RTCP.  The UC3 isn't codec-specific.  It looks like one might be able to do raw PCM and (hopefully) things like FLAC or OGG that aren't encumbered by patents.

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Aug 10 2012, 4:22pm | Report

harlan murphy says:

It looks like the UC3 utilizes licensed firmware (MP3, AAC, and WMA) for codecs, and lacks an onboard Ethernet.  We will likely see more of these special purpose boards containing DSPs in combination with an Atmel or ARM to fill niche markets in the future.

The class of hardware devices that I was targeting were at a lower price point ($7 microcontroller for singles), but would not have either the memory (32 kb only) or computational capacity to support these types of codecs.  Most of the development effort focused on the use of raw PCM. with the assumption of a typical low latency, high bandwidth home wireless network, therefore requiring little buffering on the receiver side.

I am thinking that a $35 kit that a hobbyist could solder and assemble for an audio-over-ethernet capability might generate some interest, similar to the old Heathkit projects.

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Aug 22 2012, 10:53pm | Report

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