Subsonic

Something I’ve thought about doing for some time is setting up a media streaming server for use on my home network. The other night it occurred to me that getting on and doing this would be more beneficial than just thinking about it.

A bit of searching led me to Subsonic, which promised an easy way to stream audio to a web browser, desktop application, or mobile device. Most importantly it offered to “convert and stream lossless music on the fly.” I have a lot of flac files – actually I have a hell of a lot of flac files – and burning them to CDs isn’t realistic (lack of space) and converting them all to mp3 so I can play them on an mp3 player would take far too long. So on-the-fly conversion sounded just the ticket.

So I downloaded Subsonic and thanks to the excellent guide found here, A Practical Guide to Installing and Configuring SubSonic, I installed and configured my own streaming server in just a matter of minutes. That done I pointed my browser at the localhost installation of Subsonic, logged in and listened to a few tunes with the built-in web player. So far so good.

Next came the big test. How easily could I get my music to stream from my PC and across the airwaves to my iPhone? Very easily thanks to the list of clients provided on the Subsonic site. I opted for SubStream because it’s free and I wanted to check that everything works before parting with any of any of my Queen’s Sterling Pound Notes. To get the SubStream client working, all I had to do was enter the address of my subsonic server along with my user name and password. Then I tapped the application’s Music button and a few seconds later a list of all the artists in my digital music collection appeared. I scrolled down the list to the Bruce Springsteen entry and then listened to a couple of streamed tracks from … The River.

So far so good, so time for another test.

I booted up a laptop running Ubuntu and pointed its web browser at the Subsonic server, logged in, chose and album to play (The Mantle by Agalloch) and – hey presto! – streaming music burst from the laptop’s speakers. To round things off, I also downloaded and installed SubAir (a Subsonic desktop client developed using Adobe Air) on the laptop. SubAir is a simple application both in terms of use and set up, so once again it was a matter of moments before I was using it to browse and play tracks from Subsonic.

Up until this point all the tracks I’d chosen to play from Subsonic were already in mp3 format and as such these weren’t being transcoded before being played. So what about all those flac files I mentioned. Well, it turns out that playing these was no problem at all. I selected a recording of a Queensryche concert from 1987 and played different tracks from it via the web player and on my iPhone. No problems and no great delay despite the transcoding to mp3 prior to streaming. Very impressive.

In conclusion? Well, Subsonic has really impressed me as a streaming server. Easy to set up, easy to manage and no problems getting it to play music across my home network. At some point I’ll set up and test the feature that allows you to stream your music into the wider world using the remote access feature but what I’ve achieved so far is enough to convince me Subsonic is an excellent product. I’ll also need to investigate the other iPhone clients that are available (iSub and Z-Subsonic) as both look to be more sophisticated and more actively developed than SubStream but again these can wait till another day.

Which is more than enough said for this post. In short, if you’re looking for a media streaming solution for your home network this blogger heartily recommends Subsonic.

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