I have been very happy with it over the years, but lately, the ability to EASILY choose which music I wanted to listen to AND be able to listen to it anywhere I want has been a struggling cause. My system has been built around my home server (that runs Homeseer for home automation) with a Delta M410 audio card that provides me with 5 sets of RCA stereo plugs. Four of these are currently in use and the connect to amplifiers that proved sound for each zone in my house (Living Room / Kitchen, Master Bedroom, Family Room and Backyard). JRiver Media Center is a great app for supporting multiple sound cards (which is a HUGE issue for Windows Media Player, for purposes of multi-zone playback). What that basically means is that the Delta M410 looks like 5 independent sound cards inside your computer. JRiver can then output whatever you are playing to any one of these outputs (independently as well).
So this setup sounds really cool, except you need a front-end to control it. What’s so great about this if every time you want play music you have to walk up to a computer and start using a mouse? The front-end gives you the ability to control everything remotely with a clean interface. I was using NetRemote, but I never seemed to get it to easily do what I wanted. Admittedly, I never had the focus to really learn how to program within NetRemote, but I think if the interface was more intuitive and there were more out of the box templates included, I might have done more with it.
Which leads me to this past weekend’s find. I will say that I browse a lot of the “Gadget” blogs and hadn’t run across it (looks like its been around since August, 2010) . Gizmo installs on your Android device (phone or tablet) and syncs with Jriver. Once connected, your Android has access to your entire media collection (this also includes photos and videos). Open Gizmo, select where you want to listen to music (including “here” which streams it right to your handheld device – plug in your headphones and head out) and hit play. You have access to your playlists and tagging is supported.
A friend came over the house this weekend, and I handed him the tablet and opened Gizmo and handed it to him. Within 5 minutes he was browsing my collection and playing music in the house. The ability to have someone pick up the device and easily understand how to work it rates very high for me.
Although I have wiring throughout my house (I’m constantly pulling wires through my house) with multiple amplifiers, I could easily see someone taking an old laptop, installing JRiver on it and then connecting it to their living room receiver. That would be your first zone. As your system grew, you could add USB audio cards (note that if you add more than one of these, you may not be able to fit them side by side in your laptop) and connect them to additional amplifiers (either by running and hiding a wire) or wirelessly.
Project Cost (one zone)
USB Sound Card – $10
plus wiring – $depends (this can be tough if you don’t know how to pull wires through your house)
Wireless Sender/Receiver – $100 (easier solution)
Some audio device to play the music (this could be an old receiver with speakers, or maybe you have another receiver in your family room) – $0
What’s great is that you can download JRiver for free and try it out for 30 days to decide whether or not you like it. You could have it up and running in your living room on a Sunday afternoon. By attaching your laptop to your receiver’s auxiliary input (or a CD input, since you will never need that CD player again – your media collection is stored on your laptop’s hard drive) the music on the laptop will play through speakers in your room. The most current version of JRiver gives you the ability to control the volume as well.
Try it out. It’s pretty easy. And it’s real cool.