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I was wondering whether anyone knew of a way to stream music throughout a house on a budget?

I want to avoid spending any money on this (eg. I don't want to buy a d-link style device). It would be ideal if I could use my existing hardware and some open source software.

I have three old(ish) PCs knocking around. I'm happy to stick either Windows or Linux on them. They can all be hooked up to speakers.

The ideal solution would result in:

  • the same audio being heard from every device (eg. when you hear a beat on one device, you'd hear it at the exact same time on another (so you don't get any echo))
  • I'd be able to control the source application (eg. the songs lined up) with my iPhone.

I realise I'm being cheeky with those two wishes - but you never know your luck.

Am I asking for too much, or is there a piece of software/protocol out there with this purpose in mind? I've been searching for sometime now, but haven't had any joy.

Thanks in advance.

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Without trying to deny you the fun of trying to get some network broadcast solution up and running, there is always the option of just buying a FM transmitter and listen with normal radios (no need to synchronize anything). A benefit is that you do not need any wiring, handy for bathrooms etc. There is one downside though, the audio quality will not be excellent.

Update: FM frequency planning:

Some of the FM transmitters only supports a very limited number (typically 3) of fixed frequencies to send on. Make sure that if you buy such one that it matches the available spectrum in your environment. Otherwise you probably want one where you can select your own frequency from a continuous range.

As a help to map the available frequencies, I wrote a script a couple of years ago to plot FM radio station frequencies along an axis from 87MHz to 108MHz, using the names of each radio station as vertical labels using gnuplot.

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That sounds like a great idea. The sync should work fine, plus I can play the music/podcasts using iTunes and control it with iTunes Remote. I've just had a look on Amazon and all the FM transmitters on there are for in-car. I'm not saying they won't work for the home, I'm just worried that I'll buy one and it'll be too weak. Are you able to recommend one by any chance? Thanks either way. – greggannicott Feb 21 '10 at 11:07
@greggannicott - According to the wiki article that hlovdal linked, you'll be limited in UK to certain devices, with a max range of ~8 meters, which won't likely cover your whole house. Your best bet is to find something local that you can look at/try out to see if it meets your needs. – Joe Internet Feb 27 '10 at 4:22
Thanks @Joe Internet. That's a real shame as it sounds like the ideal solution :-( – greggannicott Feb 27 '10 at 11:11

Don't know about controlling it with your iphone but you could set up your own shoutcast server.

It's basically an internet radio station on your own network. Set up any computer in the house and connect to it and you're done.

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I'm just downloading and installing Shoutcast now. I'll let you know how it goes, thanks. – greggannicott Feb 21 '10 at 11:07
I didn't have much luck with this. Admittedly it was a year and a half ago that I tried, so I don't know the reasons for failure - sorry. – greggannicott Dec 21 '11 at 9:44

I think it'd be easier to run audio cables then get separate PCs to sync up exactly.

On the software front, many media players have plugins that let you control them over HTTP. This would let you control the player/playlist with your iPhone, assuming you're connected using WiFi.

I like foobar2000, though it's not entirely open source. foohttpserver plugin lets you control it over the web.

Alternatively, Winamp has multiple plugins for a web interface, but winamp is a bit bloated these days.

I don't really know about Linux, but I'd imagine there are analogs there.

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You could install Ampache on a LAMP or WAMP server. There's an Android client (Amdroid), and the nonworking skeleton code of an iPhone client (Amphone).

You can use it as a backend to supply your player of choice with http-streaming audio goodness, or configure it's Localplay system and use it as frontend and/or backend to control Shoutcast or MPD.

See the demo site for an idea of what it looks like.

I don't know how well it will keep individual client playback in sync (this would have more to do with the Localplay backend than Ampache itself). As Fake Name points out, if real sync is desired, it's probably better to run speaker wire.

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While you wouldn't be able to do the iPhone control thing natively with this software alone, you can get pretty good low-latency streaming using VLC & it's Multicast features. Admittedly it's a little finicky to setup, but it's worked well for me for some similar setups. Lots of trial and error.

Just put VLC on all your computers and on whichever one that has your host-library, set it up to either play the music from a playlist or grab it from the line-in. If your host happens to be a mac, you can use SoundFlower to snag the output.

To get the iPhone control working, @Fake Name's answer does mention software tends to have HTTP control these days. I'm sure you could find a decent music player that does, then just use VLC in the live/line-in configuration to snag the audio from that computer.

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For Linux, Rhythmbox (the GNOME Media player) has a DAAP plugin which I've used to share music quite easily. iTunes uses DAAP but Apple encrypted their implementation.

Other players will have plugins. There's also UPNP support in Rhythmbox through another plugin.

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