Building A Low-Cost Audio Media Player with Vintage Computer Parts

Discussion in 'Home Theater PC (HTPC) & Media Servers' started by admin, Apr 16, 2014.

  1. admin Audioholics Robot Staff Member

    admin
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    Do you have a spare computer laying around? Odds are good that with a small investment in hardware and a bit of your time, you can give your old machine a new lease on life as an audio media player. With the low cost and high capacities of today's portable hard drives, it's possible to store an entire collection of music (and movies) on a single disc. Toss in a sound card with the right stuff, and you're ready to go. Curious to know how it all comes together? Keep reading to find out!

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    Discuss "Building A Low-Cost Audio Media Player with Vintage Computer Parts" here
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014
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  2. cschang Audioholic Chief

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    I've been messing around with a Raspberry Pi and XBMC(OpenELEC) pulling FLAC (hi-res and multichannel too) files off of my NAS drive, and have been pretty happy with the results.

    You can get a RPi with a case, power supply, microHDMI to HDMI cable, and an SD card for about $65. XBMC is free. Probably a little more work than building a media server with vintage computer parts, but it is also much more capable.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
  3. adk highlander pessimistic optimist

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    Interesting article. I don't really know if I would call this a server. You still need to do all of your interface control on the old computer. I don't see where there is any app control with this. If you are looking for a great dedicated media server setup like this that supports auto-ripping and multiple zones, then people should look at Vortexbox. Great open source product that can be installed on an older machine like this and setup in a matter of minutes. Has a full web interface and can be controlled with a tablet and smart phone with a variety of apps. I have 4 zones running in my house right now all can use my library or a variety of streaming apps. Works very similar to Sonos except it is much much cheaper. I have set up several of these for friends and they are working like a charm. If anyone is interested I can get into more detail.
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  4. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Overlord

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    Wholeheartedly agree with previous posters. Article describes a media player. Granted you pay much,much more for hardware one, but I think better usage for these grandfather parts would be real media server. Some sort of very light linux distro and media server software on top.
    Never heard of Vortexbox, but I been quite happy with MinimServer
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
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  5. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

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    I can change the page title to Audio Media Player if you guys think its more appropriate.
    gene,
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  6. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Overlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    yes, something like Digital Media Player would much more fitting, There is market for these too. This machine does not "serve" anything, but just playing files.

    I would also try to use VLC player instead of WMP
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
  7. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    Updated and results will show after the page caches out.
    gene,
  8. Marshall_Guthrie Audioholics Videographer Extraordinaire

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    I'd put my vote in for Plex as a server/player with smartphone app support. I've been using it for years, and with the recent edition of TrueHD/DTS MA Bitstreaming, it has become my default Blu-ray player (post ripping) as well.

    Would anyone be interested in a video series showing how to setup:
    1) Plex Server
    2) Plex Player (Plex Home Theater)
    3) Ripping Blu-ray (MakeMKV)

    Keep in mind, that 3rd one is a touchy subject, regardless of how common sense it seems that someone should be allowed to rip a disc they bought.
  9. fuzz092888 Audioholic Warlord

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    Yes, more details :D

    This as well :D
  10. Stanton Audioholics Contributing Writer

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    I use VLC to play video files over an Ethernet link for demos at work, but it doesn't really organize the music/media into a nice database like WMP does (at least the version I run). To be honest, my preference would have been something more multi-media like, but (again) I'm limited by hardware capability--not to mention the fact I have no Ethernet/Internet interface on this laptop!
  11. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Overlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Hmm, I see
    but have you tried:
    MusicBee - Music Manager and Player
    and/or
    Overview | Jaangle

    ?

    edit: Just checked the laptop specs: Damn - 96 MB Ram Maximum !! now (top-end) video cards have 128 TIMES that amount
  12. Stanton Audioholics Contributing Writer

    Stanton
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    ...and I actually maxed the RAM out a few years ago so I could load Win2k! Someday I'll have to upgrade to something a bit faster with a built-in Ethernet port--but it's got to have a PCMCIA slot...
  13. Marshall_Guthrie Audioholics Videographer Extraordinaire

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    I applaud the lengths taken to avoid putting more ewaste into the system, but with specs like that, I'd be giving up. Considering the options with the Raspberry Pi at $35, or even Core 2 Duo systems available used for less than $100, it just doesn't seems worth it.
  14. wiyosaya Audioholic

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    Buy new

    Personally, thought I do agree it is a commendable process of "keeping" e-waste from entering the system, there are legitimate e-waste recyclers and I think that is a much better place for such hardware.

    I recently built a media PC with an AMD A10-7850K APU that brings the potential of 4K video into the mix as well as HDMI out for audio to my Yamaha RX-A1030. Though I chose to get some robust components, such as a Seasonic power supply that will likely never wear out in the lifetime of this box, I doubt that it would be impossible to keep the costs below $1K for anyone - and lower especially if you are willing to wait for the A8-7600. Given the "power" of the 7850 APU, I cannot imagine using a PCMCIA sound card for "audioholic" level audio output.

    For ripping CDs, the free version of WinAmp will will work, and if you need to rip BR or DVD, try AnyDVD HD in combination with a BR burner such as Pioneer's latest BDXL drive - which I put into mine and which works great for playback.

    Personally, I wanted something that was a "media center" rather than a media player. I chose Media Portal for the software.
  15. Marshall_Guthrie Audioholics Videographer Extraordinaire

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    As an update on the Plex request; I have a Roku streaming stick and will be working on a tutorial video this weekend in the hopes of completing it for release next week. It is currently 2nd in the queue.

    In the meantime, if anyone in this thread has questions on setting up a plex system with Roku, and HTPC, or anything else, please let me know via PM.

    Marshall
  16. Marshall_Guthrie Audioholics Videographer Extraordinaire

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    How do you like Media Portal's Live TV Recording Feature? What format does it save HD in? Are you using it with a cable card, analog outs from a cable box, or simple OTA?

    I'm looking for an update to my entirely too long in the tooth Snapstream system, but what I have works, so I'm reluctant to change.

  17. adk highlander pessimistic optimist

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    Ok I am going to hop on my Vortexbox horse for a bit. I like my setup so much at home that I have been feeling a bit of a loss at work. There is no dearth of old laptops in my office right now so I thought I would use one for a to test out the new 2.3 release of Vortexbox. I tried to use an old Dell D600 first but it did not seem to take and the Motherboard may not be fully supported. Luckily I had a few Lenovo's around.

    So parts used:

    Lenovo T60 Centrino Duo 512MB RAM 40GB HD
    External USB drive 160GB

    1) Downloaded the Vortexbox 2.3 Iso from Vortexbox.org. Great site with tremendous support.
    2) Rip the ISO and boot and install. This is mainly a download install so a decent connection will speed up the install.
    3) Once the install is complete you just log in to the GUI via the machine's IP address.
    4) I connected the USB cable from my Emotiva XDA-1 which the box recognized.
    5) After that it was as simple as creating a player using the DAC and logging squeeze server into my existing account.
    6) This brought in all of my apps (pandora, lastFM, etc.)
    7) As this laptop has a small drive I am using the external drive for my music storage.
    8) I used on the tutorials to change the storage directory from internal to external and bang all my music was now connected.
    9) Spend a bit of time turning off the cover switch so I can leave it closed without it going to sleep.
    10) I use an app on my phone called Orange squeeze that gives me full control of the player.

    All of this took about a total of 1.5hrs not including the time it took to move my library to the external drive. There are great wiki's on the vb site to cover everthing I have done. Another piece that I have not used is the system will also RIP DVD's into MKV and miriror those to other formats. There is also a flac mirroring function to make Mp3's for all of your high res Flac files. This latest 2.3 version also incorporates Plex Server and will now play DSD files.
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  18. Stanton Audioholics Contributing Writer

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    Thought I would update this thread with a couple of significant modifications to my setup (one of which was suggested earlier) that have really made this a rock-solid media server:
    1) I gave up on the HDD and use a flash drive (one of those miniature USB sticks) so I don't have to fight the "low current" problem (which I've actually discovered on some newer AVR USB ports). I stayed under the 32 Gig FAT32 limit (which is also an issue with some newer AVR USB ports).
    2) I'm using VLC instead of Windows Media Player, which got rid of all the "window priority" setting issues along with all the skipping, lockups, etc. Now I just have one director per artist and play a folder at-a-time with VLC

    The irony is now that everything is working/soundING great, I'll get rid of this setup when I upgrade my AVR later this year (for Dolby Atmos/DTS:X) and get a USB port that plays everything (including hi-rez)! Of course, all the music ripping/organizing will pay off (as will the flash drives).
  19. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Overlord

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    Funny thing is now days I almost entirely switched from XBMC/Kodi to Plex system, possibly due to few facts:
    1) Central place for keeping track watched/unwatched or even play/resume from any client
    2) Much better content indexer
    3) Mobile device support
    4) sharing libraries with friends

    Also above mentioned Pi - Now that Pi is v2 with MUCH faster processor than the original and reduced price to $25 and http://www.rasplex.com/ - it probably worth the effort.
    http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/RASPBERRY-PI-83-16317-/83-16317

    One think to keep in mind is for Plex server to be able to stream content to mobile device it's typically needs to be trans-coded for lower bandwidth - aka it needs serious CPU, especially for HD content.

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