With streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and PlayStation Vue, it's easy to stream media whenever and wherever. But for those with a massive collection of local files like videos and music, why waste that excellent content? Instead, put it to good use by spinning up a music server. Check out the best music server software options to build your own Spotify. [Read: 10 media server software options for multi-device streaming needs]
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Why build a music server
Using media server software, it's easy to create your own music server. But options like Spotify and Pandora offer similar functionality, right? The main advantage of a self-hosted music server is control. You can download music locally to client devices, plus there's often a selection you can't find on the likes of Spotify. For instance, I own a lot of movie soundtracks. Although Spotify boasts an impressive selection, I have several hard-to-find albums. Plus, I rip my vinyl collection, much of which I can't find on music streaming services.
Then there's the main motivating factor: money. Most music streaming services require payment for premium features like caching and skipping songs. Of course, you'll need a server, software, and your own files.
- Free to use, or one-time fee
- Gain access to a wide selection
- Access to your files from anywhere
- Requires upfront work
- Need server hardware
Plex Media Server is a service made specifically for a server or home theatre PC that allows you to stream your media anywhere and on any Plex compatible device. Besides streaming, this service processes your media and organizes it in beautiful libraries ready for consumption. Plex is probably the most popular app for streaming your own media files, specifically, for the great video playback. But Plex is just as good for music. You can install Plex server on Windows and Ubuntu Server as well as macOS. [Read: Troubleshooting Plex buffering – Solutions for when Plex keeps pausing]
Subsonic is your complete, personal media streamer allowing you to enjoy your music and movies everywhere. It has a transcoding engine that allows you to stream a variety of lossy and lossless formats by converting them on-the-fly to MP3. The service is available in 28 Languages, has 30 different themes, and a highly configurable user interface. Besides that, Subsonic is compatible with more than 25 apps for your mobile phone/tablet or computer. You can check the complete list of subsonic apps for your personal music server on their site. There is a demo site available which you can try in order to check it's functionality before installing.
By purchasing the Subsonic Premium edition, you get access to the video streaming feature, an ad-free experience, and the possibility to stream to your Chromecast and Sonos devices. You can also add your Last.fm account to Subsonic in order to register what you are playing using the built-in Audioscrobbling support.
You can easily setup a music streaming server with Subsonic by following our guide on how to install Subsonic on Ubuntu and have your very own personal music server in just a few minutes. Plus, it's simple to install on Raspberry Pi and Odroid C2 boards.
Madsonic is a web-based media library and media streamer with jukebox functionality that allows you to stream your media to any compatible device. It is based on Java, so Madsonic runs on most platforms like Windows, macOS, and Linux. It has Sonos, Chromecast and Dreambox support, making it compatible with a wide range of devices. You can check it out by going to the demo site available where you can try in order to check it's functionality before installing.
You can enjoy Madsonic on the go by using the official Madsonic Media Streamer Pro app for Android. If you don't want to pay for the official app, you can use the compatible apps listed on their website. If you want to set up a music streaming server, make sure you check out Madsonic, because it's a great alternative to Subsonic.
Ampache is another great open-source music streaming server alternative. Let me start by telling you that Ampache is not a universal player because it doesn't use codecs so it simply streams your music to a player or a web browser. Even so, Ampache is able to transcode music files if the player does not support the original.
It is able to connect to services like ChatLyrics and LyricsWiki to get song lyrics for your music and also import metadata from MusicBrainz. By connecting to Last.FM you can get similar artists/biography/pictures asynchronously so you can set up a music streaming server using Ampache with complete information.
Ampache also supports local play for VLC and Kodi, a function that allows you to push music from Ampache to the VLC or Kodi server directly, without having a local copy of the music files.
Best Plex Client Devices:
Whereas most of the options on this list focus on playing local files, Mopidy includes functionality for streaming from sources like Spotify, Google Play Music, and SoundCloud. That's made possible through extensions. Plus, Mopidy is easily installed on a Raspberry Pi. As such, you can set up music server software Mopidy on a Raspberry Pi for a low-power server option. For its compatibility with Raspberry Pi hardware as well as its integration with third-party music streaming services, Mopidy is a top choice for a personal music server.
For a personal music server, Serviio is a spectacular streaming program. It's a free media server that boasts such functionality as hosting video, images, and music. Then, it's rendered on various client devices such as Blu-Ray players and game consoles.
Like a few music server alternatives including Madsonic and Subsonic, remote streaming requires a premium subscription. But this is a solid choice with a robust feature set.
The premise of PlayOn is really neat. Not only does this service offer server capabilities, but it boasts stream recording. Therefore, you may save videos and music for offline use. However, please only do so legally.
Because PlayOn offers both server and DVR functions, it's a top pick for a personal media server. Notably, it's one method for watching Netflix on Kodi for v17 and earlier, as Kodi v18 has a third-party Netflix app. [Read: 10 best Kodi movie addons in 2017 for your HTPC]
As the name suggests, AirSonic is a fork of Subsonic. However, rather than the closed-source model for Subsonic and Madsonic, AirSonic remains free and open-source. It's engineered to handle large music collections and is optimized for mp3 streaming though works with loads of video and audio formats from OGG and AAC to WMA, FLAC, and APE.
Another Subsonic Fork, Libresonic is free like AirSonic. This web-based personal music server easily handles massive collections. Additionally, Libresonic is compatible with pretty much any file format you throw at it.
Best music server software: Final thoughts
Which music server software you pick depends on several factors. A major factor is open-source versus closed-source. Many server junkies may prefer the open-sourced Libresonic or Airsonic.
Alternatively, you might consider trying a few different media server software options. I've used everything from Plex and Emby to Subsonic, Madsonic, and Ampache. Currently, Plex is my go-to for video and I quite enjoy its music streaming features. But I also have a Madsonic instance running for compatibility with the Subsonic Android app.
Your turn: What music server software do you recommend for making a personal music server?
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