More and more people are steaming music and video from the Internet, or from files on their computers. We often get asked about the best way to do this. Here are some of our favorite products…
Network Attached Storage (or NAS)
If you have your own collection of movies, music, or photos that you want to access from multiple devices, a good NAS drive is almost essential. A NAS drive is basically a high-capacity hard disk that attaches to your local network (usually directly to your router). Files on the NAS drive can be accessed from anywhere inside your network (and outside if you enable this). Many new computers have solid-state (SSD) drives, which are super fast, but usually have limited capacity. Putting your movies, photos, and music on a NAS drive will save space on your computer and make these files available to other people, as well as on your smartphone or tablet.
Many companies make NAS drives, but Synology is clearly the best. They have models for large companies or single individuals, but they all share the same powerful Disk Station Manager operating system. All Synology drives come with built-in apps that you can use for sharing files, backing up computers, setting up personal cloud storage, and much more. Many third-party vendors have also released software for the Synology OS such as the excellent Plex server that will read in your media files and automatically download CD and Movie artwork and other info from the Internet. You can then access it by free apps available for your smartphone or tablet.
Streaming Media Player
Although most new TVs will allow you to connect to Netflix, a dedicated media player is a better way to go. They are usually faster, and support a lot more apps that what is built into the TV. Roku is probably the most popular streaming player on the market, but the new AppleTV is now the top dog in the field, thanks to a huge base of available apps, and a very slick touch-pad remote that you can even talk to. Plex now has a free app for the AppleTV, making it the best way to access your own collection of digital movies on your HD television.
If at all possible, connect your media player directly to your router via Ethernet. This will eliminate a lot of problems that people have with dropouts when streaming content.
The AppleTV does support playing music (either from your own collection of via Apple Music), but it’s hard to beat the Sonos system. The Sonos app (for your smartphone, tablet, or computer) will allow you to play music from your own collection (stored on your NAS) or from streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. (Sonos supports about 20 different services). The great thing about the Sonos system is that the music is not actually streaming through your device (smartphone, etc). Your device is just used to control the playback to your speakers.
If you already have a home stereo system, just connect the small Sonos Connect box to your audio receiver and your local network (via Ethernet). This method will give you the best audio quality. If you do not have an existing audio system, Sonos makes a line of stand-alone wireless speakers that can connect both to your own music collection or to online music services.
Setting all of this equipment up can be tricky. If you need some help, LMi.Net offers in-home installation service for products like these. Just give us a call for more info.