iTunes server for new home theater system - best option?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by dawindmg08, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. dawindmg08 macrumors member

    dawindmg08

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #1
    Hey all,

    Putting together a new 7.1 home theater system, including a Pioneer AV receiver, and PS3 as a BluRay/DVD player; they'll be joining an XBox 360 and Sharp Aquos LCD I already have. I want to rip all of my CDs -- 400+ -- and put them in storage (I need the space for the speakers) so I need to come up with a storage and player solution for all my music.

    I'm looking at an HP Media Server or maybe a Mac Mini. The HP has great storage but it's Windows (though it can be run from a Mac) and would require an A/V device to get the audio out to the receiver. A Mini would possess all the required A/V hookups but would be hobbled by the hard drive size (and no, I'd rather not plug in another USB drive). Both routes are expensive too. Are there any other NAS options out there that have A/V hookups already? I know I could get an Airport Express but I already have an AEBS down there so adding another wireless device seems like a waste (wish the AEBS had an optical port!)

    Also, controlling my new server will be an issue. If it runs iTunes I could control it from an iPhone or other Macs in the house, but it would be nice if it was a lot simpler and didn't even require me to turn on the TV to access it (like an ATV or Mac Mini would). Maybe a SqueezeBox Duet since it has a remote with a display... (more $$$)

    Thoughts?
     
  2. natebookpro macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Maryland
    #2
    Powermac G4

    I picked up a Powermac G4 dual 867 w/ 1.25gigs of ram off ebay for $150. I have an Apple TV downstairs and it streams perfectly, I can even stream to a laptop at the same time. The nice thing is that I can stick 4 drives in there. Just my .02 on how to do it on the cheap.
     
  3. bbyers70 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    #3
    I would go with the MacMini route. Course...I'm a Mac guy myself. Little frustration with a Mac compared to Windows. I'm a Windows security technical analyst and understand Windows...Dislike working on Windows too...But it pays the bills!


    Yes the drive can be small on Mac Minis but it is very easy to update the internal drive on the Mini. All you need is a sturdy (but not to think) putty knife. I used a 3" putty knife to open my Mini. There are numerous videos out there that show you exactly how to open the Mini's case. Once you have the case open it is very easy to get to the drive...and why not upgrade the memory while your inside. The Mini uses a 2.5" SATA laptop hard drive. I put a 320GB 7200rpm drive in mine. That was the largest 7200rpm at the time. I believe there are 1TB laptop drives out there right now.

    If you google 'Mac Mini Hard Drive Upgrade' or search on YouTube, you should find lot of helpful information.

    Once again it is very very easy to change out the hard drive on a Mac Mini.
     
  4. bt22 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2009
    Location:
    Alabama
    #4
    natebookpro,

    Just curious. Since your PowerMac G4 can't install Snow Leopard do you think iTunes will continue to support Tiger and Leopard? I am still using windows computers waiting for these to die before moving over to Macs. But on windows we only have support for Windows XP and Vista. Now that Win 7 is out we may loose support for XP. Me and my brother-in-law are trying to figure out a good HTPC option and we want to stay away from windows if possible, but the mini is just not an option at this point. I like the price point of your G4 ... your thoughts are much appreciated.
     
  5. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #5
    There are a couple of ways that don't involve a full-blown computer...

    An Airport Express and Airtunes is one option assuming you have another Mac in the house. The Apple iPhone remote app would be perfect for controlling this.

    Another alternative is an iPod classic... If your AV Receiver is recent, it likely has a direct iPod input. Depending on the size of your collection, this may or may not be suitable.

    Neither of the two options above, require you to turn on your TV.

    If you don't mind turning on the TV, then... perhaps the PS3 Media Server... using your PS3 to select and play music from one of your other Mac's.

    Of course, there's also the AppleTV.

    The Mac Mini really only makes sense if you plan to playback HD and/or want the added flexibility a full computer provides.
     
  6. dawindmg08 thread starter macrumors member

    dawindmg08

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #6
    @nate
    I actually have an old dual 1ghz G4 myself. I could easily fill it up with drives and plug it into my network with all my music. BUT: it's louder than a jet engine, so it would have to live in another room. And it really doesn't run Leopard very well; lots of hangs. I could revert to Tiger but I really like sone of the features in iTunes 9 (not supported) not to mention other server options (Boxee, Twonky) that I think run better on Intel chips.

    ATV is a possibility as a media adapter, since they're all around the same price. Still, it would duplicate many of the functions I already get through other devices (Xbox, PS3, Tivo)
     
  7. BoulderBum macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2008
    #7
    Your idea for either the HP MediaSmart or Mac Mini is basically the conflict I went through. The MediaSmart scales better, but the Mac Mini is ultimately much more energy efficient.

    MediaSmart consumes 40w at idle vs. 15w or so for the Mini, plus I can put the Mini to sleep after a short period of inactivity and it only consumes around 1w.

    Of note, is that if you have an Apple router (Time Capsule or Airport Extreme), there's a new feature of Snow Leopard that enables the Mac to sleep, but wake on an incoming request for a service registered with the Apple router, which basically means you can leave the Mini "on" 24/7 and most of the time it will consume next to 0 power, then wake itself up when you either watch Apple TV content, or use the "Remote" application for iPhone to stream music to an Airport Express.

    I can confirm that such a setup works, as it's exactly what I'm doing right now.

    The only conflict I'm going through, is what to do about storage. Apparently there are some external drives which mimic the sleep/wake cycles of the Mac, so I plan to buy one and still be able to use the sleep energy savings.
     
  8. cantthinkofone macrumors 65816

    cantthinkofone

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2004
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    #8
    This is what i did. I stream to two xbox 360s. We've watched the same movie on both xboxs and never once did it hiccup.

    Looking at getting a apple tv.
     
  9. natebookpro macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Maryland
    #9
    My Powermac has Leopard on it while both of the laptops in the house have Snow Leopard. I'm not sure what I can tell you about the hangs on your Powermac. Mine is not fast by any means, but as a server it works perfect, maybe new RAM or a fresh install is in order? Since you already have it I would give it a shot. As far as boxee... I have tried that and xbmc and have always gone back to stock apple tv, if hulu or netflix worked on one of them I would use it, but until thn I see no reason to. Lemme know if u have any other questions I can try to help with!

    Oh yeah... Yes it is as loud as a jet, but I have it hooked up upstairs, everything is on an n network.
     
  10. dawindmg08 thread starter macrumors member

    dawindmg08

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #10
    Thanks for all the responses guys.

    I have over 500 CDs, so at high quality AAC or Apple Lossless I'm going to need lots of storage. An iPod Classic won't cut it, which is too bad because the Pioneer receiver has an iPod port. Probably looking at 1TB of storage, which might give me room to put some video and photos on there as well.

    The Mini would be a contender if not for the lack of space; I know the drive can be swapped out but I think the max size it can take in one drive is 500GB (or two of those if you take out the optical drive). I could get a MiniStack external for it but again, $$$.

    The G4 is probably my short term option, with a complete wipe and reinstall of Leopard to see if I can get it to run better. Mine only takes two drives, did yours support 4 out of the box? I need a SATA PCI card if I want to extend the storage.

    Really wish someone made a decent NAS box that had optical audio/HDMI out on the back.

    JK
     
  11. mickliq macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Montreal
    #11
    You might want to check out the post on my new blog (link in my sig) - Although I talk mostly about non-iTunes content, the den setup of course will play all the iTunes content pushed from my Mac Mini to the ATV. I do push pics and music to it, just not videos (I explain how that is done on the blog post).
     
  12. natebookpro macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Maryland
    #12
    Well, I didn't get mine "out of the box" so I'm not sure what it was capable of originally. It came with a HD and cd-rom. I put in another HD and a DVD burner. I would assume I could pull the two optical drives and put hard drives in instead.
     
  13. dawindmg08 thread starter macrumors member

    dawindmg08

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #13
    cool, thanks for posting the link. So the hack on the ATV (nitotv) is what allowed you to stream media from the USB drive attached to your base station? Cuz that's not a normal feature of the ATV right -- doesn't it need a computer to pull media from, not just a NAS on the network?
     
  14. srexy macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    #14
    On the cheap, your G4 is the answer but if you want something quiet and scalable you're going to have to pony up for the Mini or Mediasmart at some point.

    I had an XP box serving as my media server for a while but it was just too loud and could heat the whole house (a problem as I live in FL) on a sunny day with its 500w PSU running. I stuck it in a cupboard for a while but then there was the whole clonky Remote Desktop Control for Mac sw which wasn't ideal. I ended up buying a Mini from the refurb store - throwing 4gb of Newegg Ram and a 500gb Scorpio Blue drive into it. I've subsequently pressed my dual drive HDD enclosure into service so that I have a 1tb storage drive and a 1.5tb backup drive which backs up both the Mini and the storage every couple of days. Even running 24/7 the power consumption is tiny compared to my old PC and I have it in my living room stashed with all the other A/V components where it is completely inaudible.

    I'm probably about $850 into it after the various drive purchases but they were all incremental. I was able to survive for quite a while with just the Mini + ram + drive upgrade. Now I have a server for the whole house's media with redundancy.

    Edit: just to be clear - my Mini isn't really an iTunes server. I'm having to use the Home Sharing feature of iTunes 9 rather than Firefly or a true server backend. Before that I had my various iTuneseses pointing to a shared directory which was a bit of a headache because I constantly had to update each instance of iTunes to reflect changes to the folder. The HP Mediasmart does have some kind of iTunes server which you should definitely consider before you make your purchase. All of this said - the Home Sharing is a huge improvement on my old setup - there's no lag fast forwarding through playlists and it starts up almost instantaneously whereas I had huge delays before.
     
  15. mickliq macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Montreal
    #15
    Yes, ATVUSB-creator and then nitotv and you've got access to network storage from the ATV. There are other ways to do this, but this was an easy one. Without it, the ATV can stream from the iTunes Music Store (free and purchased content) but not network storage. Of course, with ATVUSB-creator and nito, you can also play content stored LOCALLY on the ATV's hard drive (and even a USB drive connected to the USB port of the ATV), which, if you only have one ATV, is the way to go.
     
  16. andymodem macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    #16
    If you go the HP Windows Home Server route, the PS3 will stream music off of it, as well as video. I have WHS in my house and play my music/videos in my home theater via the PS3 and it works great.
     
  17. dawindmg08 thread starter macrumors member

    dawindmg08

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #17
    Yeah that's where I would start too, even if it meant having to turn on the TV to start playing. Certainly better than the XBox 360 -- talk about NOISE. Oy. The new PS3 slim is whisper quiet.

    Does the Home Server support playlists of any kind? Or can you only play the music by album or artist?

    JK
     
  18. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

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    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    #18
    Take a look at this thread for what a lot of people have done to accommodate the huge size of there iTunes library.
     
  19. rayward macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    #19
    An ATV would duplicate the media sharing capability of the PS3, but the interface in a joy whereas the PS3 interface is very hard to navigate. An ATV also allows you to use things like the Genius function which the PS3 would not.

    Of course, if its just music, an iPod and dock would be a cheaper option (and use one less power outlet). Does your receiver have the ability to control an iPod with an on-screen menu? Some do, and that would be a big advantage for the iPod solution.
     
  20. celica73 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2009
    #20
    For music streaming (not videos), the new Iomaga Storceter ix2-200 seems like a good option.

    Built in iTunes server, and many other goodies for less money than a full fledged computer.

    Scott
     
  21. freepeacesweet macrumors member

    freepeacesweet

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2008
    Location:
    Cayman Islands
    #21
    Hmm.. The airport express does have optical out? You just need a stereo adaptor plug like you use on the mac mini.

    Remote for iphone gives you the interface and control you desire. The Mac/PC upstairs with a 1TB WD digital drive gives you the storage.

    Thats seems like the easy solution here.

    Cheaper than a mini by far.

    I do have a mini HTPC running Plex and it's great it has a 3TB's hooked up to it. It's always on i just use remote for iphone if i don't have the TV on although i do like the visualizer. I also have the airport express hooked up too. Both work great but the mini will add alot more fun despite duplicating what your PS3 and Xbox can do.
     
  22. j2048b macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Location:
    Cali
    #22
    I also am getting a mac mini for the "server" reason, either a dual 1.66 or 1.83,

    but on anbother not i will also be building a lime-wire technology UnRaid box to serve all of my drives, the UnRaid solution looks to be pretty cool, and i recently bought a motherboard that has 9 (YES 9!!) sata ports, it was an abit 9 pro i believe?

    So I would build a small UnRaid box, to serve all my needs!

    look up lime-wire technology, it is pretty cool.

    this way i can hook it up firewire and keep my usb's open for eyetv and other devices!!

    cant wait to get my used mini and set it all up!

    plus i got a used 40 gig apple tv comming as well as 2 ps3's in the house! haha awesome!

    good luck with what ever it is you decide to do!
     
  23. Hberg macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2009
    Location:
    Overland Park, KS
    #23
    I have a Mac Mini with a miniStack v3 7200RPM 32MB Performance. I record all my CDs using Apple Lossless, and it plays through my Classe' SSP-800 with B&W speaker system. It works great!

    If you are truly interested in a computer audio through a home theater system you may want to check out http://www.computeraudiophile.com/
     
  24. macjunk(ie) macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    #24
    Hey...did anyone of you try out the iomega istor thingy? It is supposed to have an itunes server built right in and is very configurable....
     
  25. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    #25
    Remove the "-wire" from the name it is only Lime Technology. No need to associate the company with a program that is use to potentially download copyrighted material.

    Also, you will NOT be able to hook the unRAID machine up to the mac mini via firewire. and unRAID box is a NAS (Network attached storage) device and needs to be hooked up to you network.


    The Abit board should work just fine as it is the one I run in my server. and I current have 8 drives hooked up to it.

    I play all the content off my server through a softmoded original xbox running XBMC.
     

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