Music Playing: Both Whole-House and Mobile

It’s been nearly 8 years since I last made choices about music playing. At the time, I picked Logitech Media Server (LMS, aka Slimserver and Squeezebox server) for whole-house audio and Ampache with the DSub Android app.

It’s time to revisit that approach. Here are the things I’m looking for:

  • Whole-house audio: a single control point for all the speakers in the house, which are all connected to some form of Linux (Raspberry Pi or x86). The speakers should be reasonably in sync with each other, and the control point should be able to adjust volume on them centrally. I should be able to play albums, playlists, etc. on them, and skip tracks or seek within a track.
  • The ability to stream to an Android mobile device, ideally with downloading capabilities for offline use.
  • If multiple solutions are used, playlist syncing between them.
  • Ideally, bookmark support to resume playing a long track where it was left off.
  • Ideally, podcast support.

The current setup

Here are the current components:

  • Logitech Media Server, which serves the music library for whole-house synchronized audio
  • Squeezelite is the LMS client running on my Raspberry Pi and x86 systems
  • Squeezer is a nice Android client for LMS to control playback, adjust volume, etc. It doesn’t do any playback on the Android device, of course.
  • Ampache provides the server for streaming clients, both browser-based and mobile
  • DSub (F-Droid, Play Store) is a nice Android client for Ampache providing streaming and offline playback

LMS makes an excellent whole-house audio system. I can pull up the webpage (or use an Android app like Squeezer) to browse my music library, queue things up to play, and so forth. I can also create playlists, which it saves as m3u files.

This whole setup is boringly reliable. It just works, year in, year out.

The main problem with this is that LMS has no real streaming/offline mobile support. It is also a rather dated system, with a painful UI for playlist management, and in general doesn’t feel very modern. (It’s written largely in Perl also!)

So, I paired with it is Ampache. As a streaming player, Ampache is fantastic; I can access it from a web browser, and it will transcode my FLAC files to the quality I’ve set in my user prefs. The DSub app for Android is fantastic and remembers my last-play locations and such.

The problem is that Ampache doesn’t write its playlists back to m3u format, so I can’t use them with LMS. I have to therefore maintain all the playlists in LMS, and it has a smallish limit on the number of tracks per playlist. Ampache also doesn’t auto-update from LMS playlists, so I have to delete and recreate the playlists catalog periodically to get updates into Ampache. Not fun.

The new experiment

I’m trying out a new system based on these components:

  • Jellyfin is a media player. It supports not just music, but also video (in fact, the emphasis is more on video). Notably it supports controlling various devices. Its normal frontend is a web browser; Jellyfin’s server won’t output audio to a device itself.
  • Mopidy is a media player with a web interface that does output audio to a local device. In normal use, it displays an interface to your music, letting you select, queue up, etc.
  • Mopidy-Jellyfin (docs) is a plugin for Mopidy that enables two things: 1) Browsing the Jellyfin library within Mopidy, and 2) controlling Mopidy from within Jellyfin. Mode 1 barely works, but mode 2 works perfectly. Within Jellyfin, I can “cast to Mopidy” and queue up things, seek, skip tracks, etc.
  • Snapcast is a generic solution to take audio from some sort of source and distribute it throughout the house, syncing each device (and with better syncing than LMS, too!). The source can be just about anything, and the docs include an example of how to set it up with Mopidy.
  • Mopidy has selectable web interfaces, and the Mopidy-Muse interface has the added benefit of having integrated Snapcast control. (Mopidy-Iris does as well, though it wasn’t documented there.) Within it, I can adjust volume on devices, mute devices, etc. I could also use the Snapcast web interface for this purpose.
  • The default Jellyfin Android app lets me stream media to the mobile device, as well as control the Mopidy player.
  • Finamp (F-Droid, Play Store) is a very nice Android Jellyfin music playing client, which notably supports downloads for offline playing, a feature the stock app lacks.
  • The Snapcast Android app (F-Droid, Play Store) isn’t strictly necessary, since the Snapcast web app is so simple to use. But it provides near-instant control of speakers and volumes.

This looks a lot more complicated than what I had before, but in reality it only has one additional layer. Since Snapcast is a general audio syncing tool, and Jellyfin doesn’t itself output audio, Mopidy and its extensions is the “glue”.

There’s a lot to like about this setup. There is one single canonical source for music and playlists. Jellyfin can do a lot more besides music, and its mobile app gives me video access also. The setup, in general, works pretty well.

There are a few minor glitches, but nothing huge. For instance, Jellyfin fails to clear the play queue on the mopidy side.

But there is one problem, though: when playing a playlist, it is played out of order. Jellyfin itself has the same issue internally, so I’m unsure where the bug lies.

Rejected option: Jellyfin with jellycli

This could be a nice option; instead of mopidy with a plugin, just run jellycli in headless mode as a more “native” client. It also has the playlist ordering bug, and in addition, fails to play a couple of my albums which Mopidy-Jellyfin handles fine. But, if those bugs were addressed, it has a ton of promise as a simpler glue between Jellyfin and Snapcast than Mopidy.

Rejected option: Mopidy-Subidy Plugin with Ampache

Mopidy has a Subsonic plugin, and Ampache implements the Subsonic API. This would theoretically let me use a Mopidy client to play things on the whole-house system, coming from the same Ampache system.

Although I did get this connected with some trial and error (legacy auth on, API version 1.13.0), it was extremely slow. Loading the list of playlists took minutes, the list of albums and artists many seconds. It didn’t cache any answers either, so it was unusably slow.

Rejected option: Ampache localplay with mpd

Ampache has a feature called localplay which allows it to control a mpd server. I tested this out with mpd and snapcast. It works, but is highly limited. Basically, it causes Ampache to send a playlist — a literal list of URLs — to the mpd server. Unfortunately, seeking within a track is impossible from within the Ampache interface.

I will note that once a person is using mpd, snapcast makes a much easier whole-house solution than the streaming option I was trying to get working 8 years ago.

9 thoughts on “Music Playing: Both Whole-House and Mobile

  1. We recently got a “smart” TV. If I rip audio and don’t get the track info from somewhere the output just gives track number etc.

    From a USB stick the computer treats the track number as a number but the TV treats it as a string which of course changes the play order.

  2. I highly recommend checking out navidrome. It has a really nice interface and web player, and in addition supports the subsonic api. There are plenty of subsonic clients for every platform (for android, I like Audionaut or Subtracks; in debian, Strawberry). I’ve considered packaging navidrome for debian, but it’s got a bunch of go libraries deps that need to be packaged first..

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  • Ampache
  • John Goerzen

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