Music Anywhere on a Budget

It’s easy to spend thousands on a music system that will let you use your music anywhere (or video for that matter) but for most of us, budget comes into it and of course… dedicated, expensive systems tend to age quickly and become out of date – and what about on the road?

Here’s my simple, inexpensive but powerful system and a few tips along the way.

Firstly the system is PC-based. I’ve tried Microsoft’s Media Centre and it’s too limiting.. I’ve also tried various open-source solutions and many of those don’t work either and for while I was starting to give up – but then I got the iPhone and things started to fall into place.I though of putting everything on the iPhone but with fixed memory that didn’t seem like a good idea – and what if I lost the phone?

Firstly there is iTunes on the PC. With that on your PC its easy to keep all your music, pictures and videos in one place. It’s also then easy to copy stuff onto your iPhone – but what if you only have the 16Gig iPhone and you have lots of video and music. I’ve always thought that a better way would be to wirelessly send my media to wherever I need it.

So let’s look at the HOME side first. You want your music, videos, images etc. in one place. Put them in iTunes. If your PC is attached to your TV you’re all set – but what if it’s in a different room or the other end of the room. My solution was to spend sub-£100 and buy Apple TV 2, a little box that plugs into the PC and lets you share everything on your iTunes PC (or several PCs for that matter) to the TV. Works a treat. With Apple TV2 comes a little remote control but you can also use an iPhone armed with the REMOTE app to do the same thing.

So now you have Internet radio, videos, images and music all available at the tips of your fingers.

But, what about music on demand… do you REALLY want to pay the ridiculous prices that the App store charges for music? In my case no. There was a time when I’d pay anything for the next YES album – but that time has long gone.  I’d been looking at Spotify as that’s a great program for legally playing just about any music you want… but to do the job properly you need to pay around £9.85 a month. I was thinking about that when I switched my phone from Orange to THREE.  Why is that relevant? Well, as part of the all-you-can-eat deal with THREE, they GIVE you the licence for Spotify Premium – i.e. no extra monthly payments.

So now you’ve added music on demand… but wait, how do you get the music from Spotify or similar to Apple TV? It won’t do it on it’s own. Well a little utility that costs around £15 called AIRFOIL lets you take ANY audio source on your computer-  and send it straight to Apple TV. Problem solved.

Now lets look at the mobile side.  With Spotify on the phone, it’s easy to stream or download music – and the PHONE APP can beam directly to Apple TV2 (handy for parties, playlist on the phone, selecting on the phone – but playing from Apple TV2 through your stereo (in my case my stereo is old and does not have optical input. Apple TV2 has optical output and a quick trip to EBay got me the relevant converter – optical to normal wired connection.

With StreamToMe APP on the phone, I can access all video and audio etc. from my PC to the phone. With TuneIn APP I can get all the Internet radio stations, with TVCatchup I can watch live TV.

Add AirFoil Speakers App and I can even stream any audio from the PC to the phone.

Ok, this glosses over some detail but nothing you see above is hard to implement OR expensive.  So now I can get access to my media as well as TV and radio when on the road and when I’m at home I can control the whole lot with my phone and even let guests select their favourite music, whether I own it or not, at parties, to play straight into the stereo system or TV.

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