• Let The Music Fly With J River Media Center 15

    At most computer audio seminars I conduct Windows users ask about wireless audio. Mac users usually sit back with a comfortable grin when such questions are asked. Wireless audio using iTunes and an Airport Express is old-hat to Mac users. Windows users are typically familiar with wireless products from Logitech and Sonos, but they are looking for something integrated within their playback application and not tied to iTunes. In other words a $100 Airport Express for programs other than iTunes. Fortunately Windows users are in luck. Even more luck than Mac users. Using J river Media Center 15, an Apple Airport Express, and Illustrate's Air UPnP Windows users can send wireless audio around the house with no additional configuration necessary. J river Media Center is also capable of sending different songs to several different Airport Express units simultaneously. iTunes currently supports broadcasting only one song to all local and wireless devices. As a bonus J River Media Center, in combination with PlugPlayer running on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, can send audio via wireless straight to the Touch, Phone, or Pad. This works great for users with an iPod dock connected to their HiFi system. Simply connect the iPod to the dock, set J River on Random, and let the music fly while house guests wonder how much storage Apple has managed to cram into a device so small.


     


    Taking Flight: Wireless Audio

    There are many different ways to stream wireless audio around a house or to a HiFi system. Most of these methods require a unique software interface that's good only for specific wireless devices. For example iTunes & Airport Express, Logitech Squeezebox & Squeezebox Server, Sonos hardware & Sonos software. The best solutions allow bit perfect local playback, flexible wireless playback, and good library management. iTunes and Airport Express on Windows is OK for broadcasting wireless audio and library management, but local playback (Windows only) is compromised without support for WASAPI, ASIO, or Kernel Streaming. Logitech and Sonos solutions are very good at what they do, but local library management is virtually nonexistent compared to applications like J River Media Center and MediaMonkey. In addition learning a separate interface for wireless audio via Sonos or Logitech isn't a show-stopper but is far from ideal.

     

    Bringing It Together

    My preferred solution for streaming wireless audio from a Windows based computer is J River Media Center 15, Air UPnP, and an Airport Express. This $150 a la carte solution offers great music library management, excellent local bit perfect playback options, and can stream multiple tracks to multiple Ariports simultaneously.

     

    Hardware
    Assuming computer audiophiles already have a Windows based music server the only hardware required, excluding cable, is an Apple Airport Express ($99). It's possible to output analog or digital audio from an Airport Express. I strongly encourage using the digital output via a Mini-Toslink to Toslink cable or standard Toslink cable and an adapter.
     

    Software
    J River Media Center 15 ($50), and some previous versions, must be installed and the appropriate options must be enabled. Air UPnP from Illustrate, the same company behind dBpoweramp, is currently a free product.
     

    Configuration

    Configuration of the Apple Airport Express can be done by an installation wizard or manually. If computer audiophiles already have an Airport Express in their network there is no extra configuration to be done. There's no need to worry about reconfiguring the Airport for use with wireless Windows audio as Air UPnP doesn't change a single configuration item on the unit. Air UPnP simply allows DLNA compliant software (J River) to view the Airport as a DLNA ready device and use it as such. Another great thing about Air UPnP is that there's absolutely no configuration or user intervention required after installation. The install process is simply a few next-next-finish mouse clicks. The application then runs as a Windows service at system startup.

    J River Media Center must be configured to see the Airport Express as a DLNA aware device. Under Tools > Options > Media Network is where the appropriate boxes must be "ticked" as the CA U.K. readers would say. The only item that must be enabled is DLNA Controller. This allows J River Media Center to view the Airport Express as a separate Zone. Readers will notice in the graphic below I have DLNA Server, Renderer, and Controller enabled. I use J River in many different capacities one of which is with the PlugPlayer iPhone app featured in the Bonus section of this article. In that section the DLNA Server is also required.


     

    Example configuration

    Currently here at Computer Audiophile I have J River Media Center configured to output audio locally using a Lynx AES16 card via AES/EBU to an Esoteric D-07 in for review. This Zone appears in J River as Listening Room. Zones are easily renamed from the default Zone1, Zone2, etc… The Airport Express is connected to a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC via optical S/PDIF Toslink. Since Air UPnP is installed on this music server the Airport Express appears as a separate zone in J River Media Center. I've renamed the zone Airport Express 1. When properly setup per the simple instructions above additional J river zones appear automatically. I did nothing outside of the instructions to make the Airport Express appear in my system.
     


    Playing tracks in each zone is very simple. The zones can be synchronized by selecting Player > Zones > Link Current Zone. Using iTunes there is no option to synchronize zones because it's impossible to send separate audio streams to separate Airports. In J River playing different tracks in different zones is as simple as clicking on the zone and selecting the music to play. Toggling between zones by clicking them displays the different items playing through each zone. There are also other ways to initiate playback in a zone. The other method I use is to right-click and select Send To the specific zone I wish to play the track.
     



    Note: Using a Lynx AES16 card allows multiple channels of audio output and input. It's possible to create zones in J River for up to eight stereo zones using a Lynx AES16 card. This would allow sending audio via AES/EBU to multiple zones for users who need up to 24/192 high resolution and users who want to avoid wireless audio transmission. An AES/EBU cable can extend lengths of 100 meters or more.

     

    Bonus: J River Sending Wireless Audio To iPhone

    As a bonus I thought I'd just tack this little piece of information on to the article. The PlugPlayer app now allows UPnP control points to control it as a UPnP renderer. In layman's terms this means J River users can send audio wirelessly straight to an iPhone. It's also possible to use the PlugPlayer interface to pull audio from a UPnP server, but I've yet to use an iPhone dock that allows easy navigation of an iPhone touch screen. All the docks seem to present the iPhone at an awkward angle and the dock connection always seems far too touchy. Just my preference. I really like using J River to send audio to my iPhone. This method could also be used as a poor mans's Linn Majik digital streamer. The Majik DS-I and PlugPlayer on the iPhone support UPnP as renderers and can be controlled by UPnP control points. I'll stop this comparison right here as the two units are much further away from each other than apples and oranges. Anyway, here are the pieces to this J River-to-iPhone puzzle.


    Requirements:
    1. iPhone, or iPad, or iPod Touch
    2. J River Media Center running on Windows Music Server
    3. PlugPlayer application, available from Apple App Store, running iPhone or similar

    Additional Configuration:
    As mentioned earlier in the J River configuration section, under Tools > Options > Media Network make sure to enable the DLNA Server. I could not get this setup to function without the DLNA Controller and Server enabled within J River. The only other option I elect to change within the Media Network configuration page is to Never Convert the audio streamed to the rendering device (iPhone in this case).


    Once the PlugPlayer app is installed on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch it must be configured to use J River Media Center as its Media Server and PlugPlayer must be selected as the Renderer and UPnP control enabled. A graphic below displays a screen shot of this configuration.
       



    Playback of wireless audio directly to an iPhone is accomplished the exact same way as the zones mentioned above. The iPhone will appear as a zone in J River Media Center (see screen shot). Selecting the zone followed by the music is all that's required.


    Coming In For The Landing

    There are numerous ways to send music flying around the house. Mac users are nearly all setoff using iTunes with Airport Express. It's a simple solution that works for most Mac based listeners. However, when additional wireless flexibility, bit perfect local playback, and good library managements are needed on the Windows platform the J River Media Center 15, Air UPnP, and Airport Express combination is tough to beat. I've used quite a few different systems and landed on this combination as one I use most frequently. At around $150 to start and $99 for each additional zone (Airport Express cost) it's hard to talk one's self out of at least trying this solution.

     

     

     




    Links:
    Air UPnP $free
    J River Media Center $50
    PlugPlayer $5
    Airport Express $99





     

     

     
    Comments 35 Comments
    1. Bob Stern's Avatar
      Bob Stern -
      provides a subset of this functionality for Mac users.<br />
      <br />
      Airfoil allows you to transmit audio from any software player, not just iTunes. It allows remote control from a remote Apple TV or from a remote Airport Express. <br />
      <br />
      However, all remote clients receive the same music; it lacks the ability for different remote clients to choose different music.<br />
      <br />
      http://www.rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/mac/
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Matias - The sound quality using a Halide Bridge is better than an Airport Express in any configuration in my system :~)
    1. sr1329's Avatar
      sr1329 -
      I can't see what is so great about this other than being able to use an Airport Express with 3rd party software on PC only. You could get a Squeezebox receiver for $129 and use that with either Mac or PC and connect to a DAC via coax or optical. With iPeng/MusicIP/Trackstat it beats iTunes any day of the week and likely beats J. River as well. <br />
      <br />
      If you must you could go Transporter -> AES/EBU -> DAC with a word clock cable to assuage jitter concerns. <br />
      <br />
      If you must send audio to an iPhone you could use Squeezecast. But I don't think iPhone playing music through a dock is really an audiophile solution. It just looks cool and I suppose might only be useful if you really must show guests that stay for more than 5 days that you were able to play different music for 120 hours from an iPhone. If they notice that is. More likely they would have fainted from sleep deprivation. <br />
      <br />
      One other thing, there is nothing stopping one from using MediaMonkey to manage the library used by Squeezebox. <br />
      <br />
      But great tutorial though for those who for whatever reason choose to use this setup.
    1. bottlerocket's Avatar
      bottlerocket -
      <<It just looks cool and I suppose might only be useful if you really must show guests that stay for more than 5 days that you were able to play different music for 120 hours from an iPhone. If they notice that is. More likely they would have fainted from sleep deprivation.>><br />
      <br />
      What a strange comment! That is reading a lot into this review.<br />
      <br />
      My house guests would catch up on their sleep fast if I tried to subject them to that much Iphone music.
    1. mtan002's Avatar
      mtan002 -
      Hi Chris<br />
      <br />
      I am a Windows user. Can you please add a block diagram to show what is connected to what. Then I can see how your music fly. <br />
      <br />
      Cheers.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi sr1329 - It appears this solution isn't for you. Thanks for providing the CA readers with your ideas and I hope you have a wonderful week.<br />
    1. Dennis Graves's Avatar
      Dennis Graves -
      I have now spent quite a bit of time with both dBpoweramp and JRiver Media 15. I thought I would use dBpoweramp to rip and JRiver to play back. BUT, I have had endless problems trying to get music (CLASSICAL) organized by composer, type (eg, chamber or symphonic), etc. using JRiver. JRiver evidently will not accurately read and translate the files ripped by dBPoweramp. There are many instances where, for instance, an album will be split into two parts or a track will be missing, and there does not appear to be anyway to correct such problems. Further, one has to spend a huge amount of time trying to correct the automatic data inputed (eg, one track will show a composer by full name and another by last name). There are just so many problems working with this software that I am close to giving up on computer audio altogether. It appears to me that the only feasible way to go is to use the same program for ripping and playing. That way you at least avoid the problems of "translation" from one product to another. So, my bottom line question: do all the programs rip well enough so that I can determine the program to use by the viability of the playback functions? What about dBpoweramp for both ripping and playback?<br />
      Thanks!
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Dennis - Please start a discussion about this in the forum under a more appropriate topic. This article is more about JRMC and wireless audio. You are much more likely to get help by posting in the forum where your questions will be more visible to people interested in the topic.<br />
      <br />
      That said, I've never had an translation problems when using dBpoweramp and J River Media Center. Let's discuss in the forum :~)
    1. JR_Audio's Avatar
      JR_Audio -
      Hi Chris. A well written article about a nice feature of JRMC15 to allow at one hand Bit Perfect local sound playback and streaming different music, to different end points, but at which the sound quality of the digital out of the AirPortExpress can't compete to the quality, that JRMC can provide.<br />
      <br />
      @Dennis: And as Chris already told you, JRMC15 does read over 50 Tag fields, and dBpoweramp does read 5 data bases, so it is a setup thing of JRMC what fields you are using for sorting your files, and also dBpoweramp is not responsible, for mistaken contents in the Tag fields.<br />
      <br />
      Juergen
    1. winst's Avatar
      winst -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      Is it also possible to use the apple Tv instead of Airport Express?<br />
      <br />
      Winston<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Winston - I was unable to get my Apple TV to work with this configuration. Maybe someone else knows a way to get it to work.
    1. winst's Avatar
      winst -
      You are a Grand kind of guy Chris<br />
      Thanks for helping all of us<br />
      Winst
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      First off ... while Chris is obviously a big fan of J.River Media Center, Air UPnP is nothing to do with J.River and can work with any UPnP AV server / control point setup - this could include setups such as using Linn DS, PS Audio with Bridge or Naim Uniti / NDX for the primary zone.<br />
      <br />
      Chris commented the Air UPnP is a free product - is this always going to be the case Chris or is it so far a Beta product?<br />
      <br />
      "J.River to the iPhone" configuration also doesn't need Air UPnP - this is a function of PlugPlayer.<br />
      <br />
      I may have missed Chris saying it, but Air UPnP is created by Illustrate (yes he said that) the creators of dbPowerAmp (thats the bit I didn't notice). They have their own Beta software thread <a href="http://forum.dbpoweramp.com/showthread.php?p=92949">here</a> on their own forum that maybe helpful for people. Illustrate also produce Asset a UPnP AV server and there is an Asset control point application (also Beta IIRC).<br />
      <br />
      To all the naysayers that are commenting this is a low (sound) quality configuration, I don't think Chris is suggesting this to rival a main system - but for a multi-zone system it would work well for lower quality zone. Analogue (or optical to cheep DAC) and onto a pair of Audio Engine (or similar) speakers would be great for bedroom or office listening for many people...<br />
      <br />
      Eloise
    1. nottlv's Avatar
      nottlv -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      How long have you been using this? Based on the Air forum thread, I'm not sure this is really a viable solution, at least for some. A few people have complained about the Bonjour/Air combo hosing their DNS after anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and Spoon (the developer) has said development of Air likely isn't going to continue. See pages 3 & 4 in the thread linked in the original post. Has anyone noticed similar errors messages in their Event Viewer logs?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi nottlv - I've been using this combination for many months without any issues.
    1. wawa56's Avatar
      wawa56 -
      thanks for the great article! this is my first attempt at any type of music server. This website has been a great source of inspiration and knowledge. <br />
      Following the article's instructions, and using J. River, I am easily able to play separate tracks in different zones with no problem. However, I'm still unable to play the same music in two zones simultaneously. The music plays in both zones but is slightly out of sync. I've attempted to use the timing slider per J. Rivers instructions with no success. Is it possible to simply play the same music throughout the house without timing issues? thanks in advance for any help/advice.
    1. Bergo's Avatar
      Bergo -
      I have a library of around 1600 CDs on a 1TB disc - important stuff ripped as WAV,less important as FLAC. The HD is arranged as Composer/Genre/Sub Genre/Performer/Works.<br />
      So Beethoven/Chamber/String Quartets/Italian Quartet/Opus 74 etc. Works perfectly and no library import needed.<br />
      HOWEVER<br />
      Media Jukebox 12 loads the HD contents perfectly. <br />
      Media Center 15 and MJ14 are erratic - some trees display perfectly, some partially, some not at all. Really annoying.<br />
      So I am back to MJ12. Further MJ14 doesn't support ASIO - another drag.<br />
      <br />
      Here are the screenshots<br />
      <br />
      Regards to all<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Bergo - JRMC 14 & 15 both support ASIO.
    1. Bergo's Avatar
      Bergo -
      Chris<br />
      <br />
      My point is valid. MJ14 does not support ASIO.<br />
      <br />
      MC 14/15 do indeed support ASIO but as both screw up on the file handling (vide my previous post) for me MC is neither use nor ornament - alas.
    1. JR_Audio's Avatar
      JR_Audio -
      Bergo<br />
      <br />
      Even the "old" costy JRMC 12 have had ASIO Support and also the actual JRMC 15 does still fully support file handling Wave and others and further more, JRMC does also support the BWF Format (the broadcast extension of the Wave files), that read the "ID3" Tags in Wave files.<br />
      <br />
      I have no experience in the free JRMJ version, but if you do own so many CDs, I think you should give JRMC a try.<br />
      <br />
      Juergen