I think you may want to look into the SqueezeBox Touch. I've had great success with it. You would still need to keep your netbook but you can at least store that away in another room to stream your music to the SB Touch. Then with an Android or "i" device, you can control the touch with an app.
It may sound complicated at first to setup, but it straightforward. Keep your external connected to you laptop, install Logitech Media Server, and start up the SB Touch and connect to your network. Once the SB Touch is done booting, you just go to "My Music" and point it to the your Logitech Media Server.
Once you get all that up and running, then you can look into SoundChecks TT 3.0 Mod to furthur refine the SB Touch.
The Mac Mini is actually a pretty cost-effective music server with good performance, so I wouldn't just dismiss it out of hand.
The easiest and most cost-effective solution, though, I feel is the Squeezebox. I'm a huge fan of them, and have several of them throughout the house. Keep in mind that you may eventually want to get a dedicated music server (such as a Mac Mini running Squeezebox server software) rather than running everything off your laptop, although that is certainly an option.
Thanks all...I've had my brain swirling for a while and I think that Mac mini and squeezebox touch are both great suggestions. Whenever I imagine the cost effectiveness of my desired product, I come back to those products. Thanks!
I've had both and the Mini is the way to go IMO. It's super easy to use and most importantly it works all the time. Never an issue!
I second the guys on the Squeezebox.
Thanks again for the input. I am, however getting differing info on the Squeezebox touch. Some say I can hook the HD right up to it. Some say I still need the computer. Any experience?
My understanding is that the squeezebox touch can use certain NAS units (external hard drives with some networking logic incorporated into it) and remove the need for a computer. Otherwise, the server software runs on just about any computer and operating system.
Yes you can run the server software on certain NAS devices, but the NAS device may be under powered if you want to use the optimal settings. For example, it's recommended to have the server stream the FLAC as PCM so the SBT doesn't have to do the work. For some, streaming native FLAC as opposed to PCM the difference was minor.
Dcowen1234, I tried using the SBT built in server to use the external HD and I don't recommend it. You'll just end up frustrated. That was the first thing I tried and ended up hating it. Scanning the library took too long and sometime it would crash. Once it crashed, it would have to scan again since it didn't run all the through the first time. I ended up reviving my old Dell Pentium 4 computer with XP and installed the Logictech Media Server and haven't run into any issues since them.
wow I'm so glad to have that input. I'll just probably get a Mac Mini and do some different cabinetry so I dont have to see all of it. Plus then I can use PureMusic. Thanks everyone for input!
But I still feel like some company could probably fill a certain void if they would create a simple elegant box that served to simply hold a bare bones linux OS with the sole purpose of interfacing with a HD or NAS and producing a high quality digital output for audio. Maybe I'm crazy, but I'd buy it. Hell, I'd build it if I knew the first thing about stuff at that level...
Dcowen, that's pretty much exactly what I do. I use a computer I built several years ago from a few parts from Newegg for $4-500 or so, and run Linux. It runs the Logitech media server and has worked flawlessly for years.
But the Mac Mini is a slick solution, and is inherently a low-profile chassis that will work well near the audio gear.
What you might be looking for is something like the Bryston BDP-1 Digital Music Player. It is based on Linux OS and it's sole function is high quality playback of digital audio files. There are others out there including the Auralitti on which the Bryston design is based.
Mwheelerk, I looked at the Bryston product you mentioned on their website. It seems interesting, but I don't think it's what the OP is going for. For one, it costs north of $2000, and still requires a computer to rip CD's and tag music and collect files onto a USB drive to hook into the Bryston thing. It looks to me like Bryston has made its own version of the Logitech Transporter at twice the cost. And the Transporter gives you access to Logitech's free multi-platform music server that can be run on just about any machine.
For someone who was concerned about the price of a new Mac Mini (under $1000), that's very steep, especially since it doesn't alleviate his need for a computer.
I still think that at the moment the Squeezebox and a DIY PC (Linux or Windows) vs Mac Mini represents the best bang for the buck and most flexible option among music servers (it retains the ability to handle multiple systems at once, which a computer-only option direct-wired to a DAC doesn't). It's frustrating, though, that more manufacturers haven't offered a good, effective solution at a competitive price. After all, storage space is cheap (even with the flooding in Thailand that interfered with Western Digital's hard drive manufacturing and drove up prices) and networking interfaces are cheap. That's really 90% of what a music server really needs.
I still think there's a big opportunity for a manufacturer to come up with a slick and inexpensive solution to this problem.
Well, a little late, but as a followup, I ended up with a NAS and bought a Sonos zoneplayer. Everything hardwired via ethernet. It's pretty slick and the Sonos interface is nice. And I got JRiver MC for my media management. I'm happy. Thanks everyone for all the input!
Now that I am happy, it is mandatory for me to look at the next upgrade...the Linn Akurate DS is sure nice...