Need suggestions for streaming files to my stereo

Hello everyone. I'm looking for a way to stream files (AAC, ALAC, FLAC) to my home stereo. The files are on my PC laptop, or on iTunes on my iPhone etc. I pretty much exhausted my budget on my power amp and speakers so Im looking for the best budget pieces I can afford to get the music flowing for now. I currently have Kef ks50s, a Red Dragon S500, a SMSL Sanskrit, and a Google Chromecast Audio.   I'll likely pick up a Schiit SYS preamp. 

With this current setup I can only pretty much stream Pamdora, since Itunes won't work with the CCA.   It's looking like the lowest cost option available is to use different software to handle the music files such as JRiver, or PowerDVD Ultra, but I'm unsure if this is the best way?  Any other ideas, software, hardware etc?  I have an insanely low budget of around $200 left to buy the rest, let's see what you guys can think of. 
Apple TV is the way to go!  Especially on a budget, it will work great with iTunes and your iphone and gives you more options in regard to the streaming world of apps and entertainment.   Bluesound is too expensive and can be a real pain to use with iTunes. I also found that $500.00 should bring more quality and it simply does not.   

One thing of note is that you must have itunes open to access your iTunes library.  Anything on your phone will play anytime without your library being open.  The quality is very good.  You can't hook up an external hard drive to Appletv it won't access your music files.  

We love the appletv but we only really use it to stream music from our iTunes library.  We paid $80.00 plus tax so not bad.  


Please don’t feel that in order to get “audiophile” quality sound you need to spend $500+ on a Bluesound Node or Aurelic Aires Mini. These are great devices, but they are more than twice the budget you stated of 200. People on forums such as this have a nasty habit of ignoring budget and simply recommending one of the devices they have experience with and like, or worse, something they’ve read about and which is well reviewed. (In the case of the latter, all they are doing is serving as an echo chamber.)

There are three functions you need fulfilled by one or more products

1. Software that can stream your music from your devices (PC and mobile device) to your network, in other words server software 

2. Hardware that can receive your streaming music from your network and turn it into PCM signal, either TOSLINK, SPIDF, or USB

3. Software that you can use to control what you play (you will need this on both your PC and your mobile device

You may already have 2 in the form of your chromecast. I’ve never used chromecast myself, so I can’t advise you what server and playback software are compatible, but I’m sure you can research this.

Airplay is a viable option, assuming you are running software on your PC that supports it, but as far as I know, the only software that does is iTunes. Also, the Airport Express, which performs function 2, only offers TOSLINK out. If that works for you, great. From a SQ perspective, Airplay can be improved upon. It relies on your playback devices (PC / mobile) to decode the music files to PCM, and streams the PCM. So a spike in network activity can cause your music to freeze. Also, jitter is quite high.

If chromecast and Airplay  also won’t work for one reason or another (e.g. it isn’t compatible with your DAC, or you want to stream hi-res tracks and it only supports resolutions up to 48k/16), or you better sound quality, then I suggest you check out what can be done with DNLA / UPnP. Tons of devices support these protocols, some of which you might have lying around without realizing! e.g. almost every network DVD player made in the last 5 years can be used as a DNLA / UPnP streamer. And there is plenty of free or very cheap software that can perform functions 1 and 3 available for Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS. If you don't already have a DNLA / UPnP device on hand, then for well under 200 you can build an audiophile grade DNLA / UPnP streaming device using a Raspberry Pi, which I'll describe in a moment.

For function 1, options include JRiver, Kodi, Plex, anything from this page: 

For function 3, JRiver and Kodi both can perform this as well, and both have their own remote clients for mobile devices. I happen to like 8 Player for iOS. There are tons of other free options, so try out several and pick the one with the functionality and interface that you like.

For function 2, if you want to build a dedicated DNLA / UPnP streamer using a Pi, start by picking up a Raspberry Pi 3B, and get an 8 or 16 GB microSD card and install your audio playback OS of choice (free options include Moode and Volumnio, JRiver and Roon both make software that costs money). Also buy a power supply (you can go cheap switching supply or expensive linear power supply) and Hifiberry Digi+ or Digi+ Pro (to obtain PCM output over TOSLINK or SPIDF — otherwise the Raspberry Pi can already already give you USB output), and finally a case that is sized for the RPi together with the Hifiberry (HifiBerry makes some of there own, but there are others, or you can improvise. If you plan to connect the Raspberry Pi to a wireless network, be sure to use a plastic case, since a metal case could degrade your signal. If using wired ethernet, then you have no such problem. The solution I just described costs less than 100 and will give you sound quality that will rival and possibly exceed the Bluesound and Aurelic Aires Mini. 

If you decide to go with the Bluesound or Aurelic, you are getting good products that will provide you with reliable streaming playback. Without a doubt, the biggest issue with the DNLA / UPnP improvised approach that I described is that it isn’t a commercially built and debugged all-in-one solution. There will be times when your server software crashes, or when your RPi freezes, or whatever, and your improvised solution needs a full reset. 


A little off topic, but for those running Squeezebox Server, there’s a plugin to allow a ChromeCast to emulate a Squeezebox. A few little problems with Sleep/Wake on SBS, but other than that, works pretty good.

If you’re thinking about a dedicated Server, and don’t want to full around with a Pi, there are many Tiny PC "Bare-Bones" kits available. Some are even passively cooled. Some to think about are Intel NUC, Gigabyte Brix, Zotac, Logic Supply and Compulab. Also, some NAS will run Squeezebox Server, Kodi, Plex, Bubbleup and are DNLA compatible.

For years I used a Compulab fanless Fit-PC. I then went to Gigabyte Brix Fanless. Switched to a NUC to take advantage of M.2 NVMe SSD. So glad I made the switch to M.2 because backups, updates, indexing is soooo much quicker now. Yes, I know it’s way overkill for a server.

Sorry for the off topic side trip,
Thanks everyone. There's a lot to think about. I'm glad there is a number of solutions for my situation. For the Bluesound and Auralic suggestions: yes that is an option I looked at but it's too much for now. Perhaps down the line I'll pick one up. 

Using the CCA would be nice since I already have it but it's not a fine deal. I also realize that it does have only 24/96 capability. But using just that plus software is very tempting and the lowest cost route. 

I admit Im a little intimidated by the Raspberry PI but it sounds very promising. I'm guessing it's not as difficult as it sounds?  I also saw on another forum that Logitech Music Server is another good software to use?

Apple tv would also be very easy to do but since it doesn't work with hi-res music, and it doesn't allow for external drives, that may be off the table since I'd like to try using hi-res files from say HDtracks. 
The problem with using Logitech Media Server is how much longer is it going to be a viable option?  Logitech stopped supporting it a few years ago.  It is open source, and the people over at Slim Devices have kept developing it.  As time goes by, and there are fewer and fewer people using Squeezeboxes, the development is going to drop off.  So, how much longer do we have? 5 years?  Maybe 10?  The original Squeezebox debuted 16 years ago.  One good thing is that Logitech has the SlimServer up and running.

So, if you want to try something free and cheap, then you could use your CCA with LMS.  Just keep in mind that eventually it's going to become an orphan product.  Though, based on home much money you would have invested, it's really not that hard to move on.

The problem with all these Players/Options is that things are just moving too fast.  You buy into a Streaming Ecosystem, and in a few years, something better, easier, faster comes along that supports even more services and better sounding/higher quality audio formats.  The question is when do you jump on the Merry-Go-Round?  Who long do you stay on, before jumping onto another ride?  Enough with being cynical...........

The latest build of LMS is: 7.9.1-1502265250.
The last version supported by Logitech is: 7.7.5