Players

Subsonic/Libresonic/Airsonic

This group of home music libraries all initially spawned from the previously open source Subsonic. When that became close source Libresonic was forked from it, and when that was abandoned Airsonic was forked.

Each of these servers use the same API, meaning any app that works for one will work for the rest. This unfortunately has more downsides that upsides,

  • The Airsonic team will not implement any features that go beyond what Subsonic enables via API.
  • The API is a security nightmare, and Airsonic won’t fix it without Subsonic also fixing it. On every API call plaintext username and password are sent in the URL string.

Subsonic/Libresonic/Airsonic must not be used on unsecured public networks!

The mobile app situation is also a bit dire. The main app that is recommended to users on android: Dsub is effectively, but not completely, abandoned. It’s using very old versions of Chromecast libraries and abandoned DLNA libraries. I expect it to stop working at some point in the future and it’s not a small piece of work to get it working again.

I started my own fork Xsub but I’m not sure I’m going to continue this when the server has inherent and unavoidable security issues.

Plex

Plex used to be the goto choice for home NAS’s. You can’t argue that it does the core job of libray management well. Despite being closed source, the fact that they’re trying to monetize through subscription gives me some hope that they have a good incentive for continuing development and maintenance.

There has been a lot of backlash recently though. They seem to not be satisfied with the offline home server product and are chasing more online streaming content; you can stream straight from Tidal and they are doing deals with various web TV shows. This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, except they’re putting this in front of a users owned assets. From forum posts you would believe that the Roku app is completely unusable.

Emby

Emby appears to be where a lot of Plex users are moving to. I’ve just paid for a Plex pass so haven’t got round to trying Emby. It used to be a less featured Plex, but now it seems it has caught up on the local features, without going too much into online features.

A brief word on streaming protocols

All of the above applications in some way support both DLNA and through mobile apps Google Cast & airplay. Of these protocols there is only one that I consider good for home streaming - Google Cast.

DLNA

In theory this is an open and standardised protocol. It does most of what people would want from streaming. Unfortunately, it’s poorly implemented, there are tons of compatbility issues between devices, and it’s all but abandoned. The main android library for interfacing with DLNA devices is abandoned and there are very few new hifi components supporting it.

Airplay

Very much an Apple only protocol, although there are ways of getting it working elsewhere. The main downside is that it downsamples audio to 192kbps.

Cast

You’re still locked to a mobile device with Cast or chrome browser, but outside of that it’s a pretty solid protocol that handles supported media in its original quality. I would like to see this be opened up a bit more so desktop apps could implement it, but having to use mobile apps isn’t too much of a hardship right now.