How To: Control music at home with Android
Here's the dream. You want to walk into your home, cue up some music on your phone, and have it start playing on a nearby speaker. No cables, no docks -- just instant, effortless, wireless music.
Well, there are a bunch of options out there for Android users looking for an Airplay alternative, and in this How To, I'm going to walk you through my favorites.
Every decent Android phone or tablet will offer a Bluetooth connection to stream music to any compatible speaker in a 30-40-foot range. You can buy decent Bluetooth speakers for as little as $100 (pay no attention to the man in the video above), but if you already have a great home stereo, get a Bluetooth adapter. They cost around $40, and you just connect it to an AUX input on your existing stereo.
If you need the extra range or just don't like the audio quality over Bluetooth, there are a few ways to send and control music over your home Wi-Fi. The method that most closely matches Apple's Airplay is called DLNA. To confuse things, Samsung rolls this into their AllShare app, but it's essentially the same thing. It's an open standard that's popping up on a lot of new TVs, mobile devices and home theater receivers.
Like Airplay, as long as all the devices are on the same network, they can all see each other and share media. The trouble is, most people don't know they have it, or they have it on their phone but don't have a compatible TV or stereo to send things to. If you can make it work, great. If not, let's try another solution.
Get a Squeezebox. Logitech sells these Wi-Fi music systems in all shapes and sizes. The Squeezebox Radio can be had for around $150 and it has a big sound for its size. It streams Pandora, Spotify and Last.fm, hooks into your computer's music collection, and it can all be controlled from a free Android app. Put a few of these around your house, and you've got a budget version of the next option...
If you have some money to throw at a top-notch solution, get a Sonos. The entry-level model is the Play:3, which will set you back $300. Once you get hooked on it, though, expect to pay twice that to expand it around your home. It works with practically every music service on the planet but you can also pull from your local music collection. The Android app does a great job weaving everything together, and you can even use it to send different music to separate speakers in your house and individually adjust the volume.
For you true Google fanatics, there's the $300 Nexus Q. This one also works over Wi-Fi, so you're getting great audio quality and wide coverage. It has a built-in amp, so it can power speakers on its own. If you're like me, though, the best speakers in your home are connected to your TV -- so I'd just use the HDMI out on the back and play it through the home theater setup you already have. At the moment, it has a tenth of the features offered on Sonos, but its value as a conversation piece can't be overstated. Plus it has a trippy music visualizer, so you're just a blacklight and a bean bag chair away from the perfect chill room.
Finally, one option I left out of the video for the sake of time are app-based solutions. You can find apps that will control music on your home computer, or even stream music to an Apple TV, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3. A search for iTunes Remote in the Google Play store generates around 250 results. Dig around, and you could find an inexpensive solution that works with the living room tech you already have.
There have never been more options on the market for streaming music around your home, and many of them are Android-compatible. But before you rush off and drop $300 on some new tech, let me caution you that the thrill of going wireless is a fleeting one. Eventually it will seem as basic to you as changing the channel on your TV from the comfort of your couch.
And as the tech involved in pulling off this wireless magic gets cheaper and baked into our gadgets as a matter of practice (see DLNA), you may just want wait until your next TV or home stereo upgrade brings this feature with it.
But then again, what fun is that?