I am not a young man, and ever since I was a boy I have enjoyed listening to and collecting music. My parents started me young by listening to an awesome collection of classical music, but I grew up in Daytona Beach during the 80's. That means that every spring break MTV would bring new bands in to play for free at the Daytona Bandshell. I was exposed to so much music, and it made me really excited to explore more and more music genres. It took me a long time to save up for my first stereo, but I did it at the age of 12. Had a full blown Realistic stack including tuner, cassette deck, and of course, a turntable at the top. ALl built into this nice faux wood cabinet that had wheels on it.
I have also been building my music collection since then. Some items, like my tape cassettes, fell to the ravages of time because of natural deterioration of the magnetic tape within it. My vinyl was all lost in an unfortunate basement apartment flood. In either case, I was able to replace most of the music held in that collection with their digital counterparts that I replaced them with as CD's because available.
Whenever I purchased a new CD, I ripped a high quality digital version, and put the CD on the shelf. I had learned the lesson of physical media. Never use it, record it once, then shelve it for protection. This has worked just fine throughout the years. I now have a huge digital collection that is backed up with a physical CD version. This comes in real handy if I ever must re-rip it to a higher quality or I lose a track.
I rip all the tracks at 192, and fill in all the ID3 meta tags with correct info, then add the artwork. So any music collection tool I use has at least the artist names, album names, track names, and album artwork by default. If any more info is needed, like a multiCD set or something, I fill that in too. GOtta keep that meta correct. It makes your music collection that much better, and lets you collection dance with those programs that allow you to organize, and play your own music from files.
All this music collecting, playing, and enjoying works just great when it is just ME listening, organizing, and adding music. Enter my children. When they grew old enough to listen to music cracks started to appear in my music process. It all started a couple of years ago. I was using iTunes on an Apple machine at the time. This allowed my kids to download tracks to their iPods, iPhones, and the other various sundry of devices that made their way through my household.
That all became obsolete when Spotify came on the scene. I started using it initially as only a music discovery tool, but that didn't last long. Very quickly it became my main source of listening. As you probably know, it could work anywhere I needed it to. Then we lost the Mac, and went a long time with our music collection just sitting on a dark hard drive trapped in a busted machine. It was too easy to not worry about that and just use Spotify for everything.
That was a few years ago, and I'm now really missing my own music. Sure I was able to find many of the normal things I listen too, and even discover some new more current music on Spotify, but I've already been through that with my own music collection.
So I revived the Mac enough to grab my music off the drive, but lacking a Mac, still had no way to really organize and listen to everything. At home these days I, and my family, are mostly on PC's. WHile this works out great for my home business, it does not bode well for my music collection. All the PC tools I tried SUCK at managing music, and none of them even come close to iTunes running on a Mac. Yes, even iTunes on PC really sucks compared to the Mac experience.
Sure, there are solutions to manage music on the PC, but each one has some sort of flaw which became a deal breaker for me. Nothing was working the way I wanted, and I was about to give up, when my good friend Eddie introduced me to the Plex service.
Plex allows you to set up a server on a home machine to stream your own music from. You can use it as a standalone free service or connect it to the Plex Premium to add an extra layer of meta data stroking to your collections. I say collections because I don't have to stop at music. You can also manage, and consume your home photos, and videos as well. That is awesome, but is icing on the cake for me as I was, and still am, focusing on the music.
I have a huge collection sitting at over 300GB of data on the drive. Thousands of tracks ripped from my CD collection. All I had to do is install the server software, create and load my library, then open up a port in my home firewall. BAM. My own Spotify running from my own music collection. I love it.
After that it is just a case of setting up the Plex client app on my android phone, then pointing the app at my server. The app is clean, and works in many similar ways to the Spotify app. I love it.
No problems with the streaming either. Plex let's you customize your listening and downloading experience by allowing you to tweak your download quality and speed thresholds. This lets you make your own decisions to tailor your streaming experience to your home network's needs.
Everything running just fine on my home network as you read this. I have opened it to remote as well so I can listen whenever, and from where ever I want. I am now a huge Plex fan, and will praise it's name to whomever will listen.