A MediaServer is a place where music files are stored and managed. It is an essential part of your networked music system. There are many options in what you do here, but keep in mind that nothing to do with your media server will affect sound quality. The music files stored on the media server play an important part in the quality of your music, but the actual server does not. Choose a media server based on reliability, features, and price.
Computer or Dedicated NAS
Many people start with media server software on a computer they already have. This is a low cost option and does work well. The limitation of this though is that you need to have your computer on when playing music. If you have a server at home then this isn't a problem, but if you work from a laptop then this may nto be convenient.
The next step up is to get a NAS or Network Attached Storage. These are small boxes that contain a hard disk and can be plugged in to your network. There are hundreds to choose from, but some are better than others for music storage, so choose carefully. Things change here all the time, but currently, as an example, LG make a very capable range of NAS drives that could be a good option, but the software inside it does not support album art, so it's not a good choice if you are buying a NAS primarily for music playback. Another example, the WD MyBook range is a nice compact NAS that comes with very good software.
Some NAS servers also provide CD ripping. This can be convenient for some people, but often requires a more costly NAS running Windows.
By far the most popular MediaServer software is Twonky. Twonky runs on Windows, Mac's and many NAS drives, so you can get it almost anywhere.
Twonky tries to be all things for all people, whereas another option, AssetUPNP is a music focused media server that is also popular. It runs on Windows computers and Windows Home Server devices.
SongBook Mac also provides a fully functional media server. This is a good option for getting started quickly as you can download it and be ready to play music within a few minutes. SongBook Mac will find your iTunes files and make them available too.
Once your NAS or software server is on the network you need to add some music to it. Normally you do this by copying your files over to a network share provided for your music. Of course if your media server is on your computer you can just tell it where your existing music is and it will read and index the files.
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