The AppleTV as a headless audio server

It’s been months now that we use the AppleTV exclusively as our audio server, so I wanted to report again on the topic, based on that long term usage. All I can say is this: it beats the hell out of any other system.

We have it hooked in our TV via HDMI, but we never turn ON the TV (the AppleTV must be connected to a video cable, otherwise it wont’ start up). We simply use our iPod Touch to control the Apple TV, via the “Remote Control” application, and it works a treat. Only things missing in the Remote Control application is the ability to rate new songs (but ratings already on songs are perfectly usable in smart playlists), and turning the AppleTV OFF (which can still be done blindly using the AppleTV remote control: hit twice the “menu” button, and then long press on the “play” button). A few more gripes remain, but they are not that important really.

Overall, we have found that this is the most enjoyable way to listen to music in our case, and our 85 GB of music. And given that an AppleTV costs a little over $200 these days, and most people in the our area already have either an iPhone or an iPod Touch, it makes it — by far — the best solution for music listening in the digital age.

This is a highly recommended setup.

FCC Disclaimer: Apple is not paying or asking me to write the above. It’s my own personal experience with the setup.

UPDATE: I wrote an article, comparing the Apple TV music experience to MPD’s.

13 Comments »

ralph wrote on February 24th, 2010 at 9:42 PM PST:

what do your neighbors think about it?


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Eugenia wrote on February 25th, 2010 at 12:27 AM PST:

Not much.


zima wrote on February 25th, 2010 at 10:22 PM PST:

How does that go together with your vows to abstain from buying more Apple products made around half a year ago?… (I’d guess it would somehow extend to the area of recommending them…)


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Eugenia wrote on February 25th, 2010 at 10:46 PM PST:

It goes well great. I didn’t pay for the AppleTV. It was a gift. 🙂


zima wrote on February 25th, 2010 at 11:27 PM PST:

Sooo…the price is quoted only for the convenience of gift-givers? ;p (and may I point out that it makes no difference, as far as Apple is concerned?)


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Eugenia wrote on February 25th, 2010 at 11:31 PM PST:

The price is quoted because people are interested in the price. They always are. The point is, the setup works.


Michael C. wrote on February 28th, 2010 at 9:50 PM PST:

I have Asus O!Play and two 500GB drives for music and videos. So far so good. Pulldown removal is not its strong point, so it is better to used for watching progressive stuff. Otherwise, best $100 spend in the last year. And no stupid obligatory Apple software and idiotic synchronizing: just connect your drive, go into a folder and play a file. Brilliant. It plays DVD ISO files too.


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Eugenia wrote on March 1st, 2010 at 1:00 AM PST:

Actually, this is what I want to avoid. I _don’t_ want to put files in there and then just have them play. I want to have smart playlists. The iTunes way is actually a very good way of doing things: you have a single repository for both your desktop, living room, and portable player. And all your RATINGS (the most important aspect for me) is the same on all devices. And when you sync, they all get the new ratings too. And based on these ratings, or the genres, you create smart playlists, that the AppleTV supports fine.

This (and the Remote application that doesn’t require a full TV to be ON to use it) is what creates the extra value in the whole idea of the AppleTV as a headless server.

I would never go for a solution like yours I’m afraid. In fact, I have a similar device around. I find it useless for what I need to do though. The AppleTV way is a very *polished* way of doing things. Everything works. From ratings, to all the tags, to album art being perfect, to having a visual remote control, to syncing. It’s a joy.


Vast Majority wrote on March 1st, 2010 at 10:00 PM PST:

I wonder when they’ll introduce a model with a larger hard drive. My music collection is currently at 285GB.

Can the drive be easily swapped out?


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Eugenia wrote on March 1st, 2010 at 10:12 PM PST:

Did you buy all that music? Our 85 GB of music is comprised by Creative Commons, legal mp3 promos, and purchased music. I just have a hard time believing that you can’t fit in the AppleTV’s 160 GB the music you actually should be having.


Vast Majority wrote on March 1st, 2010 at 11:00 PM PST:

Yes, it’s a big collection and it’s still growing! AND it’s all legit. I’ve been collecting music since 1974. My vinyl collection is approximately 2500 lps and 300 singles. It was once even larger before I sold off about 800 lps. My cd collection is about 4000 cds. I still occasionally buy cds but now often buy mp3s from Amazon. For the last five years I have been slowly ripping the cd collection and some of the rare vinyl as well. At this point I’m only about 75% done with the cds.

Nevertheless, I’m still wondering if the hard drive in the Apple TV can be swapped out. Being that it’s Apple I’m thinking not, but it does sound like a nice solution.


Vast Majority wrote on March 1st, 2010 at 11:36 PM PST:

Oops, I must concede, I did make one mistake. I just looked at my digital music collection and it is only 258GB NOT 285GB. I must be getting dislexic.


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Eugenia wrote on March 2nd, 2010 at 2:42 AM PST:

It can be swapped out, but it’s not easy to open that box. Plus, you’ll lose your warranty. However, there’s something else you can do. Being an Apple device, you can only sync playlists. So you can create playlists that say, for example, “include tracks that have 3 stars or more”. This way, you only put in there your best music, and it should fit. Provided that you actually rate your music on iTunes/iPod.


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