Can I turn an old laptop into a media client?

I’m getting interested in getting some sort of smart device, mostly to stream music. I like the idea of being able to tell a Google Home device or something like that to stream a particular online radio station (NPR, WLIR, whatever). I don’t have to be able to use my voice – I’m OK with pulling my phone out to tell it to start streaming.

I can do this with a $350 Sonos device plugged into my stereo. I can do it with, say, a $100-$200 smart device, standalone, although that will sound much worse than my stereo.

However, I have several laptops lying around, not getting much use. I would happily turn one into a full-time Smart Device, so that I could tell my phone to stream something through it. It would stay on and plugged into my stereo, just waiting for my phone to tell it what to do.

How can I accomplish this? Looking around online, it seems like Rhythmbox may be a possibility, in that it can be a UPNP client. Would it appear to my phone as a device that can be streamed to? Is there some other way?

Sure, you can do it, if the laptop has a sound card with good quality audio output when plugged into your stereo.

What kind of phone do you have?

Android (Samsung Galaxy S7), but ideally, it would work with iPhones as well. I’d love for the Google Home app to see it as an available device like a Chromecast.

Kodi supports both Airplay and UPnP; worth a try to see if it works well for you.

Won’t it act like a server, then? What app would work as a remote?

It would, and I thought that’s what you meant: the laptop is sitting there running Kodi with all the Airplay/UPnP/remote control options enabled. In this case the client is your existing phone; you just choose the laptop as an available output device, and the music plays there.

You could, in addition, set it up as a music library and use a remote-control app, but in that case the music is sitting on the laptop or network drive itself rather than streaming from your phone.

Maybe the client/server nomenclature is confusing, but whatever you call it, it can do both and the functions will not interfere with each other.

Right, but I want it to be able to stream directly from the source I’m directing it to. Otherwise, when I leave the house, for example, the stream will stop. I’d like to be able to tell it (somehow) to, say, stream The Alternative Project on iHeartRadio and it would start streaming that. Or, play something from Spotify. Basically, act like a Sonos or Google Home.

You can also do it with a $35 Chromecast Audio.

Yeah, I suppose. What’s the fun in that, though? :slight_smile:


In that case, there is an official Android remote control app; see here. There are also extra plugins for Spotify, YouTube, Tunein, etc., that may provide extra functionality.

If you already have the laptop and stereo, it’s free software, so it costs nothing to try it to see if it does all you want.

Neat little devices, they can stream with an analog output through a 3.5 mm jack, and they also have a mini Toslink for optical out. While they do stream directly from the source, if your phone leaves the wifi network the Chromecast is on, it will stop streaming, but it will finish the song that is playing. You could get around this by using a tablet or old cell phone to use to cast rather than your phone. For $35, it’s worth a try.

Thanks! I may give it a try this weekend.

Dag Otto, if that doesn’t work, I may go that route. Or, break down and buy the new JBL speaker that has a screen. This is all to talk myself out of buying that.

I get it, free is better than spending money, especially if you can put old hardware back into service. DPRK did bring something up that may or may not be important to you, and that is if your laptop has a good quality sound card or not. If it doesn’t and that is important to you, then you might find yourself looking at an outboard DAC if the laptop output is noisy or less than ideal. Is the stereo you want to play this through good? A receiver and two good speakers blows away just about any small smart speaker out there, so use the stereo if sound matters to you.

It’s a pretty good stereo – I also use it as a surround sound AV system. The subwoofer is old, which is nice because it’s not ported so doesn’t have those resonant frequencies that newer ones seem to have. It’s less boomy than modern ones, I think, very tight. I think the receiver is 100W/channel, two zones, etc.

The Kodi project would just be kind of fun to see if I could get it to do what I wanted. I’m not too concerned about the laptop output – should be good enough, unless there’s obvious hiss or something.