Placeshifting Your Music to Android Smartphones

Although Spotify has over 10 million songs, there are sometimes bands I’d like to listen who aren’t on there yet: The Beatles, Rammstein, Arcade Fire, Oasis and some of these bands too. Spotify also lacks audiobooks and audio-drama (such as the excellent Big Finish Doctor Who range), so there are occasions when you’re forced to listen to those things your grandparents talk about: MP3 files. Since I listen to music on my smartphone during the day, I had a go at some streaming music options available to Android users. Read on for a look at mSpot Music, Dropbox, and Audiogalaxy: three ways to listen to music-on-the-move without the drag of manually copying MP3 files to your SD card.

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mSpot Music

mSpot Music lets you upload music from your PC to the cloud, then play remotely using a web browser or dedicated Android app. mSpot monitors the folders or playlists you specify for changes, then syncs it with your cloud space. You get 2 GB free storage space to start you off, with options to purchase additional storage.

mSpot Web Interface

PROs

  • 2 GB free storage space (music files only)
  • Web-based (Flash) and Android client
  • Monitors and auto-syncs with specified folders on PC
  • Easy to either stream or download album to Android client
  • Android app shows album art, has Quick List playlists and control widget
  • Helpful and responsive support team

CONS

  • No “download all” option
  • Web UI is confusing to use and performs actions on a song-by-song basis
  • Poor sound quality: every file is downsampled to what sounds like a 128kbps MP3 (it’s actually 48-Kbps AAC+). Their forum admin did promise a “set bitrate option” in a future update however, and there is a current known-issue in Android with playing back AAC+ files.

WILL I USE IT?

I like that you can choose to either stream or download to your phone and 2GB free cloud storage space is generous. But the audio quality problem is a major issue for me, so until they fix that I won’t be using mSpot for music. Bitrates on audio-books aren’t as critical though, so I may use mSpot for spoken-word stuff only.

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Dropbox

Dropbox is probably the most well-known cloud storage service. Once installed, you set up folders on your desktop as Dropbox folders. Any files added are synced to the cloud so that you access them from other PCs or from your smartphone. Dropbox handles any file type, including MP3 files. You get 2GB free storage space which you can increase through friend invites or purchasing additional space.

PROs

  • 2 GB free storage space (any file type), more if you get friends to sign up
  • Slick integration into regular file explorer
  • Web-based and Android client
  • Sync MP3s across as many devices as you want, including Android smartphones
  • Stream or download music
  • Ultimate sound quality as MP3s are untouched – a 320kbps MP3 remains at 320kbps.

CONs

  • No “download all” option – to download an album to your phone you need to download each track individually
  • No MP3 tag data, so you need to make sure your filenames contain the artist/album/title info
  • No album art
  • Doesn’t automaticaly start playing the next track

WILL I USE IT?

Dropbox isn’t specifically aimed at music so it doesn’t do anything with MP3 tags. I do use Dropbox for other things, but unless your MP3 is say a full album or audiodrama then it’s not really suitable for music, despite no audio downsampling. Oh, if you do fancy giving Dropbox a go please use this link so that we both get some extra space!

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Audiogalaxy

You may remember Audiogalaxy from a previous life. Remember when you used to download MP3s instead of using Spotify? Those guys. Well now they’re back with a cracking new app that lets you stream all your local content to your Android phone. As they say on their website: Audiogalaxy’s cloud music player puts all your music and playlists at your fingertips from any computer or mobile phone. No syncing, no copying, no uploading. Just streaming.

Audiogalaxy Web Interface

PROs

  • Streams your entire music collection – no limitation on size!
  • Web-based and Android client
  • Very good sound quality, even though MP3s are resampled
  • Web front-end is designed well and easy to use
  • Includes album art and MP3 tag information
  • Multitasks

CONs

  • Must leave your PC on to use
  • Slightly confusing UI on Android: you need to send tracks or albums to a play queue then go to the queue tab to start listening
  • No widget
  • Streaming only, so eats up your data plan and very dependant on signal strength. Good for when you don’t have much space on your SD card though!
  • Doesn’t scrobble to Last.fm
  • Can’t send an album to the queue from the Album tab
  • Easy to accidentally exit the application instead of going back to previous screen
  • Multi-artist albums not handled too well – UPDATE: fixed in latest version
  • Needs prefectly tagged MP3s to make best use of
  • Doesn’t handle compilation albums well
  • Help forum has frequent replies from the developers but it’s difficult to use

WILL I USE IT?

Yes. The “cons” list seems long but that’s only because I’ve used Audiogalaxy a lot more than the other apps featured here so have had time to unearth more niggles. If you’re in the habit of leaving your PC on all the time and don’t have data plan issues, then Audiogalaxy is the perfect solution. I don’t have one to test, but it’s likely that Audiogalaxy could stream from a NAS drive too.

UPDATE: One of the Audiogalaxy developers tweeted me to say:

Nice post, glad you like AG. Widget, last.fm scrobbling and other Android UI changes coming very soon!

Audiogalaxy Album View

Audiogalaxy Player

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  © 2016 Jer White / Pansentient League.
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