How can I stream my FLAC library without *buffering* issues?

  • 4 July 2020
  • 5 replies
  • 560 views

Hi-

I have a system that includes two Play 5s, a Play 3, five Play 1s and a bridge.  I can almost always stream music from online stations with no problem.  But my efforts to play my own music have been a disaster for quite some time.  I technically have the ability to play my music library (all of which is in FLAC format), but I rarely can make it through an entire album without buffering problems that cause the system to stop and then skip the track.  The problems are even worse now with the Covid-related national slowdown in internet performance.

Admittedly, my system has not been advanced.  It’s consisted of trying to stream my music stored on external hard drives, a desk top, a laptop and a tablet (I’ve tried all of those separately).  Nothing has worked.

I’ve read a number of posts about NAS drives, and am wondering if connecting an NAS directly to my router, my bridge or my 1st gen Play 5 would solve the problem.  But every time I try to find a solution, I feel like I’m just going further and further down a rabbit hole.  Each option leads to another complexity and another potential problem, without any clear solution.  It’s enormously frustrating that, with all the money I’ve sunk into my Sonos system, there still seems to be no easy way to play my own music.

Anyway, now that I’ve vented a bit, if anyone can offer some guidance, perhaps on buying and implementing a basic NAS, I’d be grateful.

Thanks-

Jeff


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5 replies

I’ve been using a NAS drive to store my music since 2005 and don’t have any issues. As the name implies, my NAS is wired to the network.

There is a slowdown on your local network. Where is your music stored? How does this device connect to the network? How are your SONOS units connected to the network?

Internet slowdown is not an issue while playing local music. If your music is stored locally, you do not need an Internet connection once the system is setup.

Basically, any NAS drive will work. I don’t recommend USB type drives attached to a router. The only technical detail that might nag is “SMBv1”. Make sure that the drive will support SMBv1. You can dig up heated discussions why no one should use SMBv1, however, this is what SONOS supports. SMBv1 may not be supported by default, but there is usually an option.

Hi Buzz-

Thank you for the response!

My music is stored on a WD My Passport Ultra external hard drive, which I’ve connected variously to a couple of laptops and a desktop.  It’s also stored on an Amazon Fire memory card.  I’ve tried playing my music from the laptops, desktop and Amazon Fire, without much success.

In each case, the devices connect through my Wifi.  I use a Motorola MG7550 16x4 Cable Modem plus wireless router.  The Sonos units also connect through my Wifi.  I still use a bridge, which connects directly the modem/router.

I’ve been looking at the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra and the TerraMaster F2-210 NAS drives.  Both are in the $150 range but apparently give strong performance.  Since I’m not looking for the NAS drive to do anything other than help me play my locally stored music, I’m not inclined to pay more than what is necessary for that purpose.

Thank you for the tip on SMBv1.  I remember reading about one particular NAS drive that apparently switches away from SMBv1 every time there is an update.  I’ll check to make sure that is not an issue with the two NASs I mention above.

I’m a bit confused when you say that “if your music is stored locally, you do not need an Internet connection once the system is setup.”  To my admittedly unsophisticated understanding, the Sonos speakers still need to pull in the wireless signal necessary to play local music.  But it sounds like I should be in good shape if I get a lower priced NAS drive along the lines of the two I mentioned, assuming they fit the criteria in your last paragraph.  Does that sound right?

Thanks-

Jeff

You and I are having a little trouble with definitions. “Internet” is something outside of your home. It does not matter what is used for transport -- wire -- wireless -- fiber -- or drum beats.

“Local network” is connectivity inside your home, again, this could be wire, wireless, fiber, or whatever.

The router deals with the Internet on one side and the LAN (Local Area Network) on the other side. The Internet side will only deal with a single client. Obviously, this is not much fun in a modern context. The router splits this single connection for many local clients. On the LAN side we typically have network ports for wire and WiFi for wireless. In the not too distant future there will be lots of fiber in the home because wire is not fast enough for future needs, such as multiple 8K TV’s.

Anyway, by “local music” I mean music that is stored on a device in your home and uses your LAN (wired or wireless) to transport the music to SONOS. For this music you could cut the connection to the outside and no one would notice.

I have no direct experience with the drives you mentioned and I did not investigate the SMBv1 consideration for either drive, but they are otherwise appropriate.

---

When you wire one or more SONOS units to your LAN, SONOS will form a private wireless network known as SonosNet. SonosNet is optimized for streaming audio, WiFi is not. SonosNet will ignore WiFi and WiFi will ignore SonosNet, but they share the same radio band. Make sure that SonosNet and WiFi use different channels and set your WiFi for channel 1, 6, or 11 (NOT Auto) and 20MHz channel width.

BRIDGE is aging technology and we are beginning to see, often intermittent, hardware failures. Your symptoms do not raise a strong BRIDGE failure alarm, but keep it on a short leash. BOOST is much more effective than BRIDGE. Or, if you can wire another unit, particularly a PLAY:1, just retire BRIDGE. Wire as many players as is practical.

Basically picking up on the excellent and clear responses from @buzz , I would try the following experiment before buying anything.  It is just an experiment, not a permanent solution.

  1. Take the Ethernet cable out of your Bridge and plug in one of your P:1s instead.  Power off the Bridge.  Give the system a few minutes to reconfigure, and make sure the system is still working.  You may have to power cycle some of the other speakers to get them to connect via the P:1.
  2. Connect whichever computer has the drive attached to it by Ethernet to the router.  The only occasional problem i ever had streaming FLAC files was when my music library was stored on a computer that connected to the LAN over WiFi.

See how that goes.  If you still have problems, i would shift the music files (or, experimentally, a subsection of them) onto the laptop / desktop itself, rather than on an external drive attached to the computer.  If you keep this computer wired, you will be much closer to the setup you would have using a NAS.

If that proves stable you can buy a Boost and a NAS to reproduce it more conveniently.

 

Buzz and John,

Both of you have been a huge help already.

Buzz, I appreciate the explanation.  I think I’ll probably retire the bridge.

John, I took your suggestion.  I disconnected the bridge, and connected an old, not very powerful laptop to the router.  Then I played an album that always had buffering issues (possibly due to large file size).  I was able to play it straight through, using every speaker on my system at once.  No issues at all.

So it looks like the problem is basically solved.  Now I’ll just need to decide whether to keep the old laptop as the source or eliminate some of the inconveniences that would come with that and instead get an NAS.  At a minimum, it looks like I can be confident that if I buy an NAS, it will work just fine.

Thanks to you both!