Control music at home with Android

If you want wireless control of music around your home using an Android phone or tablet, you've got options.

Donald Bell Senior Editor / How To
Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.
Donald Bell
4 min read

Watch this: How To: Control music at home with Android

Here's the dream. You want to walk into your home, cue up some music on your phone, and have it start playing on a nearby speaker. No cables, no docks -- just instant, effortless, wireless music.

For iPhone owners, there's a very clear, prescribed solution: AirPlay. But my phone is Android. It's supposed to have more "does" but what exactly am I supposed to do?

Well, there are a bunch of options out there for Android users looking for an Airplay alternative, and in this How To, I'm going to walk you through my favorites.

Logitech's Wireless Speaker Adapter.
Logitech's Wireless Speaker Adapter brings wireless music to your stereo for $40. CNET

Every decent Android phone or tablet will offer a Bluetooth connection to stream music to any compatible speaker in a 30-40-foot range. You can buy decent Bluetooth speakers for as little as $100 (pay no attention to the man in the video above), but if you already have a great home stereo, get a Bluetooth adapter. They cost around $40, and you just connect it to an AUX input on your existing stereo.

The Smart Hub on recent Samsung TVs is an example of a DLNA-compatible device. With a little patience you can train other DLNA devices (phones, tablets, audio receivers) to all share media with each other across your wireless network. Brian Bennett/CNET

If you need the extra range or just don't like the audio quality over Bluetooth, there are a few ways to send and control music over your home Wi-Fi. The method that most closely matches Apple's Airplay is called DLNA. To confuse things, Samsung rolls this into their AllShare app, but it's essentially the same thing. It's an open standard that's popping up on a lot of new TVs, mobile devices and home theater receivers.

Like Airplay, as long as all the devices are on the same network, they can all see each other and share media. The trouble is, most people don't know they have it, or they have it on their phone but don't have a compatible TV or stereo to send things to. If you can make it work, great. If not, let's try another solution.

Wi-Fi radios like the Logitech Squeezebox pack a ton of streaming audio features into a slick little system that you can control with a comprehensive Android app. Sarah Tew/CNET

Wi-Fi Radios
Get a Squeezebox. Logitech sells these Wi-Fi music systems in all shapes and sizes. The Squeezebox Radio can be had for around $150 and it has a big sound for its size. It streams Pandora, Spotify and Last.fm, hooks into your computer's music collection, and it can all be controlled from a free Android app. Put a few of these around your house, and you've got a budget version of the next option...

Sonos product family
For a wireless audio system that can be expanded throughout your entire home and controlled via Android or iOS, the family of Sonos products is an excellent way to go. Sonos

If you have some money to throw at a top-notch solution, get a Sonos. The entry-level model is the Play:3, which will set you back $300. Once you get hooked on it, though, expect to pay twice that to expand it around your home. It works with practically every music service on the planet but you can also pull from your local music collection. The Android app does a great job weaving everything together, and you can even use it to send different music to separate speakers in your house and individually adjust the volume.

Google's own media streaming hub, the Nexus Q, allows Android users to stream music and video over their Wi-Fi network. Sarah Tew/CNET

Nexus Q
For you true Google fanatics, there's the $300 Nexus Q. This one also works over Wi-Fi, so you're getting great audio quality and wide coverage. It has a built-in amp, so it can power speakers on its own. If you're like me, though, the best speakers in your home are connected to your TV -- so I'd just use the HDMI out on the back and play it through the home theater setup you already have. At the moment, it has a tenth of the features offered on Sonos, but its value as a conversation piece can't be overstated. Plus it has a trippy music visualizer, so you're just a blacklight and a bean bag chair away from the perfect chill room.

The AirSync app enables wireless syncing of iTunes playlists, videos, and podcasts, and lets you stream to your Apple TV (second-gen), Xbox, and PS3 from your Android device. This means you can keep your phone with you while it syncs instead of leaving it tethered to a computer that might be in another room. Screenshot by Joshua Goldman/CNET

Finally, one option I left out of the video for the sake of time are app-based solutions. You can find apps that will control music on your home computer, or even stream music to an Apple TV, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3. A search for iTunes Remote in the Google Play store generates around 250 results. Dig around, and you could find an inexpensive solution that works with the living room tech you already have.

Final thoughts
There have never been more options on the market for streaming music around your home, and many of them are Android-compatible. But before you rush off and drop $300 on some new tech, let me caution you that the thrill of going wireless is a fleeting one. Eventually it will seem as basic to you as changing the channel on your TV from the comfort of your couch.

And as the tech involved in pulling off this wireless magic gets cheaper and baked into our gadgets as a matter of practice (see DLNA), you may just want wait until your next TV or home stereo upgrade brings this feature with it.

But then again, what fun is that?