CloudPlayer: DIY HiFi Music Streaming Solution
In our Helpful Guide to Music Streaming Services, we mentioned several different services that offer ways to stream catalogs of music directly to your device. While each service has their benefits and drawbacks, the common theme among them is to give you access to a vast library of music without the need to store your own, and charge you a monthly fee for the privilege. But what if you already had access to your own catalog of music? Sure, there are many music locker services out there that allow you to upload and stream your own files. Google Play Music allows you to upload up to 50,000 tracks at no cost, and Amazon Music can even store them for you automatically when you purchase music on a physical medium. But what if you wanted to bypass the re-encoding that these services do to your files? What if you wanted to use the cloud storage services you already pay for? Enter CloudPlayer, the newest app from developer doubleTwist.
Simply stated, doubleTwist’s CloudPlayer allows you build your own music streaming service from the files you already have, using the cloud storage services you already use. The app links to your Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive accounts, as well as pulls from local storage, and scans each for compatible media. Then, it builds from all available sources to create a database, and organizes it into one music library, complete with album art, tags, and metadata. It supports MP3, AAC, OGG, M4A, WAV, and WMA files, and as of version 1.0.4, also supports FLAC files, including those at higher resolutions (up to 24-bit, 192kHz audio). This is probably the biggest reason to use CloudPlayer over other digital music locker services, as most others re-encode lossless or high-resolution files to some type of lossy format. At any time, you can make any file or playlist available for offline playback, and restrict the data needed for streaming to WiFi networks only. There is Chromecast and Apple AirPlay support, and Last.FM scrobbling is built-in.
CloudPlayer is a free download from the Google Play Store, however a one time in-app purchase of $4.99 is needed to unlock the most desirable features, including the cloud storage functionality itself, Chromecast and AirPlay support, and the equalizer and other sound processing features. Upon first opening the app, you are greeted with this information, and can proceed with a 7-day free trial of these “premium” features by logging in with your Google account.
The app itself borrows a lot of visual and operational cues from Google Play Music, which isn’t a bad thing. It offers Material design, and revolves around a gesture-based interface for navigating around your music library. The hamburger menu pops out and allows quick and easy access to sorting options, such as Albums, Artists, Playlists, Songs, Genres, and Composers. From here, you can also show only tracks you’ve downloaded for offline playback and have stored locally, as well as access the settings menu. From the settings menu, you can link to or re-scan your cloud storage services, which include Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive, toggle the use of cellular data on or off, change the default sorting option, set up Last.fm scrobbling, or reset the music database.
Once you connect your cloud storage accounts and allow CloudPlayer to access them, a database is built and organized using track metadata and album art. While browsing the library, overflow menus can be used to make tracks or selections available offline, added to an existing or new playlist, added to the play queue, or deleted. Selecting something for playback will take you to the Now Playing screen, or you can slide it up from the bottom to access it from anywhere within the app. This screen is nicely laid out and functional, and includes high quality album art, play/previous/next buttons, shuffle and repeat controls, a scrolling title bar in ‘track name-artist name’ format, and elapsed/remaining track times. You can swipe left and right on the album art to quickly advance through the playlist, or tap the album art to be able to rate the currently playing track. The bottom of the Now Playing screen houses an ‘Up Next’ section, allowing you to view and quickly jump around the entire playlist. The overflow menu button brings up the 10-band equalizer, SuperSound settings (simulated surround sound settings for headphones), browse currently playing artist, browse currently playing album, and clear play queue options.
The app supports lock screen controls, displaying the album artwork fullscreen, and also has a persistent notification with quick controls. Also available are three home screen widgets: A full 4×4 widget, and two 4×1 widgets: a dark-themed widget, and a lighter-themed one.
Performance is fluid and fast, with no detectable stuttering or dropped frames while navigating through the app. I had no issues getting playback to start with both MP3 and FLAC formatted files from any of the supported cloud storage services, but do keep in mind that there is a very slight delay of a second or two while streaming from them, as the app accesses the track and buffers it. The only time I noticed any significant amounts of delay is when I quickly skipped around a song numerous times, forcing it to re-buffer entirely, but this should not be an issue for most.
There are some notable features which are missing, such as the lack of crossfade or gapless playback support, the lack of ChromeCast support for music that is stored on Google Drive, the inability to add or edit track metadata or album art, and the inability to upload music from your device to the cloud from directly within the app. These features, however, are all listed as coming soon in the Play Store description. One missing feature that I would have liked to see is the ability to view any sort of file information, such as the type of audio file, bitrate, sample rate, and bit depth information. As it stands now, If you have mixed file types or qualities in your music library, you will not be able to differentiate between them. CloudPlayer is a relatively new app, however, so we can be sure that doubleTwist is working on adding features and keeping the app well-supported for the foreseeable future.
Despite the missing features and a $4.99 price, CloudPlayer greatly excels at what it sets out to accomplish. The benefit of being able to connect to multiple cloud storage services means that one could have the space to support a pretty large music library using only the free storage provided by each of the three services, without having to pay for monthly storage from just one of them. And while Google Play Music and Amazon Music are great services on their own, you won’t get the ability to stream lossless audio tracks from them, as both re-encode uploads to lossy file formats. doubleTwist has released a very competent, well-designed, and great performing music player here, and their take on music streaming is one that a lot of people would be quite pleased with.
You can grab doubleTwist’s CloudPlayer from the Play Store.
You can also learn more about CloudPlayer from doubleTwist’s product page.
Have you tried CloudPlayer, or any other music locker service? Let us know your impressions in the comments!