I've played with home radio apps in the past, things like Icecast and Shoutcast, as a way to have easy access to my rather large music collection. They've been "ok", but they've always seemed a little kludgy, and in this age of mobile access, the app suite really wasn't fully formed. On top of that, these were more broadcast tools than music selection tools. What if I wanted to hear something different than what my playlist was offering me right now?
[UPDATE] Google bought these guys and turned the lights off. I'm using Subsonic these days. 2/27/13
All the cool kids these days are pretty high on Pandora, Grooveshark, and Spotify, which are also pretty cool. Who beside old people actually want to own music, when all of it is right there to listen to whenever you want to? But these apps only meet your needs if you are either looking for new stuff or want about what most people want. If you are into, say, non-label Neo-Classical music that must be painstakingly tracked down, vetted, and preserved in Lucite on your own personal music server before the whims of the Internet make it evaporate forever, well, then, your needs are probably different. If you have needs like that, you might want to try AudioGalaxy.
AudioGalaxy has three components. There's the "server" component that runs in the background where-ever your music files reside, there's the web component that enables you to select and play your music on a PC, and there's the phone app that serves that same purpose while you are out and about. The server and mobile components are free downloads from their site, as is the web access portion.
The server component is responsible for creating the stream that is bridged to you, the listener, though AudioGalaxy.Com. Since the music never resides on their servers, they can avoid the ravenous lawyers of the RIAA who would otherwise insist you pay extra for this. It installs very simply which, all by itself, takes it miles beyond it's *cast brethren. Create an account on their site, run the set up, tell it where your files are, and let it start indexing. Songs are cataloged by artist, album and song title. I sure hope your ID3 tags are good because that's all it knows about what you have. The server can also import any playlists, like m3u files, you may have already created to keep you from having to reinvent those wheels. Once you set it up, you can pretty much ignore it from that point forward.
The web component will be the primary interface going forward. From here, you can select music to add to your current play list, save playlists for future use, listen to music over your PC speakers and kick off certain maintenance tasks such as initiating ad hoc folder scans. It has a clean interface and is quite simple to use.
Finally, the mobile component offers free streaming over your Android or iOS device with almost the same functionality available thorugh the web portal. Select the music you want to hear, add it to your "Now Playing" list, and listen to it streaming through your headphones or car speakers. Moving at normal travel speeds, about the only thing that can slow down the tunes streaming over my 3G phone seems to be massed power lines. Otherwise, it's radio clarity music, the exact songs I want to hear, available at a whim.
AudioGalaxy has a few other very nice features, like a "Genie" that builds a suggested playlist based upon other songs you've selected. Select Matt Nathanson, watch Jack Johnson pop up under suggestions. It also supports free-style tagging for all of your music and playlists, and allows you to create mixes you can share with your friends over FaceBook or Twitter. Remember those ID3 metatags I mentioned earlier? AudioGalaxy will even attempt pattern recognition forensics to ID your poorly tagged songs and correct them without actually altering your files.
For the low, low price of absolutely free, it's really hard to beat this app. Give it a whirl and enjoy the noise!
P.S. Some may think this is similar to Google Music. It is with the key difference being storage size and location. Because this stuff is running on your server, not Google's, the only limitation is the size of your hard drive. You can get a Terabyte from Amazon for less than $100, and blow past Google's 20k song limit like it's going backwards.