the IT city, the I.T. Baby


How to turn your computer into a remote baby music server

Building a baby music server without wasting tech

Baby with iPood
Baby’s gotta get baby’s music fix

Problem: You have a computer and want to take some of the baby music you’ve got and play it for the baby, however you do not want to reduce your prime gaming and surfing rig into a Baby Bach-blaring crib midget devoted baby music server.

Additionally you might entertain the notion of being able to play more developed music for yourself while Elvis for Babies croons on in your milk muncher’s bed.

Proposition: You can play multiple audio streams to multiple devices with the average computer and at least one cheap wireless Bluetooth speaker.

What I’m doing

I have a computer set up with a Bluetooth adapter, a library of baby songs, and am playing baby music on a remote Bluetooth audio device while playing my music/system sounds on the speakers that are connected to the computer.

You could probably take this up a couple of notches and play audio on the speakers and have two separate Bluetooth audio streams running for different audio, but that’s a bit more than I went into. Feel free to do it and let us know how it works.

Things needed:

  • Computer with Bluetooth built in OR
  • USB Bluetooth adapter
  • Wireless Bluetooth speaker / audio device
  • Secondary music player such as Winamp that’s capable of choosing a destination audio source
  • A little bit of techiness

Environment I did this in:

  • Windows 7-64 bit
  • Bluetooth D-Link DBT-120 Bluetooth adapter
  • HDMX Rave and Matrix ONE wireless Bluetooth speakers
  • 18′ distance from computer to baby

Process to make it happen

First you’re going to need to plug in the Bluetooth adapter if your system doesn’t already have Bluetooth. Install whatever drivers you might need for it, but they’ve been pretty standard since Windows Vista days as far as I can tell.

Next, pair the external Bluetooth audio device to the computer. On my particular install, and as I understand it most people’s install, the drivers for the audio device were not found although the audio device was.

What to do if your wireless Bluetooth speaker doesn’t pair

I went to this guy’s blog and found download links for something called the CSR driver (Cambridge Silicon Radio Bluetooth Filter Driver,) got the driver that’s appropriate for my flavor of Windows, extracted it into a folder on the desktop, and then went to device manager and all those Bluetooth devices that were not recognized I chose to look for a new driver and then provided the directory on my desktop.

After the drivers for various devices were installed audio was now playing out of my remote speakers, and I did not want that.

Returning computer audio to the desktop

Sound settings for bluetooth audio

For purposes of this piece, we want all audio played on the desktop except baby audio.

On Windows 7 I went to the Start button, typed in “sound”, and was presented with the sound configuration control panel choice. Select that, on the playback tab find your speakers and set them to default.

This should return all audio to your computer. You can be playing some audio in Media Player if you want to test it, or move the volume slider up and down to hear the dings.

Installing baby media server

Next up you’re going to install Winamp. You can use something else if you want, but the media player will have to be separate from yours and have the ability to choose which output it uses. Winamp does this.

So, install Winamp, uncheck almost everything as they’re pushing more spam at you than I’ve ever seen in what ostensibly is a non-spam media player.

Elvis for Babies on Winamp

Once Winamp is installed, you’ll go to options, preferences, find Plug-ins, locate Output, and what you’re looking for are two plugins called the Nullsoft DirectSound Output, and the Nullsoft WaveOut Output plugins.

Baby media server configuration

baby media server Nullsoft DirectSound Output
Your selection will depend on what device you have

Each one of these plugins you will choose to configure, and each one will have a pulldown for where the audio ends up. You’ll probably need to experiment a bit to find exactly what it needs to be if you’ve got a multifunction Bluetooth audio device.

Quick note – Winamp has to be exited each time you make a change in order for the change to process. Have an MP3 queued up to play, you’ll eventually hear it on your wireless Bluetooth speaker if things are going ok.

Checking to see if everything is working

Now that you’ve got Winamp working, open Windows Media Player and start playing music. If you’ve got the speaker default set correctly you should be streaming baby music out the Bluetooth and music to make babies by out the speakers.

Variations on a theme

Some things you can also consider – many desktops support multiple audio-out styles. Optical, front and rear stereo. It should be possible depending on your setup to do this wired and skip the Bluetooth fandango.

I don’t possess enough wire and speaker equipment to play with it though, and I’m not sure how well that would work considering how many different sound chipsets there must be out there.

You can also consider adding more audio players if you’re really wanting multi-source audio throughout a house. It’s not my thing, but nature sounds playing in the bathroom and ambient chirping noises in the baby room while Norwegian death metal blares from the upstairs might just be what you’re interested in.

Problems you might run into

Tons. Other than the obvious software issues you might discover that your Bluetooth range is not far enough to effectively serve baby audio and that will make you have a sad.

Why would you want to do this?

For me, I’ve got a few Bluetooth speakers hanging around, a baby that likes Elvis for Babies, and a computer that’s on 24/7 for work (and running theITbaby). My previous solution to get baby music was to sync everything up with Google’s Play Music and then stream the audio off of a Sony tablet to the Bluetooth speaker in Maggie’s crib.

That started failing when some back-end issues with Comcast and rate limiting Google Play started to rear its ugly head, so rather than attempting to stream the music off of a file server on the desktop from an Android or something, I decided to put 1/10th of 1% of the CPU capacity of the already-on computer into playing music for my baby.

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.