One of the most popular uses for an inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer is as a media center. It really doesn’t matter if you’re using Model A, Raspberry Pi Zero, or Raspberry Pi 4.

While the later model will naturally deliver superior performance, all models can provide a compact, affordable, low power media center solution.

There are several options for the Raspberry Pi media server. Below we will talk about them, consider the features, advantages and disadvantages of each of them.

Why use Media Server Distro for Raspberry Pi?

Various media servers are available for the Raspberry Pi. They range from video-only servers to audio-only solutions, with most handling all types of media.

We have compiled the best media server solutions for Raspberry Pi:

  1. ReadyMedia
  2. OpenElec (Kodi)
  3. Mopidy
  4. OpenMedia Vault
  5. Plex Media Server
  6. Pi Music Box
  7. Emby

But which media center app should be installed on your Raspberry Pi’s SD card ?

1.ReadyMedia (MiniDLNA)

ReadyMedia, formerly known as MiniDLNA, requires installation on a standard Raspberry Pi operating system such as Raspbian Buster. Start by mounting the media drive(s) and then use the standard install command:

sudo apt install minidlna 

Unlike other examples here, some manual setup is required, as described in this video.

Once installed, this simple tool is DLNA/UPnP-AV compatible, which means any DLNA compatible device on the same network should be able to detect your Pi and play media from it.

ReadyMedia is a fast, lightweight, and highly customizable system that lets you choose whether you just want to stream media and not care about indexing it.

2. Kodi media streaming with OpenElec

Perhaps the most recognizable name on this list, Kodi is available for the Raspberry Pi.

The most popular option is to write a complete Kodi distribution for your Raspberry Pi. Of these, OpenElec and OSMC and LibreElec. You may already know that OpenElec is available on NOOB for easy installation.

However, you can also do it manually by flashing a full Kodi based distribution into an existing Raspbian installation using:

 sudo apt install kodi 

But wait a minute. Aren’t Kodi based media servers actually media centers? Well, both of them, that’s how they got on this list.

While you can use these distributions (or manually install Kodi) as a media center/HTPC solution on your Raspberry Pi, the use of DLNA/UPnP means that Kodi (and its forks) can be used as a media server.

If you are already using a Kodi based distribution then you don’t need a media server as you already have one. Just open » Settings»>»Services»>»UPnP» and turn on sharing video and music libraries via UPnP . You can then stream content from your Kodi based system.

Check out our guide to comparing Kodi distributions for Raspberry Pi to decide which option to install.

3. Mopidia

Looking for an audio server solution for your Raspberry Pi?

With support for Python, JSON-RPC, and JavaScript custom extensions and APIs, Mopidy is more than just a music server. Whether it’s playing tracks from your on-disk library or streaming from Spotify, SoundCloud or Google Play Music, this might be the most powerful Raspberry Pi music server available.

In the video above, Mopidy is installed on a Raspberry Pi built into a retro cassette player. With buttons and volume connected to the Pi’s GPIO, sound playback is handled through Mopidy’s own extension.

NFC tags in cassettes are used to play certain Spotify playlists. This is just one of the ways that Mopidy’s extension support can improve audio quality.

Download : Mopidy

4. Create a Raspberry Pi Streaming Server with OpenMediaVault

The general consensus is that OpenMediaVault is closer to a NAS than a media server, making it a smart choice for Pi owners who want to access their media from any device on the same network.

Installation is simple but lengthy. You may experience initial issues connecting any hard drives you have connected to your Pi. This should be overcome quickly, allowing you to properly set up the system.

Features with OMV include UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) support and statistics to assist in system monitoring. There is also support for EXT3/EXT4/XFS/JFS file system, and RAID can be configured to mirror a hard drive.

SSH, FTP, TFTP, SMB and RSync are supported to connect directly to your OMV device. However, you usually access it through a web browser by opening the IP address.

Various plugins are also available for OMV, such as a Bittorrent client.

Download : OpenMedia Vault

5Plex Media Server

If you’d rather just stream from a desktop or dedicated media server to your Raspberry Pi, look for Plex. Plex, the popular name for home media streaming, can be used to stream content to any device.

Thanks to the popularity of Plex, you will be able to enjoy media streaming through Plex on a wide variety of devices. Mobile apps are available for Android and iOS. Meanwhile, media streamers like the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and many smart TVs also have Plex clients.

You’ll even find clients for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as Windows, macOS, and Kodi.

Please note that Plex requires your files to be named in a specific format. This allows the software to retrieve the relevant metadata from the Internet. This gives you detailed information about the media in your library, such as album or DVD art, track listings, etc.

This support page from the Plex website explains file organization and naming.

In the current situation, Plex should be your first choice of media server. Using the Plex Media Server build for Raspberry Pi for best results.

6. Pi MusicBox

Described as the «Swiss Army Knife of Music Streaming» of the Raspberry Pi, the Pi MusicBox streams audio to a connected speaker. It can be Spotify or other online services, or local or network music from your NAS. There is also support for TuneIn and other web radio services, as well as podcasts from iTunes.

The Pi MusicBox supports USB audio and also provides wireless connectivity with Spotify Connect, AirTunes/AirPlay, and DLNA streaming. This means that music served through the Raspberry Pi can be played on any mobile phone, tablet or Smart TV.

Pi MusicBox is based on Mopidy (see above), so if you’re looking for a pre-configured Mopidy solution, try this.

Download : Pi MusicBox

7. Set up Emby Media Server on Raspberry Pi

Finally, Emby, a media server solution that supports photos, videos, and music. The apps stream your data to Android, iPhone, iPad, and Windows tablets, as well as Android TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One, and more.

Parental controls can be configured with Emby, making it the perfect family home media server for the Raspberry Pi. Emby performs multiple functions as a Raspberry Pi photo server, video server, and audio server.

There is also DLNA support to make it easy to stream content to and from the server.

Several options are available for installing Emby. The easiest solution is to use DietPi’s Raspberry Pi distribution. Once installed, you can simply select the Software Optimized menu item and then Emby Server.

And check out our helpful guide on turning your Raspberry Pi into a media server using Emby your Raspberry Pi into a media server using Emby your Raspberry Pi into a media server with

Create a media server with Raspberry Pi

We’ve brought you seven ways to set up your Raspberry Pi as a media server that can deliver movies, photos, and music to devices around your home at the touch of a button.

Setup for each solution is fast. You should have a Raspberry Pi media server up and running in minutes, ready to stream files around the house with ease. This is simply one of the best uses for the Raspberry Pi.

For other cool ideas, check out our list of the best Raspberry Pi projects.

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