10 Best Linux Media Server Software for Creating a Home Theater
Linux has long been considered the go-to operating system for tech-savvy people like developers and digital artists. However, that doesn’t mean everybody uses the OS just for work-related purposes. Among other things, Linux can also be used for entertainment just as easily as any other operating system. There is a surprising amount of services that support the platform these days, including Netflix.
But what if you want something more versatile? What if you’d like to set up your own media server that has all the types of content you enjoy in one place and can also be accessed remotely? Well, you’re in luck because there are plenty of pieces of Linux media server software that allow you to do just that.
Picking the Right Linux Media Server Software
Media servers act as a hub for all your favorite digital content, including music, TV shows, videos, pictures, and more. In addition to showcasing various types of content stored locally on your machine, many of these programs can also stream podcasts, radio stations, live TV, web shows, and more from the internet. Once you set up your Linux media server, it’s possible to then stream that content to other linked devices like smartphones, laptops or smart TVs.
Software like this can come in handy if you’re the type of person who enjoys consuming tons of digital content. And who isn’t nowadays? With that in mind, today we’re going to take a look at some of the best Linux media server software currently available. This isn’t a ranked list. Instead, we’re merely going to go over some of the standout features for each software. Then you can decide for yourself which media server is most suitable for your specific needs.
Plex is one of the most popular and versatile media servers out there. The software is available on pretty much any OS you can think of, including Windows, macOS, and of course Linux. What immediately stands out about Plex is its sleek and intuitive UI. Some of these programs can seem complicated at first glance, but that’s not the case here as Plex is exceptionally user-friendly and easy to navigate.
Plex is compatible with a wide variety of devices ranging from smart TVs and gaming consoles to VR headsets and even home accessories like Alexa. The software supports 4K content, encrypted connections, cloud sync, mobile sync, TIDAL integration, offline access, and more. You can also use this Linux media server software to watch live TV. Also, its media player can be controlled thanks to the Plex mobile app remotely.
Most of these features are available for free when you download Plex, but there are a few advanced functions reserved for Premium users. At $5 a month, the Premium subscription isn’t too expensive, and there are quite a few exciting extra features to look forward to.
As far as the installation process is concerned, it’s pretty straightforward. You can go to the official website to grab the .deb file and install it on Ubuntu or Fedora using your package manager of choice.
Kodi is another famous Linux media server that started as Xbox Media Center or XBMC. Just as its name suggests, the software was initially developed for Microsoft’s gaming console and was exclusive to the platform for several years. Since then, Kodi’s capabilities have been greatly expanded, and today the software is available on a much larger variety of platforms. One thing that has remained constant throughout Kodi’s lifetime, however, is its open-source nature.
The software’s primary aim is to become the ultimate entertainment center, and it’s getting close to that goal with each new update. Kodi can be used to manage most types of digital content, including music, photos, movies, TV shows, and live TV. More recently, Kodi also received many new features specifically designed for video games, so you pretty much have the full package.
One of the things that stand out the most about this Linux media server is its add-on support. Thanks to its open-source nature and a passionate community, the software is continuously receiving third-party add-ons that enhance its functionality even more. There’s an add-on for pretty much everything, including some that advocate illegal practices like piracy so you may want to watch out for that. Aside from that, though, the software is overall excellent and comes with a pretty user interface to boot.
Installing Kodi on Linux is a bit different when compared to Plex. Type the command down below in the command line terminal in Ubuntu and then follow the prompts to proceed to the next step. Alternatively, you can download KODIbuntu from the official website, which is just a version of Ubuntu that includes an easy installer for Kodi.
sudo apt-get install software-properties-common sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install kodi
For a complete experience regarding the installation process, we recommend you to see our guide on installing Kodi on Ubuntu.
OpenFLIXR is a fascinating Linux media server software that works hand in hand with several other similar programs. Among others, these include tools like CouchPotato, Ubooquity, Docker, and even the Plex mentioned above. All these integrated tools complement one another, and each of them plays a specific function. For example, you get comic books from Ubooquity, movies from CouchPotato, and music from Headphones. Plex is there to tie everything together and help you organize all your content into a neat and easy to use the media library.
OpenFLIXR also includes automated downloaders for everything ranging from music and TV shows to movies complete with subtitles, and much more. One of the main goals of this media server is to make downloading digital content an automated and streamlined process. Similar to Kodi, OpenFLIXR steps into the gray area with some of its features as it allows users to download content from Torrent websites automatically. This kind of actions are often associated with piracy. Then again, this is an optional feature, so it’s up to each user to decide if they want to use it.
In addition to all of that, this Linux media server software also integrates several more noteworthy tools that increase its functionality. A few examples include an HTPC manager, a home assistant app, an ad blocker, a built-in encryption software, a convenient shell user, and more. To top it all off, OpenFLIXR plays well with plenty of hypervisor software like VirtualBox, VMware, Hyper-V, and more.
Setting up OpenFLIXR is very simple, but you’re going first to need to install one of the visualization software like VirtualBox. Once that’s done, download OpenFLIXR from the official website and import it into the hypervisor.
Subsonic is a feature-rich media server that sports a neat and highly customizable user interface with 30 different themes to choose from. Just as its name indicates, this particular software is oriented more towards music than anything else. It can also support movies, TV shows, and other video files. That said, most of the standout features are geared towards audiophiles.
Subsonic comes with a built-in podcast receiver, radio stations manager, jukebox mode, lyrics finder, and even a file converter, to name just a few of its highlights. This Linux media server software also includes seamless integration with Sonos and Chromecast. These integrations allow you to stream your content to any device that supports these apps, including a wide range of smartphones.
The software also comes with support for 25 other apps designed to enhance the streaming experience across various types of devices. Access to some of these apps is free, but others require you to subscribe to Subsonic’s Premium plan. Luckily, the Premium version of the media server only costs $1 per month and comes with a few other extra features such as social media sharing, video streaming, and access to your server address.
Subsonic is available on various Linux distributions including Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat, and Fedora. To set up the media server, grab the Subsonic .deb or .rpm package from the official website, and install it. Meanwhile, the 25 apps above are available across many other platforms. You’ll need to grab each of them individually and install them on the device you want to stream to.
Madsonic is another music-centric media server software that functions similar to Subsonic in some ways and offers many of the same features. This includes things such as Chromecast and Sonos support, jukebox mode, social media integration, metadata aggregation, and more. However, Madsonic also comes with a few unique features that allow it to stand out from a lot of other similar media servers.
One of the main highlights of the software is the inclusion of a free Rest API that allows users to create their apps, add-ons, or scripts. The software supports many first-party ones that are available across some other operating systems like Android, iOS, and Windows phone. This Linux media server software also integrates well with various hardware, including Dreambox receivers, smart TVs, wearable devices, and even cars.
Similar to Subsonic, many of the best features offered by this software are only available to Premium users. Subscribing to the Premium service will set you back anywhere between $1.95 and $3.25 per month depending on the plan. There’s also an additional option that can grant you lifetime Premium access for a one-time payment for $148.
As far as the setup process is concerned, it’s merely a matter of grabbing the .deb or .rpm package from the official website and installing it using your preferred package manager. Madsonic is available on Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS.
Universal Media Server
Universal Media Server is a simple and straightforward software with a name that’s very descriptive of what it’s trying to achieve. Unlike some of the other entries on this list, Universal Media Server doesn’t try to blow users away with a slew of fancy features or any other bells and whistles. Instead, the software mainly focuses on performance, stability, and making things as simple as possible for the user.
Despite its apparent simplicity, this Linux media server software is competent and can reliably stream most types of digital content, including videos, music, and pictures. Universal Media Server comes with support for plenty of devices such as gaming consoles, smart TVs, Blu-ray players, smartphones, and more.
To install Universal Media Server on your machine, go to the official website and download the Linux package. The step-by-step installation process for the package can be a bit tricky if you’re not an experienced user, but you can find detailed instructions on the official forums.
Gerbera is a free and open-source media server designed for UPnP in-home streaming. Previously known as MediaTomb, this particular software is a bit less versatile than some of the others on this list but still worth checking out regardless. The main drawback of Gerbera is that it is limited to in-home streaming so you won’t be able to set up a remote server using it. If that doesn’t bother you, however, there are quite a few excellent features that you might be interested in.
One of the most popular features of this Linux media server software is its ability to transcode media content and convert it to a format that’s supported by the devices you’re streaming to. Gerbera supports streaming to pretty much any device that’s connected to your home network, including smart TVs, laptops, smartphones, gaming consoles, and more.
Gerbera is highly customizable and very easy to install on a wide variety of Linux distros. Among others, these include Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and CentOS. Installing the software on Debian is as easy as typing the command below in the terminal. Other distros may require a couple more steps, but Gerbera offers detailed installation instructions on its documentation page
sudo apt install gerbera
MythTV is a free open source that has been around since way back in 2002. As you’ve probably already guessed from the name, this software is mainly centered on TV content and prides itself in being the ultimate digital video recorder (DVR). You can look at MythTV as a better alternative to something like Windows Media Center or Tivo. But of course, this software is also available on Linux in addition to a couple of other operating systems.
In terms of features, there aren’t many that immediately stand out, but the DVR does fulfill its purpose pretty well. MythTV can be used to record both analog and digital TV content, pause and rewind live TV shows, archive DVDs, play your digital music collection, and more. A beneficial feature of this Linux media server software many users will no doubt come to appreciate is its ability to detect and skip commercials automatically.
MythTV is available on many Linux distros such as Fedora, Debian, and Gentoo. The installation process can be a bit complicated, so you’re better off checking out the wiki pages for step-by-step instructions. If you don’t want to bother with that, you can grab one of several Linux distributions that come with MythTV pre-installed.
Emby is a compelling media server that comes with an elegant user interface and plenty of great features to play around with. The software is similar to Plex in many ways and supports all the most popular types of digital content. This includes movies, TV shows, music, pictures, video games, and more. Emby also acts as a reliable media manager, allowing you to add and edit everything ranging from subtitles to metadata and images.
The software automatically converts all the content from your server to a format that’s supported by the devices you’re streaming to. Among other things, Emby can also be used to stream Live TV or different types of content via Chromecast and features both cloud sync and mobile sync. This Linux media server software can be accessed from pretty much anywhere thanks to the inclusion of an easy to use web-based manager and several mobile and TV apps.
Emby is free, but some of the features are only available to those who subscribe to its Premiere service. There are two plans to choose from – $4.99 per month or $54 per year. There’s also a third option that grants you lifetime access to the Premiere service for a one-time payment of $119. Some of the extra features you can expect from the service include a cinema mode, DVR functionality, offline playback, backups, full integration with smart assistants like Alexa, and more.
Emby is available on a wide range of Linux distros including Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, Fedora, Mint and more. Simply go to Emby’s download page to choose your distributions and then install the .deb or rpm package using your preferred package manager.
TVMobili is a sturdy but lightweight media server that seems to be oriented mainly towards the Apple crowd. The software has full integration with iTunes, as well as other Apple products like iPhotos and Macs. You don’t need to run it on macOS, though, because TVMobili performs great on Linux. You can simply stream the content to your Apple devices if you want to take advantage of the iTunes integration.
In addition to populating the media server with everything found in your iTunes library, TVMobili also works well with content from other sources. The software works best when it is used to stream HD content to a smart TV, though it supports various types of other devices as well. TVMobili can be used to stream everything from movies and music to TV shows and live TV.
TVMobili is available on the Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS distributions of Linux. To set up the software, go to the download section of the official website, grab the .deb or .rpm package for your distribution, and install it using your preferred package manager.
Using one of the Linux media software on our list will allow you to get the most out of your digital content. This goes double if you have vast libraries of content on your machine that you would like to stream to other devices or share with other people. Using a bunch of different players, launchers, and online services to juggle between the various types of content you want to enjoy can get annoying after a while. So why not have them all in one place and save yourself the hassle?
As for what Linux media server software you should choose, that depends entirely on your specific needs. The pieces of software we talked about today were not created equal, as you can probably imagine. Some of them are better at certain things, while others are easier to work with or simply look better.
Not Everything Comes for Free
Another thing to consider is that some of the entries on our list lock some of their best features behind a paywall so you’ll need to pay a few bucks to take full advantage of them. Of course, you also need to take into account compatibility because some of these pieces of software might not be available on the Linux distribution you’re currently using.
You could always go with a popular all-purpose media server software like Kodi or Plex and have most of your content all in one place. Meanwhile, Subsonic and Madsonic might be better choices if you’re very picky about managing your music as they come with certain features specifically designed for audiophiles. Then, there’s software like OpenFLIXR, which tries to take the best from all worlds and present it into a neat little package.
If you still have a hard time choosing a particular Linux media server software, keep in mind that they are all available for free, even though some of them also have premium options. In other words, you could simply test them out one at the time until you find the one that works best for you.
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