Review: UPnP/DLNA Music Server Comparison

This review has been written by a tech enthusiast, not an audiophile, with my own personal requirements in mind, but since i went to great lengths testing every possible UPnP/DLNA Music Server i could find, i thought you might also benefit from my conclusions.

Some of the music servers tested also serve video and photos; and fall into the media server category, which is great but I’m only testing their merits on serving audio.

First some terminology to get your head around. UPnP/DLNA has three components, the server, the renderer and the controller. This guide will only address the server component. For testing, the renderers i will be using are a Yamaha MusicCast stereo, a Sony TV and a Windows PC. I’m using Hi-Fi Cast as the controller (which i highly recommend), running on a wireless android tablet.

So without further a do, here are my requirements. There is no weighting to these requirements, they each get one point for every requirement satisfied:

  1. I want to run the music server on my NAS, a Synology DS3615xs
  2. I want to listen to my music in its native format and original quality, from the renderers mentioned above
  3. I want to be able to browse and search my library using the controller
  4. I want to see album/artist/genre art for my library within the controller
  5. I want the server software to be low cost, ideally free

Here are the UPnP/DLNA music servers being tested:

  • Asset UPnP
  • Emby
  • Jellyfin
  • Jriver
  • Logitech Media Server (LMS)
  • MiniDLNA/ReadyNAS
  • MinimServer (v0.8 and 2.0 all variants)
  • Plex
  • Serviio
  • Subsonic
  • Twonky

Synology DS3615xs Compatibility

All of the music servers tested can run on a Synology NAS, some of them are installed from the default app store, others need additional repositories adding, and some can only run in docker. I’m not going to score them any different, they all run on the Synology NAS, so they all score 1 point.

Playback Compatibility

The criteria here was to listen to my music in its native format and original quality, from the capable renderers around my home. I tried a variety of tracks and file formats, but the real differentiator was successfully playing Deep Purple’s Time for Bedlam track from the Infinite album. This particular track was chosen for its high definition format DSF/DSD, encoded at 24bit 96khz. To score a point here the track must be played in it’s native format, with no transcoding/encoding.

AssetUPnP, Emby, LMS, MiniDLNA/ReadyNAS, MinimServer (all variants) and Twonky passed the test, each scoring one point. The other servers tested didn’t recognise the track or couldn’t play it.

I was surprised that Plex couldn’t play DSF/DSD. In fact it didn’t even index the album or recognise the tracks.

Browse and Search

The criteria here was being able to browse and search the music library using the controller, one point being awarded if it had DLNA search capability as well basic browsing categories like Album Name, Artist Name.

It should be noted that browsing categories vary greatly, with some offering a great deal more granularity than others.

To keep things simple and award points fairly just the basic browsing categories were required to gain a point here (Album, Artist, Genre). Special mention however should go to Asset UPnP, which offers the most granular browsing capability by some margin (bitrate, composer, year, label, album artist etc….). MinimServer, Plex and Twonky also deserve a mention for this.

Asset UPnP Browse

If you have a large audio library, and you want to find a specific song or artist quickly you need to be able to search for it, browsing alone just doesn’t cut it when you have thousands of tracks in your library. So in order to score a point in this category, you must also be able to enter a search term, and return some kind of result.

Worth noting that some servers searched the track, album and artist for a match, whereas others were limited to just track. I scored them equally for returning a result.

AssetUPnP, MiniDLNA/ReadyNAS, MinimServer (all variants) and Twonky all returned results for track, album and artist, Emby and LMS returned a result from song title only. All score 1 point.

Album, Artist, Genre Art

The criteria here was to be able to see album/artist/genre art for the music library within the controller.

Asset UPnP, Emby, JRiver, Plex, Twonky all impressed and displayed something for these different views. Plex and Emby stand out by displaying separate artist art, instead of just the album cover. Each receive one point in this category.

Hi-Fi Cast - Android Apps on Google Play
Hi-fi Cast showing album art on MinimServer

Cost

The criteria here was to not cost anything. If it’s free it scores a point. I put the costs in the scores table below.

Scores

ScoreCost
Asset UPnP4$37.00
Emby4Free*
Jellyfin3Free
Jriver3$59.98
Logitech Media Server (LMS)3Free
MiniDLNA3Free
MinimServer4Free*
Plex3Free*
Serviio3Free*
Twonky4$19.95
*Basic functionality free but a subscription or OTP is required to unlock or continue using some features

And the crown goes to…

I personally chose Twonky as the audio server in my setup.

Twonky Server

However there was no clear winner, because there wasn’t a single server that was able to satisfy all my requirements fully. That said, the following servers should certainly make your shortlist, as they each came very close to getting 5 stars.

Asset UPnP – A serious contender for the crown, almost twice the price of Twonky though.

Emby – Full DLNA search functionality would of crowned Emby a clear winner scoring 5 stars.

MinimServer – I used this for years prior to switching to Twonky, lacks artist/genre art and sadly is no longer free.

Twonky – I had to put my hand in my pocket, but it ticks the other boxes, and it was cheaper than the other paid options.

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