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Can Chromebooks Act As Music Servers?

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Google Chromebooks are extremely popular among users who primarily use the cloud to store their documents, pictures and mostly need some sort of a cheap laptop to browse the web. In some way they mark the resurgence of netbooks who died a slow death with the advent of tablets. One major distinction is that Chromebooks are not just scaled down Windows computers but come with Google’s own proprietary Chrome OS which is based on Linux. There’s no spinning harddrive – every Chromebook comes with flash drives. After all you’re supposed to use the cloud for everything according to Google.

Chromebooks can be purchased on Amazon between 200 Euros and 400 Euros. The Acer C720 (advertisement) is pretty popular right now. Samsung also makes some really nice looking ones.

So the question that begs to be answered: Can we use a Chromebook as a music server? From what I’ve heard it is totally possible. I’ve yet to personally try it out so take my advice with a grain of salt :)

All Chromebooks are equipped with USB ports. You can hook up an external USB DAC to your Chromebook and the music starts playing. I’ve received positive feedback from users who got their JDS Labs ODAC up and running. The Chrome OS kernel apparently also supports FLAC (standard CD quality and high-resolution formats). With Google’s built-in music player app you can easily send music straight to your external DAC.

I personally wouldn’t store anything on the miniature flash drives but rather plug an external HDD into one of the USB ports. Unfortunately, you are going to be quite limited by the choice of apps. So this type of setup only makes sense if you use your Chromebook directly to pick the tracks you want to listen to. Sure, you could replace Chrome OS with Ubuntu Linux or any other Linux flavor of your choice but this would complicate things. And simplicity is what the Chromebook was designed for.

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  • Terry Walstrom February 16, 2017, 15:27

    I have the Chromebook 15 (CB5-571) and only recently purchased a wonderful Bluetooth speaker (Riva Turbo X) and excellent headphones for some serious audiophile listening (BeyerDynamics DT 1350).
    The Bluetooth speaker sounds magnificent and the headphones are luminous music delivery systems. However…
    Audiophiles are lunatics; we want more/better/perfection, etc.
    Consequently, I’ve discovered there is a product called a DAC/AMP and specifically, a Dragonfly Red Dac Amp which can raise the dead and turn water into wine! (http://www.audioquest.com/dragonfly-series/)
    Can you imagine how my greedy audiophile heart is bumpety-bumping in anticipation of this Holy Grail?
    Here is where my question comes in.
    I’m 70 and live on Social Security, parsing my expenditures with great concern and specificity, plotting (I hope) intelligent steps toward aural Valhalla. Since I can’t waste a single penny…
    WILL THE DAC AMP WORK on my laptop?
    Which (if either) USB hub (2.0 or 3.0) is best used?
    What am I overlooking? What particular obstacles might I encounter?

    Thank you!

    • Gerard February 14, 2018, 16:26

      Yes. I am listening, on my chromebook, through a Dragonfly (red). Great sound. I also use a tube headphone amp. Just plug the Dragonfly into the usb port, and your headphone into that. You may have to go to the settings menu and click on the Dragonfly setting, but the chromebook will recognize it. Amazing sound.