By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
One of the most serious problems facing music fans in 2013 is that music is no longer truly portable, at least in the sense that matters now: between devices, locations, services, and apps.
OnAir Player solves part of this problem in a powerful, elegant way. Simply put: It takes the music files on every Mac, Windows PC, and Android device you own, and puts them all in the same collection. Then, you can use any of those devices to make that music come out of all of them.
All of this music plays out of whichever device you want, from a unified library of all the music on all your devices that are running the software. You can use any of your devices to control any of your other devices. It’s like they’re all the same music player, which is the point.
OnAir Player creator Daniel Vocke, who calls his creation “a distributed music player,” told Evolver.fm that his goal was to make the unification of one’s music downloads for playback from across multiple devices as easy as possible:
"Simply select on what device(s) the music should play and then browse your music library to play songs. The library automatically contains all songs from all devices, no matter what device the music is stored on or how the target devices are connected. It just works, no configuration necessary."
"You can sit on the couch and control the music from your tablet, have the music play on the TV while the files are actually stored on your PC or Mac. It even works across the internet, so you can access your home music on the go or from a browser if you left your computer on."
After testing OnAir Player on Mac, PC and Android, we can confirm that it does exactly what it claims to do. Whether on local WiFi or connecting remotely to your home PC from your work Mac, for example, or streaming from either of those to your Android, OnAir Player does in fact succeed in making it feel like all of your downloads are in the same place.
That’s great — and for $1 for the Android version, and zero dollars for the Mac/Windows version, it’s reason enough to install this program, with a few caveats:
- In order for this to make any sense at all, you have to listen to lots of music files, which you purchased and/or downloaded (in other words, if you’ve migrated to the cloud, it’s not going to handle most of what you listen to. But for the downloaders/rippers/file collectors, it’s an important solution.
- Be prepared for the software to act ever-so-slightly laggy, because all of it runs in Java, regardless of platform (thus no iOS version). We found that it worked fast on Android, pretty fast on our test Mac, and occasionally sluggishly on our test PC. That said, all you’re doing is finding music to play, so a little lag isn’t the end of the world, and some actions, like resorting by artist, happened surprisingly quickly. Overall, there’s what we’d call minimal lag, once the software imports your files from whichever folders hold your music.
- There’s no iOS version, so again, this is just for the Android/Mac/Windows crew — and even then, only the ones whose music collection is stored locally, as actual music files (a.k.a. MP3s).
- You can select any of your devices for playback of files on any of your devices, which is great. However, if you have multiple devices selected for playback, know that they won’t play back at the same time. In other words, you can’t use this to play music in a bunch of rooms that are close to each other and have it sound good.
What OnAir Player does is simple, and if you need what it does, pretty amazing. To recap:
1) You see your entire library at once — all of your connected devices that are powered on and connected to the internet.
2) Simply select which device(s) should play that music, using the software on any of your devices.
Let that sink in. Any song, played anywhere, and controlled from anywhere, using a single program. If you leave all your computers and devices running, you will always have all your stuff, everywhere, so long as it’s all downloaded, which it’s not, but hey, this is a start.
The drawback to this approach is that it doesn’t include your streaming services — just your downloads. But there’s no law against using multiple music apps, which is one thing that makes this digital music world so interesting. You could theoretically use OnAir Player on your Macs, PCs, and Androids, to play the music files stored on all of them, while toggling to separate radio and on-demand music sources.
The Android version is (partially) pictured above. Here it is on a Mac:
And here it is on Windows: