TechLife Australia

Diving into Emby



WHEN IT COMES to home media server and streaming solutions, there are three major players you should know about. Two of them, Plex and Kodi, we’ve covered pretty extensivel­y in this column. But this month, we thought we’d take a look at the third big option: Emby.


In short, Emby is an alternativ­e to Plex. It allows you to stream the media you’ve downloaded to various devices around the house. You can have Emby server installed on a PC or NAS where you’ve downloaded videos, music or pictures to, and then stream that media to mobiles, set-top boxes, smart TVs and pretty much anything else that supports streaming.

Like Plex, Emby comes in two parts. First, there is the free server app that you install wherever your media is stored. The server app takes care of streaming the media, transcodin­g it on the fly so that the client device can play it. It can also organise the media library, automatica­lly downloadin­g metadata (like episode titles, movie reviews and informatio­n, actor lists and so on).

Then there are the clients. These are apps that you install on the devices you want to play the media on. They connect to the Emby server and download and display the media. As with Plex, you don’t have to use the official Emby client if you don’t want to — it will work with any DLNA media player — but for the full library and metadata functional­ity, the official client works best.

Also as with Plex, Emby is a commercial product. The server is open source and free, but the client apps cost money (US$5 for the mobile apps). You can buy a subscripti­on to Emby Premiere for US$54 per year or US$5 per month — that lets you install up to 15 clients, as well as gives you access to some of the advanced features not on offer in the free version, including syncing, offline downloadin­g to mobiles and the DVR functional­ity for recording live TV.


There’s actually not an easy answer to the above question. Emby and Plex are very similar — and a lot of the choice between them comes down to the details. As a whole, Emby is a little more complex than Plex, but it offers a few more customisat­ion options and a few details that we really love. (Downloadin­g the Auto Organize Plugin is a must!)

Perhaps its biggest benefit when compared to Plex, however, is that it works much better with the Kodi media player. Kodi doesn’t natively support Plex or Emby’s library and metadata functions, but with plug-ins it can. The Emby plugin works well with Kodi’s own media database functional­ity.

When it comes down to it, our recommenda­tion is this: if you’re prepared to pay for the subscripti­on, then Plex is the better solution. It’s a little easier to use, the client is supported on more platforms and it all just works together with minimal fiddling.

If you’re looking for a completely free solution, we’d recommend Emby as the server and Kodi for the clients. It does require a bit of setting up, but you’ll get a powerful home media server/media player solution with almost no sacrifice in functional­ity.


Let’s take a quick look at setting Emby up. Emby Server is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and FreeBSD. It’s available for various NAS devices (including QNAP, Netgear and Synology) and as a Docker package.

Here’s how you set it up on Windows: The first thing you should do is create an Emby account. Head to in your browser and register. This isn’t mandatory, but it does make connecting clients to servers much easier, since you won’t have to deal with things like IP addresses and firewalls. On the site, click on the Download link. Select your platform, then download and run the installer. When the installer is complete, it should open your web browser to this address: localhost:8096 Like Plex, Emby server is managed entirely through a web browser interface, so you should bookmark this page. In Windows, there is a taskbar icon — double clicking on it will open your browser to that address as well. Give Emby a username (Emby does support different user profiles) and connect it to the Emby account you created in the first step. Create your initial libraries. This is where you designate the media folders that you want to share using Emby. Click on ‘Add Media Library’, which will bring you to a new page where you can create your first media library. In the Add Media Library page, choose what type of media it is, give the library a name, add the folders that contain that media and select your metadata options, such as language and where the metadata will be stored. Click OK when you’re done. You’ll see that a new library has been created. You can create as many as you like. Choose your country and language, accept the terms and you’re good to go. Emby server should now be operationa­l.

Of course, there’s vastly more to Emby than we have space for here, so we’ll note just some of the most important things:

The main page at localhost:8096 will show your libraries under My Media. Click on a library to see its contents, and you can actually watch or view any of the content in the browser window just by clicking on it and pressing play.

If you click on the hamburger icon on the top left, you’ll see the options bar. Manage Server lets you get down into the nitty gritty of the settings, including adding new users; Metadata Manager lets you control what metadata is downloaded for content and how to organise it; Settings lets you customise what the server looks like and your basic playback options. Play around — there’s a lot you can do here!


The final thing to do is to set up your media player clients. If you’re a subscriber to Emby Premiere or are willing to pay the small fee to purchase the clients, the official Emby client is available for many platforms, including Windows, Chromecast, Xbox, PlayStatio­n, Apple TV and several others. Download it for your platform of choice, log in using your Emby Connect ID and it should automatica­lly find your servers and display your libraries.

If you’re going with a free solution, Emby will present as a standard DLNA media server, so any Smart TV or console that supports DLNA should see your Emby server if they’re on the same network.

Finally, if you’re using Kodi (which we highly recommend), you should install the EmbyCon Add-on. It’s available in the official Kodi add-on repository, so you don’t need to download anything. Just go to Add-ons and click on the open box icon to bring up the Add-on browser.

Click on Search, then type emby into the search bar. One of the results should be EmbyCon. Install and enable it, then Run it to select your server. Now EmbyCon should appear under the Video Add-on list, and you can select to it watch any of your media shared on Emby. Enjoy!

 ??  ?? The Emby client on Android.
The Emby client on Android.
 ??  ?? Emby is managed through a web browser.
Emby is managed through a web browser.
 ??  ?? On Windows, it uses a stub installer, so the initial download is small and it downloads the rest when you run it.
On Windows, it uses a stub installer, so the initial download is small and it downloads the rest when you run it.
 ??  ?? Give the library a name, and then select the folders that contain content for that library.
Give the library a name, and then select the folders that contain content for that library.
 ??  ?? You should link it to your Emby account.
You should link it to your Emby account.
 ??  ?? Selecting Manage Server gives you fine control over how the server works.
Selecting Manage Server gives you fine control over how the server works.
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