For many, many years I've been trying to find a way to play my ever-growing collection of FLAC and AAC files on my iPhone. The FLACs are rips of my CD collection (mostly ripped using the CD-Ripper component of dBpoweramp Music Convertor, which I highly recommend for macOS). The AAC files are songs that I have purchased many years ago on the iTunes Store. I no longer use iTunes.
My music is managed using Audirvana running on my iMac. I copy the music onto my portable devices, but until very recently, wasn't able to play my music collection on my iPhone - I specifically did not want to use iTunes or Apple Music. I also have two very large playlists in Audirvana that I export as M3U playlist files.
There is no easy way of playing your own purchased music files on iOS without installing a music player app. I tried Vox but it had a show-stopper for me: no M3U playlist file import capability as far as I could tell.
I started reading about Neutron Music Player, which is highly regarded and a competitor to the excellent USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) Android app. It was available for iOS too so I purchased it from the App Store. It cost me 7.99GBP. It is made by Neutron Code Limited. Here is the link to it if you want to read more on it:
Here's the Now Playing screen in Neutron Music Player.
It was a bit of risk for me as there's no free trial. Luckily, I was happy with my purchase of Neutron Music Player.
My requirements for a music playing app on my iPhone were:
Ability to play music in bit-perfect mode
Ability to copy my directory structure of music on my iMac directly to the app with no changes in any way, including my M3U playlists
Ability to view my music by Artist, Album and Track (sort capability)
Ability to 'talk' to an external USB DAC in bit-perfect mode
These are fairly basic requirements and I have since discovered that Neutron has a ridiculous number of configuration options and capabilities.
Annoyingly, I could not find a user guide for Neutron Music Player. There is an FAQ available that helps a little, otherwise you just have to try things out yourself to see what happens! This is quite poor for an app, and is a weak point as far as I am concerned.
Here is the link to the FAQ:
There is also a forum for Neutron Music Player:
Loading My Music Into Neutron Music Player
My first challenge was getting my music into my iPhone. I used one technique for the bulk of my music, but later found that it did not support nested directory structures.
My music is held in the format on my iMac's disk drive:
Here's how it looks in Finder:
The first method that I used was to connect my iPhone to my iMac and open my iPhone in Finder. Then I selected the Files tab and, using a second Finder window, dragged batches of Artist directories onto Neutron Player.
This method appeared to work fine initially. It does have some flaws though. You must select Manually manage music, movies and TV shows on the General tab of the above screen, otherwise you will wipe out your music on your iPhone (assuming you have not been using iTunes/Apple Music to manage your music library).
Whilst this appeared to work fine initially, I ran into a problem when I wanted to add a new album for an existing artist. You cannot drill down into an artist (i.e. top-level folder). So when I dragged an album onto an artist, the album got copied at the 'root' level (i.e. where all the artist folders are). This caused my M3U playlist files, which contain relatively-pathed links to songs, to skip some songs since they were now not pathed correctly. As I am still buying a lot of music from online music retailers and through used CDs, I would not be able to add this music correctly in the future as I would need to drop an album folder under an artist folder.
However, Neutron Music Player had a trick up its sleeve.
Method 2 - Using Neutron's FTP Server
This method worked a LOT better for me and can be used over-the-air, so no cables are required to connect your iPhone to your Mac.
Go into Settings --> Network and click gear icon next to FTP.
Next, click on the radio button next to Documents to turn it red and then click on the tick symbol.
You will now see a URL for your Neutron's FTP server.
I have blurred parts of the URL in the above image.
You will need to connect an FTP client to Neutron's FTP server to transfer your music files. I use FileZilla, which is a popular FTP client. You can download and install FileZilla from the App Store onto your Mac if you want the Pro version. You can also get the regular version from here:
Once FileZilla is running on your desktop, enter the connection details provided by Neutron into FileZilla. You can now copy a directory (i.e. an album in my case) into the folder for an Artist.
Remember to disable the FTP server in Neutron once you have copied your music by going into Settings --> Network. Then click on the gear icon next to FTP. Clear the red dot next to Documents by tapping it. Finally click the tick icon to accept the changes. This will take you back to the previous screen and you will see that your FTP connection details have been cleared.
Using Neutron Music Player
I've only spent a few days using Neutron Music Player and have only scratched the surface of it. When you first enter Neutron Music Player you are taken to the 'Now Playing' screen. You can click the gear icon for Settings or the three horizontal lines for library management. Both of these are at the top-right of the 'Now Playing' screen. At the top-left there is access to a graphic equaliser.
Note: I have not explored the four red icons at the top of the screen yet, so don't know what they do!
Going into the Library section allows you to explore your music library in a number of ways. Note that M3U playlist files, relatively-pathed, are read automatically if placed into the default Documents folder of Neutron. You can click on the Refresh button next to Playlists in the Library and refresh them if you make some changes to the files on your desktop and upload them onto your iPhone, as I do fairly regularly.
Clicking on Playlists allows you to see all of your playlists and go into them to see and play the songs that they contain. Note that Neutron for iOS supports iOS gestures for various tasks.
For example, a long press on a playlist on the above screen gives you options to delete the playlist (from Neutron) or physically delete it from the filesystem.
Clicking the equaliser icon from the Library or Now Playing screen takes you into the equaliser settings screen.
You can get to the Now Playing screen by clicking on the Play icon.
The Settings page contains a lot of configuration settings that can be applied to Neutron.
I've used Neutron to play music through headphones connected to my iPhone, via a Bluetooth connection in my car and via Bluetooth to an iFi Zen Blue Bluetooth streamer which is connected via RCA to one of my HiFi systems.
In all cases, the sound has been very impressive, particularly in my which probably only supports an SBC Bluetooth connection, which is the lowest quality Bluetooth connection. Previously I was playing downloaded/offline music through the TIDAL app on my iPhone in my car and playing my music library through Neutron is a big improvement.
Neutron on my iPhone connects using AAC Bluetooth to my iFi Zen Blue Bluetooth streamer. This is an 'okay' quality Bluetooth standard for very casual listening. This is a limitation of Apple iPhones. My Android phone (an LG V30+) connects using LDAC to my iFi Zen Blue, which is a much better quality Bluetooth connection.
After so many years of being unable to listen to my music library that I've built up over a very long time, I've finally found a way to listen to it using my main phone: an iPhone XS Max at the moment. Sound quality is great for casual listening, even over a lowly AAC Bluetooth connection. Using wired headphones it's very good.
My next step is to use a small DAC connected to my iPhone to get even even better sound quality, and to see what Neutron is really capable of.
I'll be exploring some of the settings in Neutron over time so will update this post if I find anything interesting or useful.
One major downside with iPhones is that the storage is fixed. You cannot add any additional storage. As my music library grows over time, I will run out of storage in my current iPhone (which has 256GB). Hopefully, I'll have a new device at some point in the future with a lot more storage.
I'm really happy with Neutron Music Player! It's been a good investment. There is a steep learning curve and I've invested a lot of hours to get to where I am with it today.
I hope you, the reader, has found this post interesting. Feel free to comment - you'll need to register on this blog first but that's free, quick and easy to do, just needing an email address. Also, check out my other posts on a variety of topics.