March 28, 2010

Ubuntu Connection: From Rhythmbox to your Android Device

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Written by: Brian Johnson
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Make some minor adjustments to your Android device, and it’ll work brilliantly with Ubuntu Linux’s default music manager, Rhythmbox…

With your Android mounted in Ubuntu, use your favorite text editor to create a hidden file called .is_audio_player in your device’s main directory. The dot at the beginning and lack of file extension at the end are both very important!

In Rhythmbox, you’ll see your Android’s storage on the left side under Devices. When you copy audio from your computer to your device, Rhythmbox automatically “transcodes” that audio into a format which Android’s music software understands. Transcoding doesn’t alter the audio files on your computer, but instead creates special versions “on the fly” for your device. With normal settings, Rhythmbox will send audio to your Android as 128 Kbps MP3s. If you’d prefer higher quality audio for your device, stay in Rhythmbox and go Edit => Preferences => Music tab => Edit button => CD Quality, MP3 => Edit button => then alter the text to obtain the quality you desire. To assist you, the text that I use to transcode from my computer to 256 Kbps MP3s on my Motorola Droid is below.

audio/x-raw-int,rate=44100,channels=2 ! lame name=enc mode=0 quality=0 bitrate=256 ! id3v2mux

EDIT: You’ll probably need to activate the Medibuntu repository using these instructions, then use Synaptic Package Manager or the command line to install ubuntu-restricted-extras.

About the Author

Brian Johnson
Robert has nearly 10 years experience as a self-employed technology consultant, though he recently "retired" from consulting to focus on his writing, and has been using a Motorola Droid from Verizon Wireless as his primary cellphone since November, 2009.


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  1. I’m giving up on itouch and going to look at android devices today. Thanks for this, I may need it later today!

  2. Robert Biondini

    I’m thrilled that the information in my post may be of use to you in the near future. Please feel free to comment about your Android experience, ask questions, etc.

  3. Meka

    Can’t rhythmbox do OGG quality rips which the android supports?

  4. Robert Biondini

    I’d like to call everyone’s attention to the slight revision that I just posted for this article. I always install ubuntu-restricted-extras in Ubuntu, so I forgot to mention that step in my original post. I believe that, without the extras installed, transcoding will fail.

    To answer Meka’s question, my research shows that Android and Rhythmbox both support OGG. I don’t have any OGG files in my collection, so I can’t say for sure how Rhythmbox will send OGG files to your Android device (directly, transcoding, etc). Also, it may be possible to transcode to OGG instead of MP3, but I’ve never attempted to do that. Incidentally, I use a “lossless” codec called FLAC for CD ripping. That preserves the full quality of the original audio for computer playback, where “lossy” codecs like OGG or MP3 don’t.

  5. Sam

    Use your favorite text editor?

    Why not just: touch .is_audio_player


  6. Jaro

    My G1 supports both OGG and FLAC. But that’s just because it’s a Cyanogenmod.

  7. Robert Biondini

    Sam: Yes, there are many other ways besides a text editor to create an empty file. In Ubuntu, there’s a couple of GUI-based techniques to do that. Of course, the touch command is another, perfectly valid option. Nevertheless, you may need to use a text editor if you decide to enter special parameters into the file. See the top entry at http://live.gnome.org/Rhythmbox/FAQ for more info.

    Jaro: I’m sure that many Android Edge readers would love to learn how well (or poorly) Cyanogenmod and Rhythmbox get along with one another. Have you tried connecting the two?

  8. Joel

    Looking forward to transfering my Rhythmbox music to my new Android device (Evo). But what Android application will be able to operate like Rhythmbox – like filter on artist name, song name, etc – make various playlists,…?

  9. rob

    my nexus one supports OGG out of the box – one of the reasons I chose it.

    While this works for moving moving to the phone – it’s still a fairly manual process…I wish there was better playlist synching support – or am I missing something?

  10. Jamos

    Rob, you are correct. “it’ll work brilliantly” is overstating the usefulness of Rhythmbox with Android. Extremely. Overstating it, that is. Take a simple example: sync a number of albums. To sync specific albums, you need to create a playlist for every album. The fastest way to do this is to press CTRL-N, give the new playlist a name, click on Music, search/scroll for/to the album you want and drag it to the new playlist. After repeating this for every album you want to sync, You need to right-click the device, choose Sync with Library, open the drop-down menu next to music, resize the window or scroll around in the annoyingly small box, select the album playlists you have created, and then finally…. sync.
    And let’s not even start with choosing the format to transcode to … where it seems impossible to choose any of the definitions not in the 5 given in the dropdown menu for “Preferred Format” (Edit->Preferences->Music)

  11. icewater

    Any idea if it’s possible to sync podcast downloads between Rythmbox and Droid’s Google Listen?

  12. Paul

    Thank you very much

  13. Alex

    Joel: There are many in the Market. I used to suggest Mixzing because it’s the only full-featured player with broad swipe gestures on the lock-screen widget(making it easy to operate without looking and therefor safe while driving[or the least dangerous]), but the recent updates have added obnoxious advertisements that interrupt your playlist. If you can find an apk of an older version, go with that. Otherwise, just search “music player” in the market and try them all to decide which best fits your needs.

  14. Ryan

    Great tip! I couldn’t get my stupid android phone to mount, so I just plugged in the SD card through a USB adapter thing and followed your advice. All my top rated songs -> now on my phone. Excellent!!

  15. Julius

    edit .is_audio_player files by putting this codes:


    This will copy and appear all the available album artwork on your Android phone. It works on my Sony Ericsson W8 Walkman pretty well together with Banshee Music Player on my Ubuntu 11.10.

  16. Victor

    Is there a way to do the transfer without convertir the tracks?

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