Opinion? - DIY Media Server / Whole Home Audio - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-16, 07:54 PM Thread Starter
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Opinion? - DIY Media Server / Whole Home Audio

Hi all,

I apologize if this is in the wrong section, however it seemed to be the best fit.

I was hoping to get an opinion on a DIY setup that seems to be pretty inexpensive, but full featured.

For background, I am currently having a house built. I am running a good amount of Cat 6 anywhere and everywhere it may be needed. I am also running speaker wire throughout. It all terminates in the utility room in the basement.

My plan is to run a Plex server in that room, with attached storage holding all of our media. I will have Plex clients (either HTPCs, ATVs, ROKUs etc) at each TV, hard wired over Cat 6 to the server.

I think that is all pretty straightforward (but would love any other ideas / suggestions, if anyone has any).

When it comes to music, I have had a considerably harder time coming up with a solution that satisfies my requirements. Then, something occurred to me that seems so cheap/simple, that I thought I must be missing something.

I will have 4 different speaker zones - at least to start. I am not super familiar with the different receivers that are out there that could handle this, or their compatibility with the rest of my setup. So - how about this: For each zone, I will get an Airport Express, hardwire it into my network (in the utility room), have the audio out go to a small auto on/off power amp and have that connected to the speaker run.

Using this setup I should be able to control all of my media from the Plex iOS app, and send music to whichever zone (Airport Express) I want at any given time, or have them all play the same feed. The Plex server allows multiple streams at any time, so (provided the hardware running the server could handle it), I could have multiple TVs going, watching different content, as well as multiple speaker zones (with different music playing).

I am seeing Airport Express's on Ebay/Kijiji for ~$50 and suitable amps for $75...which seems like an incredibly low cost way of getting all of this functionality.

Does anyone think I'm missing something? Have any better ideas?

One thing I should have mentioned earlier is that ease of use (once setup) is a paramount consideration...as the wife won't let me get away with a system that requires her to use multiple apps...or remotes to control.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-16, 09:57 PM
 
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for what it's worth, I am finding Plex on my Apple TV2 to be incredibly flaky

it doesn't always transcode the video properly, and sometimes crashes plex on the ATV completely
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-17, 10:28 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eatingcake View Post
One thing I should have mentioned earlier is that ease of use (once setup) is a paramount consideration...as the wife won't let me get away with a system that requires her to use multiple apps...or remotes to control.
This is going to be your biggest challenge with any DIY solution. These open source solutions are great but they tend to be a bit buggy and require a lot of tweaking. If you have lots of time to spare and like playing with this kind of stuff then you can probably pull it off. If your time is limited though I'd be careful about going down the DIY path or else it can lead to a lot of frustration for you and your wife.

If you want simple setup and reliability then you might want to consider Sonos. It's about as plug-and-play as you're going to get. The downside is it costs quite a bit more - about $600 for a zone amp so you'd need one of those for each zone. You could also go a bit cheaper and get the $400 zone players and provide your own amps. The plus side is you can have the whole system up and running within a few hours and you're done. A DIY solution will take considerably longer to setup in the first place and you'll almost certainly spend many weeks after doing troubleshooting and tweaking.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-17, 12:58 PM
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For music, I would echo Sonos, with a caveat about control. Whether you use Plex (and I agree with Tikker, Plex is less than completely reliable) or simply a DLNA server like Serviio, you can control your system from whatever control interface you use for everything else.

Sonos will require using either the Sonos controller, or an iOS/Android device like a phone or tablet. If you can live with that limitation, it is the best choice for music. OTOH, that runs smack into your wife's multiple control issues.

I use a combination of Sonos/Plex/Serviio for our whole home needs. Each TV has an LG ST600 for streaming purposes, with the files being served from a DIY Windows Home Server 2011 running Serviio and Plex. Plex works great for some content but cannot handle high enough bitrates for all our content, so Serviio is the backup. Audio is done by Sonos which really integrates well with iTunes libraries on the server.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-17, 01:07 PM
 
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i am currently using MediaPortal for OTA HD and my video stuff fed to a few computers

id not bother with iTunes airplay as i have tried extensively to get it to send music in sync to multiple rooms without success. There is just no way to force the audio to be in sync between computers/ airplay receivers. (if you find a way please tell me!!)

So if you want audio in 1 room at a time no prob, but not multiple rooms.

its really too bad as the # of houses with multiple computers increases this could be an amazing whole house audio solution...
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-17, 02:04 PM Thread Starter
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Hmmm...thats somewhat distressing to here about people's issues with Plex. I've been using it on a limited basis for a couple of months and haven't had any real issues.

I've tried XBMC before and I found it to be far too buggy. I like the idea generally of having all of my media (audio and video) under one roof, so to speak. Sonos sounds interesting, and I could probably justify the cost, but then I'm having to use two systems (and convince the wife that they're necessary) to control things, whereas with Plex I can just rely on the one app / control interface.

That's a good tip about syncing the airplay devices. I don't have any real world experience with this, only that it's supposed to be possible. Anyone else have this issue?
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-17, 02:33 PM
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My issues with Plex are bitrate related. My Plex devices (the LG ST600) is not yet able to play files at higher than 7Mbps so the encoding can be an issue. The ST600 can play those files without difficulty through DLNA, but not from Plex. Not sure how other devices perform with similar issues.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-17, 03:07 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eatingcake View Post
That's a good tip about syncing the airplay devices. I don't have any real world experience with this, only that it's supposed to be possible. Anyone else have this issue?
I played around with this a bit using an Apple TV (gen 1) in one zone and an Airport Express in a second zone. Sometimes the audio would sync just fine but very often it would be a bit out of sync so you would have this weird stadium echo effect if you were standing somewhere where you could hear the audio from both zones.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-17, 03:27 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eatingcake View Post
Sonos sounds interesting, and I could probably justify the cost, but then I'm having to use two systems (and convince the wife that they're necessary) to control things, whereas with Plex I can just rely on the one app / control interface.
I get your point here but I wouldn't worry too much about that. Watching TV and listening to music/audio are typically two very different functions anyway so there's nothing particularly unintuitive about a system with one app/control for music and another for watching TV.

Further to that, I'd advise you to not even worry too much about having an app to control video at all. As long as your chosen media player has a decent on screen menu that's generally all you need. Sure it's kinda cool to be able to scroll through your selection of movies on an iPod or iPad, but you're watching the TV anyway so why not just scroll through the list on the TV itself? In fact, after experimenting a lot with both methods over the years I've found I much prefer a decent hard button remote for watching video because you can work it without looking away from the TV screen. That's a lot harder to do with a touchscreen.

Music is something else altogether though. For that it's much more convenient to be able to control it from a touchscreen device of some sort. So similarly, for music I wouldn't worry too much about being able to control that from the TV. Who wants to turn the TV on just to change the radio station?
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-17, 04:51 PM
 
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If you are intent on running actual HTPC's at each tv, then I would recommend running Windows Media Center, but with the Media Browser plugin


it's fantastic for all video stuff, and lets you leverage the power of a real HTPC rather than trying to shoe horn everything into an underpowered box like the apple tv (the ATV is fantastic in a bedroom or kitchen tho)

Multiroom audio can be accomplished via VLC and learning how multicasting works, but you're never going to get 100% sync 100% of the time. it's just not possible(you can get close, usually close enough to not matter)
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-19, 10:18 AM
 
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I have some good news to all on the audio front!!

a guy on another forum informed me of a program called Logitec Media Server. Its built for Squeezebox units and shares your music via an app on your android phone ( i assume theres an iphone app too) to all your squeezebox speakers.

And someone has writen a pc version of a squeezebox speaker called softsqueeze.

With these 2 programs i have been able to sucessfully play multiroom audio in my house using 3 different pcs all in perfect sync!!!

Last edited by TorontoColin; 2012-01-20 at 10:18 PM. Reason: removed competing reference
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 2012-01-19, 12:43 PM
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Western Digital has a full house option now I am using the WD Media player (2 options with hard drive and without) I use the one without and stream from my Windows 7 machine. The box runs 109.00 per box which can then be hooked up on each floor. I run all of my music, movies pictures etc to each tv using either speakers from tv or through the amps in the house. One inexpensive way to do the speakers is a computer surround sound system. I bought those for less than $200. Too bad you did not include 3/8 mini jack in each speaker wire inclosure or put some in cheap. check out the Western Digital site home media. Good luck
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