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Discussion Starter #1
I am a newbie here and am building a house that I would like to have whole home audio features with multiple zones and sources in. Currently at basic framed stage and am researching how to do this on my own. Who sells these systems ( ie Nuvo etc ) directly to the consumer without having to be a certified installer or dealer? Do you have any suggestions of the better systems to purchase as a DIYer and of websites that one could shop at ? I'm in coastal BC. Thanks guys
 

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IMHO, depsite the heavy marketing (and prices to match) the ship has sailed on the distribution of analog signals through one's house, and seriously, what do you think a 100ft run of speaker wire will do to enhance sound quality?

Check out the latest from Roku, Sonos and Logitech's Squeezebox line of products. You can place a digital receiver anywhere in your house, connected wirelessly (no concerns about having to run wires during framing) to play from an iTunes-friendly music library or explore the entire world of internet radio.

Friends of mine have Roku and Sonos systems, but I'm a big fan of Squeezebox (excellent sound quality, features and price) and have five units distributed around the house, all connected over wireless.

This system provides whole-home audio (synchronized or different music to each zone), even out by the pool. I can control the system from the included wi-fi remote or more usually, via an app on my mobile phone. Adding receivers is a snap; plug-in, power-on, enter network credentials and enjoy the tunes.

Even if you're staring at a large vinyl or 8-track collection, these systems have inputs to play from a local source and Sonos allows you to digitize that feed and distribute to the rest of the house.
 

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APN,

If you think that a 100ft run of speaker wire will degrade the sound quality of a signal what do you think a wireless unit is doing? If working on a wifi network it is only capable of a certain amount of information to transfer. For most people who use a milti-room audio system they are not doing it for optimal sound quality. Although wireless has come a long way I would still prefer something that has a wire connected to the devices.


Metalmouth,

If you are looking for good quality sound and the best performance look into running 18/2 from your head end to each room so you can distribute analog audio to use a pre amp/power amp system, I have did this in the past with Bryston pre amp/power amp and a pair of B&W 802s and it sounded amazing.

If you are interested in just having some background music when you are in the room be sure to run proper gauge wire with a minimum of 14AWG to your speaker locations (14AWG should be large enough for the whole house).

What I would suggest is to run a 4 wire (14/4 speaker wire) and 2 cat 5's to your keypad location then run a 2 wire (14/2 speaker wire) from the keypad to each speaker location. This will allow for pretty much any control option/upgrade that is out or may come out. Also be sure to use Class 2 wiring P-rings for all your keypad and low voltage locations. They don't have a back on them to allow for connections and depth as most keypads connect at the back rather than the sides like typical electrical devices.

As for where to locate equipment it may be quite difficult to find something from a "boutique" shop that will just sell you the equipment without wanting to install it. Although you may be able to find a company in your area that is willing to do so but may force you to sign a waiver that they are not liable for any issues that arise. I do know that both BB and FS are slowly moving into multi room audio systems and that may be a start.
You also may be able to find some equipment on ebay or kijiji that will suit your needs for now and upgrade later on to a better system from a boutique shop.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks guys,

Is this site for a DIYer or more for guys that sell and install these types of systems? What brand name systems available in Canada are worth their money? I really dont want to hire someone to do what I'm sure I can pull off with some effort and research. I mentioned the NuVo systems..... are they not available to the end consumer from the manufacturer or some middle man without an extreme mark up? I read about other guys setting up these systems but are they installers talking about "jobs" theyve done or just joes like me? Tunksy31 who are BB and FS?
 

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If you think that a 100ft run of speaker wire will degrade the sound quality of a signal what do you think a wireless unit is doing?
What I think it's doing is delivering a lossless digital (FLAC) file (complete w/ signalling and error correction, I might add) to the remote end, where it's decoded via a high-quality DAC and played back via integral or external speakers.

Where's the error correction in that 100ft speaker wire and how does one compensate for the substantial resistive and capacitive losses that an analog AC signal will endure in such a path?

If working on a wifi network it is only capable of a certain amount of information to transfer.
It's not a problem when at the high end of the digital-audio scale (divide by 8 for standard iTunes quality) a ~1Mbps FLAC stream is using barely 2% of the available bandwidth on a g-wifi link, plus moving to n-wifi further divides that loading by a factor of 6.

If I'm going to run wire, it will be Ethernet, where that 1Mbps stream might be as low as 0.1% of the available bandwidth and continue to deliver a perfect digital file for remote decoding and playback.

For most people who use a milti-room audio system they are not doing it for optimal sound quality.
Bingo! So why spend absurd amounts of money on these over-hyped multi-path analog amplifiers and such to pump poor-quality music through one's home?


Finally, the best reason for moving to digital is that the model scales to video. You just can't do that with the old technologies :)
 

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Metalmouth,

BB and FS is Best Buy and Future Shop. I am not sure about Novo selling direct to the end user. My assumption will be no as with Russound and probably 95% of the multi room systems. Like I said earlier you may be able to talk to a shop in your area and they will sell you the system if you install it. Or you may be able to talk to them about doing the initial install to ensure it is working and leave you with all the information and software needed to make changes as you wish.

apn, I am not sure about Sonos systems as I have never installed one and hope I never do. From the jobs that I have installed a multi room audio system the sound quality is still very good even on the longest runs. It is the equipment that makes the sound. If you buy a cheap pair of speakers and run 18awg wire off a speaker selector you are going to get crap sound. If you spend some money on speakers, with at least 14awq wire and a proper multi room system you would be amazed at the quality of sound.

I am sure the Sonos player is ok and nice as you don't have to run wires anywhere. The downside is you have to either take it into every room you want to hear something or keep adding to the system. With a multi room system you never have to worry about a power outlet or trying to find the player you left somewhere. Just by doing a quick look on the Sonos website you are looking at about $1000 (1 controller, 1 zone player 90, and an S5 speaker) to make this system work. I have installed multi room systems that cost $1500 and the speakers are already in the room.

Sonos systems are good for the average person who wants something that is easy to setup and works for one or two rooms of the house. A dedicated multi room system is much more robust and allows for a lot more options when it comes to inputs and sources (all have built in tuners plus 5 more source options) you never have to worry about network connections and since it is hard wired you don't have to worry about connectivity problems when you are at the limits of your wireless network.

I feel that there are good and bad with both systems.
Sonos is plug and play with little to no programming. The down side is you are limited to the range of your wireless network and you have to move your speakers every time you want music

Multi room system is good as its all hardwired. The down side is it may cost a few more $'s and requires programming of keypads/touch panels to get it working.

If you have the time and ability to get wire in place then do it. If you choose not to utilize them then that is your choice but they are there for future and are a great selling feature of a house.
 

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The down side is you are limited to the range of your wireless network and you have to move your speakers every time you want music
This is incorrect. Sonos Zone Players can also use a Ethernet network to communicate with each other. Also, the fundamental goal of multi-zone stereo systems like Sonos is that you don't need to move your equipment, you just have a different zone in a different room. I'm sure the folks at Sonos would prefer that, since they could sell you more Zone Players.

That said, yes, the S5 is portable.

In my view the main problem with the traditional whole house audio systems that I've seen/heard is that the user interface software available for Sonos systems is considerably better than the traditional systems. For example, with Sonos I can easily stream podcast episodes directly from the internet, or listen to Audible Audiobooks throughout the house.

I concluded that I could spend a bunch of money on whole home audio or a bunch of money on Sonos gear, but I determined that after spending the money, the end result with Sonos would be a better user experience.

I ended up buying:

  • (2x) ZP120
  • (2x) ZP90
  • (1x) S5
  • (2x) CR200 (controller)
I also use the controller software on my various PCs, a Mac, and a iPad. My girlfriend uses the Andronos software on her Nexus One. I'm especially happy with the controller software on the iPad.

I purchased the gear between two orders on eBay and it cost me ~$2100 CDN. I started out with 3 zones (one BR250 bundle + one S5, $1200) and later added two more zones with another BR250 bundle ($900).
 

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Tunksy31, no offence, but you're contradicting yourself. In post #3, you inferred the sound quality isn't optimal with these analogue systems, yet in post #8, you think I'd be amazed if I spent enough on speakers?

If I'm going to the trouble of spending $$$ on speakers, then I'd want them to be reproducing a clean signal, not something passed through 100ft of cable snaked around the house, picking up AC hum, other noise artifacts and the audio effects of impedance imbalances from long, unequal lengths of speaker wire.

I'll bet dollars to donuts that my FLAC->SqueezeBox->Adcom setup (or any source for that matter) delivers cleaner, more accurate, richer sound over matching 10' 12awg cables, into a pair of Celestion speakers in my living room, than would be the case if I extended those cables ten-fold, snaked them around my house and placed the speakers in a remote room.

Let's say for arguments sake that you're driving 100W into an 8R speaker. That pegs the voltage at ~12V and current at ~8A. Driving an 8A load, your 14awg speaker wire is losing >2V per 100' and that voltage drop increases with power/current (http://www.stealth316.com/2-wire-resistance.htm).

So, over 100' of 14awg of cable, you're losing 12/2 = 16% of the voltage you're trying to drive into the speaker from resistance, before capacitive loading similarly destroys your AC signal. So, how's that sound quality working out?

Also, in comparing w/ Sonos, you're taking the $$$$ end of the scale. The reality is that you can setup a comparable system using SqueezeBox for as little as US$200 per zone. Through a combination of wired/wireless Ethernet, I have 5 music and 2 HD video zones served from a 10TB digital media server.

Excluding the Adcom/Celestion gear that I already had, the whole-home music system cost me ~$1,200 for all 5 zones (a $400 Duet and four $200 BOOMs). Extending the system to provide HD video was a simple matter of adding a pair of $100 STBs and Ethernet cable. Try doing that w/ analogue wiring! ;)

Multi-room analogue systems were attractive and are still somewhat popular, but the transition from analogue (physical) to digital media and the explosive growth of home networking will quickly render these systems obsolete like the other analogue technical marvels that preceded them.

While 100's of feet of speaker wire may be considered by some to be a great selling feature today, anyone wishing to 'wire' a house for entertainment/information would be best advised to run high-quality Ethernet cable. That will be a much more attractive selling feature of a house in the near future; more so than the scrap value of a few hundred feet of 14awg copper wire, anyway.
 

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Interesting updates to me on sonos and squeezebox pricing. I'd like to look at their features again.

I'll need either one to feed my whole house audio system.
 

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Interesting updates to me on sonos and squeezebox pricing. I'd like to look at their features again.

I'll need either one to feed my whole house audio system.
I helped a friend with his Squeezebox setup about two years ago. That left a bad taste in my mouth because the server software was horribly buggy (and that was the "stable" version). I hear that it's better now, and if I were to switch to Squeezebox from Sonos the only two features that I actively use that I'd miss are the line-in sources and Audible Audiobooks. Its cheaper though, and it's definitely a good option, especially if Sonos is out of your budget.

In my opinion, both Squeezebox and Sonos options are substantially better than the more traditional systems (e.g. Russound). There is a step-change between the technology platforms that is similar to the step-change between a modern smartphone and traditional "feature phones". Right now I'm looking at the in-wall "Multiline Display Keypad" on the Russound website and comparing that to the Sonos iPad controller app. Night and day.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
"Keypads have a built-in Analog-to-Digital (A2D) processor that converts
an analog source input at the keypad into a digital signal for noise-free
transfer through the Cat5 cables to the central system. This eliminates
potential for humming, buzzing or electrical & RF interference from
sources connected at a keypad."

This feature of the new HTD system posted in another thread that lex rx has referred to seems to be addressing the digital to analoge issue of data transmission from the central component home area to the peripherals does it not? lex rx did you order the HTD system?

Are there systems out there that offer a built-in clean flush mount type digital interface via Cat(x) that is not portable boom box . I do agree that digital transmission via Wi Fi or hard wired network cable( wireless home interference issues like microwaves and cordless phones an issue with WiFi? ) seems to be more with the times and then have the conventional analoge speaker arrangement with very short run wires seems to be more with the times. But does Sonos have a flush mount clean looking wall interface kit ( or any other company for that matter ) that doesnt have you sitting a boom box type device on a table top?


I am running Cat6 or 5e for home networking purposes anyways as well as Co Ax for TVs and cable/satellite. I'm just wanting a system that works well, is current, cost affective and available to the end user somehow.

Thoughts?
 

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Keypads have a built-in Analog-to-Digital (A2D) processor that converts
an analog source input at the keypad into a digital signal for noise-free
transfer through the Cat5 cables to the central system. This eliminates
potential for humming, buzzing or electrical & RF interference from
sources connected at a keypad.
I don't know which system this describes, but it apparently has the option to inject and then digitize an analogue source via a (remote?) keypad/input device, and send this to the central system for distribution throughout the home.

While this is a neat feature (btw, Sonos has it too, while SB can take an external input at site, it lacks the broadcast ability) it does absolutely nothing to resolve the considerable detrimental sonic impacts of very long speaker cables

Voltage is what drives dynamic range and thus losing ~16% of that voltage due to wire resistance will have a dramatic effect on the sound quality coming from the speakers; many classical pieces would be trashed in such a system. Why buy expensive speakers if you're planning to drive them with a garbage signal? Remember: garbage in = garbage out!

While nothing can touch digital distribution for sound quality, the biggest drawback (for some) is the need for remote codec/amp in addition to speakers in each location or zone. However, you don't have to use an integrated boom-box device (although they're great as kitchen "radio's" and bedroom alarm clocks ;)) to get music in each zone. Sonos' Zone Players are very unobtrusive, and the SB Duet even less so (size of a paperback book) and could be easily coupled to pre-installed wall/ceiling speakers as long as the speakers have an accessible input jack.

DWL: I agree that SqueezeBox had a rough start, but it's come a long way since being acquired by Logitech. I started with a Duet a couple of years ago (when my CD changer died), and continued adding boxes to expand the system. After visiting last Christmas, my >70yr old FIL rushed out and purchased his own SqueezeBox and not once called to ask for help. I didn't actually know he had it until ~6mo later, he told me about a sale :)
 

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There is always a point about using long speaker cables. However, in my case, I don't use the whole house audio for critical listening. The system still has to be decent to avoid listening fatigue but I don't mind not hearing some percussion instruments in Jann Arden's Good Mother, for example. Actually, I didn't even know that those instruments existed until I listened to the track in a dealer through their all-Bryston electronics driving a pair of B&W 804Ds (a system probably worth at least $30K).

I will have two systems if I want to do a critical listening of a track or a piece of equipment.

I'd guess that in 95% of cases, the whole-house audio is there simply to "entertain" -ourselves and guests. My family has other uses for it: 1) play a song in the dining/living so that we could practice it in the piano; 2) same thing when practicing the drums in the basement - play some music and play along; 3) place for our son to easily plug his ipod and/or blackberry in a keypad in the loft so he could share it with us whether my wife is in the family room and I'm in the study or basement or patio.

Hence, for these uses, the HTD system fits the bill as good as the pricier systems. I'm sure I'll get a digital player (Sonos, Squeezebox, or other products) that will play 24/196 in the future.

metalmouth, I haven't ordered the HTD system. I have to coordinate purchases from HTD, monoprice, Emotiva, Blue Jeans, Magnepan, etc. so I could pick up all the gear in Ogdensburg after a visit and a shopping spree in NJ/NY. Hopefully, there'll be some personal exemption room. But that's doubtful knowing my wife and boy.:)
 

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Looking for help

I built a new home and have wired the joint with speaker wire and two cat 5 from the basement to four zone locations(Key pads). i also ran separate speaker wire from keypads to all in ceiling speakers. i am not getting very far with figuring out what system i need. The research i have done is not really helping at this point . hopping some one can give me some solid advice
 

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cmitchell, the only value-priced product I've seen in months of research is HTD. They have a new product that may suit your needs and taste. Check it out.
 

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Just food for thought on a budget. Some Apple products have built in multi-device audio sharing. Most are very cheap and all are 802.11n

Airport Express can act as an audio player + optical digital out
Apple TV 1 can store and dish out your music library + optical digital out
Apple TV 2 adds Airplay (video, photos, audio) + optical digital out
iTunes, iPads & iPod touches can act as controllers
 
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