Help me figure out the kitchen audio
September 2, 2011 1:08 PM   Subscribe

We're remodeling the kitchen and, although I'm in IT, I don't know what to do with the audio.

When we moved into our house, there were speakers built into the walls of the kitchen and living room and speaker wires sticking out into a cabinet. I put my sleek, black stereo receiver, CD player and cassette player (that allowed you to load up to six cassette tapes at once for hours of listening pleasure!) into the cabinet and was good to go. Two years later I got rid of the cassette player and another two years later the CD player. I now just have a line that runs out of the back of the stereo and which I plug into my Iphone so I can listen to Itunes, SomaFM, Grooveshark, etc. I can’t imagine owning physical media again.

Now we’re going to remodel the kitchen and the cabinet where the stereo was will, practically speaking, be gone. Question: what does a modern audio system look like? All I really want to do is to continue to listen to my iphone and to not have a huge piece of unnecessary equipment taking up space. Ideally it would also be a system that my young kids could work easily. We have architects helping us with the kitchen remodel, but this aspect is a bit out of their bailiwick. Recommendations based on personal experience, direction to websites, or any other type of advice appreciated. Thanks!
posted by TheShadowKnows to Technology (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are options involving AirPlay and iTunes -- provided there's a Mac with iTunes running, you can use an Airport Express (although they run hot) or an AppleTV2 (although you'll have to set them up with a TV first) to feed an amp that feeds the speakers. Very easy to use.

There are options involving Logitech Squeezeboxes -- you have to run a server for some (not all) of the features, and definitely not as easy to use (although my six-year-olds have started figuring it out on their own) but the units are standalone radios with amps and speakers, which is easier, and you can control it from your iPhone with an app, or from the radios, or from a web browser. You can even sync the radios so they all play together (AirPlay will also do this for the iTunes-based solutions.)

There are options involving the tried-and-true method of sending an amplified signal to a potentiometer in a junction box (for volume control), and then from there to speakers, and so you'd just have to feed the signal to the amp (presumably from a computer or one of the other solutions above.) More built-in than the other options, but more wires to run and whatnot.

There are also more expensive (and more expensive-looking) full home audio systems if you want to pay more than the options above. Ultimately, a "modern" audio system involves digital storage of media, remote control of playback and volume, and having some kind of device producing the audio. Tons of options from there.

disclaimer: my kitchen has a squeezebox radio fed wirelessly from a mac mini, and is one of four squeezeboxen in the house, and I am very happy with it
posted by davejay at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2011

I love my Squeezeboxes. I mostly control them from an Android app but also have the Controller. The Receiver can be hid out of the way or the Touch has a really nice interface.
posted by JonB at 2:16 PM on September 2, 2011

People really seem to like Sonos devices. I've never used them and they seem expensive, but they may do what you're asking.
posted by cnc at 4:49 PM on September 2, 2011

Oops - missed the part about speakers being in the walls. Sonos is not likely what you're looking for.
posted by cnc at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2011

Best answer: I recently did an install like this for a friend as follows:

Speakers mounted in ceiling, with wires running down to basement laundry room.

Wall plate with USB+RCA jacks+IR sensor all running down to basement

In the basement everything hooking into a standard component amp/receiver and controlled by the IR repeater from the kitchen.

We found an iPod dock that he liked and that plugs into the wallplate (I just cut a usb cable in half and soldered up a long extension that runs through the wall so the dock wall wart is not in the way)

This system is lower-tech than those described above but it is cheap and functional.
posted by davey_darling at 5:10 PM on September 2, 2011

cnc, There's a Sonos model that has a built-in amplifier.

TheShadowKnows, you're going to need some type of equipment. Where are you going to put it? An Airport Express or ATV2 won't be able to drive speakers directly; you'll need a receiver of some kind. If I remember correctly, Logitech can also drive speakers. Check their website.

If you want compact and simple, go with Sonos. It's also easily expandable. However, you'll likely need to get a Sonos bridge to hook the system into your network.
posted by reddot at 2:01 PM on September 3, 2011

Best answer: I have a Cambridge Soundworks subwoofer+satellites speaker trio hooked into an Airport Express. It is awesome. I can plug my Mac and my iPad directly into it, or I can stream it via Airplay; when you're on a local net that supports Airplay, you see a new icon in iTunes and the iPod app on the iPad that lets you choose between the device's speakers and the remote ones. No receiver/amp needed. It ran me about $200 plus whatever the Airport cost, I forget exactly. <>
My speakers are just sitting in the corners of the room since I rent but I could easily see building them in somewhere.

No wires are needed. I am living in the future. Especially when I have the laptop sitting around streaming music wirelessly, and am controlling it via the Remote app on the iPad. I don't have an iPhone but I would imagine they can talk Airplay as well, and presumably your kids already know how to handle the phone!

Since the speakers in the place are old, you might want to pull them out; modern sub+satellite designs will likely be a lot smaller than the ones already installed, and you can do something else with the space you're regaining. If you want to keep them then I'd go with an amp and an Airport Express, since you already have a perfectly good music player in your pocket, why hassle with synching music between it and yet another device?
posted by egypturnash at 2:11 AM on September 4, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great stuff. Looks like I need to determine more precisely what my requirements are, but you've given me some good options to look into.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 11:20 AM on September 4, 2011

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