How do I put together a DIY, on-the-cheap, wireless home music system?
March 10, 2012 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Advice needed: how to put together a DIY, on-the-cheap home music system where I can listen to my music from any room in the house?

One-line summary:
Please help me put together a home system where I can listen to my music from any room in the house.

Longer version:
I'm looking for advice on how to put together a wireless system at home where I can listen to my music from any room. I envision some kind of system where I can access and play my collection of about 20,000 tracks from any room.

Here are some of the caveats:
  • I like the challenge of DIY, so I don't want to buy a pre-packaged system like Sonos.
  • I would prefer to stay Windows-only (no Linux or Mac, please).
  • Currently, I have one laptop and one iPod Classic 80GB. I know I'll probably have to buy a cheap PC. Both my wife and I have Android phones.
  • This has to be cheap ($300-$400 would be ideal)
  • Wires drive my wife crazy. This has to be wireless.

    Any advice or ideas? Pointers to any easy setups on the Web?
  • posted by zooropa to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
    Do all the rooms have speakers in them already? Because $300-$400 isn't going to buy you a lot of pairs of speakers.
    posted by mendel at 4:09 PM on March 10, 2012

    that Sonos system is very good
    posted by mattoxic at 4:16 PM on March 10, 2012

    If you're willing to use your phone as the decode device, you can buy multiple sets of inexpensive powered speakers for the rooms you want to listen in, and then:
    a) put your music on Google or Amazon, use the players on the phones.
    b) put Squeezecenter on a PC, and use the Android client to listen to the streams.
    posted by Runes at 4:21 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

    Buy an Airport Express ($100) for each room that you want music. Don't forget to include speakers ($$). Use iTunes on Windows to manage your music, and you can use Android apps to control iTunes.
    posted by jpeacock at 4:28 PM on March 10, 2012

    Also, I have Sonos at my house and it's friggin' awesome. It does one thing, and it does it very well. Yeah, it's pricey but it gives the best experience. I've been down this road many times for both my house and my parent's place, and the plug-and-play excellence of Sonos is worth it for me.
    posted by jpeacock at 4:30 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

    What the guy above said about Sonos, but about the. Squeezebox.

    Otherwise, I'd do something like the suggestion further above... Squeezecenter, plus Squeezeplayer clients on cheap tablets or similar.
    posted by notyou at 4:36 PM on March 10, 2012

    Response by poster: Sorry, I should have clarified. No, I don't have speakers. I figured I could pick some up on the (relative) cheap. Do they need to be rigged for wireless in some way?
    posted by zooropa at 4:49 PM on March 10, 2012

    I recently got my music-everywhere nirvana setup. I start with subsonic (donationware $20?) installed on my main computer with all my music. This allows me to access my music on any web browser, android client ($5), iphone client ($5). If you have spare laptops, desktops, android tablets, itouches, you can place those around the house to provide music anywhere. A more elegant solution was to purchase a handful of wireless wifi chumbys (i got the infocast versions) which go for around $50 dollars for the smaller 3.5 inch screen devices, and $100 or so for the larger 8inch devices, then purchase the subsonic client ($5 each) and it provides a beautiful easy to use touch screen access to your music collection. The smaller 3.5 inch version sounds decent without external speakers, but you can attach larger speakers to its 3.5 inch audio jack..

    I love it, wife loves it since its so easy to use, and my infant loves it cause I can stream lullabies, ocean sounds, etc in his room during the night.

    Added bonus is that the chumby has a ton of internet apps that you can stream pics, twitter, facebook etc etc information. I have 3 of them around my house.
    posted by edman at 5:28 PM on March 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

    android client ($5), iphone client ($5)

    tiny adjustment -- android subsonic client is free.
    posted by inigo2 at 5:34 PM on March 10, 2012

    You're going to need 3 components:
    1) software to stream your music
    2) a device to take that stream, and convert it to analog out
    3) speakers

    Choices suggested so far for (1) are Sonos, Squeezecenter (now Logitech Media Server), Subsonic, and iTunes.

    Choices suggested for (2) are Sonos, Squeezeboxes, chumby's, and airport's.

    (3) is really up to you and your budget.

    The most DIY method is probably subsonic, a Chumby hacker board, and homebuilt speakers. I really doubt this will save much money, but might make a fun hobby.

    Since you already have iTunes I suspect the least DIY would be the Airport solution since all you have to do is take them out of the box, give them IP's, and connect them to powered speakers. I can't speak to how easy it is to set up a Sonos system, but a Logitech system isn't hard, you've just got the extra step of installing SqueezeCenter.

    Sonos and Logitech both make devices that combine (2) and (3).

    One further DIY option if you have an existing amp is to put wires in the walls and mount speakers in the rooms you want. This is easier or harder depending on the design of your house. Done right, your wife will see no wires at all.
    posted by Runes at 6:38 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

    The lack of speakers means your budget won't go far, since speakers that sound decent in every room of your house is not going to be cheap. We were looking to do an in house setup, and in the end just decided on a small ipod dock that had great speakers, since the price of wiring up each room got very expensive very fast.
    posted by markblasco at 12:54 AM on March 11, 2012

    I looked into this a few months ago, and did a temporary Airport Express / Airtunes setup with cheap PC speakers from storage. The Spouse Approval Factor was only fair, due to the connection to the Express dropping out occassionally, and I ended the test as I could not solve it. (Frankly could have been the Express hardware, circa 2009.)

    The Chumby-powered infocast devices with Subsonic looks like the way to go - plug in any 3.5mm jsck to a powered speaker. Will be sure to look into this - many thanks Edman!
    posted by scooterdog at 6:02 AM on March 11, 2012

    I have one of these - it just plugs into a USB port, and then the phono inputs on your hifi. It does the job rather nicely.
    posted by hnnrs at 7:34 AM on March 11, 2012

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