iPhone controlled Bluetooth Home Speaker system with multiple zones
October 10, 2013 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Are there any good alternatives to the SONOS system that would let me control music across my entire house from my iPhone?

I'm looking for a reasonably priced system (or to put one together) that will let me have ~5 zones in my house. I want to be able to link an iphone to any of the zones to play music from the phone to the speakers. I don't necessarily have to have the ability to play two different sources in different zones though it would be nice. I would also like to have my TV as an optional source if its possible.

Ideally, I want to be able to be grilling out on my back deck with the backyard speakers on, and the dinning room speakers. Then, when I am done grilling I want to be able to disable the backyard speakers from my phone.

I understand a SONOS system can do this, but it sounds like that would require a SONOS speaker box for each room and would run around $1,500 and might not provide an exterior speaker option. That seems to be incredibly expensive and there has to be a cheaper way to achieve the same results.

Any suggestions?
posted by ZackTM to Technology (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you considered just using Airport Express base stations to receive the music and using the iTunes remote app on your iPhone? You can turn on and off the speakers for each base station using the remote app, adjust their individual volumes, and browse your iTunes library. As an added bonus, the Express base stations can extend your wireless network.

As far as I'm aware, you cannot send different streams to different zones simultaneously. Because the streaming is limited to your iTunes library, you cannot stream from your TV.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:35 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You could potentially try using just Apple Airport Expresses as Airplay Bridges to output to different sets of speakers. The speakers would need to be amped somehow, probably.

My Sonos question on AskMe might be helpful for you too - in that a lot of folks recommended Logitech's defunct-but-still-available Soundbridge hardware.

I personally went with SONOS and am very happy with it. Especially with one Play:5 and an Apple Airport Express as an Airplay bridge and Airfoil installed on my Windows and OS X computers and 3 iOS devices in the house, I can pretty much play anything on any speaker in the house that I want.

I found that the ease of setup and the fact that SONOS gave me exactly what I wanted really made it the go-to option for me despite the cost. The only issues I have with the system are:
1) Apple's fault - Airplay audio is not synced in any way shape or form to video played on a separate device (so if I output video to my computer or iPad and hook up to Sonos with Airplay for audio out, the sound is spectacular but is out of sync by like 2-3 seconds).
2) SONOS requires a Play:5 or other component with audio in in order to hook up Airport Express as an Airplay bridge (or other external audio sources), which means more moolah to add that option.
3) Software architecture is not open and SONOS and even SONOS labs can't be quick enough to integrate with all the cool new audio services on the Net. That said, they do have Spotify and Songza. They don't have, for example, iTunes Match or other proprietaries and aren't likely to and that's everyone's fault.

I get you about exterior options. If you did SONOS, you could do it with a SONOS Connect:Amp either outside in a weatherproof box connected to outdoor speakers, or inside with weatherproof audio cables to the speakers outside. I don't think SONOS has any specifically outdoor weather hardened hardware available.
posted by kalessin at 9:36 AM on October 10, 2013


Sonos can definitely do this, including your external speakers; you get one of the boxes with an amplifier but no speakers. I'm a big Sonos fan; the only drawback is the cost. Apple's Airplay is the only other system I know that can do this kind of thing. The Logitech Squeezebox line was pretty close in capability, but is now discontinued.

Be sure that any DIY system you look into has precise synchronization. Having two rooms be 30ms out of sync is terribly annoying. Sonos does this perfectly.
posted by Nelson at 10:19 AM on October 10, 2013


Check out Squeezeplug - runs off a Raspberry Pi. Works with Twonky.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:12 AM on October 10, 2013


Samsung has just announced a line of networked wireless speakers.
posted by bonehead at 11:18 AM on October 10, 2013


I asked this same question three years ago: Sonos or AirPlay?

We now have a few Airport Express boxes around the house and it works great. It doesn't use Bluetooth, but it hooks into your home's wifi network (assuming you have one).

For one AirPlay node, I used a tiny $40 Pyle amp hooked up to a pair of speakers. The sound is very warm and lovely, no problems.

We don't have to use Apple-only software to play music. We use Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil to play music from Rhapsody and other non-Apple apps through our home AirPlay network.

Pros:

1. Much, much, much less expensive than Sonos.
2. No need to use Sonos tools to sync with iTunes libraries.
3. All my iDevices and jukeboxes are synced with the same music all throughout the house.
4. Very flexible: I can feed sound from my computers from Apple and non-Apple apps to our AirPlay network.
5. Everything is wireless and, where wires are needed, compact and clean.

Cons:

1. iTunes can be a pain, sometimes.
2. No web-based wifi management tools. You have to use dedicated iOS, OS X or Windows software from Apple to manage the Airport devices. So if you use Linux, you're probably stuck having to run Windows in a virtual machine, unless you do some Wine-based trick.

Airport Express + AirPlay were the clear winners for us.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:46 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The price of sonos stuff is fucking heinous. It's targeting this weird market of people who have a bunch of money to throw at stuff, but don't actually know enough or want to deal with manually settings something up.

You can get the older wireless N airport express(model a1264, to be exact) on ebay for about $40. I've sold a couple of them recently. There's absolutely no benefit or reason to get the new style for what you're doing, and the new ones are only wireless N as well anyways. 5 of those = $200ish

Then buy 5 of these which are actually extremely great amps(google them, they have quite a rep online for audio fidelity among many types of people including weird finicky audiophiles). Their only caveat is they aren't super powerful, and can't drive very large or some cheap insensitive speakers. There's also many many other choices out there for that aspect of this. Vintage high quality receivers/integrated amps/power amps from thrift stores(i'm sitting next to a pile of these), other small amps online like this or this are fine too, but likely not as high of quality.

What do you connect those to? well these are decent substitutes for something like these which while great, are kinda pricy. For indoor speakers well... the options are infinite. You can get everything from something like these or skip the amps and get these, or jump up and get some good stuff, or if you still want to skip the amp look into 5 or 8in powered studio monitors from m-audio, KRK, and other brands.

Personally, i'd get the 5 airport express units and buy all the amps+speakers from thrift stores and craigslist(the best source for audio equipment in the universe. I've bought brand new condition $650 speakers for $150 on there including all the paperwork/receipts/manuals).

By the way, i can't think of a robust solution for piping TV audio into this or any similar setup and being able to switch zones from the phone.
posted by emptythought at 2:47 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, disregard the pyle amps i recommended. The one Blazecock recommended is far superior in price/performance.
posted by emptythought at 2:48 PM on October 10, 2013


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