Cheapest way to stream audio over a wired LAN?
December 4, 2014 5:17 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to use the LAN at work to push music out to remote speakers throughout the building. The speakers would be wired into the LAN, and the music would be streamed from a single PC running iTunes (or something similar -- it doesn't have to be iTunes itself).

Cost is a big factor; sound quality & volume are not. There don't seem to be a lot of options out there. My preliminary web searching suggests that the best solution involves using iHome iW2 AirPlay speakers, but maybe I'm missing something. I'd need about twenty or so of these speakers. Incidentally, most of these rooms don't have desktop PCs in them, so I can't just attach speakers to a PC and use those.
posted by alex1965 to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Perhaps look at what people are doing with the $25 Raspberry Pi units, like these guys.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:34 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

If it's your building and cost is an issue you could also run plain speaker wire, which would mean no lan-to-music converter box required.
posted by devnull at 7:09 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

The speakers would be wired into the LAN
Incidentally, most of these rooms don't have desktop PCs in them, so I can't just attach speakers to a PC and use those.

Maybe I'm not understanding what you're going for, but like devnull says, you would need some kind of LAN-to-audio converter box at each receiving speaker setup. Which would normally be a desktop/laptop. There are a variety of standalone boxes (often called "baluns") that allow you to send & receive audio and/or video down Cat5 wire, but AFAICT, even if you bought cheap baluns, the cost of twenty of them plus speakers would likely be as much if not more than what you've already found.

Also, my experience with A/V over Cat5 wire is all about using a dedicated Cat5 line so you can go long distances without degrading the signal - I've no idea if A/V baluns can be used on lines that are also simultaneously being used for standard LAN purposes.

So some kind of WiFi/Bluetooth wireless speaker system (like the one you linked to) would seem to me to be the best way to go.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:34 AM on December 4, 2014

Response by poster: @soundguy: I hadn't heard of baluns before --that's interesting. But I'm looking for an IP-based solution that uses the existing network cabling. I don't want to use WiFi or Bluetooth. As I originally suspected, I think my option is limited to the speakers I referenced. I've ordered two of them just to test them.

@devnull: I'll ask the physical plant guys if they're willing to run speaker wire, but I think there might be push-back.

@JoeZydeco: The Raspberry Pi solution looks interesting, but this DIY approach might be a hard-sell for my boss.
posted by alex1965 at 10:52 AM on December 4, 2014

Ah, I missed the part where the speakers you linked had built-in wired Ethernet capability.

But yeah, I don't think you're missing something obvious - pretty much all I'm finding in my own searches is stuff that's meant for serious corporate paging/communication/music systems or fancy whole-house integrated audio systems - which is to say none of it's cheap. Looks like the budget-minded consumer market kind of jumped right to WiFi/Bluetooth systems without really putting out much gear with wired LAN connections.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:29 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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