Wireless speaker system for dumb home
November 26, 2018 6:33 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to buy some wireless speakers that I can use with an old-school receiver. Does this exist?

We don't really use our phones for music much, but most wireless home audio setup these days (including all the earlier AskMe questions I found on this topic) seems geared toward people who do. It might be nice to find something that can integrate with my phone, but talking to a receiver is a must. Our receiver (JVC-RX206) has speaker wire ports and also a headphone jack.

I'm not keen on smart-home listening-post-style devices (they'll pry my tinfoil hat from my cold dead hands). I may be open to buying a new receiver if (1) they even still make those, and (2) it's a necessary step in modernizing the sound system. The biggest reason we have the setup we do is that we have a largish CD and record collection and digitizing sounds like about four hundred pains in the ass, but it'd be nice to be able to listen to music in the kitchen, or if we're really lucky, upstairs or downstairs.
posted by eirias to Technology (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sonos can do this, but it involves buying a frankly outrageously priced device (the Connect in addition to however many speakers you want for the rest of the house. Sonos in general is pricey but if you're willing/able to buy in, it's a really delightful experience and it's been so magnificently painless for me that i haven't minded spending a few more bucks than for alternatives that used to glitch out on me on a weekly or monthly basis.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:50 AM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think you want a bluetooth transmitter? There are many available, at reasonable prices. Plug it into the headphone jack on your receiver, and pair it with your new bluetooth-equipped speakers in your kitchen or wherever.

If you want to play stuff from your phone via your existing setup, you need a bluetooth receiver. Plug it into a spare RCA input on your amp, and pair your phone with it.

No need to pay Sonos prices unless you want to buy into their whole ecosystem.
posted by rd45 at 7:00 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Older Sonos equipment- a connect and then whatever else you want - could be a way to go. Slightly older stuff lacks the Alexa type integration that may tweak your tinfoil hat. The attraction is that older kit works fine with the core Sonos app.
posted by rongorongo at 7:07 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm under the impression that a 'lil bluetooth receiver like this one is all you need.
posted by tapir-whorf at 7:26 AM on November 26, 2018

I always plug Chromecast Audio for this kind of setup. I have a bunch of older speakers and one main receiver that become smart speakers all throughout my house, and the audio can be synchronized throughout the home. It all gets controlled from your phone and the Google Home app. Just make sure your apps support the Cast standard (Spotify, Pandora, etc.)

Plus they're dirt cheap during Cyber Monday sales today!
posted by dobi at 7:38 AM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

but it'd be nice to be able to listen to music in the kitchen, or if we're really lucky, upstairs or downstairs.

If you want to be able to listen to via multiple wireless speakers at the same time, you need something that will do zone audio. Bluetooth was only really designed for one to one audio transmission so to do one to many requires something non-standard. The cheap little Bluetooth transmitters aren't set up for that.

Also, depending on the distances and materials your house is made out of, you made find that Bluetooth doesn't have the signal strength to provide quality audio.

I have one that's sitting around gathering dust, so if you want to give that a go, MeMail me and I'll send it to you.

If you move to something fancier, stuff like Sonos is nice but pricey. You can also just look for a new receiver that has its own wireless speaker system.
posted by Candleman at 7:51 AM on November 26, 2018

I'd skip the cheap hackery and go straight to a Sonos. The key thing Sonos does right that you can't reliably emulate with a bunch of Bluetooth devices is synchronizing the sound in multiple rooms.

(BTW, digitizing CDs isn't nearly as hard as it sounds; you can ship them to a service and have them rip them for you. Not sure about the LPs, services must exist but are probably more expensive.)
posted by Nelson at 8:14 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

We use Sonos Connect plus various Sonos speakers around the house to listen to our extensive album collection. Sonos makes everything better, in all honesty. We stream stuff, listen to albums, play all our digital stuff off a server. It just works. We also have the tv hooked in, which makes for easy listening to sports, etc from another room. My advice is get the Connect and one or two speakers. Then for a while just make Sonos stuff your bday/Xmas/anniversary/tax return purchase of choice until you're satisfied.
posted by donnagirl at 9:40 AM on November 26, 2018

Response by poster: Trying not to threadsit. I see lots of people have recommended Sonos, but it looks to me like that depends on a voice interface. Am I missing something?

Also, how do solutions that use a phone as a remote work? I can see how that would be useful/possible for streaming but as I said in the main post, that’s not my main use case. I mostly want more speakers without having to fish speaker wire through an ancient house with plaster walls.

I think the Bluetooth solution, clunky and imperfect as it may be, is probably closer to what I am looking for. “Listen in the kitchen or the living room but not simultaneously” beats “listen in the living room or don’t listen,” which is the status quo.
posted by eirias at 11:42 AM on November 26, 2018

What you're maybe looking for is "wireless surround sound". You can buy them as complete sets including receiver, or just as speakers that plug into your existing receiver. The Bluetooth option might work too, I've never tried it but it seems like it'd do the job.

(FYI, Sonos does not depend on voice; it's controllable with voice but we have a Sonos (playbase) and just use a phone app to control it, as we neither have nor want an Alexa/Echo/smart home thing.)
posted by pdb at 12:39 PM on November 26, 2018

Sonos does not require voice. The Alexa-enabled speakers are brand new and not essential. We control with an app via phone or laptop.
posted by donnagirl at 1:30 PM on November 26, 2018

Response by poster: This conversation was a useful prod for me to understand my problem better. I suspected from the responses here that the path of least resistance was going to be to replace the stereo receiver, that is, get something that can both act as a digital receiver and take three RCA inputs (from tape, CD, and phono). Sonos does not actually seem to have a product that lives in that niche (I might have been willing to pay for it if they did).

For posterity, in case other luddites like me wander by: I posed this same question to an audiophile friend who has the Sonos Connect and likes it, and he agreed with me that my use case is an awkward fit for what Sonos is trying to do. It seemed that to get everything I wanted -- and at that price point I'm not prepared to settle -- I would have to sometimes pipe the Sonos line out into the stereo receiver line in (to listen to Pandora on the existing speakers), and other times pipe the stereo receiver line out into the Sonos line in (to get my record player to talk to new wireless speakers). This seems unreasonable. My audiophile friend suggested I look around, and pointed me to Crutchfield as a resource for doing audio product research. That helped me identify a line of products that I think will work - the Yamaha MusicCast family. I got both the receiver and one (older) speaker for the price of the Sonos:Connect. I'll post after Christmas to say how it works out.

Part of my problem in searching was not understanding the difference between a stereo receiver (the thing I want, not meant to work with a TV) and an AV receiver (which is most of what I'd been seeing when looking for new receivers; I do not need 8 HDMI inputs and I do need more than two RCA inputs). Perhaps that search term will help a future reader of this question.
posted by eirias at 6:36 AM on December 18, 2018

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