What's best way to stream my music collection to some outdoor speakers?
February 24, 2006 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Summer's coming!! It's pool time! My problem is I want to set up an outdoor stereo system, without actually having a system out in the elements.

My first inclination is to buy an AirPort Express - then mount it up in the ceiling of the gazebo where there is available power and speakers. All my music belongs to iTunes ("all your bases belong to us..."), so I figured AirPort Express would be easiest.

I've read some old posts about Soundbridge and SlimServer, but I don't know how difficult those would be to set up - especially outside in a 'permanent' installation. Also, I can live with using a laptop as the music controller, as I suppose I could set up "Playlists for Pooltime" - but are there any other options? Maybe a Sonos system ($$$- ouch!!)?

Any thoughts, suggestions?
posted by matty to Technology (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How much music are we talking about? How far is the gazebo from your house?

Personally I'd just get an ipod and hook that up to your stereo.
posted by meta87 at 3:44 PM on February 24, 2006

Response by poster: The gazebo is about 20 yards from the house - I've taken the laptop out there and it's got a strong wireless-G signal. I haven't bought outdoor speakers yet, but they'll be powered and installed in the rafters of the gazebo.
posted by matty at 3:48 PM on February 24, 2006

Response by poster: Oh - and I'd just as soon have access to the entire music collection (7000+ songs).
posted by matty at 3:48 PM on February 24, 2006

Roku does make a soundbridge radio that's self-contained and portable. Seems pretty slick.
posted by adamrice at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2006

Best answer: How about something like this?
posted by essexjan at 3:59 PM on February 24, 2006

Response by poster: one problem from the soundbridge radio website...

*iTunes Music Store files ("Protected AAC") cannot be played.

Thanks though, it looks pretty cool.
posted by matty at 4:00 PM on February 24, 2006

Best answer: I just purchased the Saitek A-250 that essexjan linked to. Unfortunately it hasn't arrived yet so I can't speak from personal experience, but the reviews seem very positive.

From what I understand, the PC-side USB dongle actually acts like a sound card, so the decoding is done on the PC -- meaning iTunes works fine.
posted by SpookyFish at 4:12 PM on February 24, 2006

Best answer: NetRemote is good for situations like this. Also, ToneCast. Coupled with something like MC you can get your music pushed to the edge over wireless, or decoupled and sent as fungible bits to to the receiver.

I haven't had a chance yet to use the MC uPNP Server yet and play with controling a NetGear/LinkSYs/Roku/Tivo/etc, but I'd say that would probably work quite well. The custom devices are often pricey - you could rig up a little mini-ITX box for less and get more out of it. Or use an "IP Amplifier". The absolute coolest kids, of course, have AirPanels.

I may be old school, but I use Remote Desktop or VNC to just attach to the Server machine and configure the playback there. I know there are web interfaces for controlling, and some elegant solutions like NetRemote, but what I've got Just Works. I like being able to control multiple Playback Zones (based on multiple soundcards and outputs on a single machine) with different playlists from a single interface. Much less confusion.

One advantage of going with an MC client-server solution (rather than a simple radio approach) is that you can specify necessary downsampling and transcoding on the WAN or LAN client end and so only pull down the bandwidth you can support. I've even used this to stream on-demand music off my server across analog dialup lines (AOL Connection) to a client out in the boonies. The sound quality was terrible, but it was a pretty good demonstration!

Of course, none of these solutions will work with DRM-hobbled AACs. If you have those, and you don't want to be locked in by Apple, then you could convert them to MP3s or just download the full WAVs from something like allofmp3.com for a fraction of the price.
posted by meehawl at 4:41 PM on February 24, 2006

Best answer: "iTunes Music Store files ("Protected AAC") cannot be played."

You will find this to be the case with all devices, with the lone exception being those from Apple. Nobody else makes hardware which can cope with Apple's DRM'ed file format.
posted by majick at 4:45 PM on February 24, 2006

Best answer: A Philips Streamium MC-i250 might do the trick. I have the wired version (MC-i200) plus a wireless bridge happily bringing MP3s and Internet radio into my kitchen.

If there is a Fry's near you, watch for the MC-i200 to go on sale. I got mine for $150.

Also, don't forget Xbox Media Center. With a wireless bridge and a cheap TV or LCD, XBMC would be pretty slick as well.
posted by turbodog at 5:03 PM on February 24, 2006

Best answer: I was in an Oregon Scientific store the other day (think wacky gadgets for weather nerds and runners) and they had an iBall on display. It's basically a wireless speaker that interacts with an iPod or other music source as the base. The sound quality was impressive, they had it cranked up and the bass was clear and solid, performing much better than you'd think a tiny speaker could.

When I saw it, my first thought was that I'd have to remember to get one when I finish my backyard this summer.
posted by mathowie at 5:17 PM on February 24, 2006

Best answer: Cut out the complications... Airport express rocks! Works awesome. I can't speak to the range vs quality as i just use mine hooked up in the living room 10 or 20 feet from laptops. If you wait until the apple announcements next week, there very well could be a new product like a video airport express that would cause prices to drop on the current one (read: ebay!)
posted by joshgray at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2006

I own the Saitek Wireless 2.1 Speakers (puchased on Woot!) and it works as advertised.
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:32 PM on February 24, 2006

How about a Mini-ITX PC in the ceiling of the gazebo and a PocketPC to control the system?
posted by box at 4:57 AM on February 25, 2006

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