I want to make my home audio system wireless
November 1, 2019 1:53 PM   Subscribe

1. It's about 40 years old. I have a Luxman receiver, a Luxman turntable, a pair of Advent on-the-floor speakers (13x22 in.), and a Sony CD changer (10 yrs. old). What do I need to do to make the system wireless?

2. Also: make this new arrangement scalable (i.e., add new wireless speakers in 2 or 3 other rooms).
3. Also: add a Windows PC as a music source (files on the hard drive and streaming music). What would I need to do to add an iPad into the mix?
Also: might want to add a smart TV. Do smart TVs do this kind of thing?
There is a fast home Wi-Fi network in place.
All equipment is in top shape and well maintained. The sound is great. But I will consider scrapping it if that is the consensus.
If this is doable, I wouldn't mind specific brand recommendations. I live in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto.
Judging from other posts (getting old now) on this site, a Sonos gadget would be in my price range if that's what I need.
Also: how does Apple Airplay fit in? Don't particularly want to get into Apple, but we do have iPhones.
posted by feelinggood to Technology (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want to make your existing speakers wireless or just be able to wirelessly connect to them? If it is the latter then something like a Chromecast Audio (which isn't being made anymore but you can still buy from retailers if you're lucky) would let you connect to it from any other device that supports chromecasting. Apple may have a similar product but I'm not familiar with that ecosystem.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:08 PM on November 1, 2019

Vintage Luxman gear is nice. I'm afraid that there's no good way to make your speakers wireless. They need power from the amplifier, and that's going to need to come through the speaker cable.

If you wanted to add some additional wireless speakers, I imagine you could use one of the recording outputs in the tape loop to hook up to the transmitter and place the speakers where you want, but frankly, I'd really be looking into how I could run speaker wire to an additional room to preserve the audio quality you're getting from that equipment. I'm willing to bet this amp has the capability to run an additional set of wired speakers.

If you want to stream wireless sources to the amplifier, that's fairly easy. I used to do this with an Apple Airport Express and later with an Apple TV. These have an RCA output that you can plug into an AUX in put.

Personally, I think it would be a shame to get rid of this stuff if it isn't satisfying all of your multi-room needs. Have you considered acquiring a smaller setup for an additional room?
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:44 PM on November 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Adding wireless speakers to your current arrangement would be difficult and awkward to your current arrangement. but I think most luxman receivers have multiple channels of speaker output so you could just add more speakers in other rooms using wires.

as far as connecting your PC, iPhones, iPads etc you could use one of the many bluetooth audio adapters out there to connect to your current stereo. switching between devices could be accomplished bu erither pairing/unpairing each device you wanted to connect, or using multiple bluetoothe adapters, one for each digital device and putting them on separate input channels on the receiver.
posted by Dr. Twist at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Assuming that you are talking about streaming music wirelessly (and not trying to connect your existing speakers wirelessly to your receiver) something like the Sonos connect would do the trick... you could stream to your receiver using the Sonos app on the iPad and distribute audio from your receiver (feeding the tape outputs of your receiver to the audio inputs on the Connect) to send sound from your CD player, FM tuner, etc to Sonos wireless speakers in other rooms. I think the Sonos connect might be being phased out though.

I'm not a fan of bluetooth connections, the sound quality is meh, not good over long distances and prone to dropouts. The Airport express and the Sonos stuff uses Wifi to distribute your sound... it sounds better and will work anywhere in the house where you have a good wifi signal.

Fully agree with the others that hardwired speakers are the best way to go, but I understand that it can be impractical to run wires in some cases.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 2:56 PM on November 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think Sonos is still probably your best bet; Wirecutter agrees.

The only thing you would need to get right now is a Port, I think (which is a little steep - 500 bucks). It's a new replacement for the Connect. If I understand correctly, this would enable you to:
- Stream wireless sources to your speakers; control their playback through your phone or an iPad.
- Stream music from your computer to the speakers, provided it's on the same network.

In future, if/when you add additional Sonos speakers, then you'd be also be able to stream music from your turntable to those speakers in other rooms (or multiple rooms at the same time) - as long as it goes through the amplifier. (There's a separate more expensive version of the Port that includes an amp). Ikea now has speakers (and a lamp?!) that work with Sonos, so you could add some on the cheap if you wanted.

As far as a smart TV goes, the best choice for audio with that in the Sonos ecosystem would be to add a Sonos playbar (they have a couple different models), which connect to the TV; enabling TV sound over any speakers in the system, but also function as a speaker when the TV is off.

One annoying thing with Sonos (and I really do like my system overall) is like all Internet Of Things products, there exists the potential for "improvements" in the future. For instance, recently Sonos decided to bury the alarm settings several menus deep, so changing my wakeup time is more of a hassle than it used to be.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:12 PM on November 1, 2019

I have a vintage analog component audio system, and I use a Chromecast audio that I just plug into the back of my amplifier with a 3.5mm audio jack. It's a shame they aren't making them anymore but if you can find one on Ebay it's going to be cheaper than Sonos. Sonos is going to work too but just wanted to express agreement with the first comment that Chromecast audio can work in this situation and is a less expensive alternative. It works just like Chromecast for video so your iPhones are fine. Wireless is never going to be as perfect or crystalline as a wired connection, as you already know, but I think you've got at least two decent (and easy to install) options here.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:14 PM on November 1, 2019

The Apple Airport Express is no longer being sold new but there are plently of working used examples on Ebay for very little money, plug that into the aux input and you can send music to it from a computer.

Modern Wireless speakers, actually have a small amplifier built into them, so they can be treated an as entirely separate output device.
posted by Lanark at 5:07 PM on November 1, 2019

It’s tricky to have both direct sound and multi room wireless sound without it being a horribly annoying echoey mess because of the unstable delays involved in digitization, wireless analog propagation and digital multicast, and then reproduction.

Sonos is expensive and so far as I can tell is designed to lock you into their ecology and update cycle. You wind up having to pay through the nose for multiple adapter boxes to use it with external equipment, despite them being little more than an airplay node in that role. Sonos does solve the sync problem though.

I’ve made do with Airfoil, which is a reverse engineering of the AirPlay protocol from RogueAmoeba. It has the upside of having a player app on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, or it wil stream to anything that shows up as an airplay node. The source computer takes in digital audio (SPDIF) from my AV receiver when I want to use my turntable.

But if I do that then I listen to the stream in the all the rooms, including in the room the turntable is in. (Sonos won’t be able to get around that either.) which makes my old school spectrum analyzer much less fun.

If you can consider directly wired sound, or depending on your environment maybe even a low power FM transmitter. The kind meant for home (or farm) use, not the crappy car ones.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:14 PM on November 1, 2019

Fully agree with the others that hardwired speakers are the best way to go, but I understand that it can be impractical to run wires in some cases.
Another downside is that you can't control the sound volume for each pair of speakers separately except with additional variable resistors. Which means that you can only make those speakers be softer; it also influences sound quality.

I've usually put auxiliary amps in my computer room and my bedroom, their signal fed from a small line amp connected to one of the line-level outputs on my main setup. This allowed using just about any three-core cable at whatever length was required without compromising the sound quality of the main amp. At some point I even had my garage/workshop (at the other end of a small garden) hooked up that way. This also allows you to easily switch that room to a local source.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:15 AM on November 2, 2019

Agree with Stoneshop wrt to distributing line level audio to sub amps or receivers. More control and flexibility, and though you have more equipment in the absolute sense it’s probably less arcane than getting into the whole house audio distribution scene. Plus if you’ve been around for a while you may have a pile of perfectly serviceable pro-logic era AV receivers in your closet....

I’ve never tried it but I’ve read line level can be distributed over over CAT5e/CAT6, maybe even piggybacked on the spare wires (much less sure about that, I’ve only ever done it with telephone and Ethernet sharing a run).
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:21 AM on November 2, 2019

Response by poster: From OP:
Thank you all. You've made me think seriously about this issue, and it's been on my mind for about 5 years. I will keep the Luxman/Advent combination (and all the vinyl and CDs that go with it (at least for a while)). But I'm also going to open up a new audio network with the Bose Wave SoundTouch music system IV. Seems easiest: I don't want to spend too many more brain cycles on this.
posted by feelinggood at 1:55 PM on November 3, 2019

Note that Bose Wave SoundTouch has dropped AirPlay support in version IV. This is bad for interoperability and longevity (i.e. once Bose stops updating its app or drops support for your model), to the extent you care.

(That Bose response makes AirPlay sound limiting, but in fact the protocol is more widely used across brands, e.g. my Denon receiver shows up as an AirPlay node, and Airfoil and other software lets you use arbitrary devices as AirPlay nodes...)
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:56 AM on November 4, 2019

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