Homemade multi-zone Muzak for home ideas?
August 18, 2006 2:11 PM   Subscribe

What's the best and least expensive way to setup a zoned audio system for my house -- MUZAK for the home -- with up to five different music channels playing in different rooms of the house. Preferably without having to wire the place. So wireless.

I've seen some of the wireless speaker systems, but hooked up to an ipod or computer streaming mp3's, you're still only able to listen to one channel at a time in different rooms.

Also have seen the Roku (something like that), that's a receiver/harddrive in one. But buying five of those isn't cheap.

There are some multi-zone home audio solutions for audiophiles willing to pay 3k-20k -- but that's not me.

No, I want to dedicate my old 60 gig desktop to music for the home, and figure out a way to play and wirelessly broadcast multiple channels of music to different wireless speakers on different frequencies. Or something like that.

Goal is to have one control terminal where I can download new tunes and setup playlists for different rooms -- master bathroom, guest room, bedroom, etc. etc. Five rooms.

My friend at Apple has to just buy five iPods and sync them periodically.

Any creative solutions? Any software that plays multi-channels simultaneously? Is there an inexpensive multi-channel wireless router?
posted by pallen123 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i would of suggested a www.sonos.com setup but that might be out of your price range :/

i do own a sonos setup though and they are fantastic totally changed the way i listen to music.
posted by moochoo at 2:21 PM on August 18, 2006

Cheapest option?

Load Media Center onto a single PC with multiple soundcards. You can assign different "Zones" to different soundcard outputs, including the surround outputs. Get the right sound card with enough outputs and you can use a single card.

Run long speaker wire from the outputs to each room's speakers. Assign different playlists to different "Zones". You are sorted.

You can get quite creative with MC's zones. You can even set up virtual zones to stream to wireless/wired music devices. Or go way over the relatively "low-end" Sonos for that true wallet-sucking audiophile experience.

The AVS HTPC forum has more setups than you can shake a stick at!
posted by meehawl at 2:44 PM on August 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

These days, buying a separate PC for every room might well be the cheapest solution. Assuming that you have wireless networking up and running to synch them all to your master play lists.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 3:09 PM on August 18, 2006

How about something HomePlug based?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:33 PM on August 18, 2006

You could always go with a Roku Soundbridge or a Squeezebox wia Wifi in every room with a set of computer speakers.

Not sure how many streams your wifi could handle but I bet 4-5 would be ok.
posted by mphuie at 3:39 PM on August 18, 2006

Assuming you have a stereo in every room already, wireless Squeezeboxes would be just about ideal. They're pretty expensive, but very good. I bet Slimdevices would cut you a deal for buying 5 at once. List price on five would be about $1500.

I realize that's probably more than you want to spend, but you're doing FIVE of them. Most folks are pretty happy with one or two. :)

They sound really great, with top-quality DACs and digital outs, so they'll drive anything from a boombox up to a $20k stack of electronics. The server will easily talk to five players (many more, in fact), and you can sync up any or all of the rooms if you wish. (good for parties.)

The Roku devices offer more features for less money, but are much lower-quality. They do things like forced hardware resample to 48khz, which is shudder-worthy. Squeezeboxes will stand toe-to-toe with $1k+ CD players. They really deliver the goods.

The soundcard idea could work, but you'd have to control all the zones from one central area. Squeezeboxes have remotes, so each room can control its own music.

SBs can also do a wireless bridge for you, so you can tie your whole network together using them, if you wish. They're not access points, so you'll need one of those too, but they're very nice client-mode bridges. Client-mode is generally better, because everything just works... your AP doesn't have any idea what's going on. WDS bridging, which is what the Aiport Express does, will let you extend range with two or more APs, but kills bandwidth dead on contact. And not all APs are compatible with each other in WDS mode, so it can definitely be troublesome. You won't get that with Squeezeboxen.

Apple's Airport Express would be another possibility, if you like iTunes. No gapless playback and no remote, but they cost half as much, and do a fine digital out. I haven't listened to mine in analog mode, but I've never heard anyone complain about it.
posted by Malor at 4:10 PM on August 18, 2006

I was wrong, by the way, about the Airport Express not bridging in client mode. It will indeed do that, but it's an automatic setting based on whether or not it's set to distribute IP addresses. If you actually look for the 'bridging' option in settings, that's the range-extending, bandwidth-eating version.

Just set it to not distribute IPs and to activate both interfaces, and it will client-mode bridge very happily.

Sorry for the misinformation!
posted by Malor at 5:09 AM on August 19, 2006

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