Looking for sound system advice.
February 16, 2007 9:41 AM   Subscribe

My mother has an ideal speaker system in mind, but no idea what that entails.

Being the computer literate son, I'm expected to deal with all things technological. Unfortunately, I don't know much about audio myself, so I was wondering if anyone here could help.

Here's the general idea:

There's a TV room and a living room across from each other in the house. Ideally we'd have two speakers in each room setup so that the following things could happen: TV is running all speakers or only one room's speakers; CD player is running all speakers or only one room's speakers; both TV and CD player are on in different rooms.

She's not that picky about sound quality - she's not going to be listening to music THAT loudly (relative to my generations tastes) and as long as it sounds good and clear, she should be happy.

Another big plus would be some form of MP3 support. I'm not at all sure how this could be supported, but whether it was streamed directly off a computer, or fed from an iPod, or perhaps even a usb drive or burnt CD (or anything else) it should all be fine.

The ideal price range is less then $600, but I'm not sure if that's realistic.

Thanks for any help.
posted by Alex404 to Technology (8 answers total)
mp3 support = iTunes and an Airport Express. $99.

Leaves 500 bux for the two switches you need and some cables.

Each set of speakers can have one of two sources. You need to pick a place for the sources (TV/stereo) and wire both to a selector switch in each room.

Since they are in separate rooms, simple stereo selector switches will do. Radio Shack item, basically. I'd be surprised if they were over $20 each.
posted by FauxScot at 9:54 AM on February 16, 2007

Most receivers have A/B speaker switches built right in. So if you route the TV's sound-out through the stereo, you can control the sound output for all your sound sources. Separate audio switches are cheap enough in case her current receiver doesn't have this feature.

The tricky part is getting the signal to the remote speakers, as that will either involve wiring in the walls (best option but requires attic access and someone handy with a cable snake), a wireless speaker setup, dorm-room-grade exposed wiring, or hidden external wiring (using baseboard cable concealers, flat paintable speaker wire, whatever). Last I checked, wireless speakers were pretty awful, but perhaps have improved.

An iPod dock feeding into the AUX jack on the receiver would be an obvious way to get MP3s in. The Airport Express is nice gear, but I've always been put off by the need to go to the computer in the other room to change the music. I suppose one could rig up something up with a programmable remote to control the computer using those IR-RF-IR converters and an IR input on the computer.
posted by adamrice at 10:12 AM on February 16, 2007


the AB switches would work except that OP wants TWO sources driving two sets of speakers, sometimes on the same source, sometimes separate, simultaneously.

Just using AB settings on speakers could have two DIFFERENT sources driving the same set of speakers. That's a no-no.

This doesn't sound like a hifi setup to me, so having each separate set of speaker EACH have the ability to select one of two sources would work in as simple a fashion as I can imagine.
posted by FauxScot at 12:40 PM on February 16, 2007

FauxScott—oops, you're right.

I could be wrong, but I get the impression that distributing two different signals to two different locations is actually pretty expensive—I haven't seen any cheap gadgets that do that.

If that's a high priority, the cheapest and easiest thing to do would be to get a boombox or shelf system for the second location (you could run a line-in from the main system if you want the same sound in two places). Unless there really is a cheap gadget to do this. The only ones I've seen cost about $1000.
posted by adamrice at 12:52 PM on February 16, 2007

Something like this sub-$500 Denon would do what you're asking (I think - if your CD player, tv and reciever are in the same room).
"Denon’s Multi Source function lets you select different audio sources for listening. Different sources can thus be enjoyed in the main room (MAIN) and sub-room(s) – ZONE 2, ZONE 3 or ZONE 4 (model dependent) – simultaneously."
posted by FreezBoy at 1:05 PM on February 16, 2007

You can get a mixer for about $179, which is cheaper than trying to do it through a soundcard. This is what mixers are for, basically. You can route out signals to two different sets of "monitors" without any trouble, and if you're not worried about sound quality or having a lot of channels, this is dirt simple. That and a couple of sets of speakers (AB), no problem.
posted by klangklangston at 7:11 PM on February 16, 2007

Let's think simple, folks.

#1: Get two cheap audio distribution amplifiers, each with one input and two outputs;

#2: Put a straightforward A/V receiver in each of the two rooms -- presumably each would have (at least) an input for TV and an input for CD. Each room's A/V receiver would power the speakers for that room;

#3: Run the source of your TV sound to the first distribution amp, and the source of your CD sound to the second distribution amp -- then run lines from the first distribution amp to the "TV" audio input on both receivers, and from the second distribution amp to the "CD" audio input on both receivers.

Now there are additional complexities if you want to control, say, the CD player from the room it isn't in. On the other hand, adding mp3 capability is easy -- here are two ways, depending on your budget.

#1: get something like the "Squeezebox" from Slim Devices (I have one, I love it) and run the output through an additional distribution amp to, say, the "AUX" input on the two receivers.

#2: get two "Squeezebox"es, and run them in sync'd mode, one in each room -- the audio will be sync'd on both, and you can control the feed from either room.

Have fun, good luck, and for the sake of convenience try to work with a solution (like the one I'm giving you) that runs line level audio between rooms, not speaker-level audio, because people in each room are going to want to adjust the volume a lot and having to leave the room to do it (or work out a multi-room remote situation) is just going to be a drag.
posted by davejay at 10:46 PM on February 16, 2007

Thanks for all your help guys!
posted by Alex404 at 10:51 PM on February 16, 2007

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