View Full Version : Multi-room, multi-source flexible sound system

2017-03-09, 09:35
Finally getting round to setting up a proper home sound system. One of the many things I need to complete in life before I can feel like a fully-functioning adult. I thought our requirements would be pretty straightforward in the modern world, but it appears not. Our requirements are:

A home audio system with 3 to 5 rooms/sets of speakers
Each room should be able to play audio from the same source but also different sources when preferred
Possible sources should include laptops (mac and pc), and phones (apple and android)
Using a phone as a source should allow audio to be played from any kind of app - YouTube, a music player, browser, whatever podcast app we like
Ideally the source could be wirelessly connected to the audio system i.e. I could be playing the audio from my phone but have the phone in my pocket
The speakers don't need to be wireless (although lots of wires is never a great thing)

Imagine the scenario that I am listening to a podcast on my phone as I walk though the front door. I realise that my partner would also like to listen to it so I want to play it through speakers so we can both listen. But my partner needs to tidy the bedroom while I cook dinner, so we want to connect the same source to speakers in different rooms simultaneously. We don't want to have to switch to using a different device or app to play the podcast - just want to listen to what's already playing through my phone. But I also want to be able to have my phone with me in the kitchen so I can refer to the recipe I've just looked up for dinner. And then maybe a few minutes later we want to listen to different things from different sources in different rooms.

Tried some wifi/bluetooth speakers - but wifi compatibility is limited to use through a particular app, which is very restrictive. Using bluetooth gets around this but then you can't connect to multiple speakers. I think this is the case for most (all?) wireless speakers.

I've been looking into other options but am a bit overwhelmed by the options and components and their inter-compatibility. I *think* I need the following components:

Speakers - 3 sets for now, maybe extending to 5 in the future
Speaker selector switch - with impedance correction, and compatible connection with the speakers
Volume control module for each speaker set
Receiver - that can connect (ideally wirelessly) to at least two sources at the same time (maybe up to 5 in the future)
A trigger - I *think* this lets me control the receiver remotely (?)

It would be great if someone could confirm I do need all of the above (or suggest an alternative scenario) and point me in the direction of some products that are compatible with each other.

Budget: Not too tight on money but don't want to spend lots and then find out the system I have is still restrictive.

Looking forward to some expert advice. Thanks in advance :-)

2017-03-09, 10:26
I've spent the best part of 15 years trying to this something similar in fits and starts and haven't cracked it. Of course, my limiting factor is that it must be diy so that kind of narrows the field. I had a kind of working SqueezeServer based system for a while that used an 8 channel PC sound card and 4x instances of squeezeslave to provide 4x zones but I never really cracked the control issues.

However, I've just bought a second hand Xantech MRC88 matrix amp. This allows up to 8 input sources to be distributed to up to 8 zones, with each zone playing any of the inputs. In a full system, you would connect keypad controllers located in each zone which would provide source selection, volume setting and source control.

This is old tech at this stage (has composite video distribution!!) but should work as the heart of an audio-only system and brings a lot to the party in terms of matrix distribution, amplification, IR source control. I intend forgoing the Xantech controllers and will instead interface it with the always-in-development whole house control system. (I'll need to learn to speak Xantech Serial Protocol but how hard can that be???). Interestingly, the guy I bought has migrated to Sonos.

The vision is to have tablets in various locations with a custom UI that shows house status reports (power consumption, temps etc.) and affords control of zoned audio, heating, security etc. Very similar to your own requirements except I'm not too interested in the Bluetooth streaming from mobile devices. That would just be another source, thought, right?

Good luck with the project. I will be interested to see where you end up!


2017-03-09, 11:44
Most of what you want can be accomplished with the following:

A raspberry pi running max2play will give you Squeezebox service, bluetooth and airplay for greater compatibility with ios/mac os devices in each zone.

A chromecast audio will give you casting of lots of apps that might not necessarily be supported by Squeezebox as well much greater compatibility with android devices.

A sensing, switching amp such as this one https://www.amazon.com/Russound-P75-2-Channel-Source-Amplifier/dp/B00NMUE2P4/ref=sr_1_47?ie=UTF8&qid=1489084444&sr=8-47&keywords=switching+amplifier will provide you with amplification for your choice of passive speakers and volume control in each zone if you choose not to use the volume control in LMS or your phones with chromecast. Plug both the raspberry pi and the chromecast audio into each amp and the amp would switch to whichever source was active when you started streaming.

The only source I am not sure how to integrate with would be PC computers but their maybe a way to output their audio over airplay that I am unaware of. All sources would be connected wirelessly. Both LMS/Squeezebox and chromecast provide for streaming different audio to each device as well as synched group audio for playing the same thing across your house in all zones simultaneously. This kind of system is very doable right now.

2017-03-09, 11:58
For the DIY-part I found an interesting project in another (German) forum a couple of days ago. Should be pretty much self-explanatory though:

It is based on PiCorePlayer running multiple squeezelite instances via a cheap 7.1 USB-DAC. But I guess it could probably be adapted to a "standard" LMS/ Squeezelite/max2play environment as well. There is also a pretty cool addon to get Airplay devices acting as LMS devices:

If your not afraid of some soldering and the wait to get the parts for a dollar or two from China this could be the thing you are looking for...

And for the home automation part/ custom UI you could have a deeper look into FHEM and FTUI:
https://forum.fhem.de/index.php/board,52.0.html and of course its German speaking neigbouring boards on the forum. This HAS is pretty powerful, fully open-source and has the ability to connect to pretty much every home automation device out there. It's not at all drag'n'drop though...
And for the GUI-part:
FTUI is really nice & customisable frontend to FHEM. There even is a Jivelite-like widget to control the squeezelites. Thermostats, Switches, etc. can also be displayed pretty easy.

2017-03-10, 00:24
Thanks for the replies everyone - really helpful!

Lots to think about - I'll update you soon when I make some decisions and purchases and let you know the solution I get to.

2017-03-15, 04:41
Thanks usc95 for the shoutout!

Hi Snavec,

Please check out our Multiroom Audio Configurator. (https://www.max2play.com/en/multiroom-audio-configurator/) I just updated it with our new products so you have a bigger selection. Also, check out the extensive blog post (https://www.max2play.com/en/2016/07/build-your-own-multiroom-audio-system/) my colleague did on setting up a multiroom system.

And the sound card comparison chart (https://www.max2play.com/en/2017/03/soundcards-can-now-be-compared/) my other colleague just published to find the right products for your setup.

2017-03-15, 15:06
That soundcard comparison chart is missing the Hifiberry DAC+ zero and the Hifiberry MiniAmp

2017-03-24, 06:30
Yeah, we only include the sound cards we currently fully support and sell in our shop ;)