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View Full Version : slim devices with music server as distributed audio system



adw223
2007-02-15, 07:56
On another forum sombody said that slim devices would have the solution for me so could sombody point me in the right direction. I have outlined below what I would like to achieve but am not sure what slim device would I need and what other components would I have to buy and how to connect them all together.

I want to;
Install a music server which will hold all my music in its hard drive. (not a problem plenty to choose from)
The server will have a connection to the internet for online radio stations.
The server can be accessed from 4 to 8 different zones and each zone can play a different track at the same time.
In each zone you access the server via a wall mounted LCD Touchpanel which allows you to scrool through my collection and pick the track you want to listen to or connect to a radio station.

What I am looking for is very similar to what http://www.exceptionalinnovation.com/ lifeware system offers but I cant find it available in Europe. I contacted the company and got no response.
The system is going into a new house which will have a structed cabling system installed.

Any help or advice greatly appreciated

davep
2007-02-15, 08:11
How do you intend to deliver the sound in each zone - via a separately installed audio system in each?

davep

adw223
2007-02-15, 09:19
Each zone would have 2 or 4 speakers wired as a daisy chain back to the central point. So I would end up with 4 speaker cables at the central point 1 for each zone.
As for how the sound is delivered well thats part of my problem. I'm not sure what elements I would need to achieve this and how they would all be connected together.

Skunk
2007-02-15, 09:24
The server can be accessed from 4 to 8 different zones and each zone can play a different track at the same time.
In each zone you access the server via a wall mounted LCD Touchpanel which allows you to scrool through my collection and pick the track you want to listen to or connect to a radio station.

What I am looking for is very similar to what http://www.exceptionalinnovation.com/ lifeware system offers but I cant find it available in Europe. I contacted the company and got no response.
The system is going into a new house which will have a structed cabling system installed.

Better judgment tells me to defer the question to experts, but it might be worthwhile to prod for info until they show up :-)

Are you planning to do home automation with the panels as well? That looks like what the lifeware system is, something to turn the heat down, as well as the volume up.

Re. the basic requirements Dave alluded to, You start with one server as you mentioned. Each room where you want music needs an amp+speakers or powered monitors. In order to have unique playlists in that room you need to put an Sb3 in there. You then have an Sb3 connected to the amp/speakers, and also connected to the server via Cat5 or wirelessly. This room can have its own unique playlist, or you could wire two sets of speakers to that amp and have duplicated playlists for the kitchen and dining room, for example. In that case you'd put a speaker wire volume control (wall mount) in the dining room to turn it down/ off when not in use. This gives the possibility of having 8 rooms of music, for half the cost of Sb+amp in each of those rooms- though you only have four unique zones.

The Sb3 comes with a remote, so a touch panel isn't needed for each room just because you want unique playlists. If you want one for album art or because your home automation system already uses a panel in that room, then it needs to connect to the server via cat5/wireless/rs232. There are a lot of options here, with the main difference being whether it's an application that runs on windows or other OS, or a Web browser interface. People have written plugins for Slimserver so that Crestron and other touch panel systems can communicate with the server, which is why I asked the first question.

snarlydwarf
2007-02-15, 09:30
Well, I never liked the "structured wiring" setup that most home automation stuff uses. It is good for things like ethernet or Sat/Catv.... and maybe for local video (security cameras, etc), but I think it's silly for CATV for example: why on earth would I want the tuner in a far away place when it is cheaper to get it as part of the TV, and then normal remotes work.

The same sort of problem is there with music. I would want something akin to what I have with SB's: a central server hiding somewhere out of the way, and a squeezebox, amp and speakers wherever I would want sound. It is all in all about the same amount of wiring (still need more coffee or I can't compare wire runs...), and it keeps the controller near the speakers. Touch panels on the wall look pretty.. until you have to get out of bed to change things.

I want a remote to play music just as I would for a DVD or TV.

And that is the usual SB method: a server hiding in a closet/basement/whatever and squeezebox/amp/speakers where you need them. The Squeezebox display is pretty, though I guess not as pretty as a touch panel, but then it's a lot cheaper and, again, controllable without moving my butt outta bed.

The only real thing to "hide" then is the amp. With a small amp that really isn't much of a problem either. The speaker wires would need to be hidden either way.

jeffmeh
2007-02-15, 09:36
What you have described is not an exact match for the Squeezebox (or Transporter), but you could achieve the same ends.

If you put a Squeezebox, amplification, and speakers in each zone each could run independently or synchronized. You can connect wirelessly, but for new construction I would certainly suggest running ethernet cable. Each would be driven by your music server running SlimServer.

The Squeezebox remote would serve the function of the touch panel, or you could look at better remotes, PDA's, tablet PCs, etc. to control each SB through the SlimServer.

I do not know if that is what you are seeking, but it is the best fit for what SlimDevices offers, IMO. Good luck.

adw223
2007-02-15, 10:41
Thanks for the help guys. Im not sure if Slim Devices can give me what I'm looking for by the sound of it.

Just to answer your question Skunk
"Are you planning to do home automation with the panels as well? That looks like what the lifeware system is, something to turn the heat down, as well as the volume up. " NO. I wouldn't for one second put my house in the hands of a P.C. running Windows

I am actually a certified EIB/KNK Installer (i.e. www.konnex.org)which is the worlds only open standard building integration system. However although there is an audio system available for this, similar to what Slim Devices offer by what everyone has said. I am more interested in achieving something with a really high end finish, hence the LCD touchpanel, it will also be possible if I can get what I set out in my initial post to link the system to my EIB/KNX system which will enable me to create lighting, heating, blind control scenarios etc.. when the audio system is activated. Anyway look like my search goes on.

Speed
2007-02-15, 11:11
I have written a module for Crestron 2 Series Processors. This would enable you to have a touch panel in each zone capable of controlling not only the player for that zone but any of the players.
It seems that crestron would be capable of communicating with KNX as they can both communicate over ethernet so enabling you to control heating, lighting etc via the touchpanel.

You would need a SB3/Transporter for each zone and 1 Server. These could be local to the zone or set up in a central location and the zones fed from there. As well as wall mount touch panels Crestron also make WIFI handheld remotes.

A link to the crestron module can be found on the Partners page under 'Software Add-ons'

There is a demo version of the module but you need a Crestron to try it.

nicketynick
2007-02-15, 11:19
Couldn't this just be achieved with multiple instances of SoftSqueeze running on the server, each with a dedicated soundcard running a zone? And the server would have to communicate with each touchpad for user interface? I'm sure this is more complicated than I make out, but possible, isn't it, since it's all open-source? I think I've seen this contemplated somewhere on these fora before.
(course, maybe I'm just blowing a lot of smoke here!)

Skunk
2007-02-15, 11:28
I am more interested in achieving something with a really high end finish, hence the LCD touchpanel, it will also be possible if I can get what I set out in my initial post to link the system to my EIB/KNX system which will enable me to create lighting, heating, blind control scenarios etc.. when the audio system is activated. Anyway look like my search goes on.

With squeezeboxes you can have your LCD touchpanel, and have more design possibilities than most other systems I'd imagine. As I was saying, you can probably use existing panels and systems, OR a simple internet tablet like the nokia n800 or pepper pad, or even a cell phone or portable playstation for that matter. You don't need windows to have a graphical interface or LCD control of the system.

Beyond a high end veneer, however, there is the selling point of improved audio quality- which is at odds with home run wiring. A lot of audiophiles feel about their music collection, the same way you feel about entrusting your home to a PC. Squeezebox seperates the two, and as you said no matter how good the home audio portion of whatever system, Squeezebox is always an upsell IMO.

Squeezebox also gives a plethora of other options, like news ticker RSS feeds on the high end display when not playing music. I can see how it might be hard to put all the theoretical parts into a whole for someone who hasn't experienced it, so you might consider ordering an Sb3 to try out for 30 days risk free.

Omeriah
2007-02-22, 20:09
I want to;
Install a music server which will hold all my music in its hard drive. (not a problem plenty to choose from)
The server will have a connection to the internet for online radio stations.
The server can be accessed from 4 to 8 different zones and each zone can play a different track at the same time.
In each zone you access the server via a wall mounted LCD Touchpanel which allows you to scrool through my collection and pick the track you want to listen to or connect to a radio station.


adw223,
I am going through the same trials and tribulations as you. I am building a new house and wiring it to the gills. I thought I was all set on using the SB3 but found some hiccups in my plan (another story altogether). In short, even though you are a certified installer, I would recommend talking to someone who does low voltage and audio installations for a living. I found several good sources on www.cedia.com. After talking to several, I found that it's not as easy as I thought to set up a whole-house audio system.

Having amps in every room is one way, but there are also home audio systems from Crestron, SpeakerCraft, Elan, Russound, and Niles Audio that do the jobs (for varying amounts of $$). In several configs however, you can do a control/pre amp with a power amp and run speaker wire into every room. Then you have a keypad or LCD and volume control in each room. The SB fits as an audio source, just like a CD player or tuner or whatever.

Personally, my system will not play different tracks in different rooms. I considered this initially but thought it was pretty unlikely I'm going to do this. My house is only going to be 3,000 square feet. I'm using my old audiophile Linn control amp as my pre and it's not really configured as a distributed audio control. But it should do the trick just fine as long as I play the same music in every room.

Anyway, I think it's worth some phone calls or emails to CEDIA professionals. I actually gained a lot of free knowledge just from conversations.

Good luck,
Andrew B.

Omeriah
2007-02-22, 20:12
adw223,

By the way, installing SlimServer on a network hard drive is not easy. I thought this was elementary but turns out that most people install SlimServer on a PC/Mac that is on all the time. Installing it on a network hard drive is very complicated (in almost all cases) and could also suffer from performance issues because the CPU and RAM are not sufficient.

There is a lot more about this in the fora. Look under "3rd Party Hardware".

Just a warning!

Andrew B.

Murph
2007-03-06, 10:49
Just a word of caution. I'm not sure what you meant by running 2 to 4 speakers per room all in series.

Sounds like you would already be aware but just in case, remember that speakers, unless self powered, are rated for a certain impedance. If you wire two speakers together on one run of cable you are doubling the impedance for your amp. This can be bad for your equipment if it can't handle it.

For instance, many floor and bookshelf sized speakers are rated at 8 Ohms. String a pair of them together and the total impedance changes to 4 Ohms. If your amp is not rated to run at 4 Ohms it could possibly run so hot that it blows.

As for in room systems, I'm no expert in that field so I'll leave you to the experts.

shadowboxer
2007-03-06, 13:16
About 5 years ago, I comepletely renovated my house and put in structured wiring and a Russound multiroom distribution system with keypads in each room with input into the system from sirius, sony cd megachanger, etc. I later put in some hard-wired SBs (yes, original SBs!) in my kids rooms using my structured wiring hooked to amplified speakers, running slimserver on a mac.

Anyway, I soon starting adding SBs to rooms and evenrually quit using the Russound system completely. Getting up to access the keypad, limited ability to see what was playing, the clumsiness of the Megachanger,etc compared to the ease of using slimserver just didn't cut it.

I have since moved to a new house, and have five zones, 3 running wireless SB3s, one with a wireless SB1, and my office running softsueeze, with amped speakers tucked away on top of credenza, on top of kitchen cabinets, out of sight, and I feel this simple little realatively cheap system outperforms the exorbitantly expensive Russound system I had put in previously.

I am building a new home next year, and I will definitely have structured wiring for computer, phone, cable, but my music will be disributed to each room by SBs, most likely all wireless.

dale

Pale Blue Ego
2007-03-07, 00:03
To the original poster:

What you describe is somewhat outdated and unnecessary if you use Squeezeboxes. In your scenario you'd need control wires and speaker wires strung all over the house - that's not good from an audio quality standpoint. Also, you seem to be describing the music server as a specialized unit like those from Olive, Escient, or Request. An expensive server like that would not be needed.

The way the SB3 works is, you use a regular PC as a music server. It holds all your music files and runs the slimserver software. The server PC can be anywhere on the network. It is not an audio device, just storage for the files. The slimserver software includes access to internet radio, Rhapsody, Pandora, podcasts, and lots more, as well as your local music files.

At each location you want music, you put an SB3. Each SB3 gets its audio signal and all control signals via wired or wireless (wi-fi) ethernet. Instead of running speaker wire from a central amplifier, you use powered speakers or a separate amp and speakers, connected to each SB3. Good quality powered speakers can be had for as little as $200. Or, you could use ceiling speakers and a small amp. In an existing music or home theater room, you'd just connect the SB3 to the existing playback system.

So all you'd need as far as wiring would be a single run of Cat-5 to each room - you COULD use wi-fi and skip ALL the wiring, but since you are building a new house, it is cheap and easy to run an ethernet jack to each room. In a central location you would have something like a 24-port router/switch to distribute the network and give each location internet access.

So for hardware, we're talking a $500 PC with an extra hard drive or 2. At each location you want music, a $300 SB3 and your choice of amp & speakers. You get great audio quality and independent control at each location. Very cheap, elegant, and simple to set up and use.

I've got 5 Squeezebox "zones" in my home, getting fed by a cheap old Athlon PC, and it works like a charm. I've got about $3000 in the whole setup, including the server PC, networking, Squeezeboxes, and powered speakers. (one SB3 is connected to a pretty good home theater which I already owned).

Oh, there are also desktop PCs in my office and my wife's office that can access the music off the server - so that's 7 "zones".

Mark Lanctot
2007-03-08, 11:49
I am building a new home next year, and I will definitely have structured wiring for computer, phone, cable, but my music will be disributed to each room by SBs, most likely all wireless.

OT: if you're going to the trouble to put in wiring, why not put a networking cable run to every room and run your SBs wired?

One less thing to worry about, although it appears wireless is working for you. But you could have a neighbor move in with a pre-n router and blow away your connection.

TimothyB
2007-03-08, 16:16
OT: if you're going to the trouble to put in wiring, why not put a networking cable run to every room and run your SBs wired?

One less thing to worry about, although it appears wireless is working for you. But you could have a neighbor move in with a pre-n router and blow away your connection.

(++"What Mark said.")

Or you could have an existing neighbor upgrade his router and muck up your wireless connection.

I'm in the process of putting structured cable into my walls mostly to support my SqueezeBoxes (SqueezeBoxi?). I figured that as long as I was running wires, I might as well put in the the structured cable, just in case. The furnace recently moved to the attic from a downstairs closet, giving me the perfect place for a wiring closet. And a place to run a server where I can't hear it.

-- Timothy
(in that awkward so-close-yet-so-far phase of remodeling)

shadowboxer
2007-03-09, 08:20
True, you both make excellent points!

Currently I am running my 4 wireless squeezeboxes, three wireless laptops, and four tivo's off one of the new Linksys Wireless-n routers with absolutely NO problems. Using the SBs wireless just opens up so many placement possibilities! Just have to be creative getting power to them. House will be on a two acre point on a local lake with closest neighbor about 1/4 mile away, so inteference shouoldn't be a problem. But you can be sure there will be structured wiring to all rooms, so that hardwire backup for any dead spots is there.

adamslim
2007-03-09, 09:48
About 5 years ago, I comepletely renovated my house and put in structured wiring and a Russound multiroom distribution system with keypads in each room with input into the system from sirius, sony cd megachanger, etc. I later put in some hard-wired SBs (yes, original SBs!) in my kids rooms using my structured wiring hooked to amplified speakers, running slimserver on a mac.

Anyway, I soon starting adding SBs to rooms and evenrually quit using the Russound system completely. Getting up to access the keypad, limited ability to see what was playing, the clumsiness of the Megachanger,etc compared to the ease of using slimserver just didn't cut it.

I have since moved to a new house, and have five zones, 3 running wireless SB3s, one with a wireless SB1, and my office running softsueeze, with amped speakers tucked away on top of credenza, on top of kitchen cabinets, out of sight, and I feel this simple little realatively cheap system outperforms the exorbitantly expensive Russound system I had put in previously.

I am building a new home next year, and I will definitely have structured wiring for computer, phone, cable, but my music will be disributed to each room by SBs, most likely all wireless.

dale

Good stuff. I imagine many people (possibly including the OP) will go through exactly the same learning curve that you have - realising that the perfect solution is not actually as good as the one that actually works. Life is , basically, the process of learning what it is that you actually, really, want - as opposed to what you think you want...

(At least, it is in the consumer hell that we... no, I'll shut up now!)

Adam

RogueWarrior
2007-03-13, 19:11
Wow - my walls are open too and I was going to do a wire run of the speaker wire along with Cat5 and Cable. After reading this thread I guess I could just do the local amp idea. But what I do not understand is - what amp can I use? I want to use in wall speakers like the Musica 6.5" speakers: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BTTWRM/

There is also the volume control for it. Either way the amp sits between the SB3 and the speakers (and maybe the volume control). What I am still baffled by is - what amp can I use. I have seen the small 15-30 watt amps - but those sound puny. Anything larger means a big box and I cannot hide that unless I do a run.

Please help the newbie !!!

shadowboxer
2007-03-15, 09:08
Here is one that I looked at (but didn't buy as I ended up going with audioengine 5 speakers with built in amps). Nice thing about it is it is auto sensing to turn on. You can use the squeezebox remote for the volume control.

http://www.amazon.com/AudioSource-Amp-100-2-Channel-Amplifier/dp/B00026BQJ6/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-0373161-0623826?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1173974341&sr=8-1

Pale Blue Ego
2007-03-16, 07:55
Wow - my walls are open too and I was going to do a wire run of the speaker wire along with Cat5 and Cable. After reading this thread I guess I could just do the local amp idea. But what I do not understand is - what amp can I use? I want to use in wall speakers like the Musica 6.5" speakers: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BTTWRM/

There is also the volume control for it. Either way the amp sits between the SB3 and the speakers (and maybe the volume control). What I am still baffled by is - what amp can I use. I have seen the small 15-30 watt amps - but those sound puny. Anything larger means a big box and I cannot hide that unless I do a run.

Please help the newbie !!!

Somebody makes an in-wall amp that fits in a standard wall socket. It's not super-powerful and is fairly expensive, if I recall correctly, but it's a nice, elegant solution to match with in-wall or in-ceiling speakers.