Craig's Airplay2 Whole Home Audio setup


Active Member
We renovated most of the main floor of our house and added in-wall and in-ceiling speakers in 4 of the rooms.  I thought I'd share what I've done.  My objective was to have a simple way to play background music in the house from our Apple devices. Cheap.
All the network, video and telephone wiring comes back to the same unfinished corner of the basement so I routed the speaker wiring there too. This is my workshop and I wanted the components up and out of the way. Originally, I'd thought to build shelves or hang a normal cabinet but I realized that I'd need access to the back whenever anything changed. So I hung the cabinet on drawer slides so it can be pulled out from the wall when necessary. The side rails are spaced to hang standard 19-inch rack mount stuff.

For WHA, I'm using speakers and wiring from Monoprice. The amp is a DaytonAudio MA1240a purchased from PartsExpress. I currently have 4 Apple Airport Express units (Model A1392) connected to the amp. One for each current audio zone. I picked them up used for a few dollars each (CAD $35-50 each). They provide the Airplay2 input to the amp. Note that I've disabled their WIFI networking functions and they are hardwired to network switch (immediately below in the cabinet).

From an iPhone, iPad or Mac, we simply pick which zone or group of zones to play to:
I'm pretty happy with the results. Sound quality is quite acceptable to my old, abused ears. Any source I've tried on an iOS device plays through Airplay2.  

I plan to change the network switch wiring and turn that unit so the connections are at the front rather than the back. The patch cables need to be a foot longer to do that.

If I had this to do again, I'd try to do a better job of cable management. There is a metric tonne of network cables, speaker cables, and line-level audio cables. There are 10 powered devices in the cabinet at present. The WHA stuff is surge protected. The network stuff is powered through an Uninterruptible Power Supply so it doesn't go down when the power blinks. Two power bars are mounted to the bottom of the cabinet to supply the juice.

An annoyance is that the amp takes about 8 seconds to wake from sleep. Compared to a table-top radio that comes on instantly, that seems like forever sometimes. I'm considering setting the amp to never sleep. Not sure how much electricity it would use if idle but not sleeping. Also, it might be possible to use Homekit to automatically wake the system each morning...which is when I find the lag most annoying.

I plan to add a pair of outdoor speakers to our patio if the weather ever improves. Also considering adding a pair to my workshop.

Very nice.  The wood shelf looks professionally done.  
Here for the garage and deck used outdoor Russound speakers that I got on the cheap and lasted a long time without any deterioration exposed to direct sunlight and weather year around.
For one outdoor speaker went through the brick and to a cavity that was utilized for an in wall Kitchen speaker, then down a chase to the basement.
On the other side mounted the speaker on the brick and used a piece of cedar stained the same color as the deck to a chase under the deck that went to the basement.
Looks nice.  I did similar here but I'm using Apple TV's.  
Maybe isn't an issue for you but one thing I noticed over time was that Airplay is nice until you get a phone call, or you step into a dead or fritzy WiFi area or need to make a beer run during the party!  So I put all my music into lossless LAN storage that I can play over iTunes.  I assume you know there's a remote app to control the music.  So then you don't get the dropouts on the music if the music is playing from a PC that stays connected.   
If you're using different Apps or services to play music, maybe there's a way to have them on a device in that cabinet or on the LAN that you can control by remote (could be an IP remote say like the apple remote).  
Anyway, just a quick thought but looks nice and looks like you have the flexibility to change things there as needed.  
I think you're describing the problems with Airplay1--other than the beer run issue, those are pretty much fixed with Airplay2.  The surprising part was that they released a firmware update for the last Airport Express model that gave it Airplay2 compatibility.  Free.  I don't think Samsung, Amazon or Google are ever going to do something like that!
I do use my Mac to play to these zones sometimes.  You're right that the Remote app is very handy.  Just wish it could launch iTunes/Apple Music remotely so I don't have to walk to the computer just to do that.
My wife is due to replace her iPad.  I'm thinking we'll mount the old one in the kitchen permanently connected to power and use it to control the music.
BTW, I've been playing with Siri Shortcuts a little.  It looks like this may be a simple way to start playing a particular source in a certain zone.  
Except, of course, that my wife refuses to talk to Siri.