New Distributed Audio Strategy

upstatemike

Senior Member
Based on the discussion in SEANV's Computer Controlled Speaker Switch thread, I am rethinking my audio distribution strategy. Currently I have a bunch of local systems that have Slim Devices Squeezebox units attached as a local source. This gives me whole house access to my central music store and still allows local control of volume, local sources like tuners and CD players, etc. The Slimserver has a browser interface and can be configured to sync all the players or have them act independently as standard features of the system and it has worked very well except that maintaining all the individual systems can be a pain. (rooms get retasked a lot around here and the local sound systems are just one more thing to deal with when changing a room around).

My zoned muting and HA announcements are done through speaker switching and none of the discussions I've seen so far have convinced me that it would be better to do it at the source level.

My new plan is to centralize my amplifiers and divide my house into 6 zones; 3rd floor, 2nd floor, North wing, South Wing, basement, and outside which includes the garage, porches and balconies. I am going to dedicate a Squeezebox to each of the six zones at my amplifier location. I will then put Squeezeboxes in my main music areas where I currently have stand alone systems and sync them back to the appropriate zone. This will give me local IR control of the zone as well as an artist/track info display that is much less expensive than a bunch of touchsreens.

Note that the local Squeezeboxes will not have audio connections. They are just slaved to one of the six units back at the amps so they provide a local display and local control.

I'll probably end up with 10-12 Squeezebox displays, each assigned to 1 of 6 zones driving maybe 20 pairs of speakers.

I'll keep using relay switching for zone announcements which will be driven by an existing PA amp that is on 24/7. I can use the relays from my Stargate, or any other HA system, to manage announcements without being concerned about the architecture of the music system.

The only thing I haven't figured out is local volume control. I can either go with a low end whole house amp like a Nuvo and use the keypads that go with it, or I can use ordinary stereo amps with Leviton Digital Chopin volume controls. I kind of like the Leviton solution because I can vary the amplifier power for each zone and even use multiple amps for a single zone if I need to.

I would appreciate any thoughts on the flaws in my plan (while it is still in the thinking stage).
 

IVB

Senior Member
If all you're ever going to be interested in is audio, then I think systems like the Squeezebox are great. No mucking around with anything, although I have to admit I don't know how they handle XM/FM, and if that's one of your needs. The reason I didn't pursue that option was b/c I was looking for more than just audio, but rather video, HVAC, and anything else I think of in the future.

For volume control, that's truly a what do you want to do type thing, here's what I did & why.

I opted for multiple cheapo 2-4ch amps with 12V triggers for my various zones. I was able to find Parasound zamps and Sherbourn's for $50-$100 each, which makes for a very cost effective solution. Plus, as they have 12V triggers, I don't need to leave them on, but rather use the 12V out on my Xantech.

I mounted cheap ($34) local in-wall impedance matching Niles volume controls without the speaker selector. Their role would be to act as quick volume reducers in the event of a phone ring/kids bonking each other on the head. I say "volume reducer" b/c as they're wired directly to the amp without any of the supporting stuff, all they can do is cut down the volume that the amp is set to.

I'm also running CAT5 to each of those volume control locations so I can take it out and put in a RedRadio type solution at some point.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
3DogKnight said:
Before you do this, let me buy stock in Slim Devices! :)
Squeezeboxes at $200 each aren't much more expensive than graphical keypads and are MUCH cheaper than touchscreens. I also already have a bunch so the additional investment won't be that much.
 

ph0n33z

Active Member
They are much less expensive than typical touchscreens, but you can get the RAD-I/O screens for $300 each. Might want to look into that option as it would not only do your music (which could display cover art, tracks, etc..) but also perform functions for the rest of your HA system.

I will be following this with great interest, as I am about to embark on my own distributed audio solution soon.

BTW, could you post some pics of your house mike? I would love to see it as I am currently undergoing construction on my own. Thanks!
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
IVB said:
I have to admit I don't know how they handle XM/FM, and if that's one of your needs.

For volume control, that's truly a what do you want to do type thing, here's what I did & why.

I opted for multiple cheapo 2-4ch amps with 12V triggers for my various zones. I was able to find Parasound zamps and Sherbourn's for $50-$100 each, which makes for a very cost effective solution. Plus, as they have 12V triggers, I don't need to leave them on, but rather use the 12V out on my Xantech.
Only places I might want FM is the kitchen and 3rd floor. I can keep local systems in those locations without messing up my general plan... it is very flexible that way. I doubt if I will ever need XM.

I like the Zamps more for the audio trigger than the 12v one. Just by activating a squeezebox and having it start to play, the amp turns on. For higher wattage needs I can use a dedicated audio sensing relay and a larger amp.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
ph0n33z said:
They are much less expensive than typical touchscreens, but you can get the RAD-I/O screens for $300 each. Might want to look into that option as it would not only do your music (which could display cover art, tracks, etc..) but also perform functions for the rest of your HA system.

I will be following this with great interest, as I am about to embark on my own distributed audio solution soon.

BTW, could you post some pics of your house mike? I would love to see it as I am currently undergoing construction on my own. Thanks!
I thought about the RAD-I/O option but felt it would require splicing too many different things together to get it to do what I want. My plan may sound like a hack but it is based on proved stuff that I have already tested. For example: The speakers in the library are powered from an amp in the basement that is fed by a Squeezebox down there. Another Squeezebox in the library controls the one in the basement so any power on/off, volume setting, or music selection is mirrored on the unit in the basement. The amp is on an audio sensing relay so it goes on when the Library Squeezbox causes the basement one to power up and start playing.

The only unknown right now is how to do per room volume adjustments since the method I use for the library would end up controlling an entire zone and I want to adjust different areas within a zone.

My house was built in 1885 and I don't think the construction methods of the day will carry over to your current project. (but the automation ideas might)
 

TLCNORM

Active Member
I have a squeezebox also and think it is great, but if you are going to have to buy so many, wouldn't you opt for a system like Russound CAV6.6? I'd like to get one of those, but funds are tight. Right now I am using a delta 410 card attached to a amp100 with signal sensing. Not too much power there though.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
TLCNORM said:
I have a squeezebox also and think it is great, but if you are going to have to buy so many, wouldn't you opt for a system like Russound CAV6.6? I'd like to get one of those, but funds are tight. Right now I am using a delta 410 card attached to a amp100 with signal sensing. Not too much power there though.
Even with a Russound system I need a way to locally display the artist/track info from the slimserver and be able to change what is playing without going back to some central location. A squeezebox in each area really is the most cost effective way I have found to do this.
 
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