New Home w/Speakers, looking for simple system

ramcewan

New Member
Hi,
 
I just purchased a new home that has ceiling speakers installed in multiple rooms.  I am looking to find an easy to use option that will allow control and streaming from smartphones/tablets. 
 
Here's the details;
 
Rooms w/speakers:
  1. Sun-room
  2. Kitchen
  3. Deck
  4. Master Bedroom
  5. Master Bathroom
 
Notes:
  1. Sun-room and Kitchen would most likely be used together as they are both open to the living room, although the sun-room can be closed off with french doors, ideally these would be controlled separately
  2. Master Bedroom and Master Bathroom could also be treated as a single zone
  3. There appear to be volume controllers in some parts that I assume are just in line style, I haven't pulled them off to check make yet, would probably keep these for convenience 
  4. Master Bedroom has some sort of controller panel, again I have to pull it off to figure out details (we're not living there yet)
  5. no speakers in the living room, home theater will be handled by a Nakamichi surround setup
Sources:
  1. Streaming from devices via blue tooth, ideally I want to be able to pull out my phone or tablet connected to home Wifi and select the room to play in and then play the music on my phone in that room. 
  2. Streaming from network attached storage, this would have to be a very clean interface. I am a live music fan (Phish & Dead) and have a large collection of live recordings, my wife likes other types of music and has a relatively small collection, the UI should allow her to get to what she wants without having to see all my stuff she doesn't want.
  3. TV/Cable box - my wife works from home and likes to have the TV news on in the living room so she can listen to it in the background, if I could do this with the TV off it would be a savings.
  4. HTPC -  I have an acer small form factor windows 7 machine (4gb ram ION processor w/SSD) that could be used as a source or could be used as a controller, or whatever, it's not being used as a HTPC anymore.
 
Users: My wife and I primarily, occasionally our adult daughter when she is home from school. Both my wife and I work in IT, so technical setup is usually not a hurdle to get through.
 
Priorities (in order from most to least important):
  1. Ease of use, I don't mind investing a couple hours setting something up, but when we have a party or my wife wants to play some music it has to be easy to use. 
  2. Android/Apple App control, we always have a smartphone or tablet in arms reach, I have an older tablet that can become a base station. 
  3. Time to setup, I don't want to be messing with this for hours and hours
  4. Cost, I'd like to stay around $1000
  5. Expand-ability, I don't plan to automate much, if I could easily connect a doorbell I would consider it, otherwise things like security, HVAC, etc will be standalone. 
  6. Size, appearance it's going to be in an unfinished area of the basement
 
1 and 2 are the big ones, when I had an HTPC going my wife pretty much refused to use it because it was clunky.
 
 
Things being considered: (after reading around here for a while)
 
  1. Nuvo/Legrand:  P3100, I think I would need another unit on top of that as it is 3 zones, these guys seem to have one of the best apps. 
  2. HTD MCA-66: any one use the HomeValet app? 
  3. Russound MCA-66:  seems like same thing as HTD but different app which has a bunch of negative reviews
  4. Sonos - doesn't seem to fit the need unless I had two of them
  5. Others?
 
Thanks in advance for your consideration
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

neillt

Active Member
OK, so the way these are wired are really going to drive your decision process.  It wouldn't be a good idea to start picking systems before you knew what you have already.
 
Do all the speakers home run to a central location?  Or does each room have its own speaker terminal box along the wall somewhere?
 
You will need to open up both that controller panel and at least one volume controller to see what's in there.  Mainly you will need to know if it's an inline volume control, or if it's a dedicated controller with some kind of data wiring.  Cat 5 would be best, but even if it's just Cat 3 or similar low voltage cable it's workable.
 
I am just guessing that it's all central since you are choosing centralized controllers in your list.  I am a Russound fan, and you really will want to look at the new X series products, since they allow app control, Alexa/Google Home control with no real work or bolt on third party automation systems, and the ability to work with your NAS and online streaming services.
 
The Russound App for the X series has come a long way.  I have iPhones/iPads, and it has no issues.  I also have plenty of of experience with their new android powered in-wall touchscreens and they are rock solid.  The only minor annoyance is the 2-3 second wait while they come out of sleep and connect to the controller, but they show a splash screen while they are doing it so at least you know it's doing something.
 
But, let's get the whole story on what you have already, and we can make an informed decision.
 

pete_c

Guru
Here analog speaker wiring was simple to one central location.
 
Easiest way to test is baby steps one pair or two pairs at a time using a VOM and many a toner.
 
As mentioned above you want to check on the infrastructure before deciding on what hardware / software you want ot utilize.
 
 
 
Over the years here wiring changed from using an analog volume controlled (which over time burned up) to using cat5e.
 
Speaker wiring configured as 16/2 from speakers (used in wall speakers) to wall box to 16/4 to centrol wiring location.
 
I also wired in a cat5e from same wall box to central wiring location.
 
Over time the cat5e was wired to a Russound keypad controller and Russound zoned amplfier.
 
2 story home / 1 story home wired as follows:
 
2 story home had second story speaker cables wired to each room then down a centralized chase to the basement over to one wiring location (all network went there too).  Main floor had all wires going to the basement and over to wiring location.
 
Single story home had all of the room wires go to the attic and down to centrally located communications closet.
 
Both instances had large attics and I built cat walks and adding lighting to make it easy. 
 
I have always liked analog wiring for my whole house audio.  That said many folks today are going wireless with Sonos.
 

ramcewan

New Member
Okay so got to spend some time at the new place last night....
 
neillt, yes the wires all go to a central location in the basement, and are basic analog speaker wire.
 
I was also mistaken when I said the Master Bedroom and Master Bath were separated, although there are 4 speakers there are only two pairs of wires to the central location.
 
I pulled off the cover on the one wall mounted controller in the MBR (see attached picture). The panel does not seem to power up. There were individual label windows for the left side of buttons with labels like TV,CD but most were unfilled. 
 
I have not been able to find out what kind or model it is by googling the numbers on it. I also am not sure where this panel is routed to, as mentioned the power button didn't seem to do anything.
 
  
CohvXd8.jpg

 

I will be the third owner and I suspect the first owner may have wired the house. The second owners whom we bought from didn't seem to be the swiftest so I wouldn't be surprised if they did not use the panel. As I recall from the showings the second owners had a receiver and a switcher in the living room. The speaker wires were passed into the living room through holes in the wood floors behind some janky built-ins that we have removed.  I'll be pulling the wires back into the basement and having the holes repaired. 
 
I have not been able to get to a volume controllers as we are having some sections of the floors redone before we move in, but I'm almost 100% sure they're basic lowes/homedepot inline volume controls.  
 
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
ramcewan said:
Hi,
 
I just purchased a new home that has ceiling speakers installed in multiple rooms.  I am looking to find an easy to use option that will allow control and streaming from smartphones/tablets. 
 
Here's the details;
 
Rooms w/speakers:
  1. Sun-room
  2. Kitchen
  3. Deck
  4. Master Bedroom
  5. Master Bathroom
 
Notes:
  1. Sun-room and Kitchen would most likely be used together as they are both open to the living room, although the sun-room can be closed off with french doors, ideally these would be controlled separately
  2. Master Bedroom and Master Bathroom could also be treated as a single zone
  3. There appear to be volume controllers in some parts that I assume are just in line style, I haven't pulled them off to check make yet, would probably keep these for convenience 
  4. Master Bedroom has some sort of controller panel, again I have to pull it off to figure out details (we're not living there yet)
  5. no speakers in the living room, home theater will be handled by a Nakamichi surround setup
Sources:
  1. Streaming from devices via blue tooth, ideally I want to be able to pull out my phone or tablet connected to home Wifi and select the room to play in and then play the music on my phone in that room. 
  2. Streaming from network attached storage, this would have to be a very clean interface. I am a live music fan (Phish & Dead) and have a large collection of live recordings, my wife likes other types of music and has a relatively small collection, the UI should allow her to get to what she wants without having to see all my stuff she doesn't want.
  3. TV/Cable box - my wife works from home and likes to have the TV news on in the living room so she can listen to it in the background, if I could do this with the TV off it would be a savings.
  4. HTPC -  I have an acer small form factor windows 7 machine (4gb ram ION processor w/SSD) that could be used as a source or could be used as a controller, or whatever, it's not being used as a HTPC anymore.
 
Users: My wife and I primarily, occasionally our adult daughter when she is home from school. Both my wife and I work in IT, so technical setup is usually not a hurdle to get through.
 
Priorities (in order from most to least important):
  1. Ease of use, I don't mind investing a couple hours setting something up, but when we have a party or my wife wants to play some music it has to be easy to use. 
  2. Android/Apple App control, we always have a smartphone or tablet in arms reach, I have an older tablet that can become a base station. 
  3. Time to setup, I don't want to be messing with this for hours and hours
  4. Cost, I'd like to stay around $1000
  5. Expand-ability, I don't plan to automate much, if I could easily connect a doorbell I would consider it, otherwise things like security, HVAC, etc will be standalone. 
  6. Size, appearance it's going to be in an unfinished area of the basement
 
1 and 2 are the big ones, when I had an HTPC going my wife pretty much refused to use it because it was clunky.
 
 
Things being considered: (after reading around here for a while)
 
  1. Nuvo/Legrand:  P3100, I think I would need another unit on top of that as it is 3 zones, these guys seem to have one of the best apps. 
  2. HTD MCA-66: any one use the HomeValet app? 
  3. Russound MCA-66:  seems like same thing as HTD but different app which has a bunch of negative reviews
  4. Sonos - doesn't seem to fit the need unless I had two of them
  5. Others?
 
Thanks in advance for your consideration
Onkyo receivers have Sonos built in to them. It would make a great a/v amp as well as a small distribution amp with 9.1 channels that nobody uses. Expensive Sonos for the rest. My daughter-in-law and son use Sonos and adjust volumes and select music folders from their mobile phones. He is very techy but she is not. Alexa hooks into the Sonos system also. May need to get them before Trump fixes the prices into oblivion too.
 

neillt

Active Member
So a Russound XZone4 would be perfect for your setup.  I would just remove the inline volume controls and put a blanker plate over the junction boxes.
 
Use the Russound app to control your 4 zones, each zone can stream from the network, etc.
 
One downside to the XZone 4 is that it does not support legacy keypads, and does not accept analog sources.  So your existing double gang remote control and cable box would not play well.  But it is just over $1,000, so close to your budget.
 
Next step up is a MCA-88X, which is overkill on zones, but provides support for the legacy keypads that can replace that old Niles controller, and can ingest the audio from the cable box with no issues.  You would still use the Russound app for control in the rooms that don't have the keypad.  Unfortunately the MCA-88X runs about 2k, double your budget.
 

ramcewan

New Member
LarrylLix said:
Onkyo receivers have Sonos built in to them. It would make a great a/v amp as well as a small distribution amp with 9.1 channels that nobody uses. Expensive Sonos for the rest. My daughter-in-law and son use Sonos and adjust volumes and select music folders from their mobile phones. He is very techy but she is not. Alexa hooks into the Sonos system also. May need to get them before Trump fixes the prices into oblivion too.
 
I'm not sure how this would work, can you explain a little more? 
 
From what I've read the integration allows the sonos connect to control the onkyo receiver.  So I'd need at least an Onkyo and a connect, but it seems like that would only be able to power one zone and I'd need additional sonos connect:amps for the other zones... would seem easier to just buy the number of sonos connect:amps I need (3 or 4) and call it a day. 
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
ramcewan said:
I'm not sure how this would work, can you explain a little more? 
 
From what I've read the integration allows the sonos connect to control the onkyo receiver.  So I'd need at least an Onkyo and a connect, but it seems like that would only be able to power one zone and I'd need additional sonos connect:amps for the other zones... would seem easier to just buy the number of sonos connect:amps I need (3 or 4) and call it a day. 
I have no personal experience with Sonos. I find it way too expensive for my tastes and purposes. The higher tech receivers toot 9.1 channels which hardly anybody ever uses. I know Onyko receivers can use the extra channels for separate sources while the main 5.1 perform for the main A/V input. I have to conclude you could run the main channels as well as probably two other room (stereo) from the Sonos input source. That should look after 3 rooms and save you about $1200-1800 off the just Sonos speaker prices.
 
The main sending unit is some Sonos component that can be controlled by mobile Apps and can use streaming sources, including Alexa, as well as LAN drive sources.
 

pete_c

Guru
I agree with neillt relating to using Russound. 
 
Personally Sonos is just an over the top overpriced media server (in firmware) with wireless speakers and a large budget for adverstising.
 
Advertisements make it look like an audiophile dream system which it is not. 

Network sync'd audio has been available for a long time and it is free today.
 
That is my opinion though.
 
In the 1980's here did start with two audio amplifiers for a two story home and used externally mounted speakers in the bedrooms / bathrooms and main floor and basement rooms.  Over time went from analog to digital room volume controls then over to in wall speakers with a zoned amplifier (well and sub zoned AVRs).
 
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