1) I'm adding one room, the rest of the house would be tough to do multi-room audio.
2) I've got 50+GB of (legal) audio on my home net
3) The new room is a kitchen, so small components like a Roku or Slim Devices network media streamer sounds ideal
4) I plan to put in wall or ceiling speakers
So can I use an in-wall amplified volume control and single input without a multi-room controller? Or am I hopelessly naive. It looks like I'd need to get power to it at the very least, but that's not insurmountable.
Pat, The SlimDevices seems nicer except for one thing: I'm already running UPnP via Windows Media Connect, adding another process to the ancient machine with all the storage and insufficient CPU and memory is probably a bad idea.
Either case, it doesn't answer my question: I want to avoid putting an amplifier in my kitchen: its bulky and ugly and doesn't like having flour poured into it :^P
My options seem to be:
Whole-house audio, overkill, since I'm not about to rewire the rest of the house that isn't under construction
A compact shelf system with the speakers ripped off -- more compact than a separate amp, but I've got to watch the impedence on those shelf speakers
An under-cabinet stereo, but they don't generally have speaker outputs, depending on crappy little speakers in the unit
Proficient In-Wall Music Center -- best bet so far, but no front-panel inputs, so far as I can tell, and I can't find any info on how it's wired.
But computers are cheap. Way cheaper than contractors dragging wire :-)
The more recent SlimServer software has added features, and can't run on the real ancient computers. But I ran for over a year on a P3-500 with some weird amount of memory, maybe 374MB
They do tend to get grumpy about that.
In a kitchen, do you need a lot of fidelity? Powered speakers can be fairly small and some are even marine rated. Folks have put a SqueezeBox upside down so it can hang from the cabinet. A couple of powered speakers and you're done.
If you're willing to drag wires, you can do anything.
Powered speakers would probably not be adequate for the room -- I said before I'm planning wall or ceiling speakers (not sure whether flush-mount or not). And yes, I plan on doing all the low-voltage wiring myself for the new room: Phone, Cat5, speakers. Easy enough before the drywall goes up.
Don't dismiss powered speakers :-) There are many types, ranging from wimpy computer speakers, to full size concert systems that will blow your doors and windows out.. it all depends on how much you want to spend.
I don't follow this at all. Powered speakers come in all sizes and audio quality. There are good engineering reasons to match the amp with the speaker. They some in all prices, from $20 to $40,000 a pair.
Well, you can't get around needing to amplify the sound in order to drive the speakers. That and most of the time it's very tedious to NOT have some sort of in-room control over it. Not just for volume control but also for selecting and controlling the sources.
I put a single 'stereo' speaker in our relatively small kitchen. It takes both the left and right signals. This was better than trying to get two speakers installed and it avoids the left/right balance hassles. Flush right into a single hole in the ceiling.
If all you want is a simple setup then look at a low-end A-Bus system from Russound. It'll let you start with something as simple as a single source and two output zones. Which you can upgrade later (by replacing the hub) to support more output zones as well as more input sources. Go from a single-source, two zone to a single source, four zone or all the way up to a four souce, four zone setup. Each keypad has an amp and an IR sensor that will feed control signals back to your source(s).
For us, we went with a Russound CAV66 setup. The keypad controls let you do more than just simple on/off and volume control. The A-Bus keypads are overly simple and require using an IR remote for anything involving controlling the source tracks. In the kitchen it's been wonderful to have the Uno keypads show the source and track info text and allow next/prev control over them. It's very much a "no brainer" to operate it. It's true this is not an inexpensive solution. But the convenience factor makes it worthwhile.
Or you could look at something like a Sonos system. At least there you're able to expand piece-meal if you want more zones. But you will need to put that amp somewhere. With most solutions you really can't get around having an amp living somewhere. It doesn't have to be in the same room, you can run wires from somewhere else. You can apparently get a wall mount cradle for their remote. I've never used one so I can't offer anything more about it.
The proficient system you mentioned is interesting. It's limited in that it doesn't have any way to send control signals back to the sources. No IR outputs, although their manual does show a remote output that's 'reserved for future use'. Don't hold your breath. That and you'd have to run audio cables from your source(s) all the way to this unit.
So you'd still be faced with having to use another remote to control the sources, along with adding some sort of network for IR control. An RF remote or an IR repeater could be used but in the kitchen you really don't want more clutter. Fishing around for the damned remote when you're cooking and you want to immediately mute the speakers to answer the phone is not going to rate very high on the 'wife acceptance factor' scale. Trust me, the WAF should never be underestimated.
Honestly, in a place like a kitchen it really works best to have a wall-mounted control keypad that's not going to suffer WHEN it gets gunked up. Things with touchscreens are less than ideal for a kitchen for that very reason. Something with durable rubber buttons is a much better idea.
At this point in time I'm not really aware of any low-end systems that have anything other than very basic wall controls. And systems like the Roku or the Squeezebox, nice as they are, really don't seem like they're a good fit for use in a kitchen.
What you should do is run a CAT5 and a 4 conductor 14ga line from wherever you'd consider the central point for wiring. Then you run two 2 conductor lines from there to the speakers. Or a single 4-conductor line if you're using a single-stereo speaker like we've done. This way you're "future proof" for any other type of systems you might want later on.
For this, I would second the A-Bus recommendation (or a system similar to A-Bus like the OnQ lyriQ system,
With these systems, in addition to a central music source, you can also put in a "local source" input
that you can use to directly plug in an audio source (such as your PC) and play it over the room speakers.
The wiring is simple. Power and audio share a single Cat-5. Speaker wires only need to go from the keypad to the speakers. This makes it easy to retrofit, should you decide to add other rooms to the system.