Multi room speaker configuration

Hello I am buying a new house and would like it to be wired for ceiling speakers so that I can play music and I can hear it in all the rooms. Since I have all my music collection in my computer, which I am thinking of placing it in the den, I want it to be used as the source for music. I know Computer does not give out enough amplified sound, so I would have to connect it to the receiver or amplifier. I want to place speakers in the Dining room, Family room and Master suite. I also want to control the volume in each room. Here's what I want to know:

1) What will be best and economical configration to do this? 2) What kind of speakers would I need and where can I get them from?


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Are you buying a _new_ house? ie, can you ask the builders to take care of this for you?

As far as economical, since your music collection is on your computer, you could get some cheap/free old computers with sound cards and just share the drive with the music files.

I put speakers in the wall in my house, thought they would sound better than ceiling speakers.

Either way, make sure you get in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. I happen to live near Home Controls, so I bought some there so I could try them out. I think they may have also been on sale at the time. There are various stores online and brick and mortar stores that sell them, where in the world do you live?

After purchasing the speakers, I went to home depot to get some class 2 speaker wire (needs to be rated for installation in walls). Don't remember why I bought it there. Anyway, cut out the holes for the speakers, ran the wires to the room with the amp, installed the speakers and whala, sound in the den, with no floorspace taken up :-)

There are some good tutorials on the web on how to do this, and probably a lot of advice if you search the archives of this newsgroup.

-- Craig

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Craig M. Armstrong

I live in Oregon, US. And yes, the builder will arrange for it. But then he wanted to know my preference. He will just pre-wire the house. I need to decide on the speakers and receiever/amplifiers and how to configure it. I have a home theatre system too but I don't think I want to put that in the ceiling. I am thinking of putting my computer in the den with a amplifier/receiver (? please suggest which one) and then have volume control in the family room and main suite. Does this sound good?

What are the good places for buying the speakers? And what kind of speakers...I can't afford very fancy ones.

Also, please provide me the links of the tutorials.


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Best thing to do is pull two sets of wire. Pull cat-5 to each place you'd want a volume control. Then pull 4 conductor 14 gauge in-wall wire to that same location. From there pull two conductor 16ga in-wall speaker wire to each speaker location. This way you can use either keypad or centrally amplified signals. I've got a combination of A-Bus and a CAV6.6 from Russound and it works great.

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Big question is what kind of sound quality do you want? A typical wall or ceiling speaker is gonna sound like Crap. Yes, with a capital "C". You can't just stick a variable resistor in series with the speakers. Well, you can, it's done a zillion times a day, but is sounds like CCrap with two capital "CC"s. Get some professional help and go listen to an installation they've done in the past.

It's always good to wire the house before the walls go on, but predicting the future is hard. The house is gonna last way longer than the current electronic fad. If I were gonna do it, I'd put in three

75 Ohm coaxes, something suitable for Gigabit ethernet, phone, and another 8-wire cable for spares. Run it all down to the basement to a junciton box so you can reconfigure it when your needs change. If you want high-level speaker audio, run six more wires as big as you can afford. It's always better to have one more wire than you need than one less.

I like the 900MHz wireless speakers. Mine are branded Recoton, but they come in different brands/flavors. You put the transmitter at your computer and place the stereo speakers anywhere you want. The quality is ok for background...if you don't listen too closely...but way better than a typical intercom wall speaker. There's also a wireless headphone that goes with the system.

There are also 2.4GHz. systems that also transmit video. They're interesting until you turn on the microwave oven and your speaker cones fly out the window. I've still got a yellow stain on the carpet where I was standing the first time that happened.

Powered computer speakers with subwoofers form the basis for a quite listenable satellite system as long as you don't try to play it too loud. If you use shielded cable in the walls, you can pipe low level audio around to the computer speakers...but there still may be hum issues if they run along with the power wires.

My current favorite is a walkman-style MP3 CDplayer that I can take to any room and plug in the speakers. You can also find PDAs that can play mp3s.

If you buy it new, all this stuff can be expensive. But it's showing up at garage sales for a buck. YMMV.

So, back to the original question...what sound quality do you want? mike

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Pre-wiring to an entrance area control pad is easy. Pre-wiring for the in-ceiling or in-wall speakers gets harder. If the joist run in the right direction it can be as easy as just pulling some extra line and leaving it in the cavity. Then it's just a matter of deciding where along that cavity you'd like the speakers and fishing out the line. But not all rooms have the joists running the 'right way' to leave this option open. It's hard to guesstimate where to put speakers if you don't how how the room will be used and how furniture will be placed.

Consider the home theatre to be a separate setup. How you'd push AV signals out around the house is rather different than a theatre room. Nobody's systems do a cost-effective job of pushing 5.1 (or better) around an entire house. Most distribution systems will, however, let you loop the theatre system outputs through them. So you can feed the DVD or Tivo through the whole-house system in addition to the theatre. I do it here with no trouble.

How many rooms and how many sources would you listen to simultaneously? Different sources in different rooms is very handy. Like public radio in the bathroom for the morning shower while watching the local TV affiliate in the kitchen or bedroom. Or one stream of mp3's while on the treadmill, another in the kicthen while another's watching a DVD in the family room (that's not the theatre room).

Cheap often means support hassles. A pair bought off ebay might crap out in a month and you're basically outta luck. The same pair bought from a box store might at least be replaceable under an extended warranty but prepare to put up with the store idiots and do all work yourself. Sort of the same issue with mail order from a reputable supplier. The same speakers from an audio installer might cost more up front but save you a lot of hassle down the line. You get what you pay for. If you've got the skills to do it all yourself then online suppliers might be worth considering. Otherwise, work with a local store; really, this is a permanent fixture you're putting into your house. Using a professional helps avoid getting it wrong.

-Bill Kearney

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I disagree. There are a number of in-wall and in-ceiling speaker systems on the market which sound quite good. Speakercraft's custom-install line is called Proficient Audio. The sound rivals the quality of decent mid-fi cabinet speakers. Russound also makes some decent sounding architectural speakers.

I don't know anyone who would do it that way. For one thing it's the least efficient method of controlling volume. Also, adding a resistor can significantly alter the sound. The most common method is to wire from the amplifier or receiver to an impedence matching volume control in each remote room. The speakers are then connected to the output of the volume control. Russound, Niles Audio, Proficient and numerous others make good impedence matching volume controls that do not color the sound.

Multi-room audio is not rocket science. DIYers do it all the time.

True, but with a little planning you can prewire form most any multi-room system you're likely to want in the foreseeable future. For most folks multi-room audio doesn't include home theater. A few TV locations may be desirable though. Most want speakers in the kitchen, living and dining rooms, the den/office and perhaps the bedrooms. Many clients ask for speakers in the master bath as well. If there's a play room or a deck/patio, the client may want sound there too.

I usually advise people to wire as follows: From the receiver to a control location in each room pull 14/4 stranded speaker plus CAT5 and one shielded wire for composite video. At the control location (which is usually just a single-gang mud ring) leave an 18" service loop in the video and CAT5 cables and continue them over to wherever you plan on a TV set. Run 14/2 to each speaker location. If there won't be a TV set in the room, run the CAT5 cable to one of the speaker locations, left or right. It doesn't matter which but be consistent.

This plan will allow the DIYer to use almost any of the current systems. He can install speakers and volume controls in a simple single-zone / single-source layout. He can use an A-BUS type system with one to four zones or he can choose a multi-source, multi-zone system like the CAV6.6 or any popular competing model.

The OP asked about multi-room speakers. Certainly it's a good idea to consider structured wiring as well but that's a separate project (which is also easy enough for most folks to DIY during construction).

I've yet to find any wireless speakers with the quality I require.

If by "intercom" speakers you mean Nutone, I agree. They sound awful. But there's nothing Recoton ever made (are they still in business?) that compares to any of the better quality in-wall systems.

Hopefully it's not made in Belgium. (inside joke)

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