Whole House/Multi Zone Audio

Following on from the recent query about whole home audio, I am considering putting together a multi zone audio system similar to Sonos. The functionality required is this:

Audio (and ideally video/dvd and photos) stored on a server Controllable from any room in which the system is installed, without keyboard/mouse Different media playing in each room Ability to sync across each room (for parties etc) Cheaper than Sonos (otherwise there is no point in doing it) Runs on both wired and wireless network as required depending on if cabling is already installed No TV control is required as (being in the UK) this is handled by Sky+

My current thinking is to install a trial system in 2 rooms: lounge and master bedroom, and use second hand P3/500s or thereabouts - these are available on ebay for abut =A320, without OS.

Lounge: PC would act as main server and lounge client, supplying audio to surround sound amp. A TV out card would allow the TV to replace a monitor, and allow dvd to play through the TV (but unlikely to use this feature in this room due to the existing surround sound setup). Control would be through remote control navigating via the TV. This can be wired to the nearby router/broadband connection.

Bedroom: PC acts as client, supplying audio to amp and speakers. LCD TV already has a VGA input. Control is via a touchscreen mounted to the side of the bed (requiring a VGA splitter to allow both screens to be used). This will probably need to have a wireless connection.

All ripping etc to be handled by main PC running Win XP in office, which can also access server to supply music to office.

I would have thought that P3s have more than enough grunt to manage this task, as anything tricky will be done by a much better spec'd system. As for OS, unless I find second hand pcs with one installed, I would be using Win98 (I have a number of copies lying about that are not used) or a Linux distro.

My questions are these: Does anyone see anything wrong with the above? I cannot see how to get this system to sync zones when required - is there a way to do this? Which OS would people recommend?

Thanks for your help Phil

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Syncing different digital streams is nearly impossible. Even milliseconds make a difference disruptive enough for the human ear to detect. Even multicasting from a single stream is difficult unless the player hardware is all exactly the same. Trust me, I've tried.

The only way to do whole house audio cost-effectively, reliably and without complaint is with an analog or RF signal.

Using PCs for in-room control is annoying. Fans and drives make too much noise, seriously. They're a lot louder than you might think. Not to mention having way too many moving parts prone to failure. Better to use solid state devices like media players.

Then there's the quesiton of control BACK to the head unit. As in, IR or RF remotes in the various rooms sending the appropriate signals back to the media distribution gear.

VGA signals only go so far before requiring either expensive cable or signal repeaters.

And then there's audio amplification. Most PC soundcards don't have enough oomph to drive speakers. So then you've got to add some sort of in-room amplifier or power to the speakers.

After you factor in all the issues devices like Russound or Sonos really are a VERY good deal. The wife-acceptance-factor should not be ignored. There's only so much Rube Goldberg foolishness you should expect your spouse to tolerate. After all, if she's already putting up with our gadgetry, how much is left? Heh.

Get a real whole house setup like a Russound and use a PC running J.River's MC11 for digital stream sources.

-Bill Kearney

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Bill Kearney

NetStreams is the only company I have seen so far that claims multiroom synchronization. They told me they guarantee 1 ms. It is a wav file distribution over IP. I see that as their key commercial advantage.

-Bill Ark> Syncing different digital streams is nearly impossible. Even milliseconds

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