iTunes Multi-room / Media system Questions

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by JSmail, Oct 24, 2011.

  1. JSmail macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2011

    I have recently re-introduced myself to iTunes and have started to experiment with AirPlay. I bought an Apple TV to play music onto my TV, but wanted better sound quality so have just bought a B&W Zeppelin Air. This has now sparked my interest in setting up a wireless music system for my house.

    Based on my research I seem to have a couple of options, but I am not sure what is best / how they will work.

    1) SONOS System
    2) iTunes AirPlay system

    1) SONOS sounds like a great system, but it does not seem to like non-SONOS speakers (unless you buy a £280 Zone Player to connect to each). Given this, and my new and much loved Zeppelin, I think it is out of the question. Unless anyone knows how you can connect non-SONOS speakers to the system?

    2) iTunes AirPlay seems to be quite good; not as great as the SONOS system, but nice. My questions are however:

    i) Wireless / Networked HDD - I have a MacBook Pro and do not really want to have this turned on all the time to play music in multiple areas (my iPhone seems to only be able to send music to one set of speakers at once without being used as a remote for my computer?). It seems that many people have wireless / networked HDDs to store their iTunes library on. My question however, is does this still require a Mac to be turned on and connected to the network to access the tracks and play wirelessly, or does the HDD act as a computer and let you access wirelessly on your AppleTV / iPhone / iPad and then use the iPhone remote for example to send music to multiple speakers?

    ii) Are there any additional benefits of the wireless HDD other than you don't need them to be close to the router?

    iii) Also, how many speakers can you play to at once with AirPlay?

    iv) Is there any way of playing different tracks on different speakers at the same time with iTunes?

    Does anyone else have any suggestions / am I missing anything here?

    My plan is to have a networked HDD that centrally stores all my iTunes music, then have 3 or 4 speakers, either with AirPlay, or connected to Apple TV / Airport Express units around the house. I then intend on managing it all through my iPhone, without my computer needing to be on.

    Thanks for your help.
  2. androiphone macrumors 65816

    Dec 13, 2009
    I was under the impression that the SONOS speakers are pretty good quality.

    I know this for sure though, to use airplay you would have to leave your computer on with itunes open even if a networked hard drive is on and your music is on there (unless you use a home server that can run itunes, but that is basically just a computer). with sonos you can have your mac off and just the network drive on, normally you would have a NAS/network drive plugged into the router via ethernet and then forget about it, I wouldn't go for a wireless HDD.

    also with airplay it's one track being played at any one time only, with sonos it can be a different track in every room at the same time,
  3. Uofmtiger macrumors 68020


    Dec 11, 2010
    If you can live with 256kbps files, you may want to see how iTunes match works before going a different direction. It may allow you to access the files via iCloud without a computer on via Apple TV (this is how Photostream is currently setup). I do not beta test, so I am not sure, but it should roll out soon.

    AppleTV2 has a digital output via optical (or HDMI), so you can send a digital signal to a receiver or DAC and get much better sound quality if you have decent speakers. Also, Apple TV will allow you to play two different songs in two rooms, but you will need one of the TVs on to choose the song. The Remote app, from what I can tell, only allows you to send the signal to one airplay device at a time.
  4. rshanahan macrumors regular

    Dec 24, 2007
    North East, MD
    Another Question - Audio delay between airplay devices.

    I am kinda-sorta doing this now. I have two airport express units I use exclusively for mobile audio (in a sense creating wireless speakers). I use iTunes running on my family room media mac mini (it loads automatically on startup). I just purchased airplay server to install on other macs in my house to, in a sense, have wireless (or wired in the case of other macs) multi-room audio. In iTunes you can select multiple airplay devices. This works great, allowing the same audio content playing in multiple rooms.

    Here is my issue/problem. The audio between devices is NOT synced up. There could be as much as a one second delay from one airplay device to another. This causes an issue when you have adjacent rooms as there is a horrific echo caused when in proximity to both rooms/speakers.

    Anyone know if there is any sort of solution to this? I have tried stopping/starting airplay on remote devices but this doesn't seem to help. It's not THAT much of a problem as long as the audio playing in adjacent rooms is relatively low (aka background music), but can still be quite irritating. I have found it completely unusable if entertaining and playing audio in the familyroom (direct from the mac mini) and to one of my mobile speakers set up in the living or dining room.
  5. übermusik macrumors newbie

    Nov 26, 2011
    You might want to check out the "audio|acacia" multi-room music software (

    -it plays to computers and Apple AirPlay devices like the AppleTV and ApEx either wired and/or wireless
    -its very similar to Sonos except it works natively with AirPlay devices (including Zeppelin) and is a lot cheaper since you can use your own speakers
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Technically the networked hard drive will have a computer inside. So it all boils down to which computer. I best and simplest option is to use a Mac Mini. If $600 is to much to spend buy an older used Mini for about $300.

    You iPhone already has software that can make this work if you use an airport express in every room. The over all system cost is about minimum with this option. Yes the Mini sucks power 24x7 but not much power and it can do sleep mode This system works well I share my music with a lll the computers and IOS devices in the house, then any of these can play my music on either of the airport expresses we have or on headphones.

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