Need help planning a whole house media setup...

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by gpspad, Oct 22, 2015.

  1. gpspad macrumors 6502a

    Feb 4, 2014
    I am looking to plan out a whole house audio system. The plan would be to have 3 rooms with TV's and an ATV3. Might get a ATV4 for the main room if the model works out.

    Then have each room setup with a speaker or two in the ceiling that would airplay music through an airport express to some kind of amp. I guess controlling the amp would be the tricky part.

    Has anyone seen anything like this before?

    I have no idea if this is feasible, just trying to plan out how I might wire it all up as I am about to redo the ceilings and walls in almost the whole house.
  2. Boyd01 macrumors 601


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    Do you want to be able to play different music in each room at the same time? I have a Mac Mini as an iTunes server in the dining room (just runs iTunes 24/7). It is connected to an old 720p monitor so I can watch video directly, and also connected to my home stereo through the analog audio output. The stereo amplifier is connected to a pushbutton speaker selector box with speaker wires going to 4 different rooms. So I can choose any music I want from iTunes on the Mini and have it play in those 4 rooms, but they would all be playing the same thing simultaneously. Am just using old speakers that I already had, nothing fancy, no airplay, etc.

    I also have an AppleTV in the living room and another in the bedroom, they are hardwired on gigabit ethernet and can access everything on the Mini with home sharing. I also have a MacBook Air that can connect to the Mini over wifi and access everything through home sharing.
  3. gpspad thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 4, 2014
    I kind of planned on a just the ceiling speakers playing the same thing, like in the supermarkets, but good stuff ;-)

    I didnt consider the speaker selector switch. If I were to leave the amp on would you get a hiss it when you were not playing it?

    Also I am not sure how many speakers I could driver at the same time.

    Im just in the planning stages, trying to see what is possible, I am a big fan of the mac mini's, that is what I would use as a server.
  4. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2012
    There are many potential routes you could take (wired, wireless, AirPlay, Chromecast Audio, Sonos, Bose, etc.). Do you have a budget in mind?
  5. gpspad thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 4, 2014
    I don't know, about 400-500 for the receiver, id pick up the speakers as I finished the rooms. I already have the wireless in the house. Not sure Im into buying all the Sonos units, Boses is definitely out of my price range for 4 rooms.
  6. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2012
    Here are several of the many options:

    1) Get a single amp, and wire all ceiling speakers to that amp. Because you are wiring to multiple rooms and pairs of speakers, you will need a fairly powerful multi-channel amp, not just a low-end stereo receiver. Add AirPlay to the amp by feeding it from an AirPort Express (or Chromecast Audio, Sonos, or other wireless audio component) so that you can then stream to that receiver. Every room will play the same content at the same volume (unless you get a multi-zone amp and/or add in-line volume controls).

    2) Do #1 above, but instead of adding 1 AirPort Express (or Chromecast Audio, Sonos, or other wireless audio component), use a separate wireless component for each zone. You will then have ability to play different content and/or at different levels because essentially you will have a bunch of stand-alone zones that just happen to be powered by 1 amp.

    3) Do #2 above, but instead of a single amp, use smaller single channel amps for each zone. You then will have to mate an AirPort Express (or other) to each amp. The advantages are lesser expensive amps as well as easier wiring since you can place the amps in the most convenient locations in each zone. The disadvantages are that you have multiple amps, multiple wireless locations, multiple points of failure, etc.

    4) You talk about 3 rooms, so I am assuming 3 sets of speakers. You can get Sonos speakers for $200/ea and not need anything else. My point here is to not overlook Sonos (or Bose, or Denon Heos, or LG). I am biased toward Sonos, but the others have advantages too. These systems are explicitly designed to do whole-home audio and are stupidly simple to setup and use. Forget wiring, forget cutouts in the ceiling for speakers, forget multiple amps and multiple AirPorts...plug in the speakers, connect to wifi, and you are done.
  7. satinsilverem2 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 12, 2013
    Richmond, VA
    Stay away from Sonos. Ive heard from several people that the sound quality isn't that awesome and you are locked into their ecosystem.
  8. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2012
    Well, audio sound quality is quite subjective, and Sonos has an amazingly loyal following. Simply looking at reviews on retail sites will tell you that the vast majority of buyers are very happy with being locked into their ecosystem. An ecosystem that works ver smoothly, with a high degree of user friendliness, a walled garden if you will, is not necessarily a bad thing. Being on an Apple-centric site, I bet you can see where I am going.

    And if you are not pleased with Sonos, they have a full money-back guarantee, and even pay for shipping both directions. Of course, you can also purchase from other retailers and return for full refund if not happy.

    So rather than staying away from something that someone heard other people say isn't so awesome..........
  9. jhsonderb macrumors newbie

    Oct 22, 2015
    I think what you are trying to do is quite doable. I decided to organize my house audio using Apple components and am satisfied streaming the same music to every area of my house. If you want to have different music playing in different areas of your house you need to use some other equipment such as Sonos. I didn’t want that and cannot provide you any insight but I’m sure others on this site can be very helpful if that interests you.

    Here is a brief overview of what my setup entails. I am only describing what I have done and not trying to suggest this is what needs to be done. Glean from it any ideas that may be relevant to your desired setup. Consider the following just food for thought.

    I generally use my main duty iMac for convenience. But, I am able to stream music from any one of my computers connected to my home LAN (I only have Apple computers; can’t comment on other platforms). Because my house has plaster walls with aluminum mesh reinforcement, wireless data transfer is not reliable and has been a PIA so I have run Cat5e wiring throughout my house with drops in each room (I recommend at least two for each room; also consider coax while you are at it.) and generally use ethernet for data transmission connections (e.g., computer to computer file transfers/Apple TV (video)), only relying on wireless for mobile devices.

    I can stream music to any or all of seven locations in my house using a combination of Airport Express, Apple TV or AirPlay Speakers devices.

    The Airport Express units (6 devices) and Apple TV (4 units) are connected to either various receivers (via analog) that I have accumulated over the years, a Griffin Twenty amplifier (via optical) and even two old portable stereos (one in the garage; the other which I bring out on my deck; both analog). The connected receivers and the Griffin Twenty have to be manually turned on and off but I don’t find that problematic. If you need speakers that turn on and off consider AirPlay ready speakers or receivers.

    I have two Pioneer AirPlay speakers and a Pioneer Airplay Receiver (which have the benefit of automatically turning on when music is streamed and off via the streaming app) all connected to my LAN via Cat5e which play music that I stream from iTunes or my preferred application AirFoil (Rogue Amoeba).

    I prefer AirFoil because it can stream to IOS mobile devices and Apple computers on my LAN using its included AirSpeaker companion OSX and IOS apps. My old iPod Touch (gen3) and iPhone 4 devices come in handy when connected to a bedside iPhone dock or a portable speaker dock used on my deck, for example.

    I hope you find some of my description helpful. As I said consider it just food for thought. I found the effort to setup the ability to stream music throughout my house a very satisfying project. Good Luck!
  10. Boyd01 macrumors 601


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I suppose that depends on the input source, signal to noise ratio of the amp and how loud you leave the volume. I leave mine on all the time and can't hear any hiss. It is just an inexpensive Sony 100 watt receiver with a speaker selector switch from Radio Shack.
  11. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2012
    I am not trying to push Sonos specifically. But it should be clear that Sonos, Bose SoundTouch, Denon HEOS, and the other whole-home systems are much more refined. They are built for the explicit purpose you describe, are simple to install, and are much more flexible than you might 1st expect as "closed systems". (PS - They are not nearly as closed as some people will try to tell you.)

    I cannot stress enough that for what you are trying to accomplish that you should seriously consider those options over "cobbling together" a system. Go to Best Buy, grab 2 speakers of the brand of your choice, set up 2 zones, and play with it for a week. Return of you aren't pleased. My bet is that you will purchase more units as opposed to returning those 2.

    If you want piece together using something other than Sonos, then look at Chromecast Audio. Those new devices are $35/ea and will have full whole-home capability soon.

    AirPlay does have advantages, please don't get me wrong. However, there are also many restrictions. For instance, AirPlay is (for the most part) Apple-specific. There are workarounds, but really it is meant to be controlled via Apple devices. Further, you cannot (easily) control multiple zones from iPhones, only from computers running iTunes. Finally, AirPlay built into non-Apple products is not always the most stable.

    Note: You can mix/match and add ceiling speakers and/or stand-alone speakers using any of the technologies.

Share This Page

10 October 22, 2015