Speaker and amp quandary - advice please!

chiefsilverback

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Original poster
Jul 25, 2011
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My old house had a nice 5 zone AirPlay powered multi-room audio system using Rotel RMB-1506 amps and Bowers & Wilkins CCM665 in-ceiling speakers and alas they were included with the sale.

We're just about to purchase a new house and do some remodelling so I'm of a mind to put a system back in. The question is do I drop a good chunk of change on the same Rotel/B&W system or look to more budget friendly options?

Three zones/rooms with with Rotel/B&W is going to cost somewhere north of $2000 (based on internet prices), and I wouldn't have any room to expand without getting an extra amp.

Looking at the Audiosource amps and Klipsch or Polk Audio 6.5" in-ceiling speakers I can setup each zone/room for under $300 (two speakers), and they seem to get very positive reviews.

Given the speakers are for what is ostensibly background music stream from Apple Music is there any benefit to the significantly more expensive system or should I save me some Benjamins?

Thoughts and recommendations please...
 

jdag

macrumors 6502a
Jun 15, 2012
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So many good options!

Personally, I have Sonos devices throughout my house and am 100% satisfied. I do not use Apple Music, but do use other streaming services plus my own locally-stored music. Apple Music is available within the Sonos app, so it is an option you can keep using.

There are many benefits and routes you can go just within the Sonos ecosystem. You can use their Amp and add in-ceiling speakers where you want. And you can also use their stand-alone Play:1, Play:3, or Play:5 speakers elsewhere.

Minimally, I'd recommend you at least look at it and determine if is for you.
 

lvavila

macrumors member
Jun 9, 2013
56
36
My old house had a nice 5 zone AirPlay powered multi-room audio system using Rotel RMB-1506 amps and Bowers & Wilkins CCM665 in-ceiling speakers and alas they were included with the sale.

We're just about to purchase a new house and do some remodelling so I'm of a mind to put a system back in. The question is do I drop a good chunk of change on the same Rotel/B&W system or look to more budget friendly options?

Three zones/rooms with with Rotel/B&W is going to cost somewhere north of $2000 (based on internet prices), and I wouldn't have any room to expand without getting an extra amp.

Looking at the Audiosource amps and Klipsch or Polk Audio 6.5" in-ceiling speakers I can setup each zone/room for under $300 (two speakers), and they seem to get very positive reviews.

Given the speakers are for what is ostensibly background music stream from Apple Music is there any benefit to the significantly more expensive system or should I save me some Benjamins?

Thoughts and recommendations please...

Agreed. Sonos is a must better investment. Start off with a few Play 1's. Nothing to permanently installed so you can tweek where things are sat.
 
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This is such an "ear of the beholder" question. Only you OP can decide if the quality of some cheaper alternative is good enough. You are accustomed to listening to the setup you have. Do you want to save a few hundred and settle for something less (if you can hear the difference)? This kind of purchase is one that you'll probably use for many years- perhaps a decade or more- before you replace something. Spreading the enjoyment vs. cost over that decade may help you better consider the choice.

There are always cheaper options for everything. Spend $1000 on the next iPhone or spend substantially less for an Android that will do most of what the iPhone can do? Spend more for any Mac than a comparable Windows machine that will do most of what the Mac can do and probably some extras (because some software doesn't have Mac versions)? Etc. You'll almost certainly use that iPhone or that Mac for much less time than you'll use a new sound system. You'll probably spend way more on your next car which you will probably also use for less time than you use that sound system.

While a bunch of us could offer you our tastes in "good enough" for our own ears and setups, in the end it's going to come down to you listening to some options and deciding what satisfies your own ears, probably in your own (new) home.

I could make a passionate case to spend 2 or 3 times your current setup for AV equipment & speakers because my ears think they sound better than my old system. But again, ear of the beholder. Go listen to systems. Experiment with their controls to consider how they work vs. that to which you are accustomed. Consider how long you will use the new system (which makes this NOT be a commodity purchase). Then buy the one that balances the quality you want vs. the cash it will take to buy it.
 
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chiefsilverback

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Jul 25, 2011
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Thanks for the responses. I'm not that fussed about Sonos, I've got friends who have it and it's nice, but expensive and given that we only listen to Apple Music, AirPlay served us very well in the past.

I appreciate the comments about the 'sound of the system', and agree that it's very subjective, but my gut feeling is that when you've got 'open' speakers mounted in the large joist cavities firing downwards into a kitchen comprising myriad hard surfaces bouncing the sound in multiple directions that you're not necessarily worrying about the stereo separation and whether the mid-range is "warm" or "tight". That's what a good pair of floor standers and a properly place listening chair are for! :)

We did our last system 6 years ago and I already had my mind set on B&W speakers and at the time the only place locally that sold B&W also sold Rotel amps. This time around I think I'm going to dip my toe in the water with a $300 system in the kitchen and see how it sounds.

Looking at Best Buy their highest rated speaker is actually a $350 B&W, averaging 4.9/5 from 55 reviews, but there's a $150 Yamaha close behind with an average of 4.7/5 from 220 reviews. My take is that says more about the latter than it does about the former. I guess I can let you know when I've got it up and running in a couple of months!
 

jdag

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Jun 15, 2012
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I completely agree that it is a personal decision. I've heard people talk about how "incredible this $25 speaker sounds", and that same speaker made my ears bleed!

Anyhow, relative to B&W, Yamaha, Sonos, or any of the hundreds of other options, I would urge you to look at Sonos and Google Chromecast over AirPlay. And yes, I know I will hear from many people that AirPlay is awesome. Remember, you can use Sonos and Chromecast with 3rd party speakers/amps, so you have infinite options.

Sonos and Chromecast both work quite differently than AirPlay, and IMO, better options. And while I am an admitted Sonos super-fan, I have used Chromecast and AirPlay extensively. By far, Sonos is the most "set it and forget it" solution.
 

chiefsilverback

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Original poster
Jul 25, 2011
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I completely agree that it is a personal decision. I've heard people talk about how "incredible this $25 speaker sounds", and that same speaker made my ears bleed!

Anyhow, relative to B&W, Yamaha, Sonos, or any of the hundreds of other options, I would urge you to look at Sonos and Google Chromecast over AirPlay. And yes, I know I will hear from many people that AirPlay is awesome. Remember, you can use Sonos and Chromecast with 3rd party speakers/amps, so you have infinite options.

Sonos and Chromecast both work quite differently than AirPlay, and IMO, better options. And while I am an admitted Sonos super-fan, I have used Chromecast and AirPlay extensively. By far, Sonos is the most "set it and forget it" solution.
What is it about Sonos that you prefer over the alternatives?

I had a 5 zone setup in my old house, using 5 Airport Express units, all wired connections through a NetGear 8 port switch with wifi turned off and it worked pretty much flawlessly. I could manage all the AEs from the AirPort app and I could switch my music between rooms using Control Panel. The only option I didn't have 'easily' was playing the same audio in multiple rooms, to do that I'd have to use the Remote app to control iTunes on one of my Macs rather than the Music app on an iPhone/iPad....
 

jdag

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Jun 15, 2012
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What is it about Sonos that you prefer over the alternatives?

I had a 5 zone setup in my old house, using 5 Airport Express units, all wired connections through a NetGear 8 port switch with wifi turned off and it worked pretty much flawlessly. I could manage all the AEs from the AirPort app and I could switch my music between rooms using Control Panel. The only option I didn't have 'easily' was playing the same audio in multiple rooms, to do that I'd have to use the Remote app to control iTunes on one of my Macs rather than the Music app on an iPhone/iPad....
Lots of things...

1) It is 100% stable. I used AirPlay in the past via a mid-level Denon receiver ($800 cost, just to illustrate that it was not bottom-of-the-line). And AirPlay via that receiver was very finicky.

2) Dead simple to use for anyone in the house to play what they want, where they want, how loud they want. I bought my parents a Play:1 a while back and they had absolutely no clue what it was. They love it. All they do is use Pandora, but that's fine, they get what they want and I've never had to help them use the system.

3) A single app for both local music and streaming services. I know some people are 100% opposite of me on this point, but I love the consolidation and simplicity of 1 app. And I don't mind the "downfalls" of Sonos not being able to play audio directly from a computer, via YouTube, etc. I do have AppleTVs, so if I want to get YouTube into the Sonos system there i a way, although I never do it.

4) Expandability. I started with my office, and now have 6 zones, including using a Connect:Amp that is in my basement wired to outdoor speakers on my patio.

5) The fact that the controllers are not "tied" to playback. The smartphone, tablet, or computer is just a remote control, so you can leave the house with your phone, and Sonos will not stop.

Sonos is not cheap, but I personally don't think it is overly expensive considering the use I get from it. I work from home and it is on literally 90% of the time we are home (between music, talk radio, and TV since I also have a Playbar/5.1 setup in my family room).
 
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chuyn

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Nov 13, 2015
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Sonos fan here as well. While I like airplay, and it's what we were using up until now (amp in garage powering patio speakers, airport express connected for airplay), it wasn't always the easiest to use. Airplaying from a device, while simple, tethers the device to playback. Using iTunes remote to control my Mac to airplay to the speakers had the odd hiccup, and as you mentioned, was the only way to have music synced with other airplay speakers.

Using Sonos frees the device from doing the playback. We use mainly Apple Music and music from our iTunes library and the Sonos app handles it just fine. It's also quicker and easier (imo) to separate or sync different speakers for playback. We also have Lutron music pico remotes installed on some walls for physical control of the Sonos speakers too, since some speakers are mounted out of easy reach.
 
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bigcahuna12c

macrumors member
Aug 30, 2013
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What is it about Sonos that you prefer over the alternatives?

I had a 5 zone setup in my old house, using 5 Airport Express units, all wired connections through a NetGear 8 port switch with wifi turned off and it worked pretty much flawlessly. I could manage all the AEs from the AirPort app and I could switch my music between rooms using Control Panel. The only option I didn't have 'easily' was playing the same audio in multiple rooms, to do that I'd have to use the Remote app to control iTunes on one of my Macs rather than the Music app on an iPhone/iPad....
I took the Sonos plunge last year & could not be happier. Apple music is directly supported from within the app. Sound is incredible. Setup is dead simple. Control is awesome. Plus playing multi room audio is Sonos bread & butter. If you want to play same song in every room simultaneously done , different song in every room simultaneously done.
Now if friends or family come they can easily control Sonos. Make sure they are logged into your WiFi then simply download app it will then ask if you want to join existing Sonos setup or new. Choose existing & your done.
No Airport express units, no wires, no switches, no multiple apps to manage.
C7B33B96-3CA2-49D3-83C2-1F4C7DA1F562.PNG DABBEB11-3F4F-4240-A454-344D7063A76D.PNG
 
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vipergts2207

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Apr 7, 2009
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Personally, I'd want my primary sound system integrated with the rest of my multi-room audio setup as well. This would basically rule out Sonos for me, because while the sound quality might be alright for casual listening while doing things around the house, I wouldn't ever use Sonos for my entertainment center. I've got a Denon receiver so I'd probably go for something HEOS based myself, but I assume other receiver manufacturers have similar products available as well.
 

jdag

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Jun 15, 2012
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Personally, I'd want my primary sound system integrated with the rest of my multi-room audio setup as well. This would basically rule out Sonos for me, because while the sound quality might be alright for casual listening while doing things around the house, I wouldn't ever use Sonos for my entertainment center. I've got a Denon receiver so I'd probably go for something HEOS based myself, but I assume other receiver manufacturers have similar products available as well.
Sonos has a component called the "Connect" which does exactly what you are suggesting...integrates into existing systems. You simply plug the Connect into the Denon just like adding a CD player, turntable, etc.

HEOS is similar to Sonos, just a different manufacturer.
 

chiefsilverback

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Original poster
Jul 25, 2011
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I appreciate all the love for Sonos and although I have no intention of going the route I just checked the prices. The Connect is $350 and the Connect Amp is $500! A refurb Airport Express and an Audiosource amp is ~$150.

Given that I only listen to Apple Music if I was going to drop $500/zone for the source/amp I would just go with my old setup of a Rotel multi-channel amp.

I can appreciate the allure of Sonos if you want multi-room, but don't want to start cutting into ceilings and pulling cables through your home, but if that isn't an issue (new construction, significantly remodel) I'd go for in-ceiling speakers every time.
 

jdag

macrumors 6502a
Jun 15, 2012
835
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I appreciate all the love for Sonos and although I have no intention of going the route I just checked the prices. The Connect is $350 and the Connect Amp is $500! A refurb Airport Express and an Audiosource amp is ~$150.

Given that I only listen to Apple Music if I was going to drop $500/zone for the source/amp I would just go with my old setup of a Rotel multi-channel amp.

I can appreciate the allure of Sonos if you want multi-room, but don't want to start cutting into ceilings and pulling cables through your home, but if that isn't an issue (new construction, significantly remodel) I'd go for in-ceiling speakers every time.
The other strong allure of Sonos is the simplicity to expand. Play:1s, for instance, are $200/ea, and can be bought piecemeal as you want to add a new zone or upgrade a zone from a a single speaker to a stereo pair. And since there's nothing needed but a power outlet, they are simple to move around the house as desired.

Mixing-and-matching Sonos components while maintaining perfect sync throughout the house is also an important benefit.

Anyhow, there are many ways to get audio into a home...pick what works for you and enjoy!
 

danielwsmithee

macrumors 65816
Mar 12, 2005
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I appreciate all the love for Sonos and although I have no intention of going the route I just checked the prices. The Connect is $350 and the Connect Amp is $500! A refurb Airport Express and an Audiosource amp is ~$150.

Given that I only listen to Apple Music if I was going to drop $500/zone for the source/amp I would just go with my old setup of a Rotel multi-channel amp.

I can appreciate the allure of Sonos if you want multi-room, but don't want to start cutting into ceilings and pulling cables through your home, but if that isn't an issue (new construction, significantly remodel) I'd go for in-ceiling speakers every time.
I agree with you on this one. Sonos is nice and simple, but if you are already going through a build or remodel then in-ceiling or in-walls are the way to go. You can still add a Connect later to your mult-channel amp...

I'd look at Monitor Audio Controlled Performance line of speakers. When I compared them to B&W I thought they sounded better and provided a better value.

Another line I liked were the Martin Logan ElectroMotion line.

If you are looking for something with more value. I've used Monoprice in-ceiling and in-wall speakers. They have about the same sound quality of consumer grade Polk and Klipsch at a fraction of the cost. They also carry amps with good reviews.
 
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chiefsilverback

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I agree with you on this one. Sonos is nice and simple, but if you are already going through a build or remodel then in-ceiling or in-walls are the way to go. You can still add a Connect later to your mult-channel amp...

I'd look at Monitor Audio Controlled Performance line of speakers. When I compared them to B&W I thought they sounded better and provided a better value.

Another line I liked were the Martin Logan ElectroMotion line.

If you are looking for something with more value. I've used Monoprice in-ceiling and in-wall speakers. They have about the same sound quality of consumer grade Polk and Klipsch at a fraction of the cost. They also carry amps with good reviews.
Thanks for the suggestions, I'll take a look.

I was doing some reading on back boxes/enclosures for in-ceiling speakers, and some of the material I read had comments from folks in the business that whilst it's ok for surround sound speakers, where the bass is handled by a sub. For a music system without separate subs an enclosure on an in-ceiling, be it factory designed or after market (like the Dynabox) can have a significant negative impact on the bass output. I guess it makes sense?

Re. the Martin Logans, I didn't even know they were a 'consumer' product. The only time I've seen them before was through a friend of a friend who had quite a nice setup several years ago...

IMG_0338.jpeg
 

brucewayne

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Nov 8, 2005
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If you are considering Polk order them via Polk Audio Direct on eBay. I recently purchased 4 pairs of atrium 4s, a pair of RC60i in ceiling, and 6 IC60 in ceiling speakers and although they 'say' refurbished, they are absolutely brand new for a fraction of retail price.

I'm a fan of monoprice but I feel the polks are better built with a better crossover for about the same price refurbished and designed by company with 40+ years experience
 
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danielwsmithee

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Mar 12, 2005
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Thanks for the suggestions, I'll take a look.

I was doing some reading on back boxes/enclosures for in-ceiling speakers, and some of the material I read had comments from folks in the business that whilst it's ok for surround sound speakers, where the bass is handled by a sub. For a music system without separate subs an enclosure on an in-ceiling, be it factory designed or after market (like the Dynabox) can have a significant negative impact on the bass output. I guess it makes sense?

Re. the Martin Logans, I didn't even know they were a 'consumer' product. The only time I've seen them before was through a friend of a friend who had quite a nice setup several years ago...

View attachment 693006
I think with Martin Logan's they sound amazing if you happen to be in the sweet spot, but the sound changes a lot once you move of their sweet spot. You pay for really tall towers and you get a really tall sweet spot that is outstanding, but they are crazy expensive.

I think you are likely correct about the back box for in-wall /in-ceiling speakers. You are trading bass output for control. The room I'm using my Monitor Audio controlled performance speakers in also has a HSU 15" subwoofer in. I built an in wall cabinet style enclosure specifically for the subwoofer so I wasn't too concerned about bass output on the in-walls. I'm also using a Silver 10 floor-standers as my fronts.

There is a lot of crossover between manufacturers. Polk & Klipsch certainly make many models that outperform any of the Monoprice speakers. I'd just stay away from their lower end speaker lines like the Klipsch contractor grade speakers (CS series) I believe, not sure what that series is anymore with Polk.

I've got these speakers in another room in my house and have been happy with them, I think they are a clone of an old discontinued Pioneer in-wall design.
https://www.monoprice.com/product?c_id=109&cp_id=10837&cs_id=1083702&p_id=7605&seq=1&format=2
 
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bluespark

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Jul 11, 2009
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It's subjective as others say, but I like Rotel amps and the combination of that brightness and the slight darkness of the B&W's seems like it would work really well. I'd say go with that. People have pointed out plenty of excellent lower cost options here, but there's no substitute for good, clean power and well-designed speakers.
 
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