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post #1 of 18 Old 05-09-2013, 10:33 AM - Thread Starter
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By now many of you have probably seen this home automation demo using tasker and an Android-based controller (a phone in this case).

We're moving into a home that already has in-ceiling speakers in 4-5 locations. Unfortunately it looks like they just connected the speakers to speaker wire and pulled them all to one location (no keypads or volume control).

After seeing that video, I'm considering the following:
  • Plug all the speakers into a multichannel amp
  • Connect a bluetooth receiver to each of the amp's inputs (belkin makes one for $25ish)
  • Get a nexus 7 ($199) for each room and pair it to one of the bluetooth receivers
  • Put a nexus 7 dock ($30) in each location to keep it charged

Yes, I know bluetooth A2DP isn't necessarily audiophile quality but I think it's fine considering the sound is coming out of in-wall speakers.

So we're looking at $250 per zone plus the multichannel amp ($500?). The end result should be pretty impressive.
  • Independent audio in each room with full track/playlist control (pandora, music server, video, games, notifications, anything the nexus can play)
  • Nice, easy to customize touch screens
  • Google Now in any room
  • Video intercom and video calls using skype
  • Home automation control via pad or voice
  • Portable controller

How well do you think something like this would work?
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post #2 of 18 Old 05-09-2013, 11:04 AM
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Keeping the tablets paired with the bluetooth receivers may be an issue - this will depend on the quality of all of the device's BT radios, distance, and obstructions.

You might think about using an Airport Express and researching AirPlay / AirFoil solutions for Android devices, which would connect via WiFi / Ethernet for more robust connectivity.

And make sure your choice of multichannel amp has auto on/off with signal sensing.

Jeff

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post #3 of 18 Old 05-09-2013, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Would that require multiple Airport Expresses if we wanted room 1 to play Pandora, room 2 to play a Google Play playlist, and room 3 to be in a skype video call?

I agree about the possible bluetooth issues - I've had great success maintaining pairing to my current BT receivers, so I guess I'd just have to try it out and see.
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post #4 of 18 Old 05-09-2013, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Virtus View Post

Would that require multiple Airport Expresses if we wanted room 1 to play Pandora, room 2 to play a Google Play playlist, and room 3 to be in a skype video call?

Yes. Same as your proposed system, replacing the BT receivers with AE's...
Quote:
I agree about the possible bluetooth issues - I've had great success maintaining pairing to my current BT receivers, so I guess I'd just have to try it out and see.

Try pairing in the environment you will be using - put the receiver wherever your amp would be and see if you can pair from the rooms you expect the tablets to reside (and check all areas of the room - you don't want a solution that breaks halfway through the room).

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post #5 of 18 Old 05-09-2013, 11:58 AM - Thread Starter
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I might try a couple BT's first since they are 1/4 the cost of the AE. Also, I can't tell if the AE solutions can stream all audio (skype audio, google now/tasker responses, etc...). It looks like they can't. You are spot on with the range limitations. I'll probably end up using longer audio cables to get the receivers closer to or inside their respective rooms.
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post #6 of 18 Old 05-09-2013, 12:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Virtus View Post

I might try a couple BT's first since they are 1/4 the cost of the AE. Also, I can't tell if the AE solutions can stream all audio (skype audio, google now/tasker responses, etc...).

Various programs (Airfoil) may allow for a general solution there.
Quote:
You are spot on with the range limitations. I'll probably end up using longer audio cables to get the receivers closer to or inside their respective rooms.

Yes, if you can put the BT receivers in the rooms and string audio cable back to the amp, that will be best. The MuxLab HiFi audio balun over cat5 can be a help there.

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post #7 of 18 Old 05-13-2013, 03:30 PM - Thread Starter
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I just found a great BT receiver that might work great with my system - HomeSpot NFC-enabled Bluetooth Audio Receiver. It's a BT receiver that pairs via NFC. Basically you touch your NFC-enabled device (tablet, phone, etc... ) to it and it automatically pairs with it. So we don't need to have Nexus 7's in every room. Instead I would need to use audio extenders to put one of these in each room. After that my wife or I could touch our phones to it and have complete audio control for that room. Or we could grab the nearest tablet, touch the receiver, and use it.
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post #8 of 18 Old 05-14-2013, 12:48 PM
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I don't want to turn this into an Apple vs Google war. But, also consider trying to pair multiple bluetooth devices to your bluetooth receiver. See if it will auto-pair as you move around. See if you can get other devices to pair without having to go into your wiring closet and press a button, reset, or power cycle. With an airport express, any device can easily connect, it works flawlessly, 100% of the time. When your friends come over, their devices can airplay as long as they are on your network. Google has some cool features, but I've found they only work reliable for those with high technical ability, and willingness to 'futz' with things. The Apple solution just works.
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post #9 of 18 Old 05-14-2013, 12:55 PM
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The other usability issue is that you may see more than one Bluetooth receiver, which will appear identical on your device(s). Figuring out which room is which may require you to "forget" devices and then re-pair using the NFC method each time.

You should also consider a could of Sonos boxes, which will work without you having to keep your phone or other device streaming for hours and dealing with the battery issues (and the need to take a phone call!).

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post #10 of 18 Old 05-15-2013, 09:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamlucas View Post

I don't want to turn this into an Apple vs Google war. But, also consider trying to pair multiple bluetooth devices to your bluetooth receiver. See if it will auto-pair as you move around. See if you can get other devices to pair without having to go into your wiring closet and press a button, reset, or power cycle. With an airport express, any device can easily connect, it works flawlessly, 100% of the time. When your friends come over, their devices can airplay as long as they are on your network. Google has some cool features, but I've found they only work reliable for those with high technical ability, and willingness to 'futz' with things. The Apple solution just works.

I'm not really an Apple-vs-Google guy. I'll take whatever works and have owned devices from both camps. My first idea of having BT receivers in each room should work - especially since only one device (the nexus) would be paired with each receiver. I agree that things could get messy if I switched to the NFC BT receivers since we'd have to touch the device to the NFC receiver to make sure it's paired. I've had issues with bluetooth headsets for phone calls, but my current BT A2DP audio receiver "just works", so I thought I'd give it a shot first.

I'm primarily looking at using the Nexus 7's for a number of reasons:
  • Home Automation - I don't think I can easily get the same level of control (and voice activated functions) that you can see in the video in the first post out of an apple device - even if it's rooted. Correct me if I'm wrong.
  • Price - For about $230 (including a dock) I can put a great multi-function touchscreen controller in each room. iPad mini's would be around $100 more per room.
  • Customization - Android homescreens have some pretty nice looking weather, status, and music-control widgets that would make a nicer presentation than apple's grid of icons. You can also easily use widgets to make buttons to run home automation scenes with minimal work. Apps like Titanium Backup make it easy to copy settings from one device to another.
  • Convenience - This is specific to my situation - all of our music and playlists are already on Google Music so a new tablet would be ready to go right out of the box. Also, apps like Tasker (which runs the home automation it the video above) can also be used to ensure a constant bluetooth connection.
  • Voice - This is really nitpicky, but the Google text-to-speech sounds a lot nicer than Siri's.

I'd love to use Airplay. I'm still researching it, but Airfoil's site says its app lets you "send audio to your Android device when connected to your local network!". I'm looking for a solution that can send all of the audio from the nexus to the room's speakers (music, google now responses, pandora, skype audio, video audio, etc...). Some of the other Airplay solutions only stream the music from that specific app to the Airport Express. I'd prefer to have everything come through the room's speakers rather than the device to give it a more sci-fi feel (i.e. the computer's voice in star trek or jarvis in Iron Man). I'm not even sure if BT A2DP will transfer all of the audio - I'll have to try that out tonight.
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post #11 of 18 Old 05-15-2013, 09:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jautor View Post

The other usability issue is that you may see more than one Bluetooth receiver, which will appear identical on your device(s). Figuring out which room is which may require you to "forget" devices and then re-pair using the NFC method each time.

You should also consider a could of Sonos boxes, which will work without you having to keep your phone or other device streaming for hours and dealing with the battery issues (and the need to take a phone call!).

Jeff
Yeah, the NFC route might be a little ambitious. Technically, touching the device to the receiver should force it to connect to that device - thus eliminating the problem of forgetting and repairing. For $28 I'll probably get one and see if it really works that way.

Regarding the Sonos, I'm not clear if it can do all audio from my device. Does it only do music services or can it also do things like skype and notification sounds?
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post #12 of 18 Old 06-14-2013, 08:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Here's a quick update. I grabbed a HomeSpot NFC VT receiver from amazon for testing purposes. I'm using it with my GS3 phone before dumping any cash on the nexus 7.
  • Touching my phone to the receiver causes it to instantly pair and direct audio to through the ceiling speakers. Touching it again un-pairs it. If my wife touched her phone to it, it automatically pairs with her phone and unpairs mine. It's very quick and there is no confirmation prompt.
  • Range is good. Right now it's in a closet and it reaches about 25 feet before losing the connection. That's more than enough to cover the entire room.
  • Almost all the audio goes through the receiver (google now, alerts, music, incoming skype notification, game/app sounds). The only sounds that don't go through are in-call audio from skype (and that's ok with me).
  • Volume is controlled by the phone.
  • Incoming calls automatically pause the music. This isn't an issue if a tablet is being used instead of the phone.

So things are moving in the right direction. Basically each room will have an NCF BT receiver. So when I walk into a room I can tap my phone to the BT receiver and I can control its audio. Or I can use a tablet.Tapping it again disconnects it (or I can turn it off from the phone).
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post #13 of 18 Old 06-14-2013, 11:08 AM
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Sounds like a fascinating concept. I'm glad it's working well.

Thanks for the update smile.gif
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post #14 of 18 Old 06-14-2013, 11:16 AM
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I'm interested in seeing how this works out for you, it sounds like a route I may take. Keep us updated
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post #15 of 18 Old 07-01-2013, 09:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Another update - since the dry-run tests were successful (see my previous post) I've proceeded with installing the hardware. I'll post some pics later. The nexus 7 has been ordered since everything worked with our phones (galaxy nexus and GSIII).

I went ahead and put the BT NFC receiver inside the wall (behind the sheetrock) since I had access to it from the backside. The NFC still works and the range hasn't been diminished. So now it's got the cool stealth factor. Touching a device to the wall in a specific spot causes it to either pair or unpair. The spot is currently marked with a small Bluetooth logo.

The nexus will be paired all the time, but the NFC can be used anytime I want to specifically pair a different device (like my phone) if I want to hear alerts and notifications from that device instead of the nexus.

These next items belong in the home automation section, but I'll mention them here real quick since they use the audio system:

I'll also be ordering an OpenSprinkler Pi unit since our current sprinkler controller is on the fritz. The new controller is web-enabled, so I can see the status of the sprinkler system and turn on / off different zones on demand from the Nexus (or phone / PC). This controller is just a little more than a regular one ($100 total).

I've also played around with Tasker for android to add some interaction to the audio distribution. Together, these things let me say things like "What's the forecast today?" "Today's forecast is 80 degrees with rain, do you want me to disable the sprinklers?" "Yes, thanks." "Sprinklers will be disabled for 48 hours". It can also do this automatically without checking with me first.

Or "Turn on the sprinklers in Zone 1" (which should be fun for our poor, unsuspecting dog)

Or any google command: "Listen to Beethoven", or "Remind me to change the laundry at 2:30", etc...

Also future additions will let me do similar things interactively with audio/voice - "Are the garages open?" "Yes" "close them".

Or from my car - "I'm on the way home, turn on some jazz in the living room"

Anyway - those will be detailed in the Home Automation forum but they will use some of the same equipment as my audio system.
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post #16 of 18 Old 07-29-2013, 02:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Update - Just received a chromecast from amazon. This fits in well with the nexus tablets because now I can easily display webpages, play youtube, etc... on the TV directly from the tablet. Might pick up a couple more so I can do that on any TV in the house. It should also solve the problem of streaming music in my main media room. I was going to use a BT receiver there too, but since the chromecast streams Google Music on its own it's a better solution. The chromecast handles the streaming so I don't have to keep a phone or tablet nearby.

Hopefully now that the API is public we'll see it support Hulu, Amazon, and Plex.

Also have the tablet controlling sprinklers, skype, and a lot more. We moved our landline number to Google Voice, so now we have that on the tablet as well.
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post #17 of 18 Old 08-01-2013, 04:11 PM
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Very cool stuff! I want to install something similar but can't decide on a connection method.

Which amp did you end up choosing? How do you like the NFC functionality compared to Chromecast?

I currently have a denon 2113 running monoprice in wall and ceiling speakers in my living room. I thought about Chromecast or even straight up hdmi from a table or phone to cover listening to music in the living. However, I don't what what to do about other rooms.
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post #18 of 18 Old 09-05-2013, 10:52 AM - Thread Starter
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With the closing of the summer I've been more focused on outdoor activities lately, but to answer your question I have the chromecast plugged into an older Dennon amp (789?). The other rooms are powered by Pyle 160 watt amps that are connected to the NFC bluetooth receivers. The amps are audio-only, so the chromecast won't work easily with them. I'm considering replacing them with some cheap HDMI-equipped AVRs.

I like the NFC for its convenience - any of us (or our friends) can tap the wall and play our audio. Even my daughter's iPhone devices can manually connect. So it's perfect for audio-only rooms.

The Chromecast is great for the main media room. I think its audio quality is better than bluetooth since it's a direct digital connection, so that's a plus. In the other rooms audio quality isn't as discernable since the ceiling speakers aren't exactly audiophile-quality. The chromecast is really fun when a group of people are connected to it and we're taking turns sharing funny/entertaining youtube clips on the big TV.

I'd highly recommend using the chromecast for your music option if you already have your music on Google Music (since that's the only music it can stream). For $35 or less, it's a cheap and easy way to connect your audio system to your music library. Plus it has the added benefit of having a really great, convenient interface since it uses your android phone / tablet (and iOS devices as well). I don't really use it for Netflix - we have hardwired Rokus for that (plus they do Amazon and Hulu).

Even if you don't use google music I think it's worth taking a look at it. We have a google account just for music, so all of our devices (including our kids') have access to the entire library from anywhere (inside or outside the home).

Also there have been some great deals on 1st gen nexus 7's out there ($130 or less).
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