My Airplay/Shairport Zone Audio System - AVS Forum
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Old 07-27-2013, 04:23 PM - Thread Starter
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I would like to share my AirPlay setup for those who are interested in doing something similar.
I have a total of 12 zones so I needed an affordable way to handle that many rooms.
Every zone consists of two speakers http://www.amazon.ca/Yamaha-NS-IW360C--Ceiling-Speaker-System/dp/B00097CUIE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374962818&sr=8-1&keywords=yamaha+in+ceiling+speakers
Powered by a Lepai LP-202a stereo amplifier http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=310-300
And to get the audio to each zone I used 12 usb sound cards http://www.ebay.ca/itm/USB-1-1-Mic-Speaker-Surround-Sound-7-1-CH-3D-Audio-Card-Adapter-for-PC-Laptop-D1-/300940088497?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item46116d54b1&_uhb=1
plugged into two usb hubs.

Instead of using a physical Airport Express for each zone I made several instances of Shairport4w on a Windows computer. I was only able to get 11 instances of shairport4w but am looking into running everything on a Raspberry Pi which I think will allow for a bit more flexibility.
Once you get all the instances of Shairport4w going it's pretty simple. Name the zone and select the appropriate sounds card. It's really quite simple.
The only problem I've run into is that after a computer restart the USB sound cards take on a new "ID" so the sound card I set in shairport4w may no longer be the right one for that zone. Again something that I think will work better running from a Linux system.

Cost.
Each zone has one amplifier ($25), one sound card ($2), and two speakers ($130). Total for one zone =$157
Now the computer was around $500 but it also double as a media server running XBMC. I believe you could run this systerm off of one or two Raspberry PI's. ( Not sure how many zones one PI can handle)
So you could technically have a 12 Zone Audio system for under $2000.

Here are some pics of my installation.
xq7c.th.jpg
dzgu.th.jpg
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Old 07-28-2013, 05:47 AM
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This is something I was really thinking of doing. I was wondering if there was a cheap multi zone amp that could be controlled all the zones. I only need 6 zones. I love the usb dongle sound card Idea. Save me money since i was going to put a rasberry pi on every zone with a little amp. Would love a little 6 zone amp that was under $400. Keep the thread goinging with your progress.
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Old 08-29-2013, 07:29 AM
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how are those amps since they are only 20wpc? They fill the rooms?
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Old 08-29-2013, 08:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScAndal View Post

how are those amps since they are only 20wpc? They fill the rooms?

Typical WHA systems / amps are in the range of 20-40W/ch, so this is certainly in line...

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Old 08-29-2013, 09:09 AM
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Yep I've got a 12 channel 50wpc and a 12 channel 60wpc. I'd like to test one of these out.
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Old 08-29-2013, 11:51 AM
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$2 for a sound card? I can't imagine the DAC's in those are very good. How is the quality of the sound?

Thx
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Old 08-30-2013, 01:54 PM
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Do those amps have an auto on/off feature? How much juice are they pulling when turned on, but with no signal coming through. (hopefully very little!)
I'm using a 12 channel amp with an auto on/off signal since, and it works great. It might be a little bit easier to wire up (less cabling for power).

Interesting use of the punch down block.. what gauge cable are you running to each zone?
Do those sound cards have drivers for the PI? Something to look into for sure. I'd be worried about the quality of the sound coming out of them, but it could be a non-issue.
(The sound out of the stereo out on the PI is pretty terrible, so I can't imagine this is much better)

That totally blows about the restart / losing the ID. You might be able to hack this using some smart coding. You could get the USB ID of each device, query them all, and turn them on/off one at at a time to ensure things go to the right place. Look into Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) for more information.
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Old 09-03-2013, 09:21 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm not an audiophile so you'll just have to take my work for how things "sound"
The amps are awesome. I don't know what's more important the amp or the speaker but this combination is really working well.
The house i'm using this system in is a 4000 sq.ft. bungalow with an open concept. I used four speakers for the living room and could have done it easily with just two speakers.
The amps are maybe turned up to 5 (out of 10) and the sound can get "loud". Everything is rich and clear.

I don't know what a "good" usb sound card would do differently. Most of the audio played is mp3 format through itunes or iphones.

No idea how much the amps are drawing when idle but I can't imagine it's a lot.

I ran 14 awg speaker wire throughout the house. I'm an industrial electrician so I'm used to working with terminal blocks and din rail. Also went this route so the system could be moved easily if the next buyers didn't want it.

I still haven't done anything with the pi's other than run XBMC which has built in AirPlay and I'm pretty sure most distro's (Raspbmc) can handle a variety of USB sound cards now.
I'm building a system for a friend which will require using a PI so if I come up with anything I will post it. I know shairport for linux is capable of running multiple instances it's just a matter of getting the sound out to the right sound card.

@iamlucas what is the amp you are using?
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Old 09-04-2013, 03:15 PM
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@ JohnnyPicnic:
I'm using a Sonance 1230

http://www.sonance.com/products/electronics/detail/229
I picked it up for a bargain. But, there are similar products out there for much less $$$

Dayton: http://www.amazon.com/Dayton-MA1240a-Multi-Zone-Channel-Amplifier/dp/B003DKVZHQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378329150&sr=8-1&keywords=12+channel+amp

Audiosource: http://www.amazon.com/AudioSource-12-Channel-Audio-Distribution-Amplifier/dp/B004XT6PMQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1378329150&sr=8-2&keywords=12+channel+amp

I don't think these will be near the same price point as each of the mini-amps…

I considered using a Pi to do airplay, but it wasn't super reliable, and required a bit of fussing to get working. I wanted a bulletproof system that anyone could use (even my parents). So far the Apple system with Airport Expresses has delivered flawless. But, it's not the cheapest route.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:31 PM
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I went with the apple setup. 1st generation Airport Express go for about $45 each. Niles 12 channel amp $250, and In-Wall iPad mounts on Amazon $28 each. Very stable and wife approved.

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Old 02-11-2014, 10:40 AM
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Wish I could get my hands on stuff at that price. I can't find a 12 channel for less then $400 shipped to canada. Is the airport express seterio output that much better then the Rasberry Pi?
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Old 02-19-2014, 10:44 AM
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I got a good deal on the amp used.

I have heard mixed reviews on the quality of the audio output of the Raspberry PI.

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Old 02-23-2014, 11:19 PM
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I ran into the same USB re-order problem with my home audio server.
I'm using a Vortex Box which is a canned linux distro with squeezebox server/player functionality. (Works great).

This won't help with Windows, but if you switch to linux/raspberry pi, then this will help.
http://info.vortexbox.org/tiki-index.php?page=Lock+audio+device+order+at+boot
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Old 04-23-2014, 09:46 PM - Thread Starter
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I was able to get a raspberry pi working with great success. I've got all 12 zones running on one pi with the only limitation being that if you have more than 4 zones playing at once it starts to cut out. I think you could overclock them to solve that but I really don't need more than two zones going simultaneously.
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Old 04-28-2014, 09:23 AM
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Could you provide some guidance to your RPi setup?
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Old 08-14-2014, 06:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyPicnic View Post
I was able to get a raspberry pi working with great success. I've got all 12 zones running on one pi with the only limitation being that if you have more than 4 zones playing at once it starts to cut out. I think you could overclock them to solve that but I really don't need more than two zones going simultaneously.
Could you please elaborate on how you managed to setup 12 zones? Which distro are you using? Which USB sound cards + hubs are you using? Things like that...

I've only had success running 2 zones simultaneously. If I simply plug in a 3rd USB sound card (using a powered HUB), the audio on the other 2 zones cuts in and out and you have to remove the 3rd sound card for it to stop. I'm not sure if this is a function of the hub or sound cards I'm using - I'll have to do some more digging.

In the beginning, I could not run 2 instances of shairport (i.e. stream to both zones simultaneously) using ALSA - the pi would just lock up (leading to a hard/power reset). After some research, I discovered ALSA doesn't like more than 1 thing at a time, so enter PulseAudio. Once it was up and running, it was just a matter of passing the right arguments to shairport:
Code:
Zone 1: shairport.pl -o 5002 -a "Zone 1" --ao_driver=pulse --ao_deviceid=0
Zone 2: shairport.pl -o 5003 -a "Zone 2" --ao_driver=pulse --ao_deviceid=1
The deviceid's are the sink #s taken from PA

This setup worked perfectly for 2 zones supporting simultaneous playback using 2 different airplay sources (mac + iphone).

It would be ideal to only use 1 pi for 12 zones but I want a system that can stream to all 12 zones simultaneously. If I have to use multiple pis, that's not a problem. But ideally I would like to get a minimum of 4 simultaneous zones from 1 pi but I haven't succeeded yet.

I've ordered the new pi b+ model with 4 USB ports and I'm going to try again using the new board. I'm hoping I can get 4+ from 1 pi.
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Last edited by mgbowman; 08-14-2014 at 06:38 AM.
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Old 08-16-2014, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Could you please elaborate on how you managed to setup 12 zones? Which distro are you using? Which USB sound cards + hubs are you using? Things like that...
I believe I started with a preconfigured raspberry pi image with shairport on it.
http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/vi...p?f=38&t=41504

The usb sound cards I'm using are the cheapest ones found on eBay. The hubs are from Monoprice. http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_i...seq=1&format=2

The setup I made is for my in-laws so I don't have access to all my configs at the moment. I know I had to make some changes to the pi image to make everything work. When I get a chance I will make a copy and post it here.

I was able to run as many instances of shairport as I wanted, but the pi could only handle audio output for 4 zones simultaneously. The chances of more than any 3 zones going at once is pretty rare in my situation so one pi is fine. If you think you'll possibly have all 12 going then 3 pi's is probably sufficient.
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Old 09-30-2014, 11:26 AM
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That setup is great. My only issue is that Mountain Lion OS doesn't support the old Airport Express units. Otherwise I would use this setup in a heartbeat. Nice job!
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Old 09-30-2014, 11:28 AM
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Any chance you can provide some guidance on setting up the single pi to run multiple zones?? That would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 10-21-2014, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mgbowman View Post
Could you please elaborate on how you managed to setup 12 zones? Which distro are you using? Which USB sound cards + hubs are you using? Things like that...

I've only had success running 2 zones simultaneously. If I simply plug in a 3rd USB sound card (using a powered HUB), the audio on the other 2 zones cuts in and out and you have to remove the 3rd sound card for it to stop. I'm not sure if this is a function of the hub or sound cards I'm using - I'll have to do some more digging.

In the beginning, I could not run 2 instances of shairport (i.e. stream to both zones simultaneously) using ALSA - the pi would just lock up (leading to a hard/power reset). After some research, I discovered ALSA doesn't like more than 1 thing at a time, so enter PulseAudio. Once it was up and running, it was just a matter of passing the right arguments to shairport:
Code:
Zone 1: shairport.pl -o 5002 -a "Zone 1" --ao_driver=pulse --ao_deviceid=0
Zone 2: shairport.pl -o 5003 -a "Zone 2" --ao_driver=pulse --ao_deviceid=1
The deviceid's are the sink #s taken from PA

This setup worked perfectly for 2 zones supporting simultaneous playback using 2 different airplay sources (mac + iphone).

It would be ideal to only use 1 pi for 12 zones but I want a system that can stream to all 12 zones simultaneously. If I have to use multiple pis, that's not a problem. But ideally I would like to get a minimum of 4 simultaneous zones from 1 pi but I haven't succeeded yet.

I've ordered the new pi b+ model with 4 USB ports and I'm going to try again using the new board. I'm hoping I can get 4+ from 1 pi.
Curious if you have updated anything since getting a B+? I'm trying to do something very similar to you but can't seem to get multiple zones on a single Pi. Do you have any insight or can you elaborate a little about your setup? Thanks!
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