Airport Express or Sonos for 6 sone system? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 07-16-2014, 12:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Airport Express or Sonos for 6 Zone system?

Here is what I am trying to accomplish:

6 zone distributed sound system (12 in ceiling speakers)
all wired to a central closet.

Everything controlled wirelessly via Apple and Android devices (no keypads)

My initial thought would be to have 6 airport Express hardwired to a router and then connected via aux chord to a multi-channel amp located in the same central closet:
http://www.htd.com/Products/multi-ch...fiers/DMA-1275
or
http://www.russound.com/product_detail.php?i=1548

the amp would need to be able to auto-sense the input and switch accordingly..

Will this work as planned or am I missing something? Would 6 Airport Express all next to each other cause too much wireless interference?

Alternatively I could get 6 Sonos Connects at a MUCH higher price point but would obviously prefer to go the cheaper route if possible...

Last edited by baltik; 07-16-2014 at 02:21 PM.
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post #2 of 15 Old 07-16-2014, 02:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baltik View Post
Everything controlled wirelessly via Apple and Android devices (no keypads)
Using the Airport Express for this purpose means that you're not just "controlling" the system - you're also using that device as the music source. Which means the device is either streaming music from the 'net, or you've got the music all stored locally. And more importantly, that will tie up the device while music is in use.

So sitting on the couch, listening to music while using the iPad to read / surf / play - doesn't work, because the unit is serving up music.

Controlling six AE's, selecting / deselecting, swapping apps, etc. all degrade the experience as compared to the fully integrated solution the zone player products provide. But yes, those are more expensive than the pieces parts you can assemble...

IMO these systems only get utilized if they're easy for everyone in the household to use. Too cumbersome, restrictive, or difficult to operate, and they get relegated to 'special events'.

So I'd recommend the Sonos Connect:Amp (instead of Connect plus external amp) for each zone - perhaps start with a few zones (or share one unit between two rooms / speaker pairs) - and add zones as budget allows.

Also look at the NuVo P3100 zone player, which is a 3-zone unit in a single unit. Can be had for a bit less street-price than 3x Sonos Connect:Amps.


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post #3 of 15 Old 07-16-2014, 03:54 PM
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No, you won't have a problem with wireless interference between the AEs, because for this usage you would have Wifi turned off on all of them. They would be connected to your network via ethernet.

I'm assuming you mean the amp would need to switch on/off depending on if there's a signal or not. There's no input switching in this scenario.

You would be using AirPlay to get the audio stream from the mobile device to the AE. Any iOS device can do that for most sources. I don't know if Android can do AirPlay at all. You need to check on that. You also need to check to ensure that the app for the music source you want to use is AirPlay compatible (but I think they pretty much all are).

As Jeff says, you're tying up the mobile device to provide the music, it's the source not just the control. If that's OK with you, then it should work. I have no idea what'll happen if you get a phone call, I don't use AirPlay that much from my phone. Where I used to (my patio speakers), I now have them hooked up to the output of a Mac mini, and I use the Remote app to control iTunes on that mini to play what I want to play. Only works with iTunes sources.
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post #4 of 15 Old 07-16-2014, 04:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you both for the thoughtful responses, the point about the iOS device being dual use and potentially causing issues when phone calls and text messages come in is very valid and not one that I considered. That said i currently do a lot of streaming to Bluetooth speakers and while the occasional phone call can be annoying I can certainly live with it especially since this would cut the cost of the system significantly. There are a few android apps that allow for airplay so not concerned about that. The Remote app workaround is a great idea and should work for all of my sources with the exception of Pandora.

Are there any other amp solutions i should consider?
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post #5 of 15 Old 07-16-2014, 04:29 PM
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The Remote app doesn't work with an AE. Only iTunes on a computer or an AppleTV. It has to be something that's capable of being a source device (which the AE is not). I considered suggesting using AppleTVs, but they only have HDMI or optical as outputs, so that would really complicate your amplifier setup.

Here's another possible amp: http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_i...seq=1&format=2

It has switching capabilities, but no good way to do that from your mobile devices (that I know of). But as a straight six-zone amp it could work.
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post #6 of 15 Old 07-16-2014, 07:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jautor View Post
Using the Airport Express for this purpose means that you're not just "controlling" the system - you're also using that device as the music source. Which means the device is either streaming music from the 'net, or you've got the music all stored locally. And more importantly, that will tie up the device while music is in use.

So sitting on the couch, listening to music while using the iPad to read / surf / play - doesn't work, because the unit is serving up music. ...
Sorry, Jeff, but you are completely wrong. The iOS device can certainly be used for other functions (surfing the web, mail, whatever) while streaming music. I believe it has worked this way since AirTunes was introduced.

Pretty easy to choose among zones with Control Center:



From:
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4437
Craig
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post #7 of 15 Old 07-16-2014, 08:04 PM
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Sorry, Jeff, but you are completely wrong. The iOS device can certainly be used for other functions (surfing the web, mail, whatever) while streaming music. I believe it has worked this way since AirTunes was introduced.
No, sorry, I'm not.

You can certainly swap apps, so perhaps I overstated the lack of functionality for simplicity. But any application that produces sound will play right along with whatever is being streamed via AirPlay. Pandora plays fine in the background, but I can hear game sounds as well. And some combinations won't work at all - launching "Angry Birds", for example, halts playback from the Pandora app altogether.

So you can do basic tasks without much trouble, but stray into anything that makes sounds (effects, game music or otherwise) and the audio gets mixed in.

Airplay along with a PC/Mac running iTunes and using the Apple Remote app for control avoids this - but will be limited to stuff playable within iTunes. AirFoil can get around that, but then you face remote control issues, so would not be recommended for this type of solution.

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post #8 of 15 Old 07-17-2014, 09:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jautor View Post
No, sorry, I'm not.

You can certainly swap apps, so perhaps I overstated the lack of functionality for simplicity. But any application that produces sound will play right along with whatever is being streamed via AirPlay. Pandora plays fine in the background, but I can hear game sounds as well. And some combinations won't work at all - launching "Angry Birds", for example, halts playback from the Pandora app altogether.

So you can do basic tasks without much trouble, but stray into anything that makes sounds (effects, game music or otherwise) and the audio gets mixed in.

Airplay along with a PC/Mac running iTunes and using the Apple Remote app for control avoids this - but will be limited to stuff playable within iTunes. AirFoil can get around that, but then you face remote control issues, so would not be recommended for this type of solution.
I don't want to belabour this, but I don't understand your use case. Why does it matter that game sounds go out via AirPlay? Normally, I don't play music while I'm playing a game but suppose I do. If the phone or tablet is the output device, I'll hear both. If the AirPlay zone I'm in is the output device, I'll hear both. Same result using AirPlay or not.

I suppose the issue could be due to other people in the same room? I think there are lots of easy workarounds:
-stream the music from iTunes on a computer
-let them stream the music while you play your game.
-mute the game sound effects
-talk to them instead of playing the game!
-etc

Sonos is pretty cool but some of us find it brutally expensive compared to what you can achieve with AirPlay. It seems 'fashionable' now on AVS to answer virtually all multi-room audio questions with "send buckets of money to Sonos". AirPlay--AirPort Express, AppleTV OR other AirPlay-enabled network receivers, etc--is a good and sufficient solution in at least some of those cases, IMHO.

Craig
(Personally I use a Marantz network receiver that cost about the same as a Sonos Connect amp. It does Internet streaming and is an AirPlay zone. But a lot of the time I'm using the built-in FM receiver because I like a couple of local stations. All controlled from my phone or tablet.)
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post #9 of 15 Old 07-17-2014, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
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I also think there is an advantage to using the phone/tablet vs the proprietary systems like Nuvo. since digital audio is always evolving you can be sure that the apple/google platforms will be at the forefront and are effectively future proof. Who knows how aggressive the proprietary systems will continue development especially when latest and greatest models come out. To be fair Sonos has been excellent in this regard but at the very least it will be on the mobile platforms first and a much lower price point..
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post #10 of 15 Old 07-17-2014, 12:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pvr4Craig View Post
I don't want to belabour this, but I don't understand your use case. Why does it matter that game sounds go out via AirPlay?
Because it disrupts the audio (either by mixing or muting), whereas any other solution doesn't have that issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pvr4Craig View Post
Normally, I don't play music while I'm playing a game but suppose I do. If the phone or tablet is the output device, I'll hear both. If the AirPlay zone I'm in is the output device, I'll hear both. Same result using AirPlay or not.

I suppose the issue could be due to other people in the same room?
Other people in the same room, other rooms, yes, that's certainly one of the biggest reasons. Two people listening to music in the same room while doing other activities is not uncommon. But yes, we're talking 'background music' here as a use case - if you're "listening" to music in the audiophile sense, you aren't playing a game on your tablet (or at least, you shouldn't be!).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pvr4Craig View Post
I think there are lots of easy workarounds:
-stream the music from iTunes on a computer
-let them stream the music while you play your game.
-mute the game sound effects
-talk to them instead of playing the game!
-etc
Streaming from iTunes using Airplay / Apple Remote is a great way to access a digital library. With iTunes Radio there's some amount of streaming support there, too. (I found iTunes' implementation of Internet Radio listening very cumbersome, though)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pvr4Craig View Post
Sonos is pretty cool but some of us find it brutally expensive compared to what you can achieve with AirPlay. It seems 'fashionable' now on AVS to answer virtually all multi-room audio questions with "send buckets of money to Sonos".
$500 per zone is right in the mix when compared with other commercially available, turnkey product offerings from any of the major players when you tally up the costs for amp/system + sources + controller.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pvr4Craig View Post
AirPlay--AirPort Express, AppleTV OR other AirPlay-enabled network receivers, etc--is a good and sufficient solution in at least some of those cases, IMHO.
It certainly can be, and is absolutely a less-expensive solution. If one's usage model allows that to work, or budget precludes more expensive solutions (which for most of us is a factor), it can be viable solution. But those decisions should be informed ones knowing the limitations and how the "better" solution compare.

To me the worst outcome is folks that spend money for distributed audio and then never use it because of usability / stability issues. Done right these systems can be used daily. Done poorly they'll only get rolled out for special events...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pvr4Craig View Post
(Personally I use a Marantz network receiver that cost about the same as a Sonos Connect amp. It does Internet streaming and is an AirPlay zone. But a lot of the time I'm using the built-in FM receiver because I like a couple of local stations. All controlled from my phone or tablet.)
The AVRs are doing better and better with their app implementations (early forms were really clunky in terms of music browsing). And you should check the Internet Radio support (vTuner / RadioTime) in your AVR to see if your local stations have a high quality stream available (an option depending on how good your FM reception is).


Jeff

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post #11 of 15 Old 07-17-2014, 12:26 PM
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I also think there is an advantage to using the phone/tablet vs the proprietary systems like Nuvo.
Ok, but realize you're comparing one company's unique products and solutions to another. Apple's products are just as "proprietary" - by definition... What Apple / Google have is an ecosystem created around their mobile platforms. The audio companies like Sonos figured out they should leverage that ecosystem for the control aspects - and they support BOTH!

Quote:
Originally Posted by baltik View Post
since digital audio is always evolving you can be sure that the apple/google platforms will be at the forefront and are effectively future proof. Who knows how aggressive the proprietary systems will continue development especially when latest and greatest models come out. To be fair Sonos has been excellent in this regard but at the very least it will be on the mobile platforms first and a much lower price point..
It's a fair point, but more about the size of the companies involved and the resources / attention they can throw at the problem. But if Apple / Google decide to shift their focus, these types of solutions could be discarded as "not strategic". Not suggesting that would actually happen for these products, though...

But for a company like Sonos or NuVo who's whole business is in this product area - you know they'll be paying attention to what is popular with customers. However, Google or Apple may choose to NOT support a "popular" service/format because it comes from a competitor to one of their own products/services. Amazon support on AppleTV? iTunes Store on Android?

I hear ya on the "stability" / "longevity" argument - I just hate to hear "I don't want to buy from a small(er) company because I don't know if they'll be around" (and I'm putting words in your mouth here - so this really isn't directed at you, just a general rant ). It's a common, circular argument. If no one buys from them, of course they won't be around. But it's also exactly what I would say as a big company sales rep. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt!

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post #12 of 15 Old 07-17-2014, 12:44 PM - Thread Starter
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I get your point but Nuvo is owned by legrand and is basically smaller than a pimple on their a$$, it's a 12 billion dollar company with 30k employees, they could shut down that entire product tomorrow and it would be so small it wouldn't even touch their earnings since it's just a rounding error. Could the same thing happen to Apple and google? sure in theory but mobile music is a hell of a lot more central to their products than it is to a French industrial powerhouse.
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post #13 of 15 Old 07-17-2014, 01:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baltik View Post
I get your point but Nuvo is owned by legrand and is basically smaller than a pimple on their a$$, it's a 12 billion dollar company with 30k employees, they could shut down that entire product tomorrow and it would be so small it wouldn't even touch their earnings since it's just a rounding error. Could the same thing happen to Apple and google? sure in theory but mobile music is a hell of a lot more central to their products than it is to a French industrial powerhouse.
A whole house audio system without dedicated controls in each zone quickly becomes cumbersome for the users. You get a call on your cell, what are you going to say, hold on while I load up this app to turn down the volume?


Your idea sounds ok in theory, but in practice its going to suck. At the very least, get some cheap Android tablets and dedicate them to streaming and control duty.
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post #14 of 15 Old 07-17-2014, 01:39 PM
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I get your point but Nuvo is owned by legrand and is basically smaller than a pimple on their a$$, it's a 12 billion dollar company with 30k employees, they could shut down that entire product tomorrow and it would be so small it wouldn't even touch their earnings since it's just a rounding error. Could the same thing happen to Apple and google? sure in theory but mobile music is a hell of a lot more central to their products than it is to a French industrial powerhouse.
True, although in that specific case, Legrand just recently (last year?) bought NuVo - so new to Legrand in the sense that if they didn't want it to grow, they wouldn't have bought it.

But yes, ANY of these products/companies can vanish at any time for a number of reasons - none of which have anything to do with the quality of the product or how much we like them... I certainly take the long-term support/potential into account when I buy stuff - but lacking any evidence that says they're on the decline or in serious trouble, I don't like allowing "company size" to become the deciding factor.

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post #15 of 15 Old 07-17-2014, 02:47 PM
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True, although in that specific case, Legrand just recently (last year?) bought NuVo - so new to Legrand in the sense that if they didn't want it to grow, they wouldn't have bought it.

But yes, ANY of these products/companies can vanish at any time for a number of reasons - none of which have anything to do with the quality of the product or how much we like them... I certainly take the long-term support/potential into account when I buy stuff - but lacking any evidence that says they're on the decline or in serious trouble, I don't like allowing "company size" to become the deciding factor.

The fact is we're only talking about the audio source being compromised by a lack of support if the company disappears or drops development for a product.


Lets take Nuvo as an example. Legrand drops support for the streaming hardware. Just hook up your iPhone/android streaming box as one of the inputs, and you still have a system with local control and access to any service available on those platforms.
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