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post #1 of 93 Old 01-16-2017, 11:43 AM - Thread Starter
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A "modern" approach to Whole House Audio

Folks, I am in the process of building a a new house, and the usual suspects that I am talking to about installing A/V in the house seem to be pushing approaches that I think are rooted in the past - centralized systems with keypads, HDMI switches etc... They are expensive and inflexible, and most of all, not software driven. I am thinking about a different approach, which seems to be playing out in many of the threads I see here, so I wanted to see what folks here think about it.

I have some assumptions:

1) Music services in the future are going to be numerous and change rapidly, and are going to be focused on the smartphone as the core target, and not A/V equipment per se. We've seen this play out with Apple and Google and Amazon all driving subscription based music services, and their focus has been on phones and tablets, not anything else. SONOS has been trying hard to integrate all these services, and has been modestly successful, but the vast number of subscribers to these services are not using SONOS style devices. You are already seeing Google Cast support being built into speakers and such, and Amazon getting their Music service distributed by being in the Alexa slipstream.

2) "Ambient" Voice is going to be the norm, and will be the alternative to phone/tablet control, not keypads. We clearly see this trend, and that's even before Apple weighs in with their Siri in the home solution. I see zero chance of these technologies getting integrated in the usual A/V systems for control, though you'll see skills and the equivalents being used to adapt these systems to new controls. But I don't think you are going Alexa and Google VR being embedded in keypads etc... - Amazon and Google are going to keep control of that hardware for quite a while.

3) TV's are getting smarter, and video is increasingly going to be driven by the TV, and not from external sources that have to get switched to the TV. I can see how a TV STB being sent to a TV from a centralized hub and HDMI works being integrated with whole house audio, but what happens when the TV is the STB for streaming, or you have a Chromcast or Roku plugged in locally? I don't think this switched model is going to scale particularly well as video sourcing comes from the edge from tons of sources, and not from a one room with a few sources that need to be switched. Effectively it's cheaper and more flexible to generate the video locally to the TV with lots of cheap devices than pay for the switching of a few more expensive sources. I think media room or home theater room is different here, but I mean for general video consumption through the home.

4) Amazon, Google, Apple etc... are going to focus on controlling and syncing multiple speakers (portable, wired, outdoor), but not going to delegate control to Russounds etc... Just like SONOS, they want every speaker to be driven by a Chromcast or Alexa, Apple TV, etc..., not support one of those devices that's switched by a Russound etc... So "switching" sources is always going to awkward with these systems.

So what that means is trying to drive WHA audio from these devices are directly as possible. For my house, which will have about 12 zones of audio (not counting the media room, which I think is special and can assume a different speaker and amp configuration than the rest of the house), that means driving a Chromecast or Echo Dot feeding a centralized distribution amp driving the speakers in all these rooms. It's easier with Google here, because of the Chromecast Audio puck that can be controlled by the phone and any Cast App, as well as byu the Google Home device. With Amazon, they don't decouple audio streaming from the VR device (the Echo), so you can't centralize theme like you can with Chromecast. Still, with Cat5, you could backhaul the stereo audio from the Dot to a centralized distribution amp pretty cheaply.

This is fine for music streaming, esp with the Chromecast approach because so many apps support it. But what to do about the rooms with TV's in them? It seems a shame to have the TV use the TV speakers in rooms where you have in wall speakers driven by a nice amp. Google may solve this eventually if the TV's have Cast functionality built in, but what I am thinking now is to backhaul the audio from the TV's stereo out jacks (almost all TV's have that or SPDIF) to the amp over CAT5, and use a cheap IR controlled audio switch to switch that zone away from the Chromecast input to the TV's audio out source.

Monoprice has a cheap switch like this one: https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=3027 for $20 that switches 4 sources, which if you can send the audio out of the TV to the switch over CAT5 with IR, you should be able to have a programmable remote in the room command the switch the audio input to the amp from the Chromecast to the TV audio input when it turns on, and switch it back to the Chromecast when the TV shuts off. This leaves the issue though of volume control, since many TV's have fixed output levels for their analog stereo out, which would cause the amp to play back audio at max volume!

There are cheap HDMI stereo extractors like this one: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LKF6CPG...SIN=B00LKF6CPG that support ARC, which should modulate the output based on the TV's volume control, though I haven't tested that yet, and would require backhauling the HDMI over CAT5. That functionality is not that expensive these days, and since it's just sending the audio via ARC, the bitrates should be pretty low and you wouldn't need a cat5 extender that supported 4K etc... Many of these do also carry the IR around with them which means you just need a single CAT5 jack back from the TV.

Have folks had any experience with ARC from these extractors that can confirm the TV's volume control adjusts the line level output appropriately?

Also, if you have a home automation system that can tell when the TV is powered up, it could send IR codes automatically to do the switching, which would be nice, but I don't think the issue of using a programmable remote is that big a deal, and if you have a Roku or other video streamer plugged into the TV, you'll need that anyway.

There is also the issue of controlling the distribution amp power. If the amp senses audio and comes out of standby automatically, that should just work. Amps that don't have that capability would either be on all the time, or would need to be switched on somehow. There is a quite a nice hack using a raspberry Pi for SONOS installations that checks SONOS status and switches on a trigger or could drive a switch for the amp - see here: https://github.com/geeeyetee/SonosAmpJuicePi If that could be adapted to Chromecasts it would open up the ability to use simpler amps that don't have audio sense sense, like an older AVR that had multichannel pre-amp inputs and can't do the kind of processing that is needed today, but had great sounding amplifiers in them.

What do people think about this overall approach? I think the days of keypad driven switched WHA are nearing an end, but we haven't moved to a purely software driven replacement either.

Thanks,
Mike
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post #2 of 93 Old 01-16-2017, 02:35 PM
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When do you get to the bit about the 'modern' approach

I see a 'budget' approach which relies (heavily) on your IT skills, a bit of wishful thinking about certain bits of hardware and skips the part about how much time and grief this approach could be.

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post #3 of 93 Old 01-16-2017, 04:16 PM - Thread Starter
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When do you get to the bit about the 'modern' approach

I see a 'budget' approach which relies (heavily) on your IT skills, a bit of wishful thinking about certain bits of hardware and skips the part about how much time and grief this approach could be.

Joe
You really think the traditional approach is going to survive? SONOS, imperfect as it is, has really done a number on the traditional WHA vendors. No keypads, or source switching needed. However, with Cast and Alexa, even SONOS is going to have problems, because they aren't integrated into the major software ecosystems for Apple, Amazon and Google. I don't think it's on purpose, just that the target for these platforms is mobile and the home, not just the home. None of the traditional WHA approaches comprehensively address connectivity in the car and portable operation. Plex is a nice bridge, any they already have integrated with Cast.

I grant you the pieces aren't all neat yet, but directionally, I think this is more of what the future is going to look like.

Thx
Mike
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post #4 of 93 Old 01-16-2017, 04:50 PM
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If the 'modern' approach is a collection of untested and non-integrated 'works in progress' I'll stick with my SONOS multi-room audio system for a while longer - it's 10 years old and I've still to find a replacement.

It'll be interesting to see what SONOS come up with now that they have also embraced voice control and how backwards compatible it will be.

Apple, Amazon, Google etc definitely do prefer 'non-integration' if it mean's a bigger revenue stream.

SmartTV's I find are mostly OK as a Stand alone device but due to any reliance on CEC can become a nightmare in a 'connected' system as anything other than a 'dumb' Display.

Keeping video and audio 'in-sync' can be tricky with Multiroom systems unless you make specific provision for it - usually more so if you plan to distribute analogue audio.

We are still a while away from any wholesale change to content delivery and much hardware has still to be proven and services have to prove they are financially viable.

I suspect you will have to go 'traditional' and allow for experimentation to allow you to move away from the traditional system as new products and services bed in.

Joe



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post #5 of 93 Old 01-17-2017, 06:06 AM
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You really think the traditional approach is going to survive? SONOS, imperfect as it is, has really done a number on the traditional WHA vendors. No keypads, or source switching needed. However, with Cast and Alexa, even SONOS is going to have problems, because they aren't integrated into the major software ecosystems for Apple, Amazon and Google. I don't think it's on purpose, just that the target for these platforms is mobile and the home, not just the home. None of the traditional WHA approaches comprehensively address connectivity in the car and portable operation. Plex is a nice bridge, any they already have integrated with Cast.

I grant you the pieces aren't all neat yet, but directionally, I think this is more of what the future is going to look like.

Thx
Mike
Amazon Voice Services and Google Home are the threats that are causing SONOS to figure out how they operate in this new environment that you describe. Amazon and Google are the existential threat to SONOS and SONOS can't adapt fast enough. See the resignation of the SONOS CEO last week and the things his replacement said about this changing environment concerning voice control and music and the fact that SONOS has to layoff a few thousand people. If SONOS and technology integrators don't adapt to this changing environment where wall-mounted keypads/controls are becoming less important to how the new generation interacts with techology, they'll be left behind. Let's face it, the modern approach is Amazon and Google voice services for voice control. Apple isn't there yet in terms of being far-reaching across various ecosystems because they've decided to keep Siri locked into the Apple ecosystem. Google's Chromecast Audio, whether we're talking about the pucks or the speakers can be controlled by voice using Google Home. That's very modern for a WHA system.

For your purposes, I think that you're on the right track. But as we've seen, trying to integrate sound from your TV set-top boxes to your in-wall or in-ceiling speakers is difficult for most. My approach is to keep it simple. I have in-ceiling speakers that are powered using a 6 zone amp with a Chromecast Audio connected to each zone on the amp. I have a separate surround sound pre/pro and a multi-channel amp that provides sound from the tv set-top box and my blu-ray player to speakers in the family room that aren't apart of the WHA system. If I must have audio from the Directv receiver playing through the in-ceiling speakers in my home, I go completely modern. By that I mean that I use the Directv app on my Samsung tablet and I stream the sound directly from the app using Google's Home app. If you want modern that is modern; you're not likely to find people on this board that do that but if you're talking modern and keeping up with what's new that is the approach to take.

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post #6 of 93 Old 01-17-2017, 06:29 AM
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So this is a fascinating topic...

I would love to know how Chromecast does handling the 12 zones.

Once thing I haven't yet figured out with Chromecast - because I only now have speakers far enough apart to matter - is how to do multiple sources in multiple zones. In other words - radio on in the kitchen and music in the basement. My wife and I were home the other day and she was able to play from one music service (TuneIn) in the kitchen and I had another (Spotify) on in the basement. But it took two phones... I would like to see if there is a better way to control this...

I would love to see Google come out with the other end of the 'cast system, where you can use a TV/record player as a source over Chromecast for the rest of your system. There are some home brew solutions, but nothing that really works yet.

Sonos - while they make a fantastic product - have been short on innovation into new spaces in the house. The fact that they are charging $350 for the Connect is bonkers. I had to choose a couple years ago whether to go Chromecast or Sonos and the price on the Connect was the deciding factor. At that time Chromecast was still a bit iffy. Had the connect been $100, it would have been easy.

Good luck!
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Originally Posted by Joe Fernand View Post
When do you get to the bit about the 'modern' approach

I see a 'budget' approach which relies (heavily) on your IT skills, a bit of wishful thinking about certain bits of hardware and skips the part about how much time and grief this approach could be.

Joe
let's be real here though. the fact that a viable 'budget' approach even exists now is a fantastic thing. No doubt that it's not going to be as robust or reliable as something more established like sonos, it's still a novel approach. If amazon/google continue to push their way into the home automation ecosystem, as they clearly seem to be doing, having affordable distributed A/V systems could be a reality.

Similar to how for whole home automation, you had to either go with creston or control4. Now, you've got more affordable competition in that area, and within a few years I can see google & amazon having solutions that are on the order of a few hundred dollars, vs several thousand for the former options. I like the forward-thinking approach of the OP, as I am still in the concept design phase for my home automation system, and want to design with an eye toward the future (and affordable), vs the way things have been done the past decade.
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post #8 of 93 Old 01-17-2017, 07:03 AM
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So this is a fascinating topic...

I would love to know how Chromecast does handling the 12 zones.
You can put a Chromecast Audio puck on as many zones as you like. There isn't a limit.


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Once thing I haven't yet figured out with Chromecast - because I only now have speakers far enough apart to matter - is how to do multiple sources in multiple zones. In other words - radio on in the kitchen and music in the basement. My wife and I were home the other day and she was able to play from one music service (TuneIn) in the kitchen and I had another (Spotify) on in the basement. But it took two phones... I would like to see if there is a better way to control this...
I've done this several times in my home with only my Iphone or my Samsung tablet. You can multi-task on an Android or Apple device, which is what you have to do. From my Iphone I've had Pocket Casts playing a podcast in the kitchen, Spotify playing jazz in one of the spare bedrooms, Pandora playing jazz in another spare bedroom and Plex playing something from my Itunes library in the master bathroom. While those things were playing I cast SiriuXM using the background audio feature on the Google Home app from the Samsung tablet. You have to open all of the apps you want to cast from on the one device. Then you cast from each app, one at a time to the various zones. It's very easy to do.

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I would love to see Google come out with the other end of the 'cast system, where you can use a TV/record player as a source over Chromecast for the rest of your system. There are some home brew solutions, but nothing that really works yet.
It doesn't take homebrew for TV. See my previous post. What it takes is a tv provider that has a streaming app and you need a Android device. I have streamed live tv shows from my Directv app on the Samsung to various zones in my house; I can even stream shows from my dvr to the various zones.

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let's be real here though. the fact that a viable 'budget' approach even exists now is a fantastic thing.
It is a tremendous thing that technology has advanced to point that "normals" can get into this game without paying tens of thousands of dollars. Democratization of whole home audio and whole home automation is a beautiful thing.

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No doubt that it's not going to be as robust or reliable as something more established like sonos, it's still a novel approach. If amazon/google continue to push their way into the home automation ecosystem, as they clearly seem to be doing, having affordable distributed A/V systems could be a reality.
I have to say that Google and Amazon are making good, reliable products that work very well for the millions that have jumped into voice services. They're pretty darn reliable.

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Similar to how for whole home automation, you had to either go with creston or control4. Now, you've got more affordable competition in that area, and within a few years I can see google & amazon having solutions that are on the order of a few hundred dollars, vs several thousand for the former options. I like the forward-thinking approach of the OP, as I am still in the concept design phase for my home automation system, and want to design with an eye toward the future (and affordable), vs the way things have been done the past decade.
Amazon Voice Services opened the flood gates and Google is going the same route. I'm very happy to see Apple building out their HomeKit home automation system. That opens the door to more people that may not have jumped in. And Apple keeps growing the ecosystem daily just as Google and Amazon are doing. I love it. For 2k to 3k I can create a integrated system that can achieve 95% of what a system that costs 10k to 20k or more can do. It's amazing. And let's not forget Samsung's Smart Things and Wink and the others. This is great.

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You can put a Chromecast Audio puck on as many zones as you like. There isn't a limit.

Interesting. I figured there was some upper limit, but good to know. Not a problem I am going to run into


I've done this several times in my home with only my Iphone or my Samsung tablet. You can multi-task on an Android or Apple device, which is what you have to do. From my Iphone I've had Pocket Casts playing a podcast in the kitchen, Spotify playing jazz in one of the spare bedrooms, Pandora playing jazz in another spare bedroom and Plex playing something from my Itunes library in the master bathroom. While those things were playing I cast SiriuXM using the background audio feature on the Google Home app from the Samsung tablet. You have to open all of the apps you want to cast from on the one device. Then you cast from each app, one at a time to the various zones. It's very easy to do.

This is great - I'll spend some time messing around with this. I think if you turn off guest mode on Spotify, you could probably do two Spotify streams from two phones too.



It doesn't take homebrew for TV. See my previous post. What it takes is a tv provider that has a streaming app and you need a Android device. I have streamed live tv shows from my Directv app on the Samsung to various zones in my house; I can even stream shows from my dvr to the various zones.

It would be nice to be able to encode any sound output on the fly and be able to cast them to other devices for playback. I can't imagine you can't do this!
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post #11 of 93 Old 01-17-2017, 09:35 AM
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I love my Sonos, technology isn't free.

I am a geek, I like to play around with all these systems, but there is no IOT open communications standard supported by all TVs and all things home electronics.. so there are a lot of hacks out there... great.. but in the end, I need a drop dead simple system for my family and for my guests that doesn't involve them needing apps, learning how light switches work, etc. I had a few smart home gadgets over the years, most of them are gone now, you can't have failures to turn on a light.

So your "modern" solution sounds like a zillion little parts and interfaces that all could fail at any time. I am in IT, don't try to tell me software development is perfect. Each room has its own technology and remotes and gizmos.

The smart/connected home is the future, but its still in the future. Don't be weird, support existing technologies as well as plan a bit for the future.
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post #12 of 93 Old 01-17-2017, 06:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattGoose View Post
.
You can put a Chromecast Audio puck on as many zones as you like. There isn't a limit.

Interesting. I figured there was some upper limit, but good to know. Not a problem I am going to run into


I've done this several times in my home with only my Iphone or my Samsung tablet. You can multi-task on an Android or Apple device, which is what you have to do. From my Iphone I've had Pocket Casts playing a podcast in the kitchen, Spotify playing jazz in one of the spare bedrooms, Pandora playing jazz in another spare bedroom and Plex playing something from my Itunes library in the master bathroom. While those things were playing I cast SiriuXM using the background audio feature on the Google Home app from the Samsung tablet. You have to open all of the apps you want to cast from on the one device. Then you cast from each app, one at a time to the various zones. It's very easy to do.

This is great - I'll spend some time messing around with this. I think if you turn off guest mode on Spotify, you could probably do two Spotify streams from two phones too.



It doesn't take homebrew for TV. See my previous post. What it takes is a tv provider that has a streaming app and you need a Android device. I have streamed live tv shows from my Directv app on the Samsung to various zones in my house; I can even stream shows from my dvr to the various zones.

It would be nice to be able to encode any sound output on the fly and be able to cast them to other devices for playback. I can't imagine you can't do this!
. .


.
Chromecasts don't really have an upper limit, at least a practical one. The source of unreliability can be the wifi network. You can get inexpensive ethernet adapters for these that hardwire them, and if you are going to put 12 zones in a hub, that is certainly a good idea. Google has licensed Cast support, and since we are seeing it in soundbars, speakers and TV's, I suspect eventually we'll see it in a large rackmount formfactor with lots of outputs. I doubt we'll see it from the usual suspects however, but my hope is that someone innovative will go after this market using Cast in the way that SONOS did years ago, at a much lower price point.

As for the devices, a couple years ago I started buying cheap ($20-30) prepaid Moto E's as remote controls (if you are going to get one for this, make sure you get the Gen2 E's, much more capable and hackable bootloaders). I never activated the cell service, but kept them in airplane mode but wifi and BT connected. They are my harmony hub remotes, run plex, have Nest and other automation apps on them, and they can fully cast. They are cheap enough that when my kids lose them or break them, I can just clone the configuration on a new one. The moto E's are actually quite responsive and have reasonably recent android on them with security fixes. I use a special google account on them that isn't any one individuals, but a home group account that has access to media, but not email and calendars etc... Phones that are too old to be your primary phone can be recycled into this kind of service too. It's the kind of device that you could never afford to build at that price for dedicated automation use, but work great in a software driven world.

The Chromecast's have Bluetooth radios in them, I could imagine a mode where you stream to the CCA via BT, and could even use a dedicated analog to BT dongle for passthrough audio. The problem though is this is not really the target market for the technology.

The goal of Amazon and Google is to replace everything that is the source of that audio so you don't need to do this. Most of the edge cases can be solved if you create API's to push audio through the device over the network, the way some folks do for SONOS for home automation uses. You need this software functionality anyway to deal with the home devices interrupting playback to answer a question and go back to playing media, so I can easily see a doorbell camera or other devices use this capability if the API's are opened up, and I think eventually that will happen.

The future is not one that has a lot of RCA jacks in it.

Thanks,
mike
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post #13 of 93 Old 01-18-2017, 01:59 PM - Thread Starter
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PS If folks are inetrested in using prepaid phones as harmony remotes that can also "cast" to chromecasts etc..., I would look for sales on the Moto G4's, which have been as cheap as $35 (https://www.**************/forums/expired-deals/1542272). They come with Android M, but are upgradeable to N (the latest version), and perhaps more importantly have wireless charging support. Having these in rooms sitting in a reasonably nice looking wireless charging dock ( http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-Coils-Qi-W...1a8zWJIBlGzhMg) is a pretty nice setup.

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post #14 of 93 Old 01-19-2017, 09:23 AM
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PS If folks are inetrested in using prepaid phones as harmony remotes that can also "cast" to chromecasts etc..., I would look for sales on the Moto G4's, which have been as cheap as $35 (https://www.**************/forums/expired-deals/1542272). They come with Android M, but are upgradeable to N (the latest version), and perhaps more importantly have wireless charging support. Having these in rooms sitting in a reasonably nice looking wireless charging dock ( http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-Coils-Qi-W...1a8zWJIBlGzhMg) is a pretty nice setup.

thanks,
mike
This is a great idea. Thanks. Having a dummy phone for each room as a "remote" will really improve the experience.

Fifteen years ago, when we built our current house, I couldn't afford Sonos. If I could have, I would have bought it. It was clearly the rational choice back then. Even five years ago, I almost certainly would have bought Sonos. Today, however, I can afford it but I'm not buying it for the new house we're building. This is because I agree with the OP. Chromecast audio doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of Sonos yet. But it does a lot for a fraction of the cost and is only going to get better. Technology almost always gets better, faster and cheaper over time. We've seen it with computers, TVs, phones, etc.

It took a long time for an assault on the WHA market to occur. But now that it's happening, I expect the "budget" options to close the gap on Sonos relatively quickly -- in a few years, not a decade.
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This is a great idea. Thanks. Having a dummy phone for each room as a "remote" will really improve the experience.

Fifteen years ago, when we built our current house, I couldn't afford Sonos. If I could have, I would have bought it. It was clearly the rational choice back then. Even five years ago, I almost certainly would have bought Sonos. Today, however, I can afford it but I'm not buying it for the new house we're building. This is because I agree with the OP. Chromecast audio doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of Sonos yet. But it does a lot for a fraction of the cost and is only going to get better. Technology almost always gets better, faster and cheaper over time. We've seen it with computers, TVs, phones, etc.

It took a long time for an assault on the WHA market to occur. But now that it's happening, I expect the "budget" options to close the gap on Sonos relatively quickly -- in a few years, not a decade.
I think it's actually worse that that. See this thread re: SONOS layoffs, etc... : SONOS Backup Plan - Bankruptcy I think we are underestimating how SONOS is being hurt by Google and Amazon's efforts in this space. They totally missed the voice command opportunity, and coupled with poor integration into the Apple/Google/Amazon software ecosystem, are really struggling. They also pissed off their CI partners by killing off 3rd party support for existing plugins into control4 etc and broke existing installations making customers angry.

If SONOS is having this kind of headwind, i think the traditional guys are going to be impacted even more. SONOS was the glue between the traditional WHA world and the software ecosystem. if that glue gets undone, it will cause a lot of problems.

2017 is going to be the transition year, which is why I titled my post the way I did. It will be interesting to see what Apple does.

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I think it's actually worse that that. See this thread re: SONOS layoffs, etc... : SONOS Backup Plan - Bankruptcy I think we are underestimating how SONOS is being hurt by Google and Amazon's efforts in this space. They totally missed the voice command opportunity, and coupled with poor integration into the Apple/Google/Amazon software ecosystem, are really struggling. They also pissed off their CI partners by killing off 3rd party support for existing plugins into control4 etc and broke existing installations making customers angry.

If SONOS is having this kind of headwind, i think the traditional guys are going to be impacted even more. SONOS was the glue between the traditional WHA world and the software ecosystem. if that glue gets undone, it will cause a lot of problems.

2017 is going to be the transition year, which is why I titled my post the way I did. It will be interesting to see what Apple does.

Thx
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You hit the nail on the head. It's a transition period and Sonos is trying to find its way into voice control. It's a brave new world and the traditional CEPro companies and Sonos are being disrupted by the Silicon Valley tech companies that are introducing for the most part well-made, competitive products to the mass market for WHA and home automation. First they came for your phone and now they're coming for your home.
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PS If folks are inetrested in using prepaid phones as harmony remotes that can also "cast" to chromecasts etc..., I would look for sales on the Moto G4's, which have been as cheap as $35 (https://www.**************/forums/expired-deals/1542272). They come with Android M, but are upgradeable to N (the latest version), and perhaps more importantly have wireless charging support. Having these in rooms sitting in a reasonably nice looking wireless charging dock ( http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-Coils-Qi-W...1a8zWJIBlGzhMg) is a pretty nice setup.

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Any advantage to a phone like the Moto G4 compared to a cheap tablet? Looks like the Moto G4 is going for about $50 on eBay. I like the wireless charging idea. I am looking to use the Echo to control Chromecast. I started to follow some directions to do so but only got part way into it. https://www.hackster.io/pizzaface97/...omecast-a5f91f
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Any advantage to a phone like the Moto G4 compared to a cheap tablet? Looks like the Moto G4 is going for about $50 on eBay. I like the wireless charging idea. I am looking to use the Echo to control Chromecast. I started to follow some directions to do so but only got part way into it. https://www.hackster.io/pizzaface97/...omecast-a5f91f
The main advantage of the G4 is it runs a current version of android and has wireless charging. Phones I think are a better form factor for remotes than tablets, but a nexus 7 might be a nice alternative, and has wireless charging as well...

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Folks, I have to correct a mistake - the Moto G4 does NOT have wireless charging built in. Sorry about that - I was certain I had played with one that did. The good news is there is a pretty cheap (well, maybe not that cheap if you bought a G4 for $35) internal wireless charging mat you can get from various places (here's one for $11: https://www.fruugo.us/onx3-qi-receiv...92452-18409888). It slips in the back and powers the microUSB port on the bottom. You can get these for many popular phones, and they work decently. Make sure you get one that has 1000ma charging, so it charges quickly, or at least 500ma, which is the typical charging rate for these phones.

The G4 PLAY does have a replaceable battery, which is helpful to keep these in service over a long time. if you are using these for automation or remote control, its good to not have to replace them every 18 months like most primary phones get replaced.

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The 'modern' approach to Whole House Audio is to buy some old mobile phones

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The 'modern' approach to Whole House Audio is to buy some old mobile phones

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Actually, the G4 is a current mobile phone, not an old one.

Buts a lot more useful that a C4 or equivalent touchscreen that costs 10x more.

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Actually, the G4 is a current mobile phone, not an old one.

Buts a lot more useful that a C4 or equivalent touchscreen that costs 10x more.

Thx
Mike
and in 1-2 years when that phone is not getting the latest android updates and is left in the dust? you have to go track down a new used old phone

c4 tablets (and other CI hardware in general) get a bad reputation, but I can at least say C4 supports their hardware for years. Even with the latest processors, some hardware as much as 5-8 years old can still be supported. Though Sonos is not in the pure CI space, their hardware is also supported for years.

I will not rely on my cell phone since the OS' changes too frequently, you are at the mercy of the carrier to get the latest updates and when you will get them, etc.

to each his/her own - my enjoyment in WHA is the fact that it works and I do not have to put much thought into it and wonder about OS updates and hardware refreshes. It may cost more but in the long run it saves me time and hassles which have their own costs.
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I will not rely on my cell phone since the OS' changes too frequently, you are at the mercy of the carrier to get the latest updates and when you will get them, etc.
In most cases, yes. However, there are Android phones that get OS updates without carrier interference, the Pixel being one of those phones. Besides, the phone that Mike is talking isn't tied to a specific carrier, therefore the issues of a carrier approving an OS update isn't a factor. In general your observation is correct in most situations. Over the last couple of years the carriers have gotten better in regards to not holding up the OS update. I'd be less concerned with things not being supported on devices running Lollipop (Android 5.0) and up or even some devices running 4.xx. Most of the significant changes in Android happened with the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich.

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In most cases, yes. However, there are Android phones that get OS updates without carrier interference, the Pixel being one of those phones. Besides, the phone that Mike is talking isn't tied to a specific carrier, therefore the issues of a carrier approving an OS update isn't a factor. In general your observation is correct in most situations. Over the last couple of years the carriers have gotten better in regards to not holding up the OS update. I'd be less concerned with things not being supported on devices running Lollipop (Android 5.0) and up or even some devices running 4.xx. Most of the significant changes in Android happened with the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich.
appreciate your response and will agree to some of it. However it is shown that even if you get the recent updates, usually after 2-3 years you stop receiving them, or get them with partial features and not everything. and when Logitech or Nest or C4 or Creston or whoever updates their apps, you are likely to get left in the dust.

of course if you are handy and want to hack a phone and go into developer forums and side load stuff you can likely make it work. not saying its not possible but for the masses its not as slick and polished, that's all.

CI has built their hardware to last a long longer, that's all I am saying. if you are up for changing your solutions periodically then you could be onto something.
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to each his/her own - my enjoyment in WHA is the fact that it works and I do not have to put much thought into it and wonder about OS updates and hardware refreshes. It may cost more but in the long run it saves me time and hassles which have their own costs.
I see your point that there is no one size fits all. But what is a hassle to one person is not a hassle to another. There are some WHA systems that aren't of the C4, Savant, Creston, Autonomic, Nuvo, Sonos flavor. Those systems work and they work without the user needing to refresh hardware, software or spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get it work.

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I see your point that there is no one size fits all. But what is a hassle to one person is not a hassle to another. There are some WHA systems that aren't of the C4, Savant, Creston, Autonomic, Nuvo, Sonos flavor. Those systems work and they work without the user needing to refresh hardware, software or spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get it work.
All of those systems continue to "work" overall. The issue with them has been the more advanced functionality in the display (metadata) keypads and the addition of Internet services (as an integrated 'source' device). So yes, some systems have had issues where Pandora / Spotify / etc. stop working because the service changed something. But you can always hook up a source and get music. You just may lose the advanced functionality over the long haul.

Not that that makes it any better - but to say the systems "don't work" is a bit harsh. Probably more appropriate to say those system can tend to degrade to "entry level functionality" over time. Meaning, you may lose metadata on the keypads, but an entry system never had that to begin with...

And yes, there are exceptions that are worse than that.

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appreciate your response and will agree to some of it. However it is shown that even if you get the recent updates, usually after 2-3 years you stop receiving them, or get them with partial features and not everything. and when Logitech or Nest or C4 or Creston or whoever updates their apps, you are likely to get left in the dust.

of course if you are handy and want to hack a phone and go into developer forums and side load stuff you can likely make it work. not saying its not possible but for the masses its not as slick and polished, that's all.

CI has built their hardware to last a long longer, that's all I am saying. if you are up for changing your solutions periodically then you could be onto something.
I think you are missing the point. The value isn't in the hardware, its in the software. And old hardware is ... well,. old. That is not a positive thing. Sure, you don't want to be changing out amps and speaker wiring etc..., but there is a big difference between that and user input devices that have new services added to them on a monthly basis. And they get upgraded through software updates, and not hardware changes, just as everyone is used to on their phones. This is the biggest change of attitude, that functionality is constantly being improved by leveraging a more general software ecosystem, instead of one that is narrowly designed for WHA.

For example, I have an old SONOS CR100 controller at home. I haven't used it in a few years, but I am sure it probably still works. It's display is poor, and ability to navigate much much worse than a touchscreen. But I get that the hardware is designed to last a long time. That doesn't help when it's obsolete. Again, I agree amps and such shouldn't need to be changed out, but the things that people interfaces with, and even the mechanism of interface (voice instead of a touchscreen), should evolve without changing out amps, etc... Software services are the primary vector, hardware is transitory. How many of you have a phone that's 5 years old?

The target for these sorts of services is not JUST the home, but phones, tablets, cars, that are mobile or portable as well. Users today expect to access their media on any device and in any location. The WHA system in the home is a SUBSET of the needs of the user, and I don't see how the traditional vendors in this space can adapt to that change. It's much easier to incorporate the WHA environment into that ecosystem than the other way around.

Thx
mike
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I am doing a studs up remodel and wiring for wha. I dont care so much about video but will be able to send audio from tvs to the wha and back out to each zone later if needed.

Basically I agree for someone jumping in now, keypads make no sense. You buy a multichannel amp and put a bunch of echodots or chromecasts on it and run it from a tablet.

Amazon has made the alexa code public, so 3rd party equipment makers can configure. Here is an example from 6 months ago, and if this guy can do it, you can bet HTD can do it:


Control will all be run by voice, by amazon, google and apple soon enough. Multichannel amps will have interfaces to all of them. If you need to buy today, like me, you just put cat 5 or 6 everywhere and speaker wire, buy a multichannel amp, put an alexa/google device (or several dots) on the inputs and wait for voice control software interfaces to catch up. Time is on the buyers side. Cant see spending the money on sonos connect for each channel, when their price will almost certainly come down. I have been plugging my phone streaming apple music into an adcom amp and two psb speakers for 5 years now. Anything else is a bonus and chromecasting from multiple apps using one of our tablets is a cinch. We have so many old laptops that we can use as servers in the av closet and control remotely. Not perfect but it will definitely work and will only get more elegant with time.

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I think you are missing the point. The value isn't in the hardware, its in the software. And old hardware is ... well,. old. That is not a positive thing. Sure, you don't want to be changing out amps and speaker wiring etc..., but there is a big difference between that and user input devices that have new services added to them on a monthly basis. And they get upgraded through software updates, and not hardware changes, just as everyone is used to on their phones. This is the biggest change of attitude, that functionality is constantly being improved by leveraging a more general software ecosystem, instead of one that is narrowly designed for WHA.

For example, I have an old SONOS CR100 controller at home. I haven't used it in a few years, but I am sure it probably still works. It's display is poor, and ability to navigate much much worse than a touchscreen. But I get that the hardware is designed to last a long time. That doesn't help when it's obsolete. Again, I agree amps and such shouldn't need to be changed out, but the things that people interfaces with, and even the mechanism of interface (voice instead of a touchscreen), should evolve without changing out amps, etc... Software services are the primary vector, hardware is transitory. How many of you have a phone that's 5 years old?

The target for these sorts of services is not JUST the home, but phones, tablets, cars, that are mobile or portable as well. Users today expect to access their media on any device and in any location. The WHA system in the home is a SUBSET of the needs of the user, and I don't see how the traditional vendors in this space can adapt to that change. It's much easier to incorporate the WHA environment into that ecosystem than the other way around.

Thx
mike
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Using Echo dots as wha devices has serious limitations right now because Amazon has not yet integrated playback coordination between dots in different rooms. But combine Amazon Echos and Dots with chromecast and maybe the future is here now. https://www.hackster.io/pizzaface97/...omecast-a5f91f

I've only started to implement this so I cannot comment yet on its functionality.
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Using Echo dots as wha devices has serious limitations right now because Amazon has not yet integrated playback coordination between dots in different rooms. But combine Amazon Echos and Dots with chromecast and maybe the future is here now. https://www.hackster.io/pizzaface97/...omecast-a5f91f

I've only started to implement this so I cannot comment yet on its functionality.
Amazon isn't really focusing on Dots for music playback as much as Google is for their home product, partly because of the large chromecast base, esp. chromecast audio. They may get there sooner, but in any case you have voice control from android phones too.

If you use my idea of cellphones as touch screens, and equipping them for wireless charging in a cradle, they too can support assistant functionality and act as voice input devices in rooms. Maybe even as music playback devices with BT speakers. But I agree it's better if it's integrated with chromecasts and speakers.

This is one area that Google has an advantage over amazon, because of all the android phones. Not all will do always listening mode for voice commands, but expect that to me enabled for pretty much all the modern android devices.

Thx
Mike
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