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post #31 of 45 Old 09-20-2017, 02:28 AM
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HEOS (Denon and Marantz) and MusicCast (Yamaha) offer a lot more features than SONOS - some will see this as a great move, others not.

The more focused approach of SONOS and its head start on refining its usability gives it a big bonus unless there is something very specific you require which HEOS or MusicCast offer.

Voice control is the next 'big thing' for SONOS with full Alexa integration - personally I can't see me using that option, though I will give it a go.

As a Reseller if a customer is looking for the more 'AV' orientated features of HEOS or MusicCast I will tend to offer MusicCast as our experience with Yamaha service/support has been very good for the many years we have been supplying kit - I cannot say the same for Denon!

Some of my SONOS Zone Players at home are from 2005 and we have many customers with systems which are of a similar vintage - I would be hard pushed to tell you where we would ship SONOS kit back for service to as it is a very rare requirement.

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post #32 of 45 Old 09-20-2017, 05:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Fernand View Post
HEOS (Denon and Marantz) and MusicCast (Yamaha) offer a lot more features than SONOS - some will see this as a great move, others not.

The more focused approach of SONOS and its head start on refining its usability gives it a big bonus unless there is something very specific you require which HEOS or MusicCast offer.

Voice control is the next 'big thing' for SONOS with full Alexa integration - personally I can't see me using that option, though I will give it a go.

As a Reseller if a customer is looking for the more 'AV' orientated features of HEOS or MusicCast I will tend to offer MusicCast as our experience with Yamaha service/support has been very good for the many years we have been supplying kit - I cannot say the same for Denon!

Some of my SONOS Zone Players at home are from 2005 and we have many customers with systems which are of a similar vintage - I would be hard pushed to tell you where we would ship SONOS kit back for service to as it is a very rare requirement.

Joe
Thanks. I have been googling and read about issues with both HeOS and MusicCast units, such as audio skipping, network, etc. I would be using wired for half the zones, and wireless with my own Orbi (802.11AC) bridge, which I would hope would work better than the built-in one. Not clear if all the reported issues are caused by wireless problems, though.
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post #33 of 45 Old 09-21-2017, 11:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Been giving this some more thought. It seems to me that having 14 media streamers / DACs / preamps is overkill.
I'm not really looking for new source devices, certainly not that many. 1 in each location would be useful, but not 14.
What I'm really after is the ability to select existing sources and direct them to 1 or more rooms and control volume.

Most common use cases would be :
1 source to 1 room
1 source to X rooms
1 source to 1 room and another source to another room

Seems like https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=10761 would be more of a fit. But then there is usability.
The main problem with it is that this won't work with the 2 separate feed locations out of the box. The expansion port is proprietary and wired and I can't run this type of cable between the 2 feeds.
Perhaps it could work in conjunction with a couple of those media streamer units from Denon / Yamaha / Sonos, one at each feed location, which would take care of passing the audio around and synchronizing it.

Or maybe a pair of MC-66 preamps (one for each feed location) with the corresponding Ethernet gateway.
http://www.htd.com/MC-66-Multi-Zone-Controller
http://www.htd.com/GW-SL1
This would cover 12 zones under $1000 without amplification.
I like this because there would be no extra A/D and D/A steps involved, and no networking with delays.
This would cover all needs except the ability to play the same source on both levels of the house.

For that, a pair of HeOS / Sonos / MusicCast devices would be needed solely for this purpose, to send digital audio over the network and play the same source on both levels of the house.
This would add $750 cost. Or $350 if I go very cheap for the HeOS Link series 1 on ebay.

Not sure how usable this would all end up being with all separates, many different remotes to use.
X10 to turn on the power amps (can be done from wall RF switches, or from my Raspberry Pi over IP), 2 web interfaces (for each units) for the HTD switch to select source target/zones, and app for the 2 streamers.
IR to operate the connected source components. Yamaha receiver in the home theater does have a web interface that can switch input for zone 2 if I use that and hook it up to the streamers inputs.
I think there are some home automation packages that can consolidate all of this somehow, not sure to what degree
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post #34 of 45 Old 09-22-2017, 07:57 AM
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I feel like a broken record constantly recommending this stuff, but look at used commercial DSP units on Ebay.

Current sweet spot in price and functionality is older biamp Nexia or Audia units. You can link up to 4 Nexia units locally so you're aren't limited by the I/O. If you have 2 separate areas use whatever amount of Nexia units you need in each area. If you do have possibility of running CAT cable between the locations look at the Audia units. You can use cobranet to send audio between the areas with another Audia, expanders etc. These things are bulletproof and have zero resale value so they are perfect for advanced DIY home user.

If you have a nice, large house, it might be worth to get a quote for running some ethernet or something between the locations. Expert cable pullers are pretty good at it.

For amps, look at the Snap AV Episode 12 channel amps on Ebay. They go cheap if you keep your eyes open. I think I paid around $150-175 for the last two I bought. They go to sleep when not in use.

For control, look at iRule. $100 and it will easily control this stuff. They might have stopped development, so the future is uncertain but it still works. Search my post history to see what irule control of this stuff can look like.

If you want to save more money, you can load squeezebox software onto a raspberry Pi. You won't get latest streaming services but it will play your music collection without issue.

You sound smarter than the average user so I think this is in your wheelhouse.
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post #35 of 45 Old 09-22-2017, 10:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madbrain View Post
Been giving this some more thought. It seems to me that having 14 media streamers / DACs / preamps is overkill.
I'm not really looking for new source devices, certainly not that many. 1 in each location would be useful, but not 14.
What I'm really after is the ability to select existing sources and direct them to 1 or more rooms and control volume.

Most common use cases would be :
1 source to 1 room
1 source to X rooms
1 source to 1 room and another source to another room

Seems like https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=10761 would be more of a fit. But then there is usability.
The main problem with it is that this won't work with the 2 separate feed locations out of the box. The expansion port is proprietary and wired and I can't run this type of cable between the 2 feeds.
Perhaps it could work in conjunction with a couple of those media streamer units from Denon / Yamaha / Sonos, one at each feed location, which would take care of passing the audio around and synchronizing it.

Or maybe a pair of MC-66 preamps (one for each feed location) with the corresponding Ethernet gateway.
http://www.htd.com/MC-66-Multi-Zone-Controller
http://www.htd.com/GW-SL1
This would cover 12 zones under $1000 without amplification.
I like this because there would be no extra A/D and D/A steps involved, and no networking with delays.
This would cover all needs except the ability to play the same source on both levels of the house.

For that, a pair of HeOS / Sonos / MusicCast devices would be needed solely for this purpose, to send digital audio over the network and play the same source on both levels of the house.
This would add $750 cost. Or $350 if I go very cheap for the HeOS Link series 1 on ebay.

Not sure how usable this would all end up being with all separates, many different remotes to use.
X10 to turn on the power amps (can be done from wall RF switches, or from my Raspberry Pi over IP), 2 web interfaces (for each units) for the HTD switch to select source target/zones, and app for the 2 streamers.
IR to operate the connected source components. Yamaha receiver in the home theater does have a web interface that can switch input for zone 2 if I use that and hook it up to the streamers inputs.
I think there are some home automation packages that can consolidate all of this somehow, not sure to what degree
Well, you need to pay for the amplifiers that drive the speakers. No way out of that. But there are lots of decent used multizone amps that can be had on ebay or CL.

Rather than deal with the complexity of switching and the associated control logic, why not put a cheap $35 chromecast audio on each of those amplifier inputs and be done with it? You can play to one or more zones in sync, and it's supported by a ton of applications. You can even get airplay to chromecast bridging a number of ways, though if you have Mac's castbridge (https://castbridge.io/) is a clean and elegant solution.

Switching and having to keep track of state etc... is a pain, and not going to get easier as pretty much any control device you have becomes smartphone like.

I am building a large house and am going that route. Cheaper, simpler, and more futureproof I think.

thx
mike
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post #36 of 45 Old 09-22-2017, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, you need to pay for the amplifiers that drive the speakers. No way out of that. But there are lots of decent used multizone amps that can be had on ebay or CL.
I already have all the amplification I need with the AVRs. They just don't provide separate volume control per zone, or remote capability. However, those problems could both be solved separately, with separate preamps per zone, or a matrix switch with volume control.

Quote:
Rather than deal with the complexity of switching and the associated control logic, why not put a cheap $35 chromecast audio on each of those amplifier inputs and be done with it? You can play to one or more zones in sync, and it's supported by a ton of applications. You can even get airplay to chromecast bridging a number of ways, though if you have Mac's castbridge (https://castbridge.io/) is a clean and elegant solution.
As I wrote earlier, the Chromecast is disqualified because it doesn't have any kind of physical audio input. This is strictly a network device. I don't really have any "apps" that I use for music regularly. I guess I'm old fashioned this way, but I still like my disc players, especially my multiple SACD changers (3 5-disc changers total in the house, 2 downstairs, 1 upstairs).

While I have copied all of my music (even SACDs, ripped to ISOs with a still-working PS3) to an 8TB hard drive attached to an Odroid XU4 (which has gigabit NIC, better than Raspberry Pi) with JRiver media center, currently, I hardly use it for anything. It works with Gizmo on my smartphone or with my Yamaha receiver's DLNA renderer.
The device is not powerful enough to transcode DSD to PCM in realtime, though. I think I need to make a second PCM converted copy of those ISOs . There is still space on that 8TB HD.

But really, if anything, I'm more limited by the user interface on those apps, the ability to find the right content. With Jriver media center on my PC with a 30" screen, 2560x1600 resolution, full keyboard, trackball, and all the different search columns, yes, I manage to find content to play quickly . On a tiny smartphone touch screen, not so much. Sorting through my 75 different versions of Bach's Goldberg variations is a chore. I have never seen any app that can do it without frustration. Same problem in my car audio system. I have all the content on USB stick, in a lossless format. But I simply can't find the right content when I'm looking for it on the car's screen. I can spend my entire commute looking and still not find it.

It's actually much, much faster, by an order of magnitude, to walk to the HT room, pick up a physical disc from the shelves and insert it into a physical disc player - discs are sorted by composer and works. Problem is that after I have done that and walk away, I have no remote control of zones and volume. So, I would say that a significant use case is going to be to play physical discs.

My husband also still plays tapes and even 8 tracks (don't laugh!). His 15,000 CD collection has not been ripped yet, unlike my 1000 CD/SACD disc collection. Those would all be use cases as well. All the physical sources (disc & tapes) can be switched by the existing AVRs through IR. I have a couple of RF to IR remotes too with IR blasters.

The only Apple device we own is an old iPad 2. I have never used Airplay with it because I don't have any hardware that supports it. I use it only with the Bluetooth audio module in my hot tub to watch TV with a wet case, not using the nearby outside speakers. The Bluetooth module on the brand new hot tub failed after just 4 months - I just got it replaced on tuesday.
I would rather use the "real" speakers. RF remote can reach from the hot tub, but is not waterproof. iPad at least goes into a wet case. I was using RF remote with the old hot tub that had no stereo at all, but had to get out of the water to reach for the remote, mostly to change volume or mute, or to tell the disc changer to switch track/disc.

Quote:
Switching and having to keep track of state etc... is a pain, and not going to get easier as pretty much any control device you have becomes smartphone like.

I am building a large house and am going that route. Cheaper, simpler, and more futureproof I think.

thx
mike
I already have the house so I have to live with retrofit. Going with all-smartphone certainly is much simpler. It may be cheaper too if you are starting from scratch unlike me. Not so sure about the futureproof part, though. Modular - with separate source, zone control, and amplification, is always going to be more futureproof, IMO, if you want to improve or replace any one piece, rather than the whole thing. But it will not be as integrated and easy to use. Software is also going to be the weak part, also.
Almost every company is going to EOL their apps for legacy hardware at some point, whether it's 5 or 10 years down the line. And the old apps, even if still available, may not work on newer hardware (newer smartphone OS, for example).
Meanwhile, the 40 year old 8-track players, 30-year old tape players, and 15-year old SACD changers, all continue to work and be usable with their IR remotes, even though in some cases their manufacturers have long gone away
If I was starting from scratch, I would be very uneasy going with some proprietary system without any public specs for others to write alternate/new software. Things get obsoleted over time. I researched the HTD stuff and they have public RS232 protocol specs, and network gateway, and apparently, many have integrated them into home automation packages.
Denon HeOS seems to have at least partial public specs. I couldn't find any public specs for Yamaha MusicCast. Couldn't find anything for Sonos either though it uses UPNP plus some proprietary commands, and some people seem to have played with it with their own software too. Those are the things I worry about when I think about futureproofing. But in truth, with ever changing technology in the networking world, it's really hard to future proof anything, unlike in the past.

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post #37 of 45 Old 09-22-2017, 10:24 PM
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I asked if there was cat line going from the upper level to the lower level. You said "no", but is there a rg6/coax line going between the 2?

I am thinking you could use Actiontec MoCA 2.0 adapters on each end to tie the 2 zones together over Cobranet.

We work with Clare Controls and they have an audio matrix called the MR8, that uses Cobranet, combine that with the 1640 amplifier in each level and you have a working system with minimum sources. Each MR8 has 8 configurable analog stereo inputs and a digital input.

Clare communicates with Sonos for streaming audio and can play any analog stereo source. It works with any Android or iOS device.
You would need a Clare controller but once you have that, you can easily add other devices to control your home.

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post #38 of 45 Old 09-23-2017, 03:47 AM - Thread Starter
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I asked if there was cat line going from the upper level to the lower level. You said "no", but is there a rg6/coax line going between the 2?

I am thinking you could use Actiontec MoCA 2.0 adapters on each end to tie the 2 zones together over Cobranet.
No, there is no physical cabling in common between the 2 feeds, unfortunately. There are some coax and RJ45 connectors somewhere that I have no idea where they end up. I hired an electrician to look for them around, but he could never find out where they end. Even when I hooked up my dish and OTA antenna, I had to run new coax lines to my main HT room downstairs. For coax cable which I use for internet, same thing, except that runs to a different room, my home office in the front downstairs. This is a big house and level 2 and 2.5 were an addition. I bought the place foreclosed from the bank. There are no plans or info of any kind from the previous owners who built it.

Quote:
We work with Clare Controls and they have an audio matrix called the MR8, that uses Cobranet, combine that with the 1640 amplifier in each level and you have a working system with minimum sources. Each MR8 has 8 configurable analog stereo inputs and a digital input.

Clare communicates with Sonos for streaming audio and can play any analog stereo source. It works with any Android or iOS device.

You would need a Clare controller but once you have that, you can easily add other devices to control your home.
Sounds interesting. I had to google Cobranet. Still not clear on whether the MR8 can run with 1000 Base T or not.

My home theater room where one of the audio feeds is located has a gigabit ethernet switch (full currently, but expandable).
There is a short ethernet cable that runs through the HVAC conduit to my home office about 15 ft away.
That cable is in turns hooked up to my router, Netgear R7000 running in wired mode only (Wifi disabled), with 4 gigabit ports.

I then have Netgear Orbi RBR50 AC3000 "router" running in AP mode . And then I have 2 Orbi RBS50 satellites in different locations of the house.

One RBS50 is near the location of the second audio feed upstairs. It provides 4 gigabit ethernet ports on the back.
MAC/bridging actually works properly with Orbi, unlike most wireless bridges.
I have measured 300-400 Mbps throughput from a wired machine downstairs to a wireless client upstairs at the second feed (not even hooked to the back of the satellite, but there is no reason it should be any worse).

Would the MR-8 work with one unit downstairs wired to gigabit network, and another MR-8 upstairs wired to the Orbi RBS50 wireless bridge ? The bandwidth should be more than sufficient. The issues is wireless latency. I have measured it to be only 3 ms, and that is from a wireless client to wired client. It may be even less going with the ethernet port on the bridge.

16 channels of audio in stereo/44 kHz/16 bits (ie. lossless CD, vast majority of my content) would only consume 22 Mbps. But in reality, with my typical use cases, if the matrix switches are smart enough, network should really only transmit only 1-2 sources between the 2 units, ie. 2-4 channels, and just matrix to the zones. Ie. if one source is played in 16 zones, only the 2 channels from that source should need to be transmitted.
Looks like the DACs on the MR-8 only go to 48 kHz. At least they are 24 bits. Too bad bad there is no 96/192 kHz.
I had just found a way to convert my SACD ISOs to 24/192 PCM today with Foobar2000 and plugins. Might be filling that 8TB drive soon !

Do you know if there are additional A/D D/A steps when using analog IN/OUT within one MR-8 unit (not going over the network) ? If not, at least a good DAC in the source might still be helpful. Of course when going across the network between 2 units, it has to go digital.

This really looks like the type of unit closest to what I'm looking for for - matrix switch/preamp, networked, and streamers built-in, without any unnecessary amp. Hope this can work in my networking situation . Thanks !

Last edited by madbrain; 09-23-2017 at 03:59 AM.
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post #39 of 45 Old 09-23-2017, 06:31 AM
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"matrix switch/preamp, networked, and streamers built-in, without any unnecessary amp. "

That's pretty much what myServer is...for streaming sources. It's also the control system which you didn't mention and is the largest part of the new system.
You could put RaspberryPI running Kodi at each AV receiver on WiFi.

So,

Internet <> myServer control system / streaming sources (including your ripped content) <> Wifi <> raspberry Pi / Kodi as a renderer (multiple) > stereo audio out > AV receiver in > speakers

myServer could also control the AV receivers but need more specifics on each on how they can be controlled (IR / serial / TCP or combinations of all across the multiple receivers)

If I am quickly reading the thread correctly.

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post #40 of 45 Old 09-23-2017, 04:59 PM - Thread Starter
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That's pretty much what myServer is...for streaming sources.
...
If I am quickly reading the thread correctly.
I think you may be missing the part where one requirement is to support non-streaming sources (like physical CD/SACD changer, tape, 8 track ...). Can myServer support that somehow ?
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post #41 of 45 Old 09-23-2017, 06:32 PM - Thread Starter
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So, I have been looking a little bit at the "no analog input" issue on Google Chromecast audio.

Seems like at least one person has got it working with their analog source :
https://paddy.io/posts/casting-records/
Quite a lot of work, but it looks like it may be possible for a single source. Required hardware, basically, a PC. A single box computer like Raspberry Pi hasn't been tried, but it's suggested that it may not be fast enough.
If this only works for single source, one may as well shell out $350 for a Sonos/HeOS/MusicCast unit instead.

Also, this app can turn a Chromecast audio into a DLNA renderer :
https://www.bubblesoftapps.com/bubbleupnpserver/

The uPNP server could in theory be used if there was a device with one or more A/D and analog inputs that could speak DLNA .
Not sure that such a device exists. Also not sure how this all would work with multiple Chromecasts in multi-room environments.

Or maybe there is actually an A/V receiver out there that could take one or more of its analog inputs, and stream over to a DLNA renderer ? Unlikely but you never know. And this would be at most 2-3 inputs even if it works (max number of zones of most AVRs, thus max number of A/Ds). However, a single switchable input would work just great for my use case... I'm probably dreaming, though.

Here is a setup that might work, though :
- use existing AVR "zone 2" analog out to select any of the already-attached sources
- run analog cable to audio IN on the HTPC that's already there
- same thing for the second HTPC upstairs at second feed location
- run bubble uPNP server on the HTPC
- attach 1 chromecast audio to each amp (using multi-channel inputs) to power the 14 zones
- maybe add 7-14 ethernet adapters for chromecast, too to avoid pushing wireless network. Would need a couple more cheap gigabit switches (8-port, 1 at each feed location). The Chromecasts upstairs would still be hooked up to the Orbi wireless bridge, so it would all go through wireless anyway. Thus, may not make sense to buy ethernet cables for those upstairs units. But worth it for downstairs which is all wired

Huge plus of this is the cost - only the Chromecast, ethernet adapters, gigabit switches.

Problems I foresee :
- many sources on the AVR are digital and it may not output anything through "zone 2" analog out. I have to test this, and it has to be tested for each source . Could possibly fix this by running additional RCA analog cables for each source that has analog out. I think all of them do except my UBP-X800, and I wouldn't use that source for WHA anyway
- the HTPC downstairs is old and currently power hungry and noisy . Would need a new motherboard/CPU/RAM to make it silent. Still wouldn't keep it on 24/7 . It has WOL setup.
- the HTPC upstairs is more modern and nearly silent (not fully, but close).
- HTPC power consumption is big, even when idle, though I can use Wake-on-LAN (already setup and working with app on my phone)
- how well 2 Bubble uPNP servers will really work with 14 chromecasts in the picture . It will have to transmit audio on the network separately to each unit, if it's playing the same source. So, up to 14x network traffic. 7 of them going over wireless AC. Should be fine in theory .
- A/D built in to the motherboards on each HTPC (Realtek) is probably poor
- still need software on HTPC to record from analog input, use A/D and play to DLNA . Have to research that piece. I think foobar2000 has a DLNA renderer plugin for output. Not sure about input ... Worst case, I think JRiver media center can output DLNA and be setup itself as an audio driver. Not sure if that combination of features work. If so, all I would need is an app to record from the A/D input to the JRiver media audio driver. I'm sure this will be latency city, but it may still work . I think there are plenty of recording apps that can do this. Or really just a live mixing app. I think Reaper may be able to do it.

This would be quite the hack. No idea how remote control would work with this setup, if at all, though. But the system would do audio distribution of analog sources to all rooms with separate volume controls for very little cost ($500 or so total for 14 zones I think).

Last edited by madbrain; 09-23-2017 at 07:39 PM.
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post #42 of 45 Old 09-27-2017, 04:33 PM - Thread Starter
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I have been giving a try to the cheap Chromecast solution given the possible hacks to stream analog audio to them.

I have 13 Chromecast audios setup now hooked up to 5 receivers and their respective multi-channel inputs 2 receivers downstairs feeding 5 zones, 3 receivers upstairs feeding 8 zones. One group of 4 indoor for downstairs, another group of 6 for upstairs, 3 for outdoors (not in any group), and a group of 10 for whole house. All running Wifi now.

I have been testing with the Tidal app (friend's account) which streams lossless audio. This is quite decent quality when the Chromecasts are set to "Full dynamic range". With the default setting, the DAC sucks..

The Google Home app definitely needs some work, far too many screen presses needed to get to the devices and the individual volume for zones in each group. The zones and groups appear in seemingly random order, too, which is discomcerting. There is no way to hide individual zones if I just want to show the 3 groups. And the app has major problems when my smartphone switches between different access points around the house. This is related to Wifi. I think Netgear Orbi still has some problems in their firmware. Usually, killing the google home app and/or turning Wifi off and back on will fix it, but not always.
Sometimes, the smartphone even reverts to cellular (4G LTE), at which point the Chromecasts devices of course disappear. And when Wifi comes back, the state of the google Home app can be inconsistent. It just happened to me with the smartphone laying on my home office, 8ft from the main Orbi router AP. Sigh ! I think I may have to get rid of Orbi. It's nice and fast when it works, but it is too inconsistent. Unfortunately, wiring for gigabit speed is not a possibility for upstairs. Best I can do is use powerline there.

This doesn't seem to be a problem so much with the Wifi connection for the Chromecasts as the Wifi connection for the smartphone when moving around. I ran pings to each Chromecast over night from a wired machine, and most had 0% packet loss (negligible). Two units upstairs had 2% loss and 1% loss respectively. However, some had peak latency of up to 4-11 seconds (!), even though the average was only 3ms. Definitely something weird. I may switch them all to wired, which costs $15 per unit. The ethernet interface for Chromecast is only 100 Mbps. This is about how much effective throughput I measured with AV1200 (powerline ethernet), and latency is usually more consistent . Though the powerline throughput goes down dramatically when my induction cooktop is on. I may end up using that for the 8 Chromecasts upstairs. Once in a while, some zones disappear from groups, for no apparent reason. That would point to Wifi weirdness on the Chromecast themselves. Even though all the Chromecasts are currently physically in only two locations, Orbi shows that 9 of them are using the 5 GHz band, while 4 others are on the 2.4 GHz band. And I have seen this vary over time. Just more weirdness. Wish I could force them all to 5 GHz, but there is no way to to that. Orbi can't disable 2.4 GHz, and I need it anyway for my electric car charging stations which don't do 5 GHz. Orbi can hide the SSID for 2.4, but some Chromecasts still continue to connect on the 2.4 band. No way to setup two different SSIDs for each band with Orbi.

I also had some hiccups playing tracks from Tidal - not sure if these were from Wifi or internet connection issues. Things start to go bad in particular when the smartphone goes into power savings, though this shouldn't be the case.

I also have an R7000 router currently running wired mode. I can disable the Orbi APs and turn the Wifi back on in the R7000. It just won't reach some remote parts of the house, in particular, the outdoor hot tub location, which requires Orbi satellite to get Wifi.

I have 2 more unopened Chromecast audios. I could use one to drive ceiling speakers in my home theater room. Have to decide whether to use those for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X if I get a new processor in the HT room which can do more than 7.1, and whether those speaker locations make sense for these formats. I may not have to choose, though, if I just use receiver input switch for them (use separate zone 2 input selection just for that pair which some of the receivers have).
I have another spare Chromecast audio for some speakers in my home office (which would be a 3rd feed location, already wired)).

I hate that there is no web UI for the Chromecast audios. Smartphone or tablet only. With this many zones, it would be helpful to control from a wired desktop/laptop with bigger screen. I guess this is what tablets are for . Having control from a wired system would also help debug the Wifi problems to see if they are more on the smartphone side or Chromecast side. Maybe there is a way to use Ethernet on a tablet or smartphone using USB OTG Ethernet interface to test this. I already bought the OTG plug for $2 in hong kong last year to connect an SD card reader to transfer my DSLR RAW photos to the phone. And I have at least one USB Gigabit NIC, currently hooked up to a Raspberry Pi which I could revert to Wifi temporarily. Even if this works, smartphone/tablet will still be a sucky touch screen input method compared to full size desktop PC keyboard with multiple 30" monitors & trackball. Maybe if the screen can be cast to a window on the PC, and use keyboard/mouse controls on the PC, this would be a usable wired control solution for the Chromecast ...

Edit: looks like there is a partial wired solution. I downloaded Chrome, and it finds all the Chromecasts, including groups. Unfortunately, there is a drop-down list of only 5 Chromecasts at a time, when I have 13 Chromecast audio + 3 groups + 1 Chromecast video - ie 17 devices. So, still requires scrolling with the trackball wheel. Such a waste of screen real estate when I have 1600 lines on my display ! The order is still random, too. It's better than scrolling through about 10 screens' worth on a smartphone, though.

I can cast to any Chromecast audio. "Cast tab" feature works, so I can cast any media that plays in Chrome. "Cast desktop" feature does not work. I just get an unhelpful "Failed to cast. Please try again" message.

When selecting a Chromecast audio group, only a single volume control is shown. I haven't found any way to control volume for each zone within the group separately yet from desktop Chrome. Also, I'm partial to Firefox, having been a developer for its security library for about a decade. Doesn't look like casting works from Firefox yet.

Once/if the network situation is stabilized with the Chromecasts, I will look into using JRiver and BubbleUPNP to stream from my local server, and hacking a device (most likely the existing HTPCs) to stream analog audio. The later has already been done before at least once, but not clear if it works with groups or not.

Update: network issues seem to be mainly between Netgear Orbi and phone, not so much on the Chromecast side. Gory details here for those who care :
https://community.netgear.com/t5/Orb...1380703#M14194

I can cast the audio from any Android app on my phone to any Chromecast/Chromecast audio, with a delay in the later case. When using my old iPad 2 iOS tablet, only cast-enabled apps work. Dish Anywhere app on iOS which I have been using to watch TV is not one of those. Tidal on iOS can cast to Chromecast. It might be time to retire that old iPad tablet given lack of any more OS updates ...

Also tried VLC 3.0 on PC, which supposedly can cast to Chromecast audio - no go, it didn't find any Chromecasts to render to on my LAN. Other possible options I have yet to try are for casting from PC are Foobar2000 and BubbleUNP.

Last edited by madbrain; 09-27-2017 at 09:57 PM.
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post #43 of 45 Old 09-28-2017, 08:03 PM - Thread Starter
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I think I have solved the analog device -> Chromecast audio, at least as a proof of concept .

What I did :
1) installed Bubble UPNP server on the PC in my home office/recording studio and setup a DLNA renderer for one Chromecast audio - the Chromecast audio in my music room nearby
2) installed a program called "stream what you hear" which redirects PC audio to DLNA . Selected the DLNA renderer created in step 1
3) from here, all audio from apps on that PC got redirected to the Chromecast audio in the music room
These 3 above steps basically fix the part where Google Chrome "cast desktop" to Chromecast does not work (inexplicable error listed above).
4) started audacity on the PC . Selected one of the inputs to an existing audio interface which has mic preamp hooked up to XLR mics in the music room
5) enabled "software playthrough" and monitoring in audacity

Then, I can make sounds in the music room, and hear it back on the in-ceiling speakers .. About 4-5 seconds later
The full audio path is :
Mics -> mic preamp -> Echo audiofire 12 -> Audacity software -> Streamwhatyouhear -> BubbleUPNP -> Chromecast audio -> receiver at feed location 1 -> speakers
This could in theory work with any other device with analog outputs instead of Mic / Mic preamp as above.

The weak link above is "Streamwhatyouhear" which redirects the PC playback audio to DLNA.
a) the huge lag comes mostly from this program . When I use JRiver Media Center and select BubbleUPNP as the renderer to play media files, there is very little lag.
b) the program is transcoding to MP3 in realtime when sending to DLNA . The PCM/16 bit 44 kHz option does not work, and results in silence . Not sure if this is an issue in Streamwhatyouhear or in BubbleUPNP DLNA rendere
c) the program crashes if JRiver is started locally and uses ASIO on the machine.
It would be much simpler to have a program that just records the audio from the soundcard and streams it over DLNA Or exposes the soundcard input as a DLNA server.
At that point, this could be connected directly to an analog source and the server could be labeled - eg. SACD changer, reel-to-reel, tape decks, to name just some of the devices we have in the house that lack digital outputs.
Or the DLNA server could just be labeled "receiver zone 2" and a receiver can be used to switch those sources.
I have already demonstrated that this can be done with a Windows PC (with a great ADC, and balanced inputs, no less). Not sure if could be done on an embedded device like my Raspberry Pi / Odroid XU4. I bet it could. Stereo audio with no compression is fairly low bandwidth. At best 192 kHz 24 bit stereo which is about 9 Mbit/s. My XU4 manages 600 Mbit/s over gigabit ethernet. Raspberry Pi only 120 Mbit/s with USB3 gigabit NIC. All they need would be a decent USB ADC, and software to stream audio from it as DLNA media server.

Looks like somebody has actually done this with Pulseaudio and pulseaudio-dlna.
https://askubuntu.com/questions/1870...mpliant-device

Not sure if these will run on my Raspberry Pi and/or Odroid XU4. I have a USB DAC somewhere in a drawer, not sure if it has an ADC or not.

Last edited by madbrain; 09-29-2017 at 02:45 AM.
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post #44 of 45 Old 09-29-2017, 08:55 AM
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"The system as built sounds great, and "works", but for obvious reasons of usability/ergonomics, I rarely use it . And forget trying to explain to my husband how to use it. I use it so infrequently myself that sometimes I have to look at the wiring on the back of the receivers to get the right source & sound to a particular room "

Don't forget about that goal
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post #45 of 45 Old 09-29-2017, 05:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smoothtlk View Post
"The system as built sounds great, and "works", but for obvious reasons of usability/ergonomics, I rarely use it . And forget trying to explain to my husband how to use it. I use it so infrequently myself that sometimes I have to look at the wiring on the back of the receivers to get the right source & sound to a particular room "

Don't forget about that goal
I have not forgotten !
I have actually used it quite a bit this week already, mostly with the Tidal music app.
No more looking at the back of receivers, since the Chromecasts are labeled and show up on the phone/tablet with the room name.
This is quite an improvement in usability already.
I have 3 kittens in the house and they are a little freaked with the music in the shower.

The parts of usability that still need work/improvement are :
1) remotely turning power amps (receivers) on/off
2) playing files from local library on NAS instead of Tidal app . By using Tidal, I have found that a lot of content is in my local library but not on Tidal.
3) playing audio from analog sources.
4) playing audio from Dish Anywhere TV app on iOS

On the subject of power amp remote control :
a) remotely turning the power amps (old receivers) on/off. I used a kill-a-watt to check, and they each use about 60 Watts idle even without any single. Times 5, that's 300 watts, or 2628 kWh per year, or $788/year in power at 30 cents/kWh marginal cost in California with tiers. I have solar PV but also have 2 electric cars, and the solar doesn't cover everything anymore. So, definitely have to have a solution to turn those amps off.
b) Turns out the X10 PLC signals really can't travel across floors in my home. The single board computer downstairs can turn off the amps downstairs via X10 PLC, but the amps upstairs stay on still. I could put a second single board computer upstairs, with a second X10 serial interface, but that will be harder to automate. So, I have to abandon X10 for the purpose of turning off the amps.
I didn't want to get into Z-wave yet, so I ordered a couple of TP-Link Wifi smart plugs, and they got delivered today. Still packed.
c) My oldest receiver (Yamaha RX-V995 from 1999, bought new) no longer retains its settings when power is cut off and restored, for example with X10 relay. But this would apply to the Wifi smartplug, too. One needs to physically press 3 buttons to restore sound : Power/standby, Speakers A (otherwise, no speakers are on by default!), and "Ext decoder" for the input. This is not automatable for remote control, unfortunately. Even though it sounds great, I think I will have to give up on that receiver and buy something else, probably from craigslist for about $100.
d) I have yet to settle or even try any home automation software package. But definitely want one of those running on either my Raspberry Pi or Odroid XU4, for reasons of power consumption. I have my eyes on a few of them, Domoticz, Homeseer, OpenHAB, maybe others. Again, not decided. Still using SSH + heyu right now with X10.

On the subject of playing local library files :
a) There is a bunch of content that's in my local library and not on Tidal, though. I have a little bit more work to do to get that to work nice and easy.
Everything works great with Bubble UPNP server and JRiver media center running on my PC, and Gizmo app on the smartphone.
I don't want to keep the PC running 24/7 for this purpose, though. I already have my Odroid XU4 working with 6TB USB 3.0 drive and gigabit NIC.
Unfortunately, when I copied my 50000 files/1.1TB library to this drive (from my PC, over gigabit LAN!), then imported the files in Media Center, on the ODROID Jriver claims to have loaded all the files in the local library, but afterwards only shows 5000 files (10% of the library ).
I shared the drive by Samba from the ODROID to my Raspberry Pi, and ran JRiver on the Pï too, and same exact problem. I have sent a bug report in JRiver forum. Maybe those single board computers are not up to the task of my library size I hope it's just a bug they can fix. Hopefully so.
b) I have installed Bubble UPNP server on my Odroid but have not yet tested it to see if it performs well enough there, as opposed to when running on big PC.
c) I will have to make a conversion copy of all my SACD ISOs to 192 kHz PCM files for use with JRiver. I have figured out how to do it, just need to run it on all the ISOs. The single board computers definitely can't handle on the fly DSD->PCM conversion. This will take more space, but space is cheap nowadays.

On the subject of playing analog sources :
This is no doubt the most difficult part. I think this is likely going to be one-time work, though. With analog sources, there is always some amount of manual work (insert disc, tape, etc), so automation is less critical. Basically what I need is to build a streamer that takes analog in and presents the stream as DLNA server . Right now, it works on PC, but not practical. Too complex to use, and power consumption is too high. I will probably want to use a Pi or other SBC computer, and cheap A/D. Latency should be no more than 2s as a goal - the current 4-5 is too high. And once I have one such device going, I may setup 2-3 throughout the house since we have so many analog devices. This should be pretty much "set and forget". Boot it up, hookup receiver/device analog out to A/D, and that would be it. Probably not even ethernet, Wifi should be fine for one a single audio stream. Hardware cost will likely be over $100 per device when all is said and done, account for a Pi, SD card, and USB A/D. For control of this and output selection, I think the BubbleUPNP Android app will work, assuming the analog source is presented as DLNA server with pulseaudio and pulseaudio-dlna.

On the subject of Dish anywhere TV app on iOS :
Sad that this app can't cast to Chromecast audio, when Dish actually advertises support for sticks. But I guess this is only for the video sticks, not audio sticks. The Android TV app works with Chromecast audio - if you cast the whole device's audio. But my Android phone is 5.7" vs the iOS tablet 9.7". There is software on the Raspberry Pi to receive an Airplay stream.
https://pimylifeup.com/raspberry-pi-airplay-receiver/
However, that just sends the output through the Pi's D/A - not to a Chromecast. Don't know if that can be pieced together in software.
But if not, it should work in conjunction with whatever the solution is for "playing audio from analogue sources", though this would be quite silly to have that extra D/A and A/D intermediate step (especially if it's all on the same device, D/A going directly to A/D !) .
It would certainly be fun as a project to build an Airplay -> Chromecast audio converter this way, but at some point, I will get rid of that old iPad 2 tablet, and that is the only Airplay source in my home.
Edit :
Looks like somebody has done this before without the need for any A/D :
http://www.instructables.com/id/Mult...omecast-Audio/
I am going to have to try this.

Last edited by madbrain; 09-29-2017 at 05:34 PM.
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