Multi-room Wireless Audio...it shouldn't be this hard? - AVS Forum
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Networking, Media Servers & Content Streaming > Multi-room Wireless Audio...it shouldn't be this hard?
Joe DeFuria's Avatar Joe DeFuria 09:23 PM 02-28-2011
I don't think I'm asking for much...I have a modest music library stored on a Win 7 lap-top. (Not I-Tunes). I also have a DLNA NAS wired to my router than I can also use as a media server.

I'd like to set up speakers in several rooms, and be able to stream the library to the rooms I choose. (To play simultaneously in specific rooms I choose...NOT pull music individually from several players in different rooms.)

I have a combination of wired and wireless (dual band, G/N) home network.

After doing a fair amount of research, it looks like what would meet my needs relatively inexpensively ends up being something like Sony's (now discontinued?) Altus line of wireless products. (Put the transmitter with the lap-top, and several receivers hooked to my speakers and/or Altus speakers around the house.)

I don't like the fact that the line is being discontinued, and I find it hard to believe with all the networking standards and DLNA initiative that a proprietary solution is the only relatively inexpensive option.

DLNA looks like it's just not mature enough yet. I was hoping I could just use Win 7 as a dlna server and then "play to" several "cheap" DLNA renderers. (I haven't seen any DLNA "renderers" that are essentially just speakers...heck DLNA renderes in general appears to be somewhat of a mixed bag...) DLNA players are common...but renderers? Not so much apparently.

Is multi-room (wireless) audio using a digital streamer / server really not a cracked nut yet? What am I missing?

Use Apple's AirPort (sans I-tunes...is this doable?) Logitech Squeezebox? (Expensive for what I want to do.)

Again...this is just audio...no streaming of video at all...one would think this shouldn't be that hard...sigh...

cavu's Avatar cavu 10:16 PM 02-28-2011
mayhem13's Avatar mayhem13 11:01 PM 02-28-2011
What's wrong with iTunes? I do exactly what you want in now 4 zones WITH VIDEO in two of them.......All iTunes.....All ATV/Airports.....and an iTouch. Total cost $600....and it just 'works'. All the time.
MarkHotchkiss's Avatar MarkHotchkiss 01:09 AM 03-01-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe DeFuria View Post

I'd like to set up speakers in several rooms, and be able to stream the library to the rooms I choose. (To play simultaneously in specific rooms I choose...NOT pull music individually from several players in different rooms.)

Hi Joe,

This is the difficult requirement. There are a couple of systems that would do most of what you want, but not the requirement of playing multiple zones synchronized. I believe only Sonos can do that wirelessly.

That one requirement aside, I might look into the Airport for its lower cost.

I don't know if you can run Airport without iTunes, but you can run the iTunes server without Apple's iTunes store, and the iTunes program isn't necessary to play music from an iTunes library. I run a crippled iTunes just to maintain the library and sync the iPods. I don't use it to play music, as I use a combination of Audiotrons, Mediagates and Winamp for that.

My music library is on a Synology NAS, which runs an iTunes server (which really is only an interface for the iTunes program, afaik).

But alas, I cannot play the same music in multiple zones.
jmpage2's Avatar jmpage2 07:34 AM 03-01-2011
Logitech squeezebox supports synchronization to up to 10 units.
Joe DeFuria's Avatar Joe DeFuria 07:43 AM 03-01-2011
Hi all,

Thanks for the responses!

iTunes....My wife just ditched her iPod for a Zune HD. She just hated the PC software and ultimately could never get it to sync properly with consistancy(double playlists, etc. and all kinds of little annoying things.) I tunes installed on a windows PC with multiple user accounts has also caused issues... I'm a fairly technical guy..and to be honest, I just got tired of always "straightening it out" for her.

So honestly...with no iPods (or iPhones or iPads) in the house, I just did not want iTunes installed and possibly messing up her music collection that was just re-organized, straightened out and now syncing nicely with her Zune exactly they way she wants.

Now...if I can install I-tunes software and not have it *touch* (modify) her library other than to just play-back music I may consider AirPort as an option. Is that possible...or will it attempt to re-organize her library, etc.

Sonos does look pretty much like exactly what I'm looking for...though of course pricey. (Isn't that always the way...)

In comparing the two (functionality wise):

AirPort is by default limited to playback only through iTunes...so streaming other internet content (Pandora, LastFM, Zune Marketplace) is not supported. Then again it looks like 3rd party programs like AirFoil circumvent this...which assuming it works as advertised would allow me to stream any content that my PC can "play" to airport stations.

Sonos natively supports popular internet radio (like Pandora, LastFM) but does not support Zune Marketplace streaming (which my Wife has not subscribed to yet, but is considering now that she owns a Zune), but with the Zune plugged into a Sonos Player, that would enable songs to stream from Zune Marketplace through the house.

I have not seen an "airfoil equivalent" type program available for Sonos, though you could connect the line-out of a streaming PC to the line-in of a sonos player.

In addition to having an iPhone app, Sonos also has proprietary controller ans is also bringing out an Android based app. (Of course...in my house we currently only have Blackberries and soon maybe a Windows 7 phone for my son...)

So in the end I think I have themajor pros / cons of AirPort vs. Sonos:

Airport: lower implementation cost, ability to stream anything from a PC assuming AirFoil 3rd party app works as advertised. I should be able to expect to stream to about 4 stations via wireless. ITunes needs to be installed (may or may not be an issue).

Sonos: More control options. Ability to connect any device as an audio-in to a Sonos Player and stream throughout the hosue. (So each "room" is not only audio-out, but can serve as audio-in). Should be able to stream simultaneously to many more zones vs. airport.
MarkHotchkiss's Avatar MarkHotchkiss 12:35 PM 03-01-2011
Hi Joe,
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmpage2 View Post

Logitech squeezebox supports synchronization to up to 10 units.

So maybe Squeezebox should be in the running, as it is less expensive than Sonos and it won't require iTunes.

I know what you mean about iTunes reliability issues. Many things in it do not work right for me. I guess that's the difference between running it on a PC as opposed to running it on a Mac.

But if you want to prevent it from messing with your library, you can do that with permissions. Simply run iTunes from an account that just has read-only privilege to the library. I set my wife's account that way so that she couldn't accidentally modify the library when syncing her iPod.
jmpage2's Avatar jmpage2 12:38 PM 03-01-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post

Hi Joe,
So maybe Squeezebox should be in the running, as it is less expensive than Sonos and it won't require iTunes.

I know what you mean about iTunes reliability issues. Many things in it do not work right for me. I guess that's the difference between running it on a PC as opposed to running it on a Mac.

But if you want to prevent it from messing with your library, you can do that with permissions. Simply run iTunes from an account that just has read-only privilege to the library. I set my wife's account that way so that she couldn't accidentally modify the library when syncing her iPod.

I don't know what the Sonos gear costs or what it does better or worse than the Squeezebox. If I remember, it might have had an easier ability to pair or group multiple units together into zones.

If someone goes the Squeezebox route then I consider the iPeng app for iPod Touch a must, makes the ultimate squeeze box remote.

I also like that Squeezebox supports Pandora, Spotify, etc.

You can get older used Squeezebox units for as little as $125 on eBay or Craigslist from time to time.
jgiddyup's Avatar jgiddyup 01:02 PM 03-01-2011
Sonos

But not exactly inexpensive.
jcfay's Avatar jcfay 01:09 PM 03-01-2011
One of the other plusses with Sonos is the stability of their system. Although I don't know much about the exact nature of the independent wireless network that the Sonos players establish (I think it's proprietary, as well, so no one really knows too much about it), it supposedly is better able to provide wireless coverage of a larger, more complex space like a house with multiple floors, etc. I don't have much experience with this, but in my apartment it has been insanely easy to use and setup, and rock stable. I don't have any experience with the airports to compare it with.
Joe DeFuria's Avatar Joe DeFuria 02:48 PM 03-01-2011
Heh...yeah I suppose if Sonos is in the running that Squeezebox needs to be also.

I have read (anecdotal) evidence that does agree with jcfay's last observation: that Sonos appears more robust and trouble free from a connectivity / stability standpoint. In other words, it seems that Sonos is almost guaranteed "to just work", whereas there may be more trouble with Squeezebox.

Ultimately, I would like to be able to stream on two floors within the house and also out onto the deck. In the end I wouldn't know if Squeezebox would work in my environment unless I tried it. Right now I'm leaning toward the Sonos / Squeezebox route.
fcwilt's Avatar fcwilt 02:56 PM 03-01-2011
I tried both Sonos and Squeezebox.

I now have 13 rooms worth of Sonos players, 13 remotes, 4 "access points".

Simple, reliable, versatile. Love it.

High recommended.
desertdome's Avatar desertdome 03:07 PM 03-01-2011
J. River Media Center just released the J. River Id in January. It is a wireless DLNA device that automatically shows up as a separate zone in JRMC. You can control them with the Gizmo app on an Android phone. Here is a thread about it at JRMC's Interact forum.
Joe DeFuria's Avatar Joe DeFuria 05:40 AM 03-02-2011
Now see, something like that J. River ID (a "simple" wireless DLNA renderer) is more or less exactly what I had expected to see as a mature and commonplace unit on the market at this time when I started searching for a home audio solution. I was hoping I could just deploy multiple sets of those around my house...and pretty much be done with it.

For me, however, it looks like it's just way to "immature" a product right now, and I'm more interested in getting a proven system up and running than essentially being a beta tester for emerging technology.

That being said, I might end up ordering one just to see how well it works and get a snapshot of the state of DLNA at the moment. Thanks for the head's up!
coolio107's Avatar coolio107 07:02 AM 03-02-2011
DLNA is not n immature technology but a broken design.

Something else will eventually take that market.
MarkHotchkiss's Avatar MarkHotchkiss 01:37 PM 03-02-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolio107 View Post

DLNA is not an immature technology but a broken design.

Something else will eventually take that market.

+1

I treat DLNA as I would a manufacturer trying to stick a broomstick up my . . .
(which is very close to what it really is).
jcfay's Avatar jcfay 05:16 AM 03-03-2011
As much as I love my Sonos system, I really feel it is overpriced. I think they can afford to do that, however, because their system is somewhat unique and alone in the market as a solution to just what you're looking for. I, myself, made the same search some months ago and ended up shelling out a few $$$$ for 2 S5s, a ZP90 and a Zonebridge, and it works great. But I do think that it really shouldn't cost that much, IMO.
Joe DeFuria's Avatar Joe DeFuria 06:21 AM 03-03-2011
Yeah...that's my only reservation...cost.

The remote is slick..but they want $350 for it?

Figures...they offer free iPad/iPhone controller app, and it looks like an android app is coming soon. Of course, we have 2 blackberries and soon a windows 7 phone in the house.

Not sure I can justify the cost of that remote when for a few more bucks I can buy a tablet that can act as the controller. I did notice in the forums that there is a home-brew blackberry and Win Phone 7 app...but not sure of the quality of those.

Anyway, I'd be "starting" with 4 players. Probably 1 S5, 1 ZP90 and 2 ZP120s). Won't need the bridge as the ZP90 would be connected via my wired network.

I do intend in the future to expand to add 3 or 4 more players to cover the upstairs in my house.

The cost right now is preventing me from pulling the trigger....
fcwilt's Avatar fcwilt 07:38 AM 03-03-2011
Well you can always use an iPod or iPad. The iPod Touch ranges from $230 to $400. The iPad ranges from $500 to $830.

For $350 you get the benefit of a dedicated device that is ready to go without having to locate and launch an application. You also get simplified firmware updating compared to the iPods/iPads. And you get the charging cradle.

Seems to me it is priced about right considering the alternatives.
Mad Chemist 11:23 AM 03-03-2011
To me, the JRMC with a DLNA device such as J. River Id would fit the bill. It can synchronize zones. You can control playback with any PC on the network running MC16 or an android running their Gizmo app or with anything on your network thru the web interface. I use a Blackberry to select music. Works fine even with Blackberry's CRAPPY browser. Also use my laptop with MC16 installed to connect to my server where their media server is running.

I don't see what the problem with DLNA is with this type of setup. You are selecting music, playlists etc with the JRMC interface. And MC15/16 is easily the best media player software out there IMO. There is so much flexibility I barely scratched the surface of all the possibilities.

The only problem I have with DLNA devices is that none of them have built in displays like a Squeezebox. I like to be able to see whats playing with a simple glance. I had a couple of SB3's for quite a while and I could just never get into the slimserver/squeezecenter software. Way to slow and clunky IMO.
quarlo's Avatar quarlo 01:12 PM 03-03-2011
OK, this is close to what I want, but I am either suffering early onset dementia or I just don't "get it"! I have a laptop with 135 GB of music on it. In my HT room I have a lovely receiver connected to awesome speakers. All I want to do is "play" a .flac on the laptop and have this "wireless something" (WS) (connected, I suppose, via optical cable to the receiver) play it through the existing audio system. I'd like it to work from about as far away as my laptop works from my router (30-40 feet). I don't want/need no stinkin' "remote" as I only need volume control, I don't need multiple zones and I don't need sound out of the WS. Sounds simple to my obviously simple mind, but every time I start down this path the suggestions get more and more complex (and expensive) and I just cannot understand why. Is what I want too simple or too ... obtuse? Anyway, I do hate to hijack a thread, but the OP's desire (minus the multiple zones/rooms) is dang close to mine and if there are any suggestions my lone remaining neuron would surely appreciate them. Oh, I *hate* (well, dislike) iTunes!
MarkHotchkiss's Avatar MarkHotchkiss 01:27 PM 03-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mad Chemist View Post

. . . I don't see what the problem with DLNA is with this type of setup. . .

And that may be true with J. River. I don't know.

That is the problem with DLNA, you don't know. Having a DLNA logo means that you don't need to tell the consumer anything else. What formats you support, what quality you play, nothing.

So you may have lossless FLAC on your server, and you go out and buy a renderer. The renderer might only support lossy mp3, but you won't know that. The server will then automatically transcode your FLAC to lossy, and not tell you. DLNA was designed to hide the deficiencies in the products. It degrades to the lowest common denominator, but won't tell you what that denominator is.

Take a look at this thread:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1318227

Now, this may not apply to J. River, but it sure applies to Sony.
jcfay's Avatar jcfay 01:29 PM 03-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by quarlo View Post

OK, this is close to what I want, but I am either suffering early onset dementia or I just don't "get it"! I have a laptop with 135 GB of music on it. In my HT room I have a lovely receiver connected to awesome speakers. All I want to do is "play" a .flac on the laptop and have this "wireless something" (WS) (connected, I suppose, via optical cable to the receiver) play it through the existing audio system. I'd like it to work from about as far away as my laptop works from my router (30-40 feet). I don't want/need no stinkin' "remote" as I only need volume control, I don't need multiple zones and I don't need sound out of the WS. Sounds simple to my obviously simple mind, but every time I start down this path the suggestions get more and more complex (and expensive) and I just cannot understand why. Is what I want too simple or too ... obtuse? Anyway, I do hate to hijack a thread, but the OP's desire (minus the multiple zones/rooms) is dang close to mine and if there are any suggestions my lone remaining neuron would surely appreciate them. Oh, I *hate* (well, dislike) iTunes!

The Sonos ZP90 would almost work for you, as the wireless "something" at least to supply the receiver with signal. The problem u will run into with any brand of system with your sort of setup is this - streaming music via standard wifi is unreliable, IMO. That's why Sonos emphasizes the stability of their independent wireless streaming relative to wifi, but they also insist that you can't stream wirelessly directly from your source. So, your laptop, for instance, would need to b attached to a sonos zonebridge and that kinda defeats the purpose, i think, from your description. You should at least check out their products, however.
quarlo's Avatar quarlo 02:00 PM 03-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by jcfay View Post

The Sonos ZP90 would almost work for you, as the wireless "something" at least to supply the receiver with signal. So, your laptop, for instance, would need to b attached to a sonos zonebridge and that kinda defeats the purpose, i think, from your description. You should at least check out their products, however.

Thanks a lot for the reply! Well, the Zonebridge in and of itself isn't a deal breaker although my complaint about Sonos has always been (and continues to be) the expense. I think this still requires a "controller", doesn't it? Or is this the part I continue to misunderstand? At this point, anything under $500 or so that allows my surgically-attached (well, almost) laptop to wirelessly control music played over my existing system from anywhere within range gets my vote of cash money.
jcfay's Avatar jcfay 02:18 PM 03-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by quarlo View Post

Thanks a lot for the reply! Well, the Zonebridge in and of itself isn't a deal breaker although my complaint about Sonos has always been (and continues to be) the expense. I think this still requires a "controller", doesn't it? Or is this the part I continue to misunderstand? At this point, anything under $500 or so that allows my surgically-attached (well, almost) laptop to wirelessly control music played over my existing system from anywhere within range gets my vote of cash money.

Nope, you can use your laptop as the controller. Sonos has its own proprietary itunes-like interface, with your music libraries visible, other streaming options (pandora, sirius, etc) as well as a region to control what zones you want to send what music to. Most people just end up often getting another controller because they don't want to be tied to thier computers while streaming.
quarlo's Avatar quarlo 02:24 PM 03-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by jcfay View Post

Nope, you can use your laptop as the controller. Sonos has its own proprietary itunes-like interface, with your music libraries visible, other streaming options (pandora, sirius, etc) as well as a region to control what zones you want to send what music to. Most people just end up often getting another controller because they don't want to be tied to thier computers while streaming.

Ahh, may the bluebird of audio happiness sing sweetly in your ear! Yeah, I realize I'm not "most people", but I really would have this machine surgically implanted if I could. Numerous reasons for it - all assuredly boring and OT. Suffice it to say that I still think the the ZP90 is overpriced, but if it plus a Zonebridge will let me do my thing then I am just about convinced. Thanks again for illuminating a topic that may as well have been alchemy as far as I am concerned!
jriver's Avatar jriver 02:39 PM 03-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post

Hi Joe,
My music library is on a Synology NAS, which runs an iTunes server (which really is only an interface for the iTunes program, afaik).

But alas, I cannot play the same music in multiple zones.

That device also supports DLNA.

http://www.synology.com/enu/products/DS110j/index.php

In spite of what a couple of people said above, DLNA is a good standard. The implementation isn't always consistent.
capaill's Avatar capaill 03:50 PM 03-03-2011
Has anyone have any experience with using Jriver and a multi zone sound card such as the Maudio 1010LT. Jriver apparently has the ability to play in-sync separate outputs of the sound card as independent zones, but I would also like to know if its really in sync.

Apple airport expresses are a good way to go, but you have to use itunes.
capaill's Avatar capaill 03:50 PM 03-03-2011
sonos and squeezebox are a great option but can get expensive
MarkHotchkiss's Avatar MarkHotchkiss 06:24 PM 03-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by jriver View Post

That device also supports DLNA.

Well, they say they do, but it didn't work.

Straight from the horses mouth (Synology tech-support).

As you said, the implementation is not always consistent.
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