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Multi-room DLNA(?) audio system

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
Starting to think about a multiroom audio system.

At the moment, I only have a central HTPC running Windows Media Center.
I also want it (or a dedicated NAS) to be the central storage for all my music (all mp3).
Phones in the house are a mix of android and iOS.

My ideal scenario has me controlling the audio via the phones, tablets or laptops (Win7); this could be by them streaming to "clients" in individual zones/rooms or by them directing the central server to do so (or both to allow for more individual streams?).
I should be able to play music to all zones simulataneously or individually.

In order to not be locked into some system (sony, sonos, itunes, ...), I probably want some DLNA solution.
As far as I can tell, setting up multiple DLNA "clients" (one in each zone/room) should allow me to do everything I want (or not?).
I would probably want to either hide these clients in the ceiling or install them in a wall. Each client would probably drive 2+ active speakers (in walls, in the ceiling or connected to a wall plug).
I am ambivalent whether these DLNA clients are ethernet or wifi ... either would probably work for me.

I am happy to go either DIY or buy hardware for this, as long as the price is reasonable.
Considering that these DLNA clients can be relatively "dumb" I would like to not spend more than $50 for each (considering prices for routers, I would actually expect something like this to retail for $20)

I assume that I will need something like 6-10 zones depending on price (living room/dining room, home theatre area, outside, kitchen, guest, office 1, office 2, master bed, master bath, 2nd bath)
post #2 of 31
Hi CoolVariable,

Just a couple of random thoughts:

The "relatively dumb" client that you mentioned would be called a "renderer" in DLNA parlance. The host software, not surprisingly, is called a "server", and the software for the phones are "controllers". It sounds like you don't want a "player", as that is what you would call a combination "controller" and "renderer". You should be able to find renderers that you can hide.

Before committing to DLNA, try getting a single server/client setup going. Not many people have had a lot of luck with DLNA. I had hair before I tried getting DLNA to work. There are less painful ways to do it.

If playing in multiple zones "simultaneously" means "synchronized", then you should test it before committing. As far as I know, only Sonos and AirPlay allow synchronized streaming. However, if all clients are identical, with buffering configured identically on them all, and the server is feeding them all with broadcast messages instead of individual streams, then I don't see any reason that they can't be synchronized. I don't believe DLNA has broadcast capability, though.

I recommend that you don't use Windows Media Player as your server software, as it's a poor implementation. People have mentioned Mezzmo, Serviio and J.River as decent DLNA servers. I personally have not tried any of them, as I gave up on DLNA four years ago. Hopefully, it's gotten better since then.

And keep in mind that one of the purposes of DLNA is to hide the details from the user. Since you have MP3s you are likely OK. But if you go with a lossless format like FLAC or ALAC, it will likely be transcoded down to MP3 when played, as that is the only audio format most DLNA players and renderers support.

Hope that helps.
post #3 of 31
If you are willing to go itunes centric you can use an Apple TV or Airport express: http://www.cultofmac.com/38709/how-to-setup-affordable-multi-room-audio-using-itunes-macrx/

Now if you are more of an android person like myself, then I guess the Nexus Q but I think that is a bit over priced. It would be nice if they came up with something like that for Google TV and to use with something like the Logitech Revue or Vizio Co-Star smile.gif
post #4 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post

Hi CoolVariable,
Just a couple of random thoughts:
The "relatively dumb" client that you mentioned would be called a "renderer" in DLNA parlance. The host software, not surprisingly, is called a "server", and the software for the phones are "controllers". It sounds like you don't want a "player", as that is what you would call a combination "controller" and "renderer". You should be able to find renderers that you can hide.
Before committing to DLNA, try getting a single server/client setup going. Not many people have had a lot of luck with DLNA. I had hair before I tried getting DLNA to work. There are less painful ways to do it.
If playing in multiple zones "simultaneously" means "synchronized", then you should test it before committing. As far as I know, only Sonos and AirPlay allow synchronized streaming. However, if all clients are identical, with buffering configured identically on them all, and the server is feeding them all with broadcast messages instead of individual streams, then I don't see any reason that they can't be synchronized. I don't believe DLNA has broadcast capability, though.
I recommend that you don't use Windows Media Player as your server software, as it's a poor implementation. People have mentioned Mezzmo, Serviio and J.River as decent DLNA servers. I personally have not tried any of them, as I gave up on DLNA four years ago. Hopefully, it's gotten better since then.
And keep in mind that one of the purposes of DLNA is to hide the details from the user. Since you have MP3s you are likely OK. But if you go with a lossless format like FLAC or ALAC, it will likely be transcoded down to MP3 when played, as that is the only audio format most DLNA players and renderers support.
Hope that helps.

I know that airplay is pretty good, but since the majority of phones/tablets is android, it sadly is not a real option, otherwise it would probably be the way to go.
Does anyone have any recommendations for good/cheap DLNA renderers (in a $20-$50 price range)? Searching on Amazon I only found 1 device (which I am not even sure works as a DLNA renderer).

Would DLNA Players also work as dumb renderers (if I want them to)?
Edited by coolVariable - 7/11/12 at 9:44am
post #5 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolVariable View Post

Would DLNA Players also work as dumb renderers (if I want them to)?
That's a good question. Looking over the scant specs that I have, I see no reason why it shouldn't. The player should accept commands from any controller.
post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post

That's a good question. Looking over the scant specs that I have, I see no reason why it shouldn't. The player should accept commands from any controller.

that's what it looks like to me too, though it would be great if someone could confirm ...
Still have not been able to find any reasonably priced DLNA renderers. the only renderers that I am able to find are ridicolously expensive ($100+) which is just stupid ...
post #7 of 31
Thread Starter 
Does nobody have any reasonably priced DLNA renderers?
I mean these should be a lot cheaper than a raspberry Pi or cheap media player ...
post #8 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolVariable View Post

I know that airplay is pretty good, but since the majority of phones/tablets is android, it sadly is not a real option, otherwise it would probably be the way to go.
Does anyone have any recommendations for good/cheap DLNA renderers (in a $20-$50 price range)? Searching on Amazon I only found 1 device (which I am not even sure works as a DLNA renderer).
Would DLNA Players also work as dumb renderers (if I want them to)?

Huh, airplay and remote control itunes can be done on any platform.

The majority is IOS especially if you count tablets. If you count phones only then droid. but what does that have to do with multi zone audio.

DLNA doesn't do multizone audio.


Apple Does, Sonos does and Logitech does....

those are the top rated solutions here that most music folks use.....

Sonos is the most expensive and feature rich and the most stable....

Logitech has a lot of features and lacks some stability of the sonos solution but is cheaper

The apple solution is less feature rich but is the cheapest by far at $99 a zone.
post #9 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sean_w_smith View Post

Huh, airplay and remote control itunes can be done on any platform.
The majority is IOS especially if you count tablets. If you count phones only then droid. but what does that have to do with multi zone audio.
DLNA doesn't do multizone audio.
Apple Does, Sonos does and Logitech does....
those are the top rated solutions here that most music folks use.....
Sonos is the most expensive and feature rich and the most stable....
Logitech has a lot of features and lacks some stability of the sonos solution but is cheaper
The apple solution is less feature rich but is the cheapest by far at $99 a zone.

How do you control airplay with an android device and a laptop (WITHOUT itunes)?
I have way more android devices than iOS devices - not sure what you are arguing?
According to others DLNA can do multizone.
Sonos and Logitech are WAY TOO EXPENSIVE. As I said, I am looking for clients that I can hook up to speakers which are in a $20+ price range. Paying $$$ for each zone client is just stupid if you can get an android device for less than $50 which could run an app that does DLNA rendering (and since I don't want/need a screen, it should be a lot cheaper if you ask me)
post #10 of 31
Thread Starter 
Due to the absolute lack of DLNA render devices (I could not find a single one that does only audio for a reasonable price, the best video options are WDTV and Roku?), I am now looking into getting some cheap/used android devices and installing either BubbleUPNP or XBMC (once that releases officially). BubbleUPNP works rather well so far, was very easy to play to it. Now I am looking into DLNA servers that allow play to multiple devices synchronized (I heard the jriver server does).

PS: There are apparently also apps for android to control airplay or have the android device act like an airplay client but that seems like a very hacked version, and I think the airport express is just too expensive at $90/zone ... remember I am looking to set up 8+ zones.
post #11 of 31
Thread Starter 
I find it absolutely shocking that it is impossible to buy DLNA renderers anywhere!
post #12 of 31
DLNA has limited support. So, there isnt a big market for it unless you buy DLNA ready equipment. I use my media playes to stream music as well, buy I think the cheapest route would be going with iOS and airplay.
post #13 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolVariable View Post

I find it absolutely shocking that it is impossible to buy DLNA renderers anywhere!
Yeah, I see the same thing.

It looks to me like the manufacturers don't want to sell a renderer without adding the controller, thus making it a player. Maybe it's to avoid the potential incompatibility between a renderer and another vendor's controller. Despite the marketing speak, DLNA has more than its share in compatibility issues. As Gus said, DLNA isn't a big market.
post #14 of 31
You are going in the wrong direction here. If you will not be able to get DLNA to do what you want to do As you have discovered there are no reasonable options for a renderer, and DLNA does not support whole house audio. I know you do not want to be tied down to a specific manufacturer, but both Squeezebox and Sonos have been around for a while. I have a squeezebox, but for you application I would choose Sonos. There is no fiddling about, plug it in and it works, it supports DLNA amd you can get remote software for your phones.
post #15 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by malaugh View Post

You are going in the wrong direction here. If you will not be able to get DLNA to do what you want to do As you have discovered there are no reasonable options for a renderer, and DLNA does not support whole house audio. I know you do not want to be tied down to a specific manufacturer, but both Squeezebox and Sonos have been around for a while. I have a squeezebox, but for you application I would choose Sonos. There is no fiddling about, plug it in and it works, it supports DLNA amd you can get remote software for your phones.

sonos is not only ridiculously expensive, but there is also no Sonos solution available that will work "in a wall" as a dumb client for multiple in wall speakers.
the best/cheapest solution seems to be to buy cheap/used android media players/phones/tablets, set them up with bubbleupnp and that is it. Which is ridiculously stupid.
I guess audio is still stuck in the 19th century ...
post #16 of 31
Please note that UPnP (the base of DLNA) doesn't support the synchronized audio playback among multiple media renderers
Edited by valley_nomad - 7/24/12 at 6:21pm
post #17 of 31
For in-wall speakers, Sonos have the Sonos Connect, you hook that up to a regular amplifier, and driver the speakers with the amplifier. With sqeezebox you do the same thing with a Squeezebox touch.
post #18 of 31
I've been researching the same thing for ages as well, and from a cost point of view, the best option is airplay for stability, and options.
WIth airplay you get a single source synchronized across multiple zones, each zone can be an airport express (ebay for $50-70) or an ATV, (which also gives you video), and you have various controller apps availlable for IOS or android that can control your music from a phone or tablet. They also can control the zones, which is a must for me. Downside is you won't get spotify or rhapsody or other subscription based music source to work for zones, and only work on playlists, which is silly. Also anything less than $100 a zone is not going to be reliable is is quite reasonable.
post #19 of 31
I agree with many posters above that the lack of low cost DLNA renderers for audio is surprising. There is however a low cost DLNA renderer called Arctic Audio Relay from a Swiss company called Arctic Cooling: in the UK it costs around 60GBP = approx $90 US. There was a review on the website missingremote.com. I've implemented the player succesfully using WMP12 as the DLNA server and using Bubble uPNP on Android as the DLNA controller. HTH
post #20 of 31
Hi Nrjf,

Welcome to the forum.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nrjf View Post

. . . There is however a low cost DLNA renderer called Arctic Audio Relay from a Swiss company called Arctic Cooling . . .
Thanks for that. It seems it is available in the US for $70 (plus shipping). Here is another review:
http://www.tech-kings.net/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=198:arcticaudiorelay&catid=46:consumer-electronics

The reviews are quite positive. But it does point-out the deficiency in DLNA with regards to synchronized playback.
post #21 of 31
I just set up a 5 room AirPlay based audio system. Works great, everything is in sync, I can control which rooms get activated and the volumes in each. $100 a room seemed quite reasonable and it would have been less had I gone with used Airport Express units. The whole DLNA world has not been good to me in the past so that was never an option.

philip
post #22 of 31
Hi Philip,

The Arctic Audio Relay used to be $139, but I suspect it is now $70 because of competition from AirPlay. Even at $70, I don't think it competes.

Quote:
The whole DLNA world has not been good to me . . .
The DLNA world has been like a nasty mother-in-law to me.
post #23 of 31
There is a Raspberry Pi application for this... XMBC

Just supply 5v of power and either an ethernet cable or a mini-wifi dongle and you have a DLNA server and client in a nice neat package. All the software is free and upgradable and not only can you stream audio, but you can stream out 1080p video at the same time... not bad for £30.

Dave
post #24 of 31
what about a USD28 android mini PC that you can find here as renderer ?
post #25 of 31
I'm also evaluating Arctic Audio Relay to stream music from my Synology NAS to my stereo that is in another room.

Do anyone tried this product, so to know how is working?
post #26 of 31
I was searching for the exact same things as you fellow music listners / cable hater / computer-off lovers... thanks a bunch for pointing me in the direction of the ARCTIC Cooling Audio...
I have decided to buy this thing, I will comment this thread as soon as I receive & install.
Cheers
post #27 of 31
I just bought an AirPort Express...and I'm wondering if was a good choice.

In few days I need to decide if returning it and going for Arctic.

Please will be nice if you can post your experience about wifi range (some users experienced problems with Arctic more than 10ft away from wifi access point) and controller (myself having problem with AirPlay, I can stream music from my NAS but when I close the iOS app the audio stream will also stopped...unusable!).
post #28 of 31
I'd be curious to hear reviews on the Arctic as well. Most of the reviews I found were all from early-mid last year smile.gif
post #29 of 31
Hi davide

I have been using two Arctics for a while now with which I am very happy: one is hardwired and the other uses wireless, but is only about 4m from one of my WiFi access points, so I have not had any problems. When I was first setting up the Arctics, their wireless range didn't seem great, but I didn't do any serious checks. I do have friends using Sonos and Squeezebox players, both of whom have given up on WiFi and use powerline LAN adaptors instead, so I guess that poor wireless range is not an uncommon problem for a number of players.

As I understand it, the DLNA standard requires the controller to be online all the time, so you can't normally close the controller app, which is clearly a problem for battery life on mobiles. However, there is an OpenHome standard which allows a server to take over the functions of the controller, allowing the controller to be turned off. As well as making a very good controller for Android phones and tablets (BubbleUpnp), Bubblesoft provides the BubbleUpnp Server which provides easy remote access but which also implements the OpenHome standard. The Bubble Upnp Server runs on your NAS and sits in front of your DLNA server. In your controller app. when you look at devices on the network, you see your native renderers, but also an OpenHome version of each. If you choose to play through the OpenHome version, you can set up a playlist on your controller, start the play and then exit the controller: the server persists the playlist and continues to stream content from the DLNA server to the chosen renderer. You can subsequently start a different controller app on the same or on another device, and simply pick up control again.

This all works very well on my QNAP NAS with the Bubble Upnp server and Twonky as the DLNA server, and with BubbleUpnp controller apps running on both HTC One S and Nexus 7 devices streaming to two Arctics and a Sony Bravia TV. HTH
post #30 of 31
Hi nrjf,

I'm sure is possible using DLNA to shutdown the controller after starting a video stream, was one of the first thing I checked.
In fact for video streaming I don't need a controller since my tv can access directly to my NAS.

About audio streaming need to say I resolved yesterday the issue with AirPlay and I'm able to do the same.
Since my AirPort Express is around 5mt away from wifi hotspot and with two walls in between I think I have all what I want: a reliable connection and all the features I needed.

I use Synology Audio Station as media server, Synology DS Audio as iOS controller and AirPort as wifi connected player.
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