Multi-room audio zones with video distribution - Apple TV / Airplay - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 6 Old 12-18-2019, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Multi-room audio zones with video distribution - Apple TV / Airplay

First post here in AVS Forums - go easy on me :-D

Tried searching through the forums for an answer to this but came up short.

I'm designing a multi-room audio and video distribution system for a family member's new construction. Planning the zones as follows:
  1. Main room + kitchen: 4K TV with 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos speaker setup
  2. Adjacent outdoor patio: 4K TV with stereo ceiling speakers, additional stereo landscape speakers
  3. Dining room: stereo ceiling speakers
  4. Basement gameroom: HDTV with 5.1 speaker setup (to be upgraded later to 4K and Dolby Atmos setup TBD)
  5. Fitness room: 4K TV with stereo ceiling speakers
  6. Master bedroom: future stereo speakers (TBD)

Thinking of using a 4x4 HDMI matrix that supports 4K, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos etc. with 18 Gbps bandwidth. Haven't decided on the exact product yet, but four sources will be two cable TV boxes, Xbox One S and an Apple TV 4K.

There will be a central A/V server rack which will house 2 receivers for each surround setup, networking switch/gateway, source devices, etc.

We'd also like to be able to listen to music from our smartphones / music apps (e.g. Spotify + Apple Music from iPhones or iPads) to any zone. Several questions related to this:
  1. Can we just use the Apple TV for audio streaming by using the matrix somehow? e.g. if it has line level audio outputs
  2. Do we need to have the TVs on with Apple TV source selected to play music to these zones? Which brings me to the next question,
  3. How to handle rooms without TVs?

Maybe I'm going about this the wrong way but hoping to find a way to (1) watch video from any source to any TV in the house, and (2) listen to music from any personal device to any zone.

Any pointers in the right direction would be most appreciated!
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post #2 of 6 Old 01-02-2020, 04:42 PM
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You might be looking for an audio Matrix. There are a few companies I know of that make them, such as the Crestron SWAMP, which has a number of digital and analogue audio inputs which can be routed to different zones. The main problem you’d bump into here is how to control it. Crestron is proprietary, so programming and control could be an issue without a processor.

Another option might be a stack of Sonos Amps. Each of your stereo zones could easily be driven by one of these, and they can take an HDMI or digital optical in for the TV audio. Then you could play music straight from the sonos app from your chosen service.

Pricey, but would also work.

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post #3 of 6 Old 01-03-2020, 09:53 AM
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Be aware that it will be cheaper to buy 4K TVs everywhere than it will be to deal with one 1080p TV in the mix. Format resolution conversion is an issue mostly because of copyright protection which is likely to be HDCP 2.2 on 4K TVs and 1.4 or 2.0 on 1080p TVs. So, you want all the TVs to be on the same generation of copyright protection and resolution support for best results.

Unfortunately, the reality is at this point that separate systems really do tend to be a 'cheaper' overall way to go. 4K distribution with 18Gb/s matricies are very expensive, especially when you include the extenders. Then you still have to deal with audio and the cross conversion of stereo zones along with surround zones. HDMI only supports one or the other, not both. So, where does that stereo audio come from?

I use Crestron in my home and my 16x16 switcher has DSP input cards which downmix surround sound to stereo and give me an analog stereo mix for my stereo rooms. Which I then feed to their 16x8 audio matrix (x3) to feed to 20 zones of stereo audio in my home. The HDMI matrix has outputs which feed my surround zones and directly to my TVs.

Yes, Crestron has 4K 18Gb/s cards as well. But, then our price point starts getting pretty darn serious. On the other hand, it is one of the most reliable solutions on the market. So, my system rarely has issues and I almost never tweak it. I just use it. But, I am a programmer, so that makes things easier if I do have an issue.

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post #4 of 6 Old 01-06-2020, 12:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the comments, some good ideas to consider.

I'm now thinking that to start, there will be a couple 4K TVs and a legacy 1080p TV. A 4K set in the living room would have its own receiver for a Dolby Atmos system, while basement 1080p TV has its own receiver for 5.1 system. I can house these receivers in a closet.

To keep it simple for the time being, I may just focus on getting the HDMI signal fed from other rooms to the A/V closet to their dedicated receivers. Does it make sense to run conduit for HDMI fiber, or will Cat6a suffice? I want to future proof for HDMI 2.1 but these cables aren't really available yet, so might settle on 4K HDMI extenders that can handle 4:4:4 at 18Gbps to handle [email protected] with HDR, then just use 18 Gbps cables for TV/receiver to the extenders. I can implement a video matrix later on if it makes sense from a price perspective. Also, some of these new receivers have extra HDMI outputs so I could use this instead of buying a matrix.

More important I think is the multi-zone audio, so may go with a 6 zone controller/amp with keypads/volume knobs. The most important zones are the patio and dining room, and for sources I may use airport express's to take advantage of AirPlay 2 capabilities. Are there any major downsides to this path vs. going the Sonos Amp route?

For video control, I plan to use IR extension via the HDMI extenders to get remote control signals down into the AV cabinet to change volume / sources / control cable box. Could use a Logitech Harmony style system to control media.
For audio control, if using AirPlay2 should be able to pick and choose the rooms through the native AirPlay interface.

I'll have to diagram this all out at some stage but want to make sure I make the right decisions early re: in-wall wiring before it's too late.

Thanks again
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post #5 of 6 Old 01-13-2020, 12:03 AM
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You might have missed AV_Integrated recommendation: Dump the 1080P TV and replace it with a 4K to simplify the support electronics and certainly to better the video quality.
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post #6 of 6 Old 01-19-2020, 07:33 AM
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I am not a fan of HDMI matrixes. They are expensive, clunky and can glitch. I am building a new house and am just putting an Appletv behind every screen. The Appletv delivers everything I need and have no need for cable boxes. Lots of ways to watch live tv through the AppleTV, like AT&TV, YouTube Red, Hulu, etc. Cable boxes are dead. I am not even wiring the home with any coax. In one room I have a theater receiver and 9.2.4 Dolby surround sound but the only source is its own local Appletv.

Most of my zones have just a Sonos beam soundbar below the TV so I can get music easily in that same room. In some rooms I have added additional Sonos shelf speakers for surround sound. I am not a huge fan of in ceiling speakers for television because I have bedrooms upstairs and the sound bleeds through and annoys the upstairs occupants. This can be mitigated with backer boxes for the speakers. I also prefer the sound to be coming from the screen like in a soundbar or speakers that are close to the TV. But I do have a few in ceiling speakers in a rarely used dining room that are connected to a Sonos amp and they will play ambient music for occasional dinner parties.

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