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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all,


I've been an HTPC user for about 10 years now (holy crap!), and in this time have used several different media center packages (JRiver, Windows MC, XLobby) and have investigated several more (Plex, XBMC, Mediaportal, MainLobby, etc.) and I have yet to find the "perfect" package. So, I'm wondering if anyone can point out any solutions I've overlooked.


Here are my requirements:


1. Multizone audio control from software -- this automatically eliminates almost everyone. JRiver, XLobby, and Casatunes are the only packages I know of that do this.


2. Watch, record, and replay live TV -- quite a few support this, but it eliminates Boxee, XBMC, Plex, and a few others.


3. Streaming music support -- need the ability to control services like Pandora, Last.fm, and Spotify from inside the media center. JRiver supports Last.fm and Mediaportal supports Spotify, Grooveshark, Pandora, and possibly others. Needs to be remote controllable and "zoneable"


4. Remote control from a tablet/phone -- everyone seems to do this to some extent, but they all seem to fall down somewhere. For instance, JRiver can't initiate a Last.fm stream from its android app, but it can pause it and control the volume. No Spotify support in JRiver.


5. Management of stored audio/video/image files on the server. These are table stakes that everyone seems to do just fine.


6. Doesn't require me to write code to get the features I need. I know most of the above could be solved if I wanted to write plugins, but I don't have the time to do that.


So what am I missing? The closest package I've found so far is JRiver, thanks to its robust multi-zone audio support. However it falls down on requirements 3 and 4. Is there any other game in town, or does JRiver still represent the state of the art in media center sofware?



Thx,


Jonathan
 

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what exactly to you mean by controlling multizone audio? what does the program have to do?


WMC can be set to launch things like Boxee and Hulu Desktop. I imagine most of the programs can be set to do that
 

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Jonathan, if certain features are lacking, I can tell you that the J. River crew respond well to politely requested, popular feature suggestions. I've personally had several of y own implemented.

There has been some chatter among its users for Spotify support. No promises, of course, but I think that J. River may be a good bet in that there usually 4-5 new beta builds every week, adding features and improving the program in general. I doubt that many other programs are developed as actively.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hey fitbrit,


Yes, I agree that the JRiver team is pretty responsive, and I have requested the items I mentioned above. I am generally happy with JRiver, was just curious to see if there was any solution out there that already does all these things.


pittscoccer33, by multi-zone, I mean the ability for the software to route multiple different audio signals to different sound outputs. For instance, in JRiver, I have 5 zones (4 stereo analog outputs, and 1 stereo spdif output) from the PC via a Delta 410 soundcard. I can tell JRiver to play a different song on any of the 5 zones, and I can selectively link any zone to any other zone. It's a whole house audio system in software instead of a dedicated multi-zone preamp like a Nuvo or Russound. I would love for a media center to be able to do that same thing with Spotify as it can with tracks stored on my harddrive.



Cheers,


Jonathan
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan DA /forum/post/20811521


Hey fitbrit,


Yes, I agree that the JRiver team is pretty responsive, and I have requested the items I mentioned above. I am generally happy with JRiver, was just curious to see if there was any solution out there that already does all these things.


pittscoccer33, by multi-zone, I mean the ability for the software to route multiple different audio signals to different sound outputs. For instance, in JRiver, I have 5 zones (4 stereo analog outputs, and 1 stereo spdif output) from the PC via a Delta 410 soundcard. I can tell JRiver to play a different song on any of the 5 zones, and I can selectively link any zone to any other zone. It's a whole house audio system in software instead of a dedicated multi-zone preamp like a Nuvo or Russound. I would love for a media center to be able to do that same thing with Spotify as it can with tracks stored on my harddrive.



Cheers,


Jonathan

But does any of this allow for local control at the zone?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan DA /forum/post/20811521


Hey fitbrit,


Yes, I agree that the JRiver team is pretty responsive, and I have requested the items I mentioned above. I am generally happy with JRiver, was just curious to see if there was any solution out there that already does all these things.


pittscoccer33, by multi-zone, I mean the ability for the software to route multiple different audio signals to different sound outputs. For instance, in JRiver, I have 5 zones (4 stereo analog outputs, and 1 stereo spdif output) from the PC via a Delta 410 soundcard. I can tell JRiver to play a different song on any of the 5 zones, and I can selectively link any zone to any other zone. It's a whole house audio system in software instead of a dedicated multi-zone preamp like a Nuvo or Russound. I would love for a media center to be able to do that same thing with Spotify as it can with tracks stored on my harddrive.



Cheers,


Jonathan

I am very interested in your setup, can you post a layout of your set.

What do you use to control each zone.


thanks
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan DA /forum/post/20809858


3. Streaming music support -- need the ability to control services like Pandora, Last.fm, and Spotify from inside the media center. JRiver supports Last.fm and Mediaportal supports Spotify, Grooveshark, Pandora, and possibly others. Needs to be remote controllable and "zoneable"

MC16 also has its own streaming service, called Performer. It's not free, but it's the same content that Zune and several other major companies had. It's around 8,000,000 tracks. Might be worth a look.


You can also add any web page to Theater View.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Shftup,


Here's my set up. All of this is still being put together; some of it is already running...


Two-story house with in-ceiling speakers in every bedroom and common areas. That's about 25 speakers. Additionally, there are three surround sound systems in two living rooms and a theater (another 21 speakers including subs). There are also 5 TVs and a projector involved. All the whole-house audio wiring and the theater wiring terminates in a central equipment closet where the HTPC is with JRiver. The HTPC uses a Delta 410 soundcard to split the audio output into 5 zones (4 stereo analog and 1 stereo spdif). The 4 analog zones are connected to amps that distribute the sounds around the house. The spdif zone is connected to receiver in the living room's surround system. I'm also planning on adding another Delta card to get more analog zone control as well as a couple more spdif connections to route music to the other surround receivers. I'm also planning to distribute video to the projector and 5 tvs from the HTPC through an active HDMI splitter. Video is distributed via CAT6 baluns. There is only one video zone due to CPU demands of multiple HD streams at once, though I believe JRiver could handle it if my CPU could.


Control of the entire system is done via JRiver's Android app Gizmo, and using JRiver's Tremote and webremote options. Local control of a zone is pretty much irrelevant to me, because I just pull my phone out of my pocket and open webremote or Gizmo to control any zone anywhere. Currently, we have a ViewSonic GTablet running Gizmo, a laptop with Tremote, two Palm Pres and a Dell Venue Pro with webremote, in addition to the main HTPC interface with JRiver standard view. I also played around with an iPad2 controlling the HTPC remotely via Splashtop remote desktop. Pretty awesome in theater view.


Hope that made sense!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Jim,


Can Performer be controlled by Gizmo/webremote and routed to the zones? That might be an option. Though $13/month is a tough pill to swallow when Spotify has the same content for $5/month.


Appreciate the response to my original post. I'm always impressed at how engaged JRiver is with the community. I guess you guys really are the state of the art in media center software.


Jonathan
 

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I don't think that Performer could play to a zone. It uses Microsoft DRM, and though we could strip off the DRM to make it work, we'd probably lose our license.


Thanks for the nice comment about JRiver.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan DA /forum/post/20833922


Shftup,


Here's my set up. All of this is still being put together; some of it is already running...


Two-story house with in-ceiling speakers in every bedroom and common areas. That's about 25 speakers. Additionally, there are three surround sound systems in two living rooms and a theater (another 21 speakers including subs). There are also 5 TVs and a projector involved. All the whole-house audio wiring and the theater wiring terminates in a central equipment closet where the HTPC is with JRiver. The HTPC uses a Delta 410 soundcard to split the audio output into 5 zones (4 stereo analog and 1 stereo spdif). The 4 analog zones are connected to amps that distribute the sounds around the house. The spdif zone is connected to receiver in the living room's surround system. I'm also planning on adding another Delta card to get more analog zone control as well as a couple more spdif connections to route music to the other surround receivers. I'm also planning to distribute video to the projector and 5 tvs from the HTPC through an active HDMI splitter. Video is distributed via CAT6 baluns. There is only one video zone due to CPU demands of multiple HD streams at once, though I believe JRiver could handle it if my CPU could.


Control of the entire system is done via JRiver's Android app Gizmo, and using JRiver's Tremote and webremote options. Local control of a zone is pretty much irrelevant to me, because I just pull my phone out of my pocket and open webremote or Gizmo to control any zone anywhere. Currently, we have a ViewSonic GTablet running Gizmo, a laptop with Tremote, two Palm Pres and a Dell Venue Pro with webremote, in addition to the main HTPC interface with JRiver standard view. I also played around with an iPad2 controlling the HTPC remotely via Splashtop remote desktop. Pretty awesome in theater view.


Hope that made sense!


thanks for the response

I would luv to see pics of your setup. I am now thinking I can do the same....
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan DA /forum/post/20833922


Shftup,


Here's my set up. All of this is still being put together; some of it is already running...


Two-story house with in-ceiling speakers in every bedroom and common areas. That's about 25 speakers. Additionally, there are three surround sound systems in two living rooms and a theater (another 21 speakers including subs). There are also 5 TVs and a projector involved. All the whole-house audio wiring and the theater wiring terminates in a central equipment closet where the HTPC is with JRiver. The HTPC uses a Delta 410 soundcard to split the audio output into 5 zones (4 stereo analog and 1 stereo spdif). The 4 analog zones are connected to amps that distribute the sounds around the house. The spdif zone is connected to receiver in the living room's surround system. I'm also planning on adding another Delta card to get more analog zone control as well as a couple more spdif connections to route music to the other surround receivers. I'm also planning to distribute video to the projector and 5 tvs from the HTPC through an active HDMI splitter. Video is distributed via CAT6 baluns. There is only one video zone due to CPU demands of multiple HD streams at once, though I believe JRiver could handle it if my CPU could.


Control of the entire system is done via JRiver's Android app Gizmo, and using JRiver's Tremote and webremote options. Local control of a zone is pretty much irrelevant to me, because I just pull my phone out of my pocket and open webremote or Gizmo to control any zone anywhere. Currently, we have a ViewSonic GTablet running Gizmo, a laptop with Tremote, two Palm Pres and a Dell Venue Pro with webremote, in addition to the main HTPC interface with JRiver standard view. I also played around with an iPad2 controlling the HTPC remotely via Splashtop remote desktop. Pretty awesome in theater view.


Hope that made sense!


Thanks for the write-up.


I have taken the opposite approach. I have:


* 7.1 (in-wall, except sub) set-up in the dining room, 22" touchscreen mainly music, but 1080p video can be shown locally.

* 11.2 set-up in media room. 61" 1080p screen

* 11.2 (in-wall, except sub) set-up in home theater. 120" 1080p projection config, with 22" 1080p touchscreen mirroring. 14 speakers (centre channel is two speakers above and two below screen).


All three set-ups can handle 1080p video, and lossless audio. The dining room is run by a tiny ION-based Acer nettop. The other two have full-fledged HTPCs. All three rooms have Onkyo 9.2 network receivers.


All PCs are running J. River Media Center 16. In addition a desktop PC is running as the J. River Media Server, as well as home automation software etc. All media is run off a 35 TB unRAID server.


Each instance of J. River can control any other, and this is especially handy with the touchscreens. Other rooms will get DLNA devices that will be served by J. River also. I have an Athena 5.1 sound sytem that is looking for a home,probably in a spare bedroom, and there's also an Apple HiFi speaker waiting to go in the kitchen.


The icing on the cake is my office at work, which has access to my 17k songs any time using library sharing over the internet. I'm even tempted to install a nice 5.1 system there!


The advantage of my way is that each room can be the control center, as well as handheld devices. Also, the network receivers can play the audio (in theory) without HTPCs being turned on. I can use the receiver's remotes to select music from my library.

Since only the media is being shared, we could watch 1080p 7.1 lossless audio movies in each room at the same time without a hitch.


Disadvantages: independent equipment in each room. I was going to say cost of the equipment, but unless you're into DIY, the cost of wiring to a central location in existing buildings can also add up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Fitbrit,


With your approach, have you been able to sync the zones well enough to not sound discordant? That was my main reason for using a single HTPC with hard wiring everywhere.


Totally agree with your statement about streaming to work! I read all this stuff about iCloud and Google Music, and just chuckle. Who needs an Apple/Google cloud service when you have your own private cloud!
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan DA /forum/post/20834582


Fitbrit,


With your approach, have you been able to sync the zones well enough to not sound discordant? That was my main reason for using a single HTPC with hard wiring everywhere.

I don't usually sync zones like that. The HT is in the basement. The other two rooms are adjacent, and when I do want to sync between them, I use a TOSLINK splitter from my motherboard - one goes to the media room receiver and the other to the dining room. So... I have a second dining room zone set up, and choose which one to send music depending on whether I need to sync or not.


Often, with the type of parties we throw, we have different media playing in different rooms. The media room often ends up demo'ing the buttkicker shaking the couch and love seat. The basement ends up being used as a dancefloor with J River Visualisations projected on the big screen... amazing effect at 120" - it's like a moving body paint on the dancers!
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan DA /forum/post/20834582


Fitbrit,

Totally agree with your statement about streaming to work! I read all this stuff about iCloud and Google Music, and just chuckle. Who needs an Apple/Google cloud service when you have your own private cloud!

Funnily enough, I often forget this is possible! I had been sitting in my office for an hour, and only after writing about the 'library at work' thing, did it occur to me to use it. I marvel at it every time, being a recent adopter of this feature!

I'm going away for a conference tomorrow, and will make extensive use of this.
 
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