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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,


I am new to the forum. I am building my own home and am in the process of running the wiring. I would like to be able to play music stored on one central computer to 4 zones. I am not interested in playing different music concurrently. I do want to be able to control the volume of each zone separately from the one central computer. Distributed control will be handled via the home network and a remote-desktop session to the central server.


Here are my questions:

1. My first thought was to run a sound card output to my preamp/amp, but then how do I control the speaker selection and volume from the PC? Are there products that do this?

2. Or do I need to replace my pre-amp with a multi-channel unit? If so, do they make a unit that interfaces into the computer to allow for zone selection and volume control from the PC? Or is multi channel just for playing multiple music selection concurrentlysomething I am not interested in.


I have searched the forum and maybe I am just not up on the correct terms for what I al looking for. I would very much appreciate any assistance.


Thanks

Randy
 

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Not sure why you would want to control volume from the PC and not locally in each zone. If you controlled the volume from each zone, it would be easy. A PC with a sound card, a cheap amplifier/receiver capable of 100W or so and impedance matching volume controls in each room (about $30 each).


To control the volume from the PC will require a bit more thought. You could use four amplifiers with IR control and run Girder (an inexpensive software program) + an IR transmitting device (USBIRT) and have your PC send IR commands to the amps to control volume.


Or, you could use a mult-channel Sound card like the Delta M-Audio series and send a separate line level out to each amplifier and have the PC control the volume via the channels of the sound card. That would also give you the ability to play different songs in each room. You would need some method of synching up all four channels for a 'party mode' of playing the same song in all rooms...Something like slimserver or perhaps the Delta card has the ability (I don't know).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply Robertmee. The reason I want to control volume from the PC is that there will be a PC in every zone for making music selections(remote-desktop into the main server). The design was intended to be a simplification, but maybe not. My assumption was that there was a speaker level control unit that interfaced with a computer.


Randy
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RRRandy /forum/post/0


Thanks for the reply Robertmee. The reason I want to control volume from the PC is that there will be a PC in every zone for making music selections(remote-desktop into the main server). The design was intended to be a simplification, but maybe not. My assumption was that there was a speaker level control unit that interfaced with a computer.


Randy

If that's the case just use the PC's sound card in each zone with a cheap local amplifier. Then use slimserver on the main PC to stream audio to all your PC's for party mode (most windows media players have pluggins for streaming from slimserver). Now you have the best of both worlds. Each PC can play the media file itself from your server for private use, or slimserver can stream songs to each PC for party mode. And the best part is slimserver is free.
 

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Are you going to use those local PCs for something else, ie video?


If not, seems like a horrific waste of $$ - you'd be best served by having a centralized unit such as a Russound CAM or Nuvo concerto and homerunning all the speaker wire. Not too bad at all esp given you can run wiring easily now.


heck, while you're at it you may as well put in homerunned component cable so you can distribute video too (ie, centralized DVD megachanger).
 

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Discussion Starter #6
IVB, the computers are part of the overall home network. The plan is to have four music zones: game room, kitchen/living room, bedroom, master bathroom. The main music server will reside in the game room with the amplifier(s). There will be also be PCs in the kitchen, utility room(not a music zone), and bedroom. A wireless network will account for laptop roaming. Thus, the computers will also have internet access(via a proxy server connected to Cable modem) and will be used for much more than just music controllers; uses will eventually include automation controls for the rainwater collection system and solar water heater. I do not have plans for distributed video. I figure to keep the TV/Surround-Sound system confined to the living-room as a sort of home theater.


As for the music, the idea is that I can select the song(s) and the volume from any computer for any zone. In the interest of making the things simple, I figured that I would design the system to run everything from the main music server console in the game room and then just use the Remote-Desktop feature of Windows for the distribution of the UI. In the future, I can write a more intricate user interface. Heck, an external website could even include cell-phone/PDA controls!


Thus, I figured that all I need is a soundcard to hook up to my existing amplifier and a speaker selection/volume controller with a computer interface(or serial port). I have found this speaker controller w/o volume control on the hacs website. Maybe if there are individual volume controllers with PC interfaces I would be in business.


I think that there may also be a device used in recording studios for controlling monitor outputs. The only one I have found did way more than what I was wanting and cost about $2000a bit much. But, it did have the computer interface.


Robertmee, If I understand you correctly, running Slimserver would mean having a computer, sound card, and amplifier in every zone. I could merge the bedroom and master bath zones since they are real close and probably will be used at the same time(since there is no plan to have a dedicated PC in the bath). However, although a simple design(and I like simple), some of the functionality of the distributed interface is lost. That is, it does not sound like I will be able to change the volume of the kitchen zone from the game room.


Thanks for the repliesI am interested in any and all ideas, components, and designs.


Randy
 

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Honestly, it may sound like you are designing a system to you that's flexible and accomplishes what you want short term, but in reality, it's a system that will be limited in functionality and growth potential. A likely reason you're finding it difficult to find the missing piece.


What is your budget on accomplishing what you want? For the cost of a few amps, you could instead purchase a Nuvo Simplese which is a multizone amplifier/controller. Hook your central PC up to this. You don't have to install the keypads if you don't want to as the unit can be both serially and IR controlled. This unit will then give you the ability for any zone to listen to four sources (I know you say you need one, but guaranteed, you'll find a need for more). You'll be able to change the source, volume, mute from any PC location for any zone. The way you would accomplish this is either use a product like CQC which is distributed across PC networks and you can setup interface templates to view on all your PCs to browse your media library and control the Nuvo (I've already written a serial driver for it). Or, if you ONLY want the music control, then use Remote Desktop as you suggested and browse only on the Master PC. Use something like Girder to send serial commands to the Nuvo to change your volume, sources, etc. The serial protocol is published and consists of simple ASCII commands so controlling it via Girder would be simple.


There's a Simplese on Ebay right now for $150.
 

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Robertmee, thanks for sticking with me!...I think I get it now. It's better to learn the easy way and that's why I'm posting. OK, you convinced me that multiple sources is a good thing. Also, I have been re-thinking the volume controls. Although I think it's cool to control the volume from any PC, others may prefer a simple wall-mount control, and it's better to make the system likable for all.


The Simplese has a RS-232 interface, perfect! Let me see about getting one of these and I will PM you with my email address concerning the serial communications. I am a software programmer by trade, so implementing serial communication will be no problem. CQC and Girder look interesting. I will have to do some reading.


About the volume control units, what kind of wiring do you run for them? Do they control the volume in-line or from the main unit? That is, does the speaker wire for that zone have to be run into the control unit also?


Thanks again!

Randy
 

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Welcome to the dark side



Just some general notes/observations:


CQC vs Girder: Girder will do quite a bit now that it's been made into a commercial product and they are adding more functionality all the time. It is quite a bit less expensive compared to some other systems. It's great for doing simple IR and serial control. CQC is more of a professional installers package, tailored to compete with Creston and AMX type hardware packages. However, a strong DIY community has latched on to it and most of the current driver development comes from that group. CQC provides a full distributed network architecture allowing you to make use of scattered PCs and hardware, has rich event scheduling/triggers, lots of hardware drivers, two programming languages for developing your own drivers, a full interface editor/viewer for creating screens, media libraries and the list goes on.


Volume Control: If you go with one of the multizone solutions from Nuvo, Russound, Xantech or the like, you'll use their keypads which almost all use Cat5 for connection back to the main unit. If you go with your own amps and want a simple impedance matching volume control in each room, then you will run your speaker wire through the VC to the speaker. During the install, I always recommend you route your speaker wire through your keypad/VC location no matter what. That way you have an option of doing either/both. As an example:


Cat5 Keypad (Nuvo, Russound) - Leave the wire intact in the keypad box as the wire will just connect between speaker and main unit.


Volume Control - Cut the wire in the keypad box and terminate the ends on the In/Out side of the VC.


Russound ABUS - Russound supports ABUS zones which are powered from the keypad. You still have your Cat5 to the keypad, but the amp is in the keypad, so speaker wire from the keypad to the speaker. In this case, you still cut your speaker wire at the keypad, but only connect the end to the speaker. The other end back to the main unit location you just spare out.


It also makes it easy for when you sell the home. You can take out your expensive Nuvo/Russound system, replace the keypads with some inexpensive VCs and still market your home as whole house audio ready.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertmee /forum/post/0


Cat5 Keypad (Nuvo, Russound) - Leave the wire intact in the keypad box as the wire will just connect between speaker and main unit.


Volume Control - Cut the wire in the keypad box and terminate the ends on the In/Out side of the VC.

I've always wondered....what if you started with a VC and then switched to a keypad. What's the ideal way to splice the speaker cable? Do you just twist them together and tape? Is there some type of connector?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaadaq /forum/post/0


I've always wondered....what if you started with a VC and then switched to a keypad. What's the ideal way to splice the speaker cable? Do you just twist them together and tape? Is there some type of connector?

Crimp butt splices is what I've used.
 
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