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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I had the opportunity to go through several homes recently that all had whole house audio. I didn't check the specific versions of the equipment, but they were all very simple keypads that appeared to have source and volume control on a wall plate, and nothing else.


I thought that would be kind of nice to have the audio in all of my rooms with a simple wall control, but when I started looking into some of the equipment it seemed ridiculously expensive. What am I missing? I get that convenience is going to cost a certain amount, but based on some of the prices I saw (a 6 room control unit costing 2000) it seems like it would make more sense to just buy systems for every single room. In fact for some of the prices I was seeing, I could have a touchscreen in the wall hooked to an Xbox 360 (or other audio streaming device), a cheep receiver and some speakers for every single room and still save money.


I'm sure this isn't the case and I'm just missing something.


So can someone help me? Where are the FAQs? If I just want to power some in ceiling or in wall speakers in 6 or so rooms and run them off centrally located audio (maybe 2 or 3 devices at most) with a simple volume up, volume down keypad with a source selection, what do I need? what's it going to cost?
 

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The main part that adds to the cost that you are missing is the matrix processing, meaning each zone can select any of the sources at any time simultaneously.


Even though there are other factors that people want with a central system, such as hiding equipment, scalability, integration, etc., the main purpose of a system like a Russound CAA66 is that you can plug in several sources and let each room play any source, which you could never get from buying all the sources individually.


If you only have one source to play, and you don't care about integrating with video distribution or automation equipment, and you don't care that you'll have equipment in every room - you might as well do what you are doing. Otherwise, for most people it's worth the step up to a $1000-2000 system or higher depending on the feature set they desire.


As an example, I have a Russound CAA66 but I also have a 4x4 video matrix that allows a DVD player, Xbox XMBC, and Xbox 360 to be played in my theater, bedroom HDTV or family room HDTV. I also use the keypads to distribute the IR signals to the sources, and the XBMC audio output is split into the CAA66 for an audio source. I also use the fixed line output of the first zone as a source for 4 sub-zones using A-bus (in-wall amplifier) keypads, because I had 9 total zones I wanted to control but didn't want to buy another separate system. I looked at the cost of installing just a volume control dial ($30-50 each), plus an IR distribution system ($200) plus a speaker splitter ($100?) and it was almost 75% of the cost and nowhere near in features such as LCD keypads, source selection, and multi-zone control.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Renesis /forum/post/14333565


The main part that adds to the cost that you are missing is the matrix processing, meaning each zone can select any of the sources at any time simultaneously.


Even though there are other factors that people want with a central system, such as hiding equipment, scalability, integration, etc., the main purpose of a system like a Russound CAA66 is that you can plug in several sources and let each room play any source, which you could never get from buying all the sources individually.


If you only have one source to play, and you don't care about integrating with video distribution or automation equipment, and you don't care that you'll have equipment in every room - you might as well do what you are doing. Otherwise, for most people it's worth the step up to a $1000-2000 system or higher depending on the feature set they desire.


As an example, I have a Russound CAA66 but I also have a 4x4 video matrix that allows a DVD player, Xbox XMBC, and Xbox 360 to be played in my theater, bedroom HDTV or family room HDTV. I also use the keypads to distribute the IR signals to the sources, and the XBMC audio output is split into the CAA66 for an audio source. I also use the fixed line output of the first zone as a source for 4 sub-zones using A-bus (in-wall amplifier) keypads, because I had 9 total zones I wanted to control but didn't want to buy another separate system. I looked at the cost of installing just a volume control dial ($30-50 each), plus an IR distribution system ($200) plus a speaker splitter ($100?) and it was almost 75% of the cost and nowhere near in features such as LCD keypads, source selection, and multi-zone control.

What keypads ydo you have?
 

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There are other options/solutions. If your into the DIY route (which judging by your link, you seem to be), it can be done with a computer with multi-output soundcards for a fraction of the cost. I'm using a music-server with 2 Audigy 7.1 cards with Xlobby/KX Drivers, that is capable of outputting to 7 zones (6 currently wired, 7th when I get around to finishing the garage). Actually 8 zones, but I don't have a use for the 8th. Each zone has 3 CD/Shoutcast sources, which can be shared with other zones on the floor, 1 AM/FM source is shared between floors (right now), and then all zones can be synced for the same CD music playback throughout the house. Though I don't have wallpads, the nice thing with Xlobby is that you can connect to the server with thin or fat clients either via wired or wireless, and control the system. The nice thing about this is that I can sit with a PPC and control the system, and I don't even have to get out of my chair/bed, whereas if your using a wallpad, you have to getup to change volume or source. You can check it out by following my signature links.


Another software solution is via J. River Media.


Hope this helps.
 

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ntode,


Are you looking for solutions for new construction? Or retro-fitting something to an existing house?


If the former, you might run into the issues I did, in that the builder severely limits what options you have by only allowing you to pick from certain "pre-packaged" systems. In my case, I was offered a single take-it-or-leave it turnkey solution (including controller, keypads, speakers and wiring), and I was not allowed to pre-wire or bring in an outside low voltage firm; the only choice I had was how many rooms to include. If you have the luxury of working with a builder that allows more flexibility, you won't have your hands tied like I did.


If the latter, there's potentially a lot of costly--in terms of money and/or your time--things to contend with, like ripping out sheetrock, etc. to pull the wiring and cut-in speakers.


I'm by no means an expert, but I'd argue that outside of the DIY world like the PC-based solution described above, there are three basic ways to do turnkey whole house audio, increasing in cost.


1. The "el cheapo" (but potentially effective) route. Run speaker wire from a receiver to impedance-matching volume attenuators (volume knobs), then to speakers. For example, a $200 receiver plus $50 per zone for a decent volume attenuator, plus the cost of speakers and wiring. Note that not all attenuators are created equal, and you can end up with harsh sound, constant hiss, etc. You can "upgrade" and get volume attenuators that can also act as an IR pickup--assuming you run the necessary cable in parallel to the speaker wire--giving you some degree of control of the source equipment. Sample equipment suppliers are almost limitless, but some "big" names include AudioSource/PhoenixGold, Speco and Nutone.


2. An A-BUS setup. A "step up" in terms of control, but somewhat limiting in terms of audio quality (or how "loud" you can play music), as you're letting the A-BUS keypad act as a 7W/channel analog mini-amp for each set of speakers. Wiring is "easier," in that you run Cat5e from the back-end controller to each keypad, then speaker wire to each speaker. You gain "affordable" matrixed multi-source/multi-zone options (e.g., unlike the "el cheapo" route, you can listen to Source A in Room 1 and Source B in Room 2, etc.). There are even "high power" A-BUS solutions using digital keypad amps, but they may require more cable to be run to support getting the extra power to each keypad. Prices are all over the place, say $200-500 per zone, 4 zone minimum, plus the cost of speakers and wiring. IR repeating is baked into A-BUS, so you have some degree of source control. With A-BUS, you can start small (e.g., a single source, 4 zone system) or big (e.g., an 8 source, 8 zone system), and you can "upgrade" without too much pain, including some limited integration (e.g., an intercom). Sample solutions are available from players like ChannelVision, OnQ, ZON and Russound.


3. The (usually) kick-ass route. Think the flexibility and control of A-BUS with much better audio quality, as you're using dedicated multi-channel amps vs. wimpy keypads to power your speakers. A typical wiring setup for audio is Cat5e to each keypad, with speaker wire run from the centralized amp to each speaker zone (typically installers will run the speaker wire for each zone to the keypad for each zone, loop it, then run it up to the speakers, providing more flexibility for things down the road). There is a huge amount of differentiation in this category, with prices going from $200 a zone to infinity and beyond, plus the cost of speakers and wiring. Customization, integration and expandability are hallmarks of these types of setups--distributed video, IP transports, etc. Sample solutions are available from players like HTD, Breathe Audio, SpeakerCraft, Russound and NuVo.


In my case, with my builder, I had the choice of either nothing or this turnkey OnQ lyriQ A-BUS kit, plus OnQ evoQ 7000 6.5 in-ceiling speakers:

http://dalcohome.com/ProductDetails2...136&selection=


I have since, with a little pain, expanded this to a 4 source, 8 zone* system by replacing the controller and adding a new input module, essentially ending up with this kit:

http://dalcohome.com/ProductDetails2...182&selection=


* I was able to bribe the builder/installer to run extra wiring for 4 more zones once I signed the contract for his turnkey 4 zone system. I am a negotiating genius.



My audio sources are two AppleTVs (acting as music servers), a DirecTV STB and a CD/DVD player. Using the new Remote Application from Apple on my iPhone with the 2.0 software, I can use the iPhone to control either AppleTV over Wi-Fi, so I can sit on my deck and change playlists, etc. with total feedback on the iPhone...this little gem from Apple has *greatly* improved the usefulness of my system, and if I were doing it all over again, I would probably just have stayed with the single source OnQ 4 zone setup and piggybacked an extra 4 zones off of the controller, vs. going multi-source...I find that being able to call up any song, any artist, any playlist using my iPhone essentially negates my need for multi-source (I used to dedicate one AppleTV to "casual" music and one to "party" music and use the OnQ keypads to switch as desired). In fact, I have never used taking advantage of matrixing...if I'm playing X in Room 1, I'm probably just going to play X everywhere.


So, if I were able to have DIY'd a single source version of my current system, which is really all I need now, I'd have invested (rough numbers):


OnQ lyriQ AU7400 1 Source/4 Zone Kit $700

OnQ lyriQ AU7396 4 Zone Module (Daisychained) $80

OnQ lyriQ AU7394 Keypads (4) $440


So, about $152/zone, exclusive of the cost of the AppleTV ($229), iPhone ($399, ouch), speakers (about $130/pair) and cabling.


P.S. Please note that my system is essentially relegated to background, non-critical listening...I'm not rocking the house with this puppy, but I've found it's satisfactory for most situations, including cocktail parties, even on the deck. If I had more coin, I'd have a NuVo Grand Concerto setup.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by amillians /forum/post/14338231


ntode,

Using the new Remote Application from Apple on my iPhone with the 2.0 software, I can use the iPhone to control either AppleTV over Wi-Fi, so I can sit on my deck and change playlists, etc. with total feedback on the iPhone...this little gem from Apple has *greatly* improved the usefulness of my system, and if I were doing it all over again, I would probably just have stayed with the single source OnQ 4 zone setup and piggybacked an extra 4 zones off of the controller, vs. going multi-source...I find that being able to call up any song, any artist, any playlist using my iPhone essentially negates my need for multi-source (I used to dedicate one AppleTV to "casual" music and one to "party" music and use the OnQ keypads to switch as desired).

This is so true... I finished my system only a week before I got the iPhone 2.0 OS with the Remote app. I didn't even know this was going to exist, and would have lived without it, but it basically doubles the usefulness of my system!
 

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I'm wired for a 6 zone niles system. In other words I have cat-5 and 16-2 from each keypad location and speaker wires are all home run. Speakers are 16/4 per speaker except outdoors. Outdoors is 12/2 for all speakers. I am currently building the outdoor speakers into the rock wall.

I don't have the main unit , but I have all my keypads. Hoping for a sale this fall to complete.

I have plans to run the outdoors on a seperate power amplifier.
 
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