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Whole home audio, background music for parties?

Trouble Maker

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#1
What kind of system do you use?
Centralized or decentralized e.g. receiver with zones or some kind of streaming device out at each location?
Which ecosystems have you tried and liked e.g. Sonos, Amazon/Alexa, Google (assistant), Heos (Denon), Musicast (yamaha), etc?
At each location, what does the speaker layout look like, in ceiling, wall or stand alone speakers?
If simple in ceilings just for background music, does stereo even matter, or would mono be better even if using 2 speakers?
 
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Trouble Maker

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Thread Starter #2
I'm planning a way to get audio in 2 rooms other than the main system.

Room 1 Dining/kitchen, about 300sqft, 2400cuft space, which is connected to to the living room (where main system lives) by a 6x5 foot opening.
'Room' 2 will be a large (300~400sqft) back deck/patio area, it is connected to the dining room/kitchen by 6x6ft french door to the kitchen/dining room.
Another way to imagine it is, go through the front door and you are in the living room, through a 6x5 foot always open casement opening into the dining/kitchen. Then if you go through another door you will be on the back deck. If it's nice out and we are having parties those french doors will be left open. So, all of these spaces will be connected so I want to be able to play the same thing synced in all of the spaces. Or, I would like to also be able to control them separate if we are just sitting on the back deck or have a small group of people over and we are all in the kitchen/dining room.

I would like to be able to control it from phone or tablet. Maybe even put a tablet on the wall so anyone in that space can control it. It will be primarily for background music, but sometimes if I'm by myself in the dining/kitchen crank it just a bit. It doesn't need to be reference level or super high quality since that is the purpose of the main system. We are in the city so outside system definitely does not need to go loud.

With those 2 zones right next to each other, I can do 2 total separate systems, or they can be in the same space. I'm wondering if this will offer some cost efficiency to leverage 1 amp for both zones.
My initial thoughts about was to use 1 stereo amp for 2 zones by just doing Zone 1 on right channel and Zone 2 on left channel. That made me wonder if it is actually better to do Mono with say 2 or more speakers for background music with in ceilings. I can't imagine you are going to get any good stereo image with in ceilings and people can literally be anywhere in the room.
Or something like this 4 channel car amp and a 12~14V DC power supply like this one seems like a cost effective solution.

We have some smart home stuff, Smart Things back-end with Smart Things/Google Assistant/IFTTT on the front end, so ideally something that plays well with Google Assistant would be great. I do all of my streaming through Spotify. It's really a shame they did not come out with a Gen 2 Chromecast Audio. How viable is using a Chromecast with some kind of audio extractor? Will 3 Chromecast for audio sync well enough across 3 zones that are physically open to each other?

I'm thinking all in amps, streamers and speakers, without any tablets, for $500~1k, but I'm struggling with finding what seems like decent stuff in that price range. I can spend more, but I feel that I should be able to accomplish my goals within this budget.

Any good suggestions for in ceilings for $100~$150/each?
The outside space will be covered and the speakers will go in ceiling. This is in central Ohio so there are not any sever (salt, etc.) environmental conditions. I think it's OK to use non-outdoor, same inside and out, with some assumption I may have to replace in the future, but I don't really see that as being a huge issue or probability.
 
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SounderMN

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#3
I have Sonos and I love it! I've had it almost 15 years now. The sound quality is good, they have lots of options for speakers, or amplifiers, or zones that you connect to your amplifier. The biggest thing I think Sonos offers over the others is the longevity. They still support my gear after all this time, even though it's not in current production. I can call them with a question, they can run a diagnostic on my system (with my permission) remotely to investigate any issue I have. I've used it more than once, and they have even helped me diagnose other issues on my home WiFi, for no charge. Even most recently, they have issued new versions of the equipment that doesn't really work with the older stuff, and yet they still commit to supporting everything going forward. So, I don't have obsolete equipment, for as long as I can foresee. Can you say that about the other platforms you mention?
 

SounderMN

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#4
And, by the way, you can join all the zones, or play separate streams in each zone. You can set that up by tablet, phone, PC app, or they have dedicated devices as well. I run a speaker, a few amps, and a couple of zones connected to my stereos upstairs and downstairs. It all coexists very well. I don't think I have any other technology that works as easily and seamlessly time after time.
 

Mnyb

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#5
I use LMS and squeezeboxes and several rasberry pi software ”squeezeboxes” i just sync some of them if it’s party time.

The sync mechanism employed in LMS cold cause slight sq problem , but it ofcourse drowns in the acoustic leakage from the other rooms that and the fact you mingle around and don’t sit in the sweet spot :) and play from Spotify.

The system has some adjustments for lag if the sound becomes to phasey, , if some part of the involved hifi systems has a delay which happens in AVR and similar stuff .
 

JeffS7444

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#6
If you want to try Sonos as a multi-room solution and want them all playing the same music, best to define them as a single zone. Else the the individual speakers can go out of sync due to network latency and you wind up with echo-y effects which is really distracting. Works great otherwise.
 
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Trouble Maker

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Thread Starter #7
I thought one of Sonos claims to fame was they took care of latencey/timing sync issues? Is this only true when they are in the same zone, with the purpose being if you put together for example a 5.1 system with their gear? I guess it wouldn't be an issue to have them all on the same zone, because we could just turn them off individually if we aren't using a particular area. I don't think we would need different audio in different areas. The only place I could see a different audio is in the living room if people are watching TV there VS music in other areas. But the living room will be on a receiver so that won't be a problem.

The sonos stuff also feels a little expensive. I would need 3 of them (main zone + those 2 other rooms) so that is ~$1k just for the streaming boxes. I guess that is what you have to pay if you don't want to DIY? I'm an EE/programmer so DIY is not a problem but I just don't know if I want to invest the time to have something that is probably not as stable. So the project budget would have to go to around $2k. Though, I guess if we just lumped the back 2 zones I could just use 1 streaming box and figure out a way to turn off and on the zones individually.

With Sonos are you stuck into their front end or can you use Spotify app and pick the sonos device, like the KEF LS50Ws I have or the way I think I remember Chrome devices work?
 

Chrispy

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#8
Chromecast Audio units in several systems playing simultaneously, which systems just depends on what parts of the house I want to do that in. One would include the patio speakers via zone via an avr. This is generally several multich systems, but can rig up a coupla 2ch rigs as well. Nicely versatile.
 
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Trouble Maker

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Thread Starter #9
Again, it is really a shame that they no longer make Chromecast audios. I'm kicking myself for not getting some when they discontinued them, and a second time when we moved here and they were still on sale around the end of the summer last year. I worry about stability, functionality or performance if I do a Chromecast (HDMI) with audio extractor. I assume any inexpensive audio extractor will be crap. And anything half way decent will cost enough that price wise that I might as well just get the Sonos.

Chromecast Audio units in several systems playing simultaneously, which systems just depends on what parts of the house I want to do that in. One would include the patio speakers via zone via an avr. This is generally several multich systems, but can rig up a coupla 2ch rigs as well. Nicely versatile.
From an amp, sync and other viewpoints, the 'easy' answer would be to get the Denon AVR-X4500h, but then I could only do 5.x in the living room and I think I want to do 5.x.4.
 

Chrispy

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#10
Again, it is really a shame that they no longer make Chromecast audios. I'm kicking myself for not getting some when they discontinued them, and a second time when we moved here and they were still on sale around the end of the summer last year. I worry about stability, functionality or performance if I do a Chromecast (HDMI) with audio extractor. I assume any inexpensive audio extractor will be crap. And anything half way decent will cost enough that price wise that I might as well just get the Sonos.



From an amp, sync and other viewpoints, the 'easy' answer would be to get the Denon AVR-X4500h, but then I could only do 5.x in the living room and I think I want to do 5.x.4.
You can still buy Chromecast Audios on ebay....how I got my last one since I wasn't smart enough just to pick up one more when they were closing them out at $15. Never used a splitter/extractor myself. With the Denon you could add Heos instead.....or does that somehow interfere with number of channels on main zone?
 

JeffS7444

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#11
Sonos is definitely proprietary, and they made changes awhile back which require you to be logged into a Sonos account in order to add devices to your system or change groupings. They have slick products with attractive features, but if you're thinking non-obsolescence, it'll be hard to beat simply stringing a bunch of passive speakers through your space.
 

Webninja

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#13
You can go all Raspberry Pi and if you use Roon, then steam to different zones and so on. You can also get pi-compatible DAC boards and do a mix and match for amps and speakers.

I’m currently running Roon and a combination of chromecast, Apple and Raspberry Pi. All works well, but I can’t combine zones that are using different protocols. Eventually will go all RPI.
 

SimpleTheater

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#14
I used to use Sonos but switched to MusicCast. Sonos has a better interface and support for far more streaming services, but Yamaha has MusicCast built into most of its products so before dropping $600 on another Sonos Amp I saw a deal on a Yamaha AVR for $249, so I tried it out. Works great for my needs and now I’ve got 7 zones. A friend of mine is a huge Phish fan and got Sonos because there’s some service they have that isn’t on MusicCast. He was happy to spend the extra money for that.
 
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Trouble Maker

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Thread Starter #15
I was actually wondering if there was a relatively inexpensive stereo receiver with chromecast built in. I actually have a NAD C338 right which has Chromecast built in.
https://nadelectronics.com/product/c-338-classic-digital-dac-amplifier/
But assuming I go full home theater setup in the living room again I was planning to sell it. The 'problem' is only 1 set of speaker outs. Of course I can just run the 2 sets of speakers in parallel or series, but the only part I don't have figured out is how to turn each zone on or off. If we are just inside, I definitely don't want the deck speakers to be on.
The little I've read about inexpensive in wall volume controllers is their performance is really, really bad.
https://www.monoprice.com/search/index?keyword=speaker+volume+control
 

stevenswall

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#16
I use Google Home: 3-way bluetooth speaker that actually sounds good plugged into a Chromecast Audio on the fridge, a Google Home Hub on the kitchen counter, and another Chromecast Audio>MiniDSP>Genelec 8260 in the living room.

It will take about 5-10 minutes though if you're really picky about syncing things. You have to do it manually with a slider that shows you how many ms you are delaying things.
 

m_g_s_g

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#17
The sonos stuff also feels a little expensive.
You can go cheaper for “background listening rooms”, and invest more in your “critical listening areas”. You can get an Ikea Symphonisk (100% Sonos compatible) for 100$/100€ or second hand Play:1 for about the same.

With Sonos are you stuck into their front end or can you use Spotify app and pick the sonos device, like the KEF LS50Ws I have or the way I think I remember Chrome devices work?
You can definitely use the Spotify app. And then you have two choices: use the Sonos API or AirPlay 2.

I could switch to other systems (I have a couple of Rpis around with Volumio), but my family is now used to the Sonos ecosystem.
 
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Trouble Maker

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Thread Starter #19
I used to use Sonos but switched to MusicCast. Sonos has a better interface and support for far more streaming services, but Yamaha has MusicCast built into most of its products so before dropping $600 on another Sonos Amp I saw a deal on a Yamaha AVR for $249, so I tried it out. Works great for my needs and now I’ve got 7 zones. A friend of mine is a huge Phish fan and got Sonos because there’s some service they have that isn’t on MusicCast. He was happy to spend the extra money for that.
By 7 zones do you mean for each surround amplifier channel? How do you control on/off volume in each zone?

I had forgotten about RPI with VolumIO. If I don't keep the NAD this might be a good route. Has anyone used VolumIO or something like it, and liked it? I don't use Roon now or know much about it. My general impression is that it seems like it could be worth it if you had large digital library, but I do not. Maybe an Allo https://allo.com/sparky/miniboss-player-plus.html
 
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SimpleTheater

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#20
By 7 zones do you mean for each surround amplifier channel? How do you control on/off volume in each zone?
By 7 zones I mean 7 rooms. Five zones are stereo, so that’s ten amplification channels, one is a sound bar under the tv, the other is a 9 channel AVR which makes streaming music sound remarkably good.

On/off volume can be controlled by using the app or an Alexa device, the latter has become my preferred method.
 
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