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Software for Multi-zone playback


jonpaurog

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I am currently in the process of digitalizing all my music and setting up a system for music playback that will cover my whole house. I have 7 rooms that will be hooked up with speakers, two of these will be dedicated listening rooms where i plan on making great investments in order to support audiophile listening!

 

The main component of my system will be some sort of a music server. I have looked into a lot of possible solutions on how to organize all of this. In the end: it all comes down to the software!

 

One strong candidate is the Sooloos system. Why? BC the software is excellent. See, it is very important to me that the system is easy to control. My girlfriend will be using this, so will my mom and dad whenever they are around, and I rather not spend hours explaining how things work.

 

The biggest problem that I find in Sooloos is its limited ability to support new software. You actually need to wait for Meridian to agree on terms with software providers before they will let you use new music solutions. This is a definite problem. An example:

 

I am a Spotify user. I find Spotify to be great for "mingle music." The quality is, of course, not good, but really, if I am hanging out in the back yard with some mates, my outdoor speakers will not sound excellent no matter how high the bit-rate is. I also like Pandora. And in the coming years, there definitely will be new solutions coming up all the time that Sooloos won´t let me use.

 

Because of this limitation of Sooloos, i rather somehow include a mac/computer in the music server system. I then face two possibilities:

1) Buy 2 MacMini´s that I hook up to external DACs to allow audiophile playback in my dedicated listening zones.

2) Build my own music server with X (minimum 2) sound card outputs.

 

--> In both cases, I will supplement with X number of Airport Express that will allow anyone holding an Iphone/Ipad to stream their Spotify/Pandora/Rhapsody music.

 

Now. Here comes the problem that needs a solution. This is what I hope someone out there will be able to help me with:

 

I need software to control all of this. These are my conditions:

 

1) The Software can be in a preamplifier/DAC/Sound Card Software/Amplifier/Mutlizone controller. I do not care

2) The only case in which i will consider an A/V receiver is if it does not convert A-->D-->A. In other words, a receiver is OK as long as the signal produced by my HQ DAC or Sound Card is not converted back to digital format when entering the A/V Receiver. And it must support at least two analog inputs

3)The software must allow me to control all inputs and zones. In other words, I must be able to control what input is sent to what zone (which consists of amplifier and speakers)

4) I want to control everything using a computer/Ipad/Iphone. Ipad/Iphone application is preferred.

 

To anyone who has a good solution: Thank you, you saved me a lot of money not buying Sooloos!

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Music servers are not always the best bet. Two things can happen if you get too much going on at once... First; the server itself will start to lag, possibly gapping the music and Second; you will end up flooding one or more of your network paths and again you'll have playback problems.

 

In these situations I generally suggest multiple "low end" systems, one dedicated to each zone with a healthy dose of network file sharing tossed in. The idea is not to bring the *music* to the room but rather to bring the *file* to the room so that the local PC can play it back for you, from a more or less lazy state.

 

Granted the multi-HTPC setup is a little more expensive, depending on your choice of computers for the task. However, music-only systems can be quite "minimalist" and still give extremely good results. The super small windows machines based on the Atom processor with XP Professional installed should be ideal for this task. Most will work very nicely with USB DACS or home theatre receivers via SPDIF. I particularly like the small boxes from

ASRock

 

I've done a few of these and have written a custom software package to control it all. (link in my signature) Basically this "Remote Media" software gives you a very flexible remote control system that can use netbook or notebook computers as remote controls. It will let you launch any shared file, from any computer and play it on any HTPC on your network. It also supports multiple remote controls both as remotes on several machines controlling the same program and multiple remotes on the same machine controlling different programs.

 

The thing to think about is how to do this with A) minimum loading on any one computer and B) maximum flexibility in playback options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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