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#313597 - 07/07/10 11:25 AM Multi-Room Audio Ideas
donlboy Offline
buff

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 41
My daughter is building a new house and wants to provide for future stereo audio distribution to about six rooms (plus the family room where the main system will be located). Sound quality needs to be 'good', not necessarily outstanding. She wants volume controls (including 'Off') in each room. Distributing the same source to all rooms is OK, but different sources to different rooms would be nice. I don't know yet what AVR she will be using, I'm sure it will at least have a Zone-2 output.

I know that there are many ways to do this ranging from stringing speaker wires to each room, line-level distribution with amps in each room, Cat-5e distribution, etc./etc. I would appreciate some ideas on how to proceed. What have you done and how does it work? Any ideas on the cost?
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#313653 - 07/07/10 04:18 PM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: donlboy]
Dave B Offline
old hand

Registered: 06/08/10
Posts: 79
Loc: Chicago
I just wrapped up my wiring project. My 2400sqft two level condo now has 6 zones of audio plus two listening rooms. I apologize for not being brief in my description...

It was pre-wired (with crappy low end 18ga cable) for 5 channels in the family room, 2 channels in the front living room and master bedroom, with wall controls for each of those two rooms. Those rooms were unused; the 5ch room had a crappy Bose cube setup. All of this was home run to the right of the family room fireplace (then the previous owner ran it back up over to the left side for their furniture preference... and then across to the back of the room for the Bose sub... and then back over to splice into the 5ch sources, which then ran up through the ceiling. Yes, that's roughly 1000 feet of bad wire that I yanked out.)

I immediately retrofit the source to a downstairs closet and set it up for distributed AV condo-wide. I sold the Bose and will be setting up an Axiom theater in the family room. I added a dual-coil speaker in the master bath, another in the laundry, and two regular ones in the third bedroom, as well as installing the speakers in the two pre-wired rooms. I ignored the wall controls for now.

My net cost for all of this, so far, has been under $1000. The Bose were sold for $500. I bought a bunch of 14x4 speaker cable (decent but not the highest strand count - if I go with M22s or M80s upstairs I will upgrade this) from Monoprice as well as 2000 feet of Cat6 cable. That was about $325 altogether. I spent $70 on the two dual-coil speakers, also from MP. They're not amazing, but they're damn good for 70 bucks, and for a utility/laundry room and a bathroom they're more than adequate. The third bedroom also got cheapo MP speakers. The bedroom and living room were going to get some Revels, but a trusted AV source said that for a fraction of the price, I'd get 90% of the performance with Episodes. Bearing in mind that no ceiling speaker will ever be perfect, especially with open web truss construction (ie, a whole bunch of wide open space behind them in all directions), I was happy to go with the 500 series 6.5" Episodes. I got a great deal on these, as well as on the EP-1230 6 zone amplifier.

And they sound spectacular. Far better than I'd ever have expected.

I've also got some dual-coil Polk Atrium 8s for outdoor zones to round things out. I may put a pair of speakers in the breakfast area too, but that'd mostly just be to show off, since the family room speakers more than adequately fill this space (I currently use the kitchen table as my desk). The 6 zone amp is run as the 2nd zone of a Nakamichi integrated amp that drives the 5ch in the family room (or will, when I get the Axioms). The 2nd bedroom will become the theater and get its own independent reference system some day.

The CAT6 is in place for HDMI distribution and I have some baluns for that and will eventually get a matrix switcher. That'll end up being a larger expense, as the MP 4x4 won't work for me. (In a small place, though, without dealing with cat6 and baluns, though, it could be an awesome budget solution. Just won't work for me. HDMI is a real pain, btw, even with the super expensive ones.) There's also CAT6 in place for wall panels, for future automation, security, IR, etc. It's entirely possible that that won't be necessary for her at all. But 1000 feet of CAT6 is 80 dollars so it's worth wiring it all up, especially if the house is being built.

I will ultimately replace the EP1230 because I do want independent zone control. I'll probably end up using a Crestron Adagio. But if she doesn't NEED a ton of distribution, she can spread audio through the entire house without spending very much. Depending on her ear, she can save a TON by going with the Monoprice ceiling speakers. If you get a friendly dealer, you can get a really low price on the Episodes too. Or if you can design it so they're in walls instead of in ceilings, your options open way up.

There are Russound and Nuvo turnkey systems that might even have wireless wall plates for volume control in the zones and will do full 6x6 distribution. I think a Nuvo concerto is like 2 grand. Those are digital amps, if that matters.

Anyway, to answer the original question, wire a Cat6 or three to a switch point by the entrance to each room, and bring a 14x4 speaker cable with it. Then wire 14x4 from that point to L speaker, loop it, and proceed to the R speaker. Make notes of where they are and you can punch holes later, slice open the outer wire, and plug in 2 of the 4 channels to the first speaker and the other two to the 2nd. Those digital systems come with wall panels or you can find impedance matching volume sliders/dials for like 20 bucks each. And as long as the house is drywall-free, run Cat6 all over the place. You can never have too much of that, it's cheap, and it gives you freedom to put TVs or computers or controllers anywhere you want if you change your mind later.

And if all she wants is for the 6 other rooms to be separate from the main family room, a receiver/preamp for that room with a 2nd zone for a 6 zone amp, like how mine is, is all she needs. The bedrooms would all have to be the same source, but they'd at least have their own volume controls, and the family room could be a separate source, the same one, or a different one. The only catch is that setups like this typically require that the 2nd amp only gets an analog signal. That's really not that big a deal though. Most sources will put out digital and analog at the same time. My cable box, BluRay, and AppleTV all do. In fact, they send audio via HDMI straight to the TV, optical digital audio to the Nakamichi, and analog audio to the Episode via the Nak.

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#313654 - 07/07/10 04:33 PM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: Dave B]
Potatohead Offline
aficionado

Registered: 05/14/09
Posts: 670
Loc: Vancouver
Longest post evar award

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#313655 - 07/07/10 04:37 PM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: Potatohead]
Dave B Offline
old hand

Registered: 06/08/10
Posts: 79
Loc: Chicago
Yay!

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#313672 - 07/07/10 06:36 PM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: Dave B]
Micah Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 11/16/08
Posts: 1789
Loc: Indiana you hoser!!!!
Originally Posted By: Dave B
I apologize for not being brief in my description...


Biggest understatement ever award.
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#313679 - 07/07/10 06:57 PM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: Micah]
htnut
Unregistered


You've got competition Micah smile

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#313694 - 07/07/10 09:22 PM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: ]
dakkon Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 02/08/04
Posts: 1863
Jeezzz, after about 5min of reading i though i was done, i think after the 8th paragraph i gave up......

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#313716 - 07/07/10 11:42 PM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: dakkon]
donlboy Offline
buff

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 41
Come on guys, Dave is trying to help! Any good ideas from any of you?
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#313717 - 07/07/10 11:58 PM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: donlboy]
dakkon Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 02/08/04
Posts: 1863
nope, but i think Dave knows were just giving him a hard time, since he is the only one that has anything of use to add to your question smile

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#313722 - 07/08/10 12:20 AM Re: Multi-Room Audio Ideas [Re: dakkon]
Dave B Offline
old hand

Registered: 06/08/10
Posts: 79
Loc: Chicago
If you have spoiled her by having excellent sound quality and value with Axiom speakers, she's probably got enough taste to recognize the cheapo Monoprice speakers as crap. Still, they're good for saving money on the least-used zones, areas where no amount of money will overcome back acoustics/materials/placement, or places where other less discerning family members will be.

Beyond that, if they're ceiling speakers, it's going to be awfully hard to beat the price/quality of Episodes. As for amps and control, it really just comes down to how customizable she wants it. She can get into home automation and spend 20k+ or she can spend 2500 and have good sound everywhere with wall controls but not necessarily the ability to play 6 sources in 6 spaces or 1 in 1.

Apparently there's an Elan unit that'll act as a multi-zone processor for a 6z amp like the Ep1230 and is like $900. I'm not at all familiar with it though.

I probably could've just kept it to that reply the first time around. I was bored though.

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