Advice on active ceiling speakers to connect to home automation system

bhs117

Novice Member
Hi all,

My wife and I are undertaking a self-build later this year and are currently looking at home automation systems to cover a variety of areas including music. We're looking at systems like Crestron, Control4, Elan etc for the home automation element. The sound system is a home cinema set up for a living room (5.1) and tv room (7.1) plus ceiling speakers for a limited number of other rooms to stream music into them. The contractor who is designing the system is proposing a Crestron system with the multi-room audio based on the Sonos digital network streaming hardware and Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers. It would also include: Sonos digital pre amp, Sonos arc soundbar, Sonos active subwoofer, Sonos active satelite speakers, Anthem surround sound audio visual receiver and a Martin Logan active cabinet subwoofer.

The sound system is concentrated on a limited number of rooms but we were looking to expand that by having a cheaper ceiling speaker option in a variety of additional rooms and a few areas outside the house e.g. patio. We're happy with fairly basic speakers for these rooms/areas but the key criteria for us is:
1) cost
2) ability to control the individual speakers as part of the wider home sound system, allowing us to use the audio feeds we have coming in to the central system (e.g. spotify) and to send them to the ceiling speakers. We would want to be able to have different music in different rooms.
3) we dont want to have bluetooth/wifi signals being continually transmitted from the speakers when not in use, so either speakers without bluetooth, speakers where the bluetooth could be disabled or speakers where the bluetooth is only sending out its signal if a bluetooth audio source is connected to it.
4) a wired solution providing sound and power

The other premium speakers are all going to be using a Sonos amplifier but that is too expensive to use to support the speakers for the additional rooms, so I was thinking of either an active speaker which had a built in amp or a cheap ceiling speaker/amp combination. I am unsure whether there would be any other hardware costs/implications to take into consideration for these additional speakers other than the active speaker (or passive speaker plus amp) plus wiring e.g. is there a limit to the number of speakers that can be wired into the receiver. Ideally we wouldn't be spending more than £250 per speaker and a single stereo speaker would be sufficient per room.

Both my wife and I have limited knowledge on AV systems so we were hoping to get some advice on what solutions could work for the cheaper ceiling speakers. Any help would be appreciated - thanks in advance.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
My only advice would be to rethink your proposal for all ceiling speakers in the main room used for watching film and TV. Consider in wall speakers as ceiling speakers for a 7.1 is quite possibly the worse position and would certainly negate you being able to add speakers for the Atmos domain.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
@bhs117 I moved your thread here as you are likely to get the correct and better advice than where you originally posted.
 

jamieu

Active Member
Sonos would certainly be the simplest route and despite some nose turning at them (after they dropped support for their v1 products) I'd still say it's a good choice for your requirements, but as you say the cost of Sonos Amps soon adds up. BlueOS is another option.

Another good option might be to run Roon on a central server or NAS and then use low-cost Rasberry Pi based Roon (RAAT) endpoints with an amp 'hat' (running HiFiBerryOS or Ropieee XL). You can also get expansion boards (called hats) with Digital or RCA outputs. Both those operating systems also allow you to stream directly to each unit via Spotify Connect, AirPlay or Bluetooth (ie. bypassing Roon entirely, in fact if you don't need true multi-room synced playback or support for a local library you could use them without Roon).

I have a similar setup and (as a previous Sonos user, along with other multi room platforms) have found it to be rock solid and the one I have been most happy with. But you may find that it's not a route your CI would be happy configuring for you as it's less of a plug-n-play / commodified product than Sonos or BlueOS. So will likely depend on how much of the setup you can handle yourself.

A lifetime Roon licence is expensive, but the fact you can use it with low-cost RPi based 'endpoints' and a whole raft of 3rd party devices makes it an attractive route as you add more speakers / devices / zones. ie. ~£500 for the Roon lifetime licence + ~£250 for an Intel NUC to run it on (this is effectively a DIY Nucleus) + ~£100 per room for each Roon/RAAT supporting RPi endpoint/bridge/amp.

If your existing amp, AVR or speakers are Roon Ready then you don't even need an additional 'endpoint' device, likewise if you already have a powerful NAS you can run the Roon Core on that.

Roon also works with Sonos and BlueOS, so you can mix and match the two systems (ie. Sonos for your AV setup and Roon/RAAT for the rest) and then use the Roon app to control them both. Although you can't have synced playback (ie. the same music playing in sync) across a Sonos speaker/amp and a Roon (RAAT) endpoint/amp. But you can play different music to each speaker/zone individually and group either the Roon (RAAT) or Sonos speakers together for synced-playback.

Or you could just start with just the RPi based endpoints/amps running Ropieee XL (which will give you Spotify/AirPlay/Bluetooth) for your additional ceiling speakers and add Roon into the mix later on to have a single app/playback system across all your zones. Which makes for a nice upgrade path.
 
Last edited:

AmericanAudio

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
It really depends on your installer and what they want / can to integrate into the system. If you are actually integrating these lower use rooms in at all.

Lots of other options for streaming music playing, all of which have Crestron/C4/Elan interfaces. Crestron is top dollar, but rock-solid, we have sites running it that have been stable for 5years without need of a reboot.

For your lower use rooms, active inceiling will be a nice option, but not in budget really. They are also out of the norm for a whole house system, i would recommend trying to wire all rooms the same way and then there is no confusion when trying to set up.

Plenty of inceiling options from the likes of Montior Audio, OSD, Klipsch, Sonnance, SpeakerCraft etc. (The list is almost endless)

Then it will really depend on the streaming hardware the main system is as to what endpoint / amp is dictated you put on it.

Personal and Business Fav for me is BlueSound / BlueOS as they have an open standard that others have bought into. So less limitations IMO.

HTH

Chris
 

bhs117

Novice Member
My only advice would be to rethink your proposal for all ceiling speakers in the main room used for watching film and TV. Consider in wall speakers as ceiling speakers for a 7.1 is quite possibly the worse position and would certainly negate you being able to add speakers for the Atmos domain.
Hi, thanks for the feedback. This will be the first home cinema system we have bought so it is a bit of a learning curve for us and the initial design has been produced by the contractor as his recommendation. He has made a proposal for two home cinema systems based on a better system in the main TV Room with a lower spec system in the secondary TV viewing room (Living Room). I have attached a schematic of the TV room below. The proposal is for:
  • 4 ceiling Stereo speakers (6 inch Bowers & Wilkins in-ceiling stereo loudspeaker),
  • 1 Martin Logan active cabinet subwoofer in the top left corner, and
  • 3 Bowers & Wilkins in-wall surround sound loudspeakers underneath the TV.
The window is floor to ceiling so there is no space there to install any speakers.

With regards to the central two speakers, would I be right in thinking that they need to go at the same level as each other so if the only place for the one near the window is in the ceiling then the other one needs to go in the ceiling too? Even if we can't get it on the wall due to the window are there any better alternatives which go on the ceiling but aren't embedded in the ceiling e.g. some type of speaker cube attached to the ceiling.
The back two speakers could go on the back wall, do these speakers need to be at a higher height than the central ones - is that a reason for not putting them on the back wall do you think i.e. the central ones need to go on the ceiling so the back ones need to be as high as these as well?

If you have any suggestions for how this could be better configured we would appreciate your feedback.
Also, any thoughts on the system specifications - do they represent value for money at the quality level they offer or are there similar systems available for cheaper prices?

The above is the inroom specification. In terms of what is in the central room it is:
Sonos digital media streaming power amplifier
Sonos digital media streaming pre-amplifier
Anthem surround sound audio-visual receiver

Thanks for your help.

TV Room AV.png
 

bhs117

Novice Member
Sonos would certainly be the simplest route and despite some nose turning at them (after they dropped support for their v1 products) I'd still say it's a good choice for your requirements, but as you say the cost of Sonos Amps soon adds up. BlueOS is another option.

Another good option might be to run Roon on a central server or NAS and then use low-cost Rasberry Pi based Roon (RAAT) endpoints with an amp 'hat' (running HiFiBerryOS or Ropieee XL). You can also get expansion boards (called hats) with Digital or RCA outputs. Both those operating systems also allow you to stream directly to each unit via Spotify Connect, AirPlay or Bluetooth (ie. bypassing Roon entirely, in fact if you don't need true multi-room synced playback or support for a local library you could use them without Roon).

I have a similar setup and (as a previous Sonos user, along with other multi room platforms) have found it to be rock solid and the one I have been most happy with. But you may find that it's not a route your CI would be happy configuring for you as it's less of a plug-n-play / commodified product than Sonos or BlueOS. So will likely depend on how much of the setup you can handle yourself.

A lifetime Roon licence is expensive, but the fact you can use it with low-cost RPi based 'endpoints' and a whole raft of 3rd party devices makes it an attractive route as you add more speakers / devices / zones. ie. ~£600 for the Roon lifetime licence + ~£250 for a Intel NUC to run it on (this is effectively a DIY Nucleus) + ~£100 per room for each Roon/RAAT supporting RPi endpoint/bridge/amp.

If your existing amp, AVR or speakers are Roon Ready then you don't even need an additional 'endpoint' device, likewise if you already have a powerful NAS you can run the Roon Core on that.

Roon also works with Sonos and BlueOS, so you can mix and match the two systems (ie. Sonos for your AV setup and Roon/RAAT for the rest) and then use the Roon app to control them both. Although you can't have synced playback (ie. the same music playing in sync) across a Sonos speaker/amp and a Roon (RAAT) endpoint/amp. But you can play different music to each speaker/zone individually and group either the Roon (RAAT) or Sonos speakers together for synced-playback.

Or you could just start with just the RPi based endpoints/amps running Ropieee XL (which will give you Spotify/AirPlay/Bluetooth) for your additional ceiling speakers and add Roon into the mix later on to have a single app/playback system across all your zones. Which makes for a nice upgrade path.
Hi, many thanks for your detailed reply. I really appreciate you taking the time to feedback. I think I need to do a bit of research on the links you have sent to be able to understand the context better. One thing I hadn't really considered is the preferences of the contractor. They have products they typically offer and while some elements of their "standard" offer may be easy for them to change (e.g. one brand of speaker for another), other elements may require a different approach altogether, one they may not want to inplement or support as it is not their preferred approach. A lot of the companies we approached were suggesting similar infrstructures, a lot were recommending the Sonos system and I guess they prefer to offer the more standard offerings which are well known though not necessarily the exact best option for the job. I'll check out the links you have attached and come back to you later if that's ok.
 

bhs117

Novice Member
It really depends on your installer and what they want / can to integrate into the system. If you are actually integrating these lower use rooms in at all.

Lots of other options for streaming music playing, all of which have Crestron/C4/Elan interfaces. Crestron is top dollar, but rock-solid, we have sites running it that have been stable for 5years without need of a reboot.

For your lower use rooms, active inceiling will be a nice option, but not in budget really. They are also out of the norm for a whole house system, i would recommend trying to wire all rooms the same way and then there is no confusion when trying to set up.

Plenty of inceiling options from the likes of Montior Audio, OSD, Klipsch, Sonnance, SpeakerCraft etc. (The list is almost endless)

Then it will really depend on the streaming hardware the main system is as to what endpoint / amp is dictated you put on it.

Personal and Business Fav for me is BlueSound / BlueOS as they have an open standard that others have bought into. So less limitations IMO.

HTH

Chris
Hi Chris
thanks for the reply, that's appreciated. We are wanting to integrate the secondary rooms to the system. I have asked my installer for options for a cheaper speaker set up for the secondary rooms and they were struggling to come up with options which were connected to the central hub and more budget focused.
I was hoping we would be able to find a cheap active in-ceiling speaker which negated the need for a corresponding expensive amp in the rack for each speaker and we could simply plug this active speaker into the music input which was providing audio for the rest of the house and we would be good to go. I'm guessing it isn't this simple is it?

I was hoping it would be cheaper to have an active speaker than a passive speaker linked to a standalone amp. On a like for like quality basis at a budget rate, would an in ceiling passive speaker plus amp be generally cheaper than an active in ceiling speaker?

Thanks for the recommendations, I will check them out.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I have some issues with where the four in ceiling speakers are being placed. It take it that the plan shows that there is seating right up against the wall opposite the TV. If this is so then your room really only lends itself to a 5.1 or 5.1.2 at its maximum.

If there is no possible way to place the rear most speakers at just above a seated head height then it is what it is and almost every room has to have some kind of compromise. The two speakers in front of the seating serve no purpose as they are two far forward for surrounds with the rearmost speakers being in the rear surround position.

If you could indeed have the rearmost speakers at a lower position then the other ceiling speakers could be brought into the Atmos domain although they would have to be inline with the front left and right. I've linked to Dolby's speaker placement guide. Although it's an Atmos guide the base level speakers will be the same in a 5.1. or 5.1 set up.

 

Joe Fernand

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
Like others I suspect you have gotten ahead of sorting out the fundamental requirement and too quickly got into brand names and budgets.

From what you describe I am struggling to see why you require ‘Home Automation’ though possibly a decent single room control system for the Cinema Room would be useful.

SONOS is brilliant for the money and meets most folks requirements in terms of usability, audio performance and flexibility, avoid trying to cut corners and stick with it for all zones or be constantly kicking yourself about the lack of consistency of usability in those zones where you think you can save a few £££.

This I would worry about ‘we dont want to have bluetooth/wifi signals being continually transmitted from the speakers when not in use’ if you don’t want consistency WiFi in the house I’d forget about any plans for a modern home entertainment system!

Ideally start with a room by room requirement list and note what you want to be able to listen to and view, how many users of the system what control devices would you want...

Joe
 

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