Question Clean slate - new multiroom system advice please.

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
Hi. I was a pretty active member a few years ago, but I've been out of the game for a while because I finally got my audio system to a state I was really happy with - enough to totally cure upgraditis.
But now we're moving house, so it's time to reassess. I don't know what's out there now, so hit me with the ideas please.

I'll be keeping all of my separates for the 'good' systems, but want something for the house.

About my usage: I'm comfortable with streaming for everyday listening in all rooms. Streaming both from web services and from a NAS box in the house. At the moment I have Squeezeboxes, but happy to change.
I'm more than happy to control the streamer from a phone app, but I do like to have a physical control available for certain actions like volume control without having to get the phone from my pocket, unlock it etc. For example, I have a squeezebex attached to an in-wall amp in the kitchen (therefore on/off and volume controls there on the wall) and then on to ceiling speakers. So Sonos would be out of the question for me - I don't think they have volume controls.

I'd consider a system with multiple streamers in different rooms, or some centralised system serving multiple rooms.
Need to play at least two unique sources simultaneously in different rooms

Types of room required:
  • Source only, preferably digital output. No volome control req'd
  • Source, amp, speakers. Speakers preferably in-ceiling. Some physical volume button/dial. Largest room is 6x6m so probably needs 2 pairs of speakers. Some rooms will have a TV or other source, so maybe a method for getting non-streamed local audio into the amp. When I say source, amp, speakers, there's no special desire for these to be in 3 separate boxes.
I think I'll want 2 source-only, and 3-4 full-chain rooms. For a budget option of individual streamers, I'm aware that it probably wouldn't be in-ceiling speakers.
Budget: Undecided. I'll listen to a variety of options from high hundreds to mid thousands (and up if you have a really good idea). I'm not ashamed to buy second-hand.

Additional thoughts:
Where I say a physical volume control, maybe the system has a remote control I can leave in the room instead?


Thanks in advance.
 
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David Hillman

Active Member
Need to play at least two unique sources simultaneously in different rooms
Do you also require the ability to synchronize multiple rooms playing the same source? And if so, do you need to group the rooms arbitrarily? This makes a big difference in your options, in my experience.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
In my current Squeezebox system, I don't think I ever used that feature since the first week of ownership. So I'd say no I don't need it.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Most makers of Streaming Device make a range of devices. Some are like the Sonos:Connect that is attached to an existing Stereo system. Other are complete stand alone devices with Network, Amp, and Speakers all in one unit.

CONNECT — Streaming Music Stereo Upgrade | Sonos

For situations where you want a compact system, but separate speakers, Sonos make the Sonos:Connect-Amp. Essentially a Sonos Connect with an amp built in-

CONNECT:AMP - Wireless Stereo Amplifier | Sonos

You need to decide how much and what type of system you want in each room and how much you are willing to spend.

The Sonos-Play5 is a pretty big all in one Streaming System, but they cost a bit over £500.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/SONOS-PLAY-Smart-Wireless-Speaker-Black/dp/B015MWS9NU

Two Sonos-Play5 can be paired together into a Stereo system, but that's £1000 for a somewhat limited Stereo.

PLAY:3 — Mid-size Home Speaker with Stereo Sound | Sonos

PLAY:5 — Biggest and Boldest Home Speaker | Sonos

There are also amps like the Yamaha RN602 and the Yamaha RN803 Receivers that have Network Capability built into the amps. While these have the Yamaha Proprietary MusicCast, they also have universal DLNA and Apple Airplay built in. Some are saying that the MusicCast aspect still has some bugs in it, but the DLNA and Apple Airplay should work fine.

There are several brands that are branching out into Network Streaming - Cambridge, Pioneer, BlueSound, Others - and they all have a range of products.

They we get into the nature of the type of Streaming you want to do. For example, if you just use Streaming Services like Spotify, then a simply £30 Google ChromeCast for each system will get the job done.

If you insist on absolute synchronous play in each room, that take better units. But if you want the same music in each room, but are less concerned about them being absolutely synchronized, that is a lesser approach.

If you simply want access in every room to music, then that is another approach.

Next, do you download Hi-Res FLAC or ALAC from the Internet (talking about purchasing file or digital albums) or will it be strictly streaming? SONOS are limited to CD quality. Where as BlueSound will play Hi-Resolutions downloaded files. But if you don't plan to download FLAC, then you really don't need that feature.

Generally, though not absolutely, it is best to stick with one brand for compatibility.

Generally, all new AV Receiver will come with Network capability built in.

So, things to consider -

How much are you willing to spend for each room?


What is the specific need for each room? Will a self-contained system like the Sonos-Play work in some rooms? In some rooms would a simple small box like the Sonos-Play1 be the best choice? Will some rooms prefer a simply compact Stereo? Will some rooms need a full Stereo system?

PLAY:1 — Mini but Mighty Home Speaker | Sonos

How will you use the Network Capability?
Internet Streaming Services? Locally Stored Files? Standard Resolution and/or High Resolution? Will all rooms need to be synchronized, or will they mostly stand alone?

As to In-Ceiling Speakers, it is easy to picture speakers in the ceiling and working, but consider what it takes to put them there, and MORE IMPORTANTLY consider what it means to run the Speaker wire from the Speaker down to the Amp. That typically means tearing up the walls to some degree. To what degree will depend on the specific circumstance. And tearing up the walls, then means patching and painting those walls and perhaps the ceiling too.

To me, In-Ceiling Speakers, unless this is new construction or a significant remodeling, are not worth the expense. Also, once they are in the ceiling they are locked into that location forever. Not so with a Stand Alone Unit or with separate components.

Whether you answer these question to us or not, these are the considerations you have to make for yourself. Understand the requirements, needs, and budget for each room.

I used Sonos as an example, but as I said, depending on your needs, similar components are available from different brands.

Steve/bluewizard
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
Thanks for the tips (and nice to see you're still around - I've been away since 2014). To the questions on there...

Budget, I'm thinking 5000-ish for the system (bear in mind I already own the quality amps and speakers for rooms that need it), but happy to take suggestions for a budget option (Sonos/Yamaha style setup) or higher if there's something worthwhile.

Some rooms might be ok with freestanding devices like Sonos, but not actually Sonos for the reasons mentioned in my original post (mainly the lack of physical volume controls)

We already have ceiling speakers in the kitchen, and can't imagine anything else being as good for the new kitchen - they're out of the way, don't get splashed when cooking etc.

On the structural work, that's a good point about the walls. I was mainly considering the cabling in-ceiling which is something I thought would be ok. Walls could be harder. So maybe a system that has wireless keypad controllers?

Sources: Currently I'd say that 75% of my listening is from FLAC files on a NAS. The remaining 25% is streaming and internet radio.
 

RBZ5416

Distinguished Member
Why do you want to move away from Squeezebox? Granted it's only available used but I've seen nothing in the 10+ years I've been using it to make me want to switch.

Well that's not entirely true. I did get seduced by all the plaudits being heaped on the Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 a while back so bought one. Heard no appreciable difference to the SB Touch & the interface wasn't a patch on LMS, so it went within a couple of weeks. Touch, Radio & Boom meet all of my requirements still.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
Interesting question. I do get by pretty well now with a selection of Touches, a Radio, and Duets (Duets are still good for rooms where I want the source hidden away, and just expose in-wall amp. Just don't use the remote part of the duet, it's horrible).
Firstly, my wife doesn't get on with them as well as I do. But I'm not sure that any system would cure that problem!
Secondly, as we're moving, I thought it is a good opportunity to change. Partly because they're discontinued, but also because a proper home-automation type system must be better, right?
However, I am open to the option of keeping the Squeezeboxes and probably buying another Touch or two.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
It seems to be widely held that Sonos is king where the fairer sex are concerned.
Sonos is out of the question. I had a chat with somebody in a shop a few months back, and none of the models have volume controls on them. That's a basic functionality that I'd demand without having to get my phone out and unlocked, app opened etc. Essential: power and volume. Nice-to-have: play/pause, next/previous track, favourite/preset.

Then I think you need to state exactly what your wishlist is that SB doesn't do.
In some rooms, I'll have another source like a TV. In my rooms with a quality sound system, this is fine because it becomes another input to the same amp that a Touch drives. But in, for example, the 6x6m family room, It'd be good to have the extra source fed in to the amp stage of that zone's system. This can be done with separate amplification - maybe I'm being too picky?
That's the main point. But also, a squeezebox (or Sonos, Yamaha etc) pretty much requires a box to be out in the room. It would be nicer to just have an in-wall touchpad and in-ceiling speakers for the lower-audio-quality rooms.

(by the way, you are beginning to persuade me to keep the SB here - writing it out like that just made my problems seem really small and maybe not worth a spend of a few thousands)
 

David Hillman

Active Member
Some rooms might be ok with freestanding devices like Sonos, but not actually Sonos for the reasons mentioned in my original post (mainly the lack of physical volume controls)
You know that Sonos Connect:Amps have physical volume buttons on the front, right? And so do the Sonos speakers -- all of them as far as I know.

We already have ceiling speakers in the kitchen, and can't imagine anything else being as good for the new kitchen - they're out of the way, don't get splashed when cooking etc.

On the structural work, that's a good point about the walls. I was mainly considering the cabling in-ceiling which is something I thought would be ok. Walls could be harder. So maybe a system that has wireless keypad controllers?
Have you picked-out/bought/moved-in to the new house yet?
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
You know that Sonos Connect:Amps have physical volume buttons on the front, right? And so do the Sonos speakers -- all of them as far as I know.
This is new information to me, and not in line with what the chap in the shop told me. I'll check up on some specs again tonight.
Have you picked-out/bought/moved-in to the new house yet?
Had an offer accepted, not exchanged yet.
 

RBZ5416

Distinguished Member
I had a chat with somebody in a shop a few months back, and none of the models have volume controls on them
The Sonos Connect does:



a squeezebox (or Sonos, Yamaha etc) pretty much requires a box to be out in the room. It would be nicer to just have an in-wall touchpad and in-ceiling speakers for the lower-audio-quality rooms.
Just before Logitech pulled the plug, someone on the SlimDevices forum tooled up some wall mounts for the Touch. Don't know if they're still available.

Squeezebox Touch Wall mounts available. All colours

This would give you both local control & do away with the "box".

(by the way, you are beginning to persuade me to keep the SB here - writing it out like that just made my problems seem really small and maybe not worth a spend of a few thousands)
Then my work here is done! :)

Edit
As above, Play 1 certainly has the same controls as the Connect.

 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
Ok, I stand corrected on the Sonos. Not sure I'd ditch the SB for Sonos though.
So new plan, falling significantly under-budget then...

Expand my Squeezebox collection by a couple of zones.
Choose some amps and speakers (mixture of in-wall and separate amps, and in-ceiling and separate speakers). Make sure the amps have a spare input for TV or other source.
This all assumes I can find a suitable hollow wall in the necessary rooms - I'm happy to put these wall amps in them and drop cables through, not sure I want to go with cutting into brick again. I did it in this house, but the full house's electrics needed doing anyway.

Or... I did also email a local multiroom specialist today. They told me about Systemline 7. I'll price myself up a system based on that.
 

Arcam_boy

Distinguished Member
Have you had a look on the Sonos website at what they actually offer...

ALL their products have a volume control on the item from the play 1 through to the connect amp and they also have a new remote control for controlling volume/tracks

Shop All Products | Sonos

I don't know about android but on my iwatch/ipad/iphone you don't have to unlock your device to change volume/track just press the home button once and it displays whats currently playing and you can adjust the track/volume without being able to access the actual device.

Also on another note you should also be able to control your sonos product by your google home/amazon device if you have one in the house so you can just ask alexa to turn the volume up/down without having to get out your chair or unlock a phone!!

A few years ago I was in a similar position to you and explored several avenues. Having had a sonos connect on my main hifi system and products such as control 4 being way to expensive I decided to give Sonos a go. I run a couple of connect amps which power in ceiling speakers in several rooms a play 5 in one room and still use a connect on my main system. I gotta say it's been brilliant and I can't really think of any reason why I'd change it now.

For speakers I went for Monitor Audio CP260'S as they're sealed at the rear to stop sound leakage. I didn't see the point of going for anything too high end as to really justify this you'd need to have double/triple boarded ceilings and enclosures etc to get the most out of the speaker. I only really use the system for background listening whilst cooking or having a shower.

I must admit I'm currently looking at ditching the connect on my main system for a bluenode 2 but need the weigh up if I want to subscribe the tidal/deezer as I'm a spotify fan!
 
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