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Equipment to distribute audio from my PC?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by dealmaker, Feb 7, 2004.

  1. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    Guys,

    I've catalogued my whole CD collection onto my PC and I now want to find a way of efficiently distributing the audio around my house (I know I will only be able to listen to the same stuff in each room)

    I've had an early bash at it by purchasing a KVM console extender and connecting these via CAT5 cable to the main PC - so I now have remote access of the PC from my kitchen - I used another run of CAT 5 to carry an audio signal from the 3.5mm jack plug of my soundcard and connected this to a powered speaker set up in the kitchen.

    SO I now have 1 room sorted i.e I can select and listen to music in the kitchen when my PC is located in my office.

    Next question though is how I can continue my quest to have this music available in other rooms.

    I can daisy chain more KVM console extenders so that takes care of the VGA element in each room - not particulary cheap or efficient though.

    So now I need to find a way of getting multiple outputs from my PC's sound card (or maybe buy a new off-board sound card with multiple simultaneous outputs?)

    Question is - is anyone aware of a box which I can connect via, ideally 3.5mm jack plug, which will give me multiple, preferably PHONO, outputs - so I can run AUDIO over regular CAT5 and distribute this around the house to different rooms where I'll locate powered speaker systems? (Maybe something like Acoustic Energy Aego 2.1)

    I'm also thinking of how I could drive a similar set-up from my bathroom with in-ceiling speakers (including in a shower/steam enclosure) - so anybody with experience of this - your advice would be most welcomed. (maybe buying a cheapish tablet touch screen P.C and connecting that so that it mirrors my main PC???)

    Thanks
     
  2. alpit

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  3. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    alpit,

    thanks for that - looks like an interesting option - must admit I'd rather avoid wireless if possible (i know they also have a wired version) and would prefer to use a normal tft monitor through normal XP media player as my browser (dont want to download or use bespoke server software) -don't know how it would work if i wanted to use multiple devices and have them all playing at same time?

    Any other ideas for audio distribution anyone?

    Thanks
     
  4. stuthemong

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    how about searching for aisoXO

    http://www2.gol.com/users/pcazeles/asioxo.htm

    set up a web based server, and get something like a sony ericsson P800 mobile phone, or PDA. Run them from a strong bluetooth aerial in the middle of your house, you should be able to reach all rooms.

    Now you can easily change tracks. good.



    as for multiple outputs from soundcard?? dont get it? What i would do is wire in parallel each room you want (so they are all plugged into the same soundcard line output) and manually switch stereo systems to AUX in in each room when you are there.

    OK you dont get to "control" them as such, but then IMO its not a biggy turning a stereo on.

    Is that an idea? (really cheap too, pick up a p800 for £120 2nd hand ish)


    Stu
     
  5. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    stuthemong,

    that all looks and sounds a bit complicated I'm afraid - the issue of connecting everything in paralell is the degredation of signal strength and quality - also I want to be able to have all rooms on simultaneously for when I have parties etc.

    still looking for a way to send the audio signal all round the house.
     
  6. stuthemong

    stuthemong
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    Do you fully understand what is being asked of your soundcard when plugging into it in parallel?

    There should be no noticable degradation of signal quality as long as the amps you are using are working correctly, and your soundcard output buffer has some balls. All running in parallel does is ask more current from the soundcard, and we are talking mA of signal current for each amp connected. You will have NO difficutly plugging 2, or 3 amps straight into your soundcard from a signal strenght point of view. If you are worried about this still, go to * :)

    There is a danger that long runs of signal cable will pick up noise however, TBH i would just try and see. Its not difficult to rig up a 20 M signal cable and trail it to your kitchen and plug it into an amp and speakers there is it?

    * On the assumption that there is no problem with line noise, but you are still worried about plugging lots of amps into one soundcard output, buy yourself a car audio linedriver. You should be able to pick one up for £50 from ebay. You can plug this straight into your comnputer 12 V PSU - easy as pie :)

    The linedriver is a buffered op-amp that is designed for both signal boosting (not something youll want, as most home audio amps only want a 1v pk-pk signal, not liek in car audio where 8V is fine) and buffering (you want). A linedrive will happily power 6+ home audio amps in parallel, it is what it is designed to do.

    If you are having problems with signal noise, then youll need some sort of balanced transmission - i;d recommend a car audio balanced transmitter and recieving system, should be £100 or so. This way you should be able to send audio signals 100's of meters with no interference. Youll need a box at each end though :)

    Honestly, i seriously think your soundcard should be up to the job, if you dont a linedriver will definietly be up to it, and using one will also protect your soundcard (maybe if your soundcard is badly made, putting too many parrallel connections on it could damage it, but that would be a very badly designed board!!)

    The only thing you have to worry about is noise, but then as i say , thats a 10 min test.

    This will happily send audio around the house, changing tracks remotely will need something more cunning, but do you really need to be able to do that?

    Stu
     
  7. pringtef

    pringtef
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    There's another two possibilities I can think of.

    The first one, which I've used previously with my audiotron was a combination of an Audiotron, and WinAmp with Shoutcast. I'm not certain if the slimp3 supports shoutcast broadcasts.

    Using this, either with a wired, or wireless network, you can broadcast to each Audiotron so that you have the same music in each room. All you need to do is drag your songs (whether WAV or MP3) into winamp from the main pc. Additionally, you have a remote control that you can use this to select tracks from the playlist you have in winamp.

    Another option, though not cheap, is the Yamaha MusicCAST. Looks stunning. Each "client" can hang on the wall, so minimal space is taken up. Additionally, each client has a screen that allows you to select the track you want to play.

    http://www.yamaha.com/yec/musiccast/
     
  8. Ivan8192

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    If the amps you already have (or are going to buy) have an SPDIF input, why not buffer and distribute the SPDIF output from the main PC? That would only require one pair of signal wires to each room.
     
  9. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    Guys,

    Thanks for all the help and advice - some if the suggestions seem a bit complicated and/or expensive.

    I think I'm going to lash-up my own system which will comprise a five way audio (and video) distribution amplifier.

    - I'll wire an audio signal via CAT 5 from my soundcard to the 5 way distribution amp - (which I'll locate in my loft) from there I'll take audio to each of the rooms I want it in. (via CAT5)

    VGA signals from the PC will be sent via KVM CAT5 console extenders to each room also.

    I'll mount 15" TFT screens in the walls of the relevant rooms and control the PC using Gyration 100ft wireless mice - one in each room (all rooms are within 50ft of the central office where my PC will effectivley act as a server)

    In each room I'll wire the audio up to a powered sub/satellite combo (maybe with ceiling mounted speakers in some cases) and so volume can be set at the sub and then adjusted via media player.

    Total cost:

    Audio distribution amp - Keene electronics £100
    3 X TFT (have two already) £600
    3 X KVM console extenders (got 2 already) £330
    3 X Sat & Sub combos £300
    3 X Gyration 100ft mice (got 2) £330

    Total £1630

    or less than the cost of just a Yamaha server.

    The added advantage of my proposed set up is that each room can hear when e-mail arrives, access it, and also control ALL PC functions.

    I can have DVD playback in each room AND when i get a freeview
    TV PC Card I'll be able to watch that in each room as well!!
    I can have the same music simultaneously in each room!

    BEAT THAT !!!!
     
  10. oreoboy13

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    What would happen if demands were made in more than one zone at the same time?
     
  11. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    Each room can only see what the PC is playing - it can't play different selections in different rooms - that's not a problem for me as it will mainly be me who's using it.
     
  12. oreoboy13

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    Yeah thats what i thought, i quite like the idea but, i need independent zones.

    I suppose it wouldn't cost much more to have shuttle pc in each zone and just network them, to a sound server
     
  13. paublo

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    Xlobby has multiple instances of winamp running on a single Pc and a zone based access system. I held back from playing with this as I didnt want to have a monitor in each room... with your proposed system, you could just buy a professional soundcard with multiple stereo outputs and your cookin...

    the software is (currently) free and has full thread dedicated to its development.

    xlobby.com/forum - announcements/multizone capabilities...
     
  14. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    Paublo,

    looks very interesting thanks - so if i'm getting this right xlobby will allow different "clients" to access different music from the same database simultaneously?...can't get my head round that concept.

    ...also what do you mean by "professional soundcard" - I was thinking about a new souncard anyway - are soundcards available with multiple outputs (preferably with phono outputs) - that can output signals (same or different) on ALL outputs at the same time?

    If so then maybe I dont need my distribution amplifier!

    Thanks
     
  15. paublo

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    you can install multiple instances of winamp each in their own subdirectory. Within each copy of winamp, you can specify an an output - i.e. Primary Sound Driver etc... in theory you could install multiple sound cards - 1 for each zone.... then from your screens or remote control - you would select the appropriate zone and then control volume, track etc etc etc... I have it working apart from the sound card bit... Xlobby is missing some good documentation, but walk through the thread and you will pick it up...

    example cards - listed in the thread...(not checked by me!!) - Soundscape Mixtreme
    RME Hammerfall

    Enjoy....
     
  16. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    Paublo,

    Yeah I've been reading up on it - seems I would need to install a sound card for every separate "zone" - not heard of anyone installing multiple sound cards on a PC so dont know how (or IF) this will work in practice?
     
  17. oreoboy13

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    get a pro sound card e.g. RME hammerfall 32 channels or 16 stereo channels.
     
  18. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    oreoboy13,

    will one of those output 16 stereo channels simultaneously?
     
  19. oreoboy13

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  20. paublo

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    you will still need amplification, but you could output 16 independant stereo pairs - ie 32 channels. If anyone finds out costs for one of the pro-card, then post it here... I may dabble at a later date...
     
  21. paublo

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  22. Erpland

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    I would just install a DVD player and a good set of powered speakers in each room that you are likely to listen to music in, just burn a couple of DVD's full of your WMA/MP3 files.
    Not a very fun or challanging project, but simple, less time consuming and cheap.
     
  23. cameronl

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    hi there, I haven't read all the thread so apologies if this has already been discuessed.

    But I'm in the process of setting up multi zone, multi source music from my computer.

    by using an RME 9632 sound card with the extra outboard box you can distribute music around you home while playing several different music tracks from your computer at the same time.

    CaM
     
  24. dealmaker

    dealmaker
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    cameronl,

    Looks good but could not find anything about the outboard box - this would certainly be of interest - let me know what you find out.

    I'm guessing that what you are doing is assigning different outputs from the sound card into zones where you will set up different instances of winamp or similar playing only to the specified output?

    I'm guessing that this is not an straighforward "plug and play" type of setup!
     
  25. philsparks

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    I agree with this comment. It sounds like one of those projects that sounds sexy but is more trouble than it's worth. If it's going to cost you £1600 just for the bits to distribute your tunes that sounds like a bundle of money.

    For a start - to be honest you're never going to get better than OK sound from almost any sound card in a pc - most sound cards are pretty crummy and seem more interested in adding whistles and beeps and 25 channel surround sound rather then majoring on basic decent quality audio. Secondly the environment inside a pc box is pretty unfriendly to audio, especially when you consider that the average PC PSU costs about £20 and this is what is powering your sound card - for comparison my naim pre-amp has two separate PSUs which each cost about £700!

    the other thing is I guess you're compressing your CDs when you store them on you HDD. Now no matter how good the current compression algorithms are, at the end of the day you're chucking away data and therefore music. So more reduction in sound quality.

    I've got a system for listening to tunes around the house - basically I run a good quality audio co-ax from the tape-out of my main HiFi. I then run this to the aux in of a small integrated amp (Naim nait) I have in my bedroom with a pair of Rega Kyte speakers and then run the tape out from this to a 2nd Naim Nait in my office which has a small pair of Mordant Short speakers. This way I have a volume control for each room, and the sound quality is great - easily good enough to show up the differences between my good CD player and my better turntable. The most used thing to be honest is my tuner - sending Radio 4 around the house when I'm pottering around on a Sat morning is great.

    The cable was from Maplin and was a few quid per stereo meter. You could head off to Richer sounds and get an amp and pair of speakers for about £60 each - i.e. less than £150 for each extra room you want to daisy-chain onto. Sure you have to get up and walk to the lounge to change CD but you've probably saved over £1000 and got miles better sound into the bargain. You could also buy a separate CD player or DVD for one or all of the extra rooms if you wanted different tunes in each room - probably only an extra £50 per room.

    sorry to be gloomy, but it works well for me, whereas anything 'audio' that I've ever done with my pc has sounded worse than a ghettoblaster.

    cheers
    Phil
     
  26. rhinoman

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    Phil,

    I think some reading on this forum would leave you better informed to what a PC with the correct soundcard is capable of.

    As far as audio compression is concerned just use a lossless format like APE and you can halve the storage size and in indecernable from the original. Many people cannot spot the better mp3 fromats either.

    What were talking about here is multiroom and not necessarily critical listening, (acoustics in the bathroom:) ) and the convenience of cd-less storage.

    You should try it.:)
     
  27. dealmaker

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    Phil,

    I have to totally DISAGREE with you!

    I'm currently listening to music in my kitchen - fed from my PC's sound card over CAT5 to a powered Acoustic Energy sub/sat system - it's BLOODY fantastic and it's quick and convenient - I can get to any of 10,000 tracks within a couple of clicks! - no trawling through CD cupboards looking for the elusive CD! And I don't have to make an EFFORT to enjoy the music.

    You are probably thinking "idiot - he would not know a good sound from a bad one" - well let me qualify my experience - I currently have a VERY good two channel set up in my formal lounge (Musical Fidelity with Valve output - Sonus Faber speakers & Subs etc. etc. - before this set up I had a NAIM CDS2, NAC52, NAP500 and a pair of NBL's - so I know what NAIM is all about - incidentally I sold the NAIM stuff because I stopped enjoying it - it was too much hard work - PX'ed it on some Home Cinema)

    I also have a damn fine 7.1 set up in my home cinema - Arcam AV8 & P7 and a Rel Studio sub amongst other things.

    I know what I like and I know what's good and what's bad.

    What I'm hearing is mighty fine - all right it has not got the dynamism of a good NAim set up but I tell you it's 90% there!...I've been a Music/equipment snob in the past - but no more! I tell you it's the music, and the enjoyment of the music that matters, not what you play it through!

    To me the accessibility and ease of use is more important than the law of diminishing returns that will get me that last 10% of sound quality!

    In any event guys I can't see that audio routed to a decent set of speakers will be any better or worse than compressed WMV files played via a DVD player over similar speakers. - and a damn site more convenient.
     
  28. cameronl

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    hi there, I would be willing to bet that the quality of a 300 pound RME 9632 sound card is better than most high end cd players on the market.

    The 9632 has several optional boards that can go with it - one of these adds 6 sets of outputs so you can distribute your music around the house.

    the avsforum has a lot of useful information on this i.e. applications that will run this type of set up and indeed alot of people who have high end cards like this who can tell you more than I.

    Good luck with your project ;)

    CaM
     

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