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multi room sound server

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by cameronl, May 21, 2003.

  1. cameronl

    cameronl
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    hi all, I'm looking at incorporating a mult room sound system into my next house. I really want to be able to play 8 different tracks on a hard drive to 8 different rooms.

    My question to you is this - can I get away with building this system myself i.e. computer, excellant sound game going into some type of multi room system or should I go for the more expenisve way i.e. something like the Kivor?

    Sound quality is probably more imporant than cost...but the cheaper the better if I can :)

    thanks

    CaM
     
  2. sounddog

    sounddog
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    One option I've considered for this sort of system is using a normal PC as the server, and connecting 8 SlimP3 or Audiotron units to that via ethernet. Obviously this won't be that cheep but cheeper than most dedicated systems (Slimp3 are about £200 each plus you need the server PC)

    Alternative, check out one of the current HiFi mags which has a review of the Mordant Short Opus system which is more reasonably priced than the Linn system.

    It all depends on what level of sound quality you want/need. The SlimP3 is cheeper ... but as it plays MP3s will be lower quality than a higher priced system that pipes uncompressed data around.

    Vikki
     
  3. cameronl

    cameronl
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    hi there, having 8 cards is certainly an idea. I want uncompressed at excellant quality but I dont want to have to pay to much for it :)

    I know Linn make a PCI card - I wonder if i could put that in my computer?

    CaM
     
  4. sounddog

    sounddog
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    You'd probably have to start writing your own drivers to be able to play different music on 8 different sound cards at once ... if you can even get a motherboard with 8 PCI slots. I think the Linn PCI cards are only for their bespoke systems - but don't really know.

    The Audiotron will play back uncompressed sound, and has a digital output for connection to a separate DAC if required. The Slimp3 only has analogue outputs.

    It's going to be down to you in the end how much you are prepared to pay compared with the quality.

    Vikki
     
  5. JohnS

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    I beleive that the slim mp3 players will play all types of MP3 formats including the lossless 300ish mb ones.

    There are music software packages already available foe the HTPC which support multiple soundcards. The PC forum at www.avsforum.com has lots of info for doing this.
     
  6. sounddog

    sounddog
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    Okay ... didn't know about softare supporting multiple sound cards ... still think you'll have trouble finging a motherboard supporting 8 cards though :)
     
  7. faiz

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    which mag has the review of the Mordaunt Short system?
     
  8. sounddog

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    I can't remember ... one of the current issues ... think it was the one that has DIY amps in ... sorry I was reading it in Borders the other day ... HiFi World (... and Computer Audio) I think ... think it has a greeny cover.

    They had the review along with a Marantz HDD system.

    Vikki
     
  9. dts_boy

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    Imerge do a range of "soundservers" which are pretty good. there are lots of multiroom products availible, i would go and see your nearest hifi shop and see what they can reccomend:lesson:
     
  10. sounddog

    sounddog
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    RE the Mordan Short Opus system ... I was slightly wrong ... (for starts it was in HiFi Choice) ... but it's a 2 part system ... 1st the Marantz HDD 4-output system (80GB HDD) for around £2500, then the Mordant Short Opus multi-room controller which was around £4000 for 4-zones (capable of 4zones and 4-sub zones).

    The Marantz is actually using the same OS as the Imerge stuff. I think Imerge is mostly selling the software to other people rather than concentrating on their own hardware.
     
  11. HMHB

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    That SlimP3 looks quite good it's a shame it doesn't support wma format though.
     
  12. cameronl

    cameronl
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    hi there all, you can read that article about the HDD and opus online at Marantz if you need.

    It's a pity it is only 80 gig though - thats never going to be large enough when spending a couple of thousand pounds....

    CaM
     
  13. NaTT

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    :D

    Don't do the SlimMp3. The answer's out there. It does a lot more than the SlimMp3 and it costs £129.

    It's networkable
    It plays DVDs
    It plays CDs
    It streams Mp3, Mpeg 1-4, Divx, shows pictures
    It can have digitial audi out !! (that's where many MP3 players loose their fidelity when connecting to your amp)
    You can browse your albums through your TV and set up play lists

    Well I say £129, add another £30 quid for a mod chip and £15 for the advanced scart.
    It's an xbox. Put one in every room. Plug a wireless access point into each and bob's your uncle.
     
  14. cameronl

    cameronl
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    fully modded and setup as a sound server.....the problem being is that the quality is pretty naff.

    I originally hopped that it would sound ok but, at least to my ears it doesn't. Good suggestion though :)

    What I need is a top of the line product - money is not to much of a concern for me.

    CaM
     
  15. NaTT

    NaTT
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    ooh and I got so excited! you could tell. thanks for not rubbing it in. quicky though...(and then back to topic) I presume u r using the digital sound out of the x-box? I can hear a little difference but not much, the Mrs prefers the x-box in a blind test between it and a CD playing 7 secs behind the mp3 track ( and switching). Perhaps I'm blessed with happy ears.
     
  16. Branxx

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    Cameronl,

    You did not say exactly how much money you would like to spend and what exactly is the sound quality requirement.

    Are all 8 zones to have the same sound quality requirement? I assume this is unlikely, especially if some of the zones are garden or similar where audiophile sound is difficult to achieve due to other constraints.

    Other consideration is distance between the zones and the central server. It is generally much easier and cheaper to have long runs of CAT5E cabling than (un) balanced audio cable. Balanced long run of audio cable is more likely to preserve the sound quality but would further increase the installation cost.

    I would suggest for cheapish but audiophile quality system to consider following:
    • Audio server PC : Install an Audio server PC running Windows 200 Advance Server with Terminal Services enabled for up to 8 concurrent sessions. Consider motherboards with dual Gigabit LAN and RAID disk configuration. Look at the server selection at TMC (UK) or similar sites.
    • Sound Card: Depending on the distance between the server and the zones with high quality audio requirements you have two options. A) short distance, install sound card in the server, use for example RME-Audio HDSP 96/32 + 8 channel daughter card. This card will give you 4 stereo zones. You can double the sound card for 8 stereo zones. B) Install separate small PC running Windows XP (optionally diskless and network bootable) with soundcard each close to the zone in question. Connect Audio server with the separate PC via CAT5E.
    • Wi-Fi: Install Wireless access point on the network.
    • Control: Consider using something like ViewSonic V110 smart display in each of the zones to control the music selection (browsing the Internet and any other tasks). Connect each smart display to one terminal session on the server (if option A) or attach to terminal session on the small PC (option B).
    • Audio Software: Use Music Match jukebox as it has option to select the playback device for each terminal session. Optionally add 4am Music console for great looking front end on the smart display.
    OTHER ALTERNATIVE:

    Buy ready made system, but none of them will have the sound quality of the above.
     
  17. cameronl

    cameronl
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    I dont mean to knock the xbox as a sound server - for the price nothing comes close to touching it...and it also has the game amped ;)

    That configuration for a sound server does sound interesting. There is a company called Kat5 that has a box that does analouge cable to cat5 for just this type of thing.

    Do you think that sound card is the best one can get for this type of thing?

    I know I cant expect to buid a sound server to match a Linn Index - but if it could at least better the martanz/opus combination that would be something.

    thanks for your help everyone - and sorry for not mentioning my budget eairler.

    CaM
     
  18. Branxx

    Branxx
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    Matching the sound quality of Lin Index?

    I am quite confident that RME HDSP 96/32 exceeds the sound quality of Linn Index by several margins. It will cost you around £500 with the daughter card and iwill most likely be the highest quality component in the audio chain.

    I own RME DIGI96/8. It has outstanding quality for both analogue and digital out. HDSP 96/32 is supposed to be of even better.
     
  19. sounddog

    sounddog
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    The main problem with the x-box solution for a sound server would be controlling it I would have thought.

    The PC solution has merit ... but again the main obstacle would be controlling it ... a touch screen TFT being the ideal solution. I wonder if you could interface a PC sound server to an Opus (or Crestron or AMX or similar) controller?

    The "big" name in sound servers seams to be iMerge ... they actually make the OS that runs on the Marantz one. These boxes can be controlled with Crestron, AMX, etc for multi-zone systems.
     
  20. NaTT

    NaTT
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    controlling the x-box can be done with the (ugly) DVD infrared controller addon. It sticks in a game sontroller port and allows you to control the media player, allbeit without an "power on" function.
     
  21. sounddog

    sounddog
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    NaTT ... but you still need a TV or other display to control the x-box. The dedicated Multi-Room controllers like the Crestron and QED stuff can control a sound server with small onwall keypads the size of a light switch.
     
  22. Dazed

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    wow!

    sounddog those iMerge sound servers look the absolute business. Now only if they could operate as a Hard Disk Recorder for TV they would have the perfect product. Anyone know how much they cost and when they'll be supporting better compression than mp3?

    D'oh - just seen the price - from £1500.00 for an 80gb 1 zone model - way too much.

    When someone releases sound server combined with a HDR/PVR maybe with a cd or DVD burner built in for around £500-£1000, that's when I'll buy one. Maybe the Sony PSX (spit) will be the "answer"
     
  23. cameronl

    cameronl
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    thanks for the advice on the sound card - I'll start doing some research.

    btw; for the xbox I can control the music via my PC - there is an add on for the xbox media player that allows you to do that.

    and yes - having the hard drive end done with the pc and connecting to an opus for example would be great - but I have the feeling it won't be that easy.

    I have heard that the Linn Index sounds amazing so I would be most impressed if it even matched their quality.

    thanks

    CaM
     
  24. cameronl

    cameronl
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    hi there Branxx, thanks for the info on the card. I was wondering whether that setup you suggested would allow me to play i.e. into 8 different zones 8 different music tracks of the same server or whether its just 8 different zones and the same music track?

    Also, will I need a high quality cd rom as the transport for copying to the hard drive?

    thanks

    Cameron
     
  25. Branxx

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    cameronl,

    If you want 8 independent (stereo) zones you would need to double the sound card (this is quite common in pro audio setups). So, you will use 2xRME HDSP 96/32 with 2 daugher cards.

    I still think that may be an overkill in terms of audio quality as the only way for you to enjoy the quality of this card at full potential is to have significat investment in cabling, amplification and speakers over all 8 zones. This I estimate to be at minimum £5,000 per zone. Do you really want to speant £40,000 on speakers, amps, etc.

    If you plan to employ cheaper speakers in most of the zones, the quality of 2nd sound card can be less.

    I am under impression that you doubt that the computer can sound so good. Well, you will be extremelly pleasantly surprised.
     
  26. camlogan

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    Hey there Branxx, you have been most helpful.

    I guess I am a little sceptical that a home made server can sound so good - only natural I guess comparing my sound system now to my 16bit computers ;)

    But this sounds excellant, I would much rather build my own system than buy a Linn Index as I will have the infrastructure then for a lot of cheap home automation.

    I already have 2 amps and 8 speakers so that would be a good chunk of the gear needed for the lesser rooms. I don't mind if i loose some quality there as only some rooms need an excellant system (but I still want to have the best source).

    So what type of price range of amps and speakers are we looking at to get best potenital out of these cards?

    And is there any chance you live in Surrey and would let me hear it?

    thanks for your help

    CaM

    :smoke:
     
  27. Branxx

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    I am basing my estimate for the cost of amplification and speakers on my own example. At £5,000 for 2 channel delivery system, I can still hear that sound card is still an improvement over Lexicon MC-12B.

    Note also that in this configuration as well as with other commercially available solutions, there in no bass management, so you'll need 2 full range speakers (that does not always translates into just two speakers).

    What is the brand of your amplifiers and speakers?

    I live in West London, not particularly close to you but not too far either.
     
  28. cameronl

    cameronl
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    hi there Branxx - you have been very helpful ;)

    The amps I have at the moment would certainly be going in smaller rooms as they would be a bottle neck (yammy 630 and a denon 1602) but I would ensure that the lounge and other important rooms has amp/speakers to match (or at least sound great together).

    My home cinema room will use an integrated amp for the movies and possibly a dedicated stereo amp if needed. I'll be building a house so I'll be having a central server with cat5 - I'll make the house as automated as I can get it without annoying the wife...

    I'm more into computers and home cinema so I'm still new to the music side of things. The budget for my gear shouldn't be a problem as I'll have a morgage and I'm building it in NZ ;)

    I live in the Richmond area so I'm probably pretty close to you...pm me if I could come around sometime and have a listen to your system.

    thanks for your advice.

    Cameron
     

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