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PC AS Multi Room Audio Server -- Possible?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by jlcrawford, Mar 23, 2005.

  1. jlcrawford

    jlcrawford
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    I am going to be doing a self build soon and was browsing the local showhomes.One had a home cinema in an attick room and it also had an imerge soundserver piping music to a few zones around the house.
    It was fairly simple in that the room controls were some form of switsh with 3 buttons and no way of browsing tracks etc.
    However it retails around £3000 without speakers!!
    I have been looking at possibly using a networked PC system with touchscreen handheld pcs as controllers but I wouldnt know what software to run and how to amplify the signal or whether I could run separate music to different zones.
    Anyone have any ideas or tips?
     
  2. tim k

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    exactly what im in the process of doing. windows media center offer media extender set top type boxes which will pipe audio and video to lcd/plasmas around the house, although 1 box per screen is needed, and the only way to control is by touch screen pda apart from the obvious bluetooth keyboard or ir remote. the technology is kind of getting established atm and its only a few of us who are wanting it.
     
  3. Molly

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    Xlobby is a great tool for multi room audio.
    I now have zones in the kitchen, living room and garden (outdoor speakers). I use a multi channel RME soundcard and Roksan power amps (great quality). My server has 15000 tracks all in "APE" lossless compression. You can use a wireless PDA to control all the zones etc.

    Google Xlobby to find the site and its FREE!!!! :clap:
     
  4. MikeFish

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    have you thought about going down the Roku / Squeezebox route?
    You need a PC somewhere in the house with all your songs strored on it (either lossless or compressed formats). Then in each room that you want music you need one of these devices. However, each device will need a hi-fi or stereo of some sort to plug into (either analogue or digital). They connect to the PC via a standard network cable or wireless network.
    The upside of all this is you can run several (6 I think) devices from a single PC, all playing different songs or synchronised to play the same thing.
     
  5. jlcrawford

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    Thanks for the ideas Molly what is the model of the RME soundcard and how do you control the amps- can the pc software be set to do it?
    Also I have been thinking of running by using possibly a couple of touch screen tfts built into the wall and posiioned one upstairs one down leaving the pc on permanently and just turning on the screens as and when required.Not sure what level of control this would give or whether I could get leads to run the long distance for the touch screens or whether i could use two at once.
    If i could also control the amps I think I could also watch movies or tv around the house and have an expandable system.
    Possible?
     
  6. rhinoman

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    Xlobby allows exactly what you are asking for, a networked pc with multiple souncards (or a soundcard with multiple outputs like a maudio delta 410 or the rme with analogue expansion boards). This can be done as cheapily or expensive as you like.

    My setup uses a touchscreen attached to the xlobby server which has an rme card with 2 aeb8o to give me 8 independent or synced zones. I have 3 ppc's for wifi remote control and you can also use a remote on a desktop pc if you like.

    My music is held on a seperate file server machine but thats probably overkill.

    The soundcards feed local amps with long speaker runs to the various zones, but xlobby also allows a seperate pc with attached speakers to be controlled via the main server, its called xnet.

    If you are self building then as long as the cabling is structured, upgrades and expansion should be easy.

    www.xlobby.com ......and its FREE!!
     
  7. rhinoman

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    The touchscreen I have has both vga and usb connectors so is a little resticted for distance from the pc by the limits of usb (although I did see a usb to network cable to usb adapter for £30 recently which would overcome this). You can get touchscreens that use a serial conncetor for the touch part, a mate has one with a 15m extender cable. You can use multiple touchscreens with multiple output soundcards, I had a usb and serial touchscreen running concurrently at one stage.

    For music xlobby allows digital control of the volume from within the program so from a remote control/ppc/touchscreen all work fine, my amps are a mixture of poweramps and hifi amps all bought secondhand.

    I've rigged up a radio deck to run through xlobby as well to provide radio to any zone ith volume control.

    The other way to control an amp in xlobby is via a usbuirt which allows sending of ir after beeing recieved via wifi/network or touchsceen.
     
  8. jlcrawford

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    Thanks John so this is fairly feesable where do you get the touchscreens I would need to run two a fair distance?
    Also I was thinking of looking at meedio housebot as the software how would this compare with xlobby?
    Finally which RME card and what is aeb8o ?
    I may be posting or leaching info here for a while - cheers
     
  9. rhinoman

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    How about https://linitx.com/product_info.php?cPath=64&products_id=554

    The last time I ckecked, xlobby was the easiest/cheapest/best/only multi-room with ppc and sync.

    My multi-room server now uses a RME hammerfall lite (as it has 2 *adat outs for connectinf to the aeb's). This was the cheapest rme with 2 adat outs, there are other options if you dont need 2.

    The aeb is an analogie extension board, o is out, i is in, 4 or 8 is the amount of channels so an aeb8o is an 8 channel (4 zone) analogue output expansion board.

    So my setup has 2 8 output cards giving 8 zones. This is a (very) recent upgrade from 2 maudio delta 410's. I attempted this change as I though it may improve the sync in syncronised playback because of the low cpu overhead of the rme cards but tbh its no better in this respect, they are of course higher-fi.

    Ask away as this was my project on a budget for last year and probably the thing in av that has given me the most satisfaction.
     
  10. jlcrawford

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    Thanks again John
    The RME card looks complicated -is this link http://www.dv247.com to a Bstock delta 410 for £89 the card(s) you were using as I only want four zones and this card looks about what I would want.Also what did you do with your 410s?
    Can you expand a bit on converting the usb touch control cable to expand its length.I am pretty poor in this field I am not even sure how I would get two displays running from one PC.
    Cheers again
     
  11. rhinoman

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    Blimey, thats cheap for the 410. I paid £150 each for mine. One is promised to a friend thats into xlobby and wants to expand upon his single zone setup. I'll probably sell the other one but if thats all its worth I'm in no rush.

    The usb touchscreen I have has its existing 2m cable extended with a 2m extension cable and a 5m powered extender (about £12) giving me a total length of 9m. USB is supposed to get unreliable over 5m if you dont use a powered repeater. If you need any extra length I saw a device the other day (cpc I think) for about £30 that is a usb to network cable adapter for both ends of the cable and allows extension to 50m.

    Runnning 2 monitors is easy, a cheap radeon with dual outputs (£20) will allow it using the ati control panel, you just enable clone mode and the same image and resolution appears on both screens. I use one output into a regular monitor for config and the touchscreen on the other. I think that the touchscreen is the primary surafce and the config monitor the secondary. Overlay only appears on the primary surface (normally).

    I think your sucess with multiple touchscreens will depend on the touchscreen driver and if it recognises more than 1 screen. When I had 2 running the other screen was a serial connected touchscreen with different touch software. I had this connected to an old pci vga card to provide 3 monitor outputs and again cloned across all of them. I expect we could go further with this.
     
  12. jlcrawford

    jlcrawford
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    John
    Did you check out the link I posted for the B stock 410 as I am not 100% sure it for a complete audio card etc.Anyhow if you let me know what you want for your second one( which I take it will allow four stereo Zones of sound?) I would like to buy from you as you are so helpful- I am sure I have leached from you in the past.
    I may put in 1 touchscreen to start with and 1 pocket pc although I already have two PCs doing nothing and both have Radeon graphics so I might go for two touchscreens. The Usb/network cable you saw at cpc -what is cpc?

    Now I will spend a few hours playing with Xlobby and meedio to see if I can work either.
    Thanks
     
  13. jlcrawford

    jlcrawford
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    Another quick question- how do you control the amp(s) can you use X10 with Xlobby to switch on amps with no remote control ?
    Or is there an easier way?
     
  14. Molly

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    You could control your amps with X10 and Xlobby but would need further investigation. My server runs all the time so my power amps auto switch on when they receive a analog signal (Roksan power amps have this facility).

    To avoid speakers pops when using power amps connected to you PC you must resolve this issue.As John suggests try using USBuirt to switch on via infa red.

    Your sound card choice will depend on the quality. RME have some great feedback (Branxx - search on Avforums or AVSforums) but will ony work top end when avoiding windows master volume. What are you using lossless or mp3 files etc.
     
  15. dapex

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    This all sounds very complicated, is it as compliacted as it seems or is it just the way I am reading all the posts. I had never really thought about anyhting like this but the more I think the more I like...
     
  16. jlcrawford

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    Molly amps which auto switch on would be of course the bets idea- I'm sure John will let us know what he uses.
    I am not much up on the audio side( I'm not much up on most sides to be truthful) but I thought Id have my music in MP3 format sorted by album hopefully with coverart etc( does it work like this as in dvdprofiler?).
    Whilst asking the odd question I might as well ask what speakers you run in each zone?
     
  17. rhinoman

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    Jeff,

    The link for the 410 says interface so I'm not sure what that means but your welcome to mine at the same price delivered to you.LMK Yes this card does give 4 stereo zones and a digital one as well as an anolugue and digital in.

    My servers (file and seperate xlobby) both run 24/7 which largely avoids the startup pops associated with leaving amps on. The amps I bought were all secondhand and so dont have infra-red or 12v sockets unfortunatly.

    I have just bought a mains distribution switch which has one hot socket fro the pc and other outputs. If the pc goes to sleep it switches off the other sockets and turns them bake on when it wakes up, seems a possible solution, I'll let you know how well it works in practice.

    CPC is http://cpc.farnell.com/jsp/home/homepage.jsp the part no is CS1172505

    I use ape lossless like Molly and rip to artist/album and the coverart is just a jpg in the album folder. I chose this as when listening in my main room I can hear the difference bewteen this and mp3, I definitly didn't want to compormise on mp3 and then need to rerip in the future.

    Speakers vary from room to room, my main room has the Celestion's, missions in the dining room, cheaper missions in the office, kitchen and bedroom, old floorstanders in the gym, cheap £30 ceiling speakers in the bathroom (it echos anyway so isn't great no matter what. Some waterproof ones for outside £200 with one of the meatier amps driving them. Most of the speaker cable is basic 79 strand.

    It sounds a lot but I did all this on a small budget upgrading as the year and my knowledge progressed as the idea of whjat I wanted grew. The biggest hastle is running the cables so if you are selfbuilding, put in plenty of spares fro the rooms you dont think may need them.
     
  18. joni

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    i use a media center pc as my server for vids,pics and music this is sent wirelessly through an airport express to my ibook, instead of fitting screens in every room then putting an extender on them i just take my ibook from room to room.

    easier and cheaper whole house entertainment
     
  19. jlcrawford

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    John I will definately take your card I can do Paypal or bank transfer just PM me whichever you wish and I will reply with my delivery address.
    I am begining to get embarassed at asking so many questions but I sure others will be reading and learning also and thinking this is a great project!!
    SO I dont know what ape lossless is but I will search and try to answer the question myself before you guys do.
    I am learning a little about Xlobby and that seems very well developed and supported.
    Thanks again
     
  20. jlcrawford

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  21. rhinoman

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    Jeff,

    Yes ape is monkey audio. There are other lossless formats as well, flac springs to mind. The file sizes are bigger than mp3 but about half of the original cd or wav file.

    Dont worry about the questions :)
     
  22. jlcrawford

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    Just to update with a schedule of parts in my head I am learning bits and pieces of Xlobby and will probably move most questions to the Forum there and PM them to Rhinoman ( this is you isnt it John?) if no-one responds as my queeries are very basic.
    I have ordered a touch screen from ebay and hopefully a madio from John.
    Cheers
     
  23. rhinoman

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    Jeff,

    Yes I'm rhinoman overthere. PM is disabled at the xlobby forum but ask away.

    The maudio will be posted tomorrow.
     
  24. jinky32

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    HI,
    Great thread! Sorry to go a little off topic here, but I'm thinking of doing something similar but in a different way. I'm not particularly technically minded so I wondered if anyone could point out the obvious faults with my plan.

    I want to be able to play audio and video in different rooms of the house. My plan is:
    1) Get a maxtor network attached storage drive to keep a/v files on.
    2) build (say 3) cheap (poss using 2nd hand bits) pcs consisting of psu, mobo, processor, graphics card with tv out, and 108.11g (to be upgraded to n when available) wifi. All would be networked and all would run xp and be conected directly to their own tv and hifi.
    3) use a handheld to be able to remotely control any of these 3 pcs to choose which music / film i desire in whichever room.

    does this seem feasible? Any comments would be greatly appreciated!
     
  25. dapex

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    Jeff, do you mind me asking what the spec was of the touch screen you bought on ebay and how much it was?

    Cheers
     
  26. jlcrawford

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    Hi
    There were a few available starting at £160 del-d for a 7" ratio 4/3. I went for one shipped from Hong Kong ( shame really as I was there in October but I did pick up a crystallio there) its an Hitachi with built in tv and Xga resolution but what swung it was it looked nicer and I plan to wall mount it in the kitchen so appearance was v important.It worked out £155 del-d but I will probably get hot for VAT etc.
    Will add more when it arrives.
    John which skin do you use in Xlobby or did you do your own I have been using jowaldo and have just got it to work with the cdex pluggin to rip to APE lossless( it wasnt working straight off and I'm not sure what I did to get to do so)?
    Also John I couldnt find the extender CS1172505 at CPC only a 501 but no product description.I found USB -Usb extender 5m at a PC fair which said you could use 5 of to give 25m but this would run at £80 and I'm not sure how it would work.
    Cheers
     
  27. rhinoman

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    My skin is a modified version of the old default skin with some changes largely for zone control and to use my configuration for radio. I dont really have the time to construct a skin from scratch so this serves a prupose. I have started modifing the new default though to add 8 zone support.

    I actually use the ppc screens for everything except the touchscreen, in fact the touchscreen isn't used all that much, we do have 3 ppc's though. In my office/study where we have desktop pc's, we use the xlobby thin client (the same as you run on the ppc or a pc) bur run it a ppc resolution using the ppc screens in a moveable window. I prefer this to using the full screens because it provides snappier performance.

    I actually do all of my ripping on my desktop machine using EAC with the ape plugin and then transfer to the file server when complete, I've not tried the cdex plugin.

    Here http://cpc.farnell.com/jsp/endecaSearch/partDetail.jsp?SKU=CS1172505&N=401 is the extender at CPC, I originally saw it in the catalogues that I get from work so I know its the correct one.
     
  28. jlcrawford

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    Thanks John
    This is the part I found and have now bought with a vga extender.Dhl tried to deliver today -hope it was the screen.
    Now for todays quiz-are you ready- multi zone can you give a brief setup procedure.
    This is my guess
    Using mAudios software designate the outputs as 4 zones.
    Do I configure winamp to use different devices- in my current winamp under devices it lists only cd drives?Or does Xlobby do it I have seen a section named zones.
    Looks like more reading and research and questions.
    Cheers
     
  29. rhinoman

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    You need to install winamp once. Then create a directroy structure

    \zones\zone_name1
    \zones\zone_name2
    etc

    Copy the contents of the original winamp install to the zone_name folders.

    Open each one in turn and in output preferences set the output to the required pair in the soundcard.

    The same came be done using foobar but you need to add the following 2 files from the xlobby download into the foobar folder

    \foobar2000\msvcr71.dll
    \foobar2000\components\foo_xlobby.dll

    before you copy foobar to the zone_name directory.

    Whatever you call the zone_name folder is what xlobby calls the zone in the display variable.
     
  30. jlcrawford

    jlcrawford
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    John
    I have placed the zones\zone_kitchen inside the winamp folder and then copied the contents of the winamp folder to these .In Xlobby I congigured the four new zones under F2 and the general tab.Now when I launch Xlobby winamp opens 5 times one std and one for each zone.
    If I look at the zones they are not listed on the zone page and I have no control over them.There is an event assigned to each zone button- the relevant zone number.
    Any Idea what I have to configure to get the zone recognised or have I done something wrong
    Cheers
     

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