The Multiroom Music Systems Thread

AlmaataKZ

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With the offerings in this great area of hifi growing, shall we put together and maintain a thread dedicated to them?

Similarly to other threads, we could round up the existing systems with manufacturers links, specs, pics, prices, options, pros/cons, control, software, experiences of implementation and use, compatibility etc.

Maybe owners with experience in each system can start with posts covering the platforms they know and we take it from there developing the thread. I know of:

- Sonos
- Apple AirPlay
- Simple Audio
- Bluesound
- Musaic
- Linn DS
- Samsung
- Possible Naim announcement 24.04.14
- Olive One (not sure if this one is a go)
- Beep ?
- Teufel Raumfeld
- Pure Jongo
- AudioPro (not a full multiroom platform but can serve several zones?)
- Dynaoudio Xeo (not a full multiroom platform but can serve several zones?)
- Elac Air-X (not a full multiroom platform but can serve several zones?)

Any other?
 

AlmaataKZ

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The_Lhc said:
I'll have a cogitate and see what I come up...

Request for posters: ideally each system should be described by someone with good knowledge and experience of using it. Posts should be of the overview kind, containing mostly summary info and what is not available or is not clear from the linked manufacturer's info.

Please do not quote the main system posts so they can be edited with improved/new info.
 

The_Lhc

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AlmaataKZ said:
LHC, would you do a nice one on Sonos to get it going and perhaps even setting the standard, you being very thorough?

Okay, Sonos, one of the oldest competitors in the market and (un)arguably the most successful (in 2013 they turned over more than half a billion US$), they've been going since 2002, releasing their first products, the ZP80 and ZP100 in 2005, since then the range has expanded to include the following:

Bridge (formerly ZoneBridge), 2x Ethernet (RJ45) can be used to bridge between home network and Sonos network, or to wirelessly extend Sonos network where required, £39,

Connect (formerly ZP90, replaced the ZP80), unamplified source, 2x Digital outputs (Coax,optical), 1 analogue output (RCA) and 1 analogue input (RCA), 2x Ethernet (RJ45), £279,

Connect:Amp (formerly ZP120, replaced the ZP100), self-contained amplfied unit, 2x55W Class D 4-8 Ohm speaker support, 1 analogue input (RCA), 2x Ethernet (RJ45),, £399

Play series:

Play:5 (previously S5), self-contained stereo speaker system, 5 individual drivers, 3.5mm headphone output, 3.5mm analogue input, 2x Ethernet (RJ45), stereo pair capability, £349,

Play:3, self-contained stereo (in horizontal orientation, mono when mounted vertically) speaker system, 3 individual drivers + bass radiator, 1 x Ethernet (RJ45), 5gHz wireless, 1/4" threaded mounting socket, stereo pair capability, £259,

Play:1, self contained mono speaker system, 2 drivers, 1 x Ethernet (RJ45), 5gHz wireless, 1/4" threaded mounting socket, stereo pair capability, £169,

Playbar, active soundbar, 9 speakers, 1x Digital Optical input, 2 x Ethernet (RJ45) 5gHz wireless, £599,

SUB, active wireless subwoofer, dual force-cancelling drivers, 1 x Ethernet (RJ45), 5gHz wireless, can be paired with all Play units and Connect:Amp, £599.

Discontinued products: CR100 click-wheel controller, CR200 touch screen controller, WD100 iPod dock.

The Sonos philosophy is that "normal" wireless networking is not optimised for streaming audio, particularly not to multiple rooms at once, so Sonos developed their own proprietary wireless network, Sonosnet, a mesh network with every Sonos device communicating with every other device (provided they're in range of each other), based on standard 2.4gHz wi-fi but with Sonos' own protocols. This provides a very solid wireless connection (within reason and the laws of physics, like any 2.4gHz wireless system if the surrounding environment is heavily populated with other wireless networks then interferance can and will occur) allowing for simultaneous streaming to upto 32 (Thirty-two) individual devices, either as entirely different streams or fully syncronised to the same stream (or any combination as required, bonded devices such as stereo pairs count as two devices, so a full 5.1 Playbar setup would be 6 devices, even though it is all one "zone"). Upto 32 individual controllers are supported.

Sources available to play from include any standard CIFS/SMB share, either from a PC or NAS, thousands of internet radio stations and shows (via Tunein) or any of a number of online services including Spotify, Deezer, Napster, etc etc. Following recent application updates the system can now also pull audio files from a suitable iOS (iOS6 or higher required) or Android device (only audio files however, unlike Airplay it cannot play system audio wirelessly). Additionally any source connected to the line-in on any suitably equipped Sonos device (ie Connect, Connect:Amp or Play:5) can be outputted on any other Sonos device.

Originally focussed solely on music Sonos have recently moved into the home theatre market with the launch of the Playbar and Sub, combined with either a pair of Play:3s or Play:1s as surround speakers this can provide a full, wireless 5.1 audio system (the Connect:AMP can now also be used to power a pair of speakers for surround purposes but must be wired directly to the Playbar as the Connect:Amp does not have the required 5gHz antenna to be bonded wirelessly, the same reason why the Play:5 cannot be used for surround duties).

Pros:

Supports a wide range of formats, MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA up to 16-bit, 48kHz but not DRM-protected AAC, WMA Lossless or Realaudio formats,

Extremely easy to setup and configure, often remarked (by me at least) that it takes longer to unpack the boxes than it does to get it working (particularly with the current packaging which is a PITA to get open...), I had my first two zones up and running in ten minutes,

No DLNA server required, Sonos pulls files from a network source, rather than having them pushed to it, greatly simplifies NAS configuration for example,

Choice of controller, available for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android tablets and phones. Android devices have the option of connecting directly to the Sonosnet wireless network (Apple does not allow this on iOS, so these controllers must be within range of your own wireless network to function).

Extremely flexible, Play units can be paired together for full stereo, combined with the SUB and/or the Playbar and split back down into individual zones within minutes.

Perfect multi-room synchronisation, any combination of zones (or rooms) can be grouped together to play the same audio in perfect sync (although some AV receivers may introduce delays when used with the Connect due to signal processing within the receiver, this may sometimes be mitigated using Source Direct but not in every case).

Every Sonos device acts as a network switch, allowing non-Sonos devices to be plugged into the ethernet ports giving network access back to your home network (I currently have a SkyHD box wired to a Play:1 at the far end of the house allowing the Sky to use online services).

Cons:

No hi-res (24-bit) audio support, with no plans to implement it (would probably require new hardware, existing hardware uses a 24-bit output but 8-bits are used for volume control),

No Bluetooth or direct Airplay support (Airplay can be used in conjunction with an Airport Express), Sonos consider that this would be a step backwards functionally,

No controller app for Blackberry or Windows Phone, no native Windows Metro controller, no Linux controller (latest versions no longer support WINE either),

Any single controller can control EVERY available zone, no ring-fencing of controllers to specific zones is possible without creating separate Sonos systems,

Playbar supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM stereo ONLY, DTS is NOT supported, only 1 optical input, no HDMI support.

Perceived to be expensive, compared to traditional multi-room audio solutions however it's actually very good value.

Requires one device to be wired to home network.

I currently have three Sonos zones, a ZP90 (Connect) attached to my AV receiver, a ZP120 (Connect:Amp) mounted internally in a 1960 Bush radiogram driving a pair of Roth Oli 2 speakers and most recently a Play:1 in the back room where the pool table is. I can't really explain just how impressive it all is. It just works. The Play:1 is particularly impressive. It's not in a big room, granted but the sound it produces from such a small unit is very good. If I can figure out where to sensibly put a second one I'll be going for a stereo pair very soon.

I can't think of much else to say, any questions?

EDIT: Oh yeah: www.sonos.com obviously...
 

skippy

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The_LHC... Good comprehensive round up of Sonos there :clap:

With a couple of recent posts centered around multiroom setups, it actually got me thinking about doing something like this in the future.

Rotel (there'll be others) have multichannel and distribution amps which look (don't know how they sound) excellent for this purpose.

You have the rkb-850 & 8100 which have 8 channels at 50/100 w/channel.

The rkb-d850 & d8100 which are the digital input version of the previous, these have the benefit that they can be linked, so one Sonos connect (or other unamplified streamer) could feed 4 zones in stereo or all 8 channels in mono (via input A). Then as funds permit you could add other units and make each zone controllable independently making it truly multiroom.

You also have the rmb-1506 & 1512 which have 6 channels @ 50w and 12 channels @ 100w. They don't have the digital input, but have the option to link all the outputs from one input and again there is a little flexibility with stereo and mono configuration. They both offer the option to trim the outputs to each zone via the front panel.

http://www.rotel.com/NA/products/index.htm?cat=22
 

jamesrfisher

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This is a good thread, wish it had been around a few years ago, although I am very happy with my Squeezebox.

Regarding Airplay, you seem to suggest it is only itunes it works with. If you have a mac or i-device it will stream any audio via airplay. Have used it to good effect to stream Spotify off my imac, iphone and ipad. Same for youtube, safari, soundcloud and internet radio. This is true whether you are using airport express/apple tv as i do or an airport enabled device, my dad is able to stream any audio from his imac to his marantz 610, he is especially enjoying streaming youtube vids of old jazz concerts that way.
 

Xanderzdad

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The_LHC

Brilliant summary of Sonos. I've been using it for 6 months and thought I knew most of it - but I still picked up a trick or two from your thread. :grin:
 

Xanderzdad

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re Airplay

The Synology range of NAS allow you to send a wide range of music files to any airplay device without having iTunes running. They do this via their own DSAudio software running on the NAS. Apps are available on Android & iOS (not sure about winphones).

The latest software updates have rteally improved the spped and ease of use. Makes a really effective and simple system out of just a NAS and Airplay (to amp & speakers).
 

PEAYEL

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May I add to your excellent post the following....

The Sonos customer support is first class, and they deal with faulty products directly not through retailers.

There is a very good Sonos forum with great active members. They have the answers to most, if not all the problems that you will encounter. Sonos themselves also participate.

Sonos do listen to their users, and update their software with new features and services regularly. It is the best as far as I am aware from this perspective.

I researched most of the multi room systems before I chose Sonos, so I am willing to support this thread as much as I can. Great idea by the way.
 

AlmaataKZ

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jimbofisher said:
This is a good thread, wish it had been around a few years ago, although I am very happy with my Squeezebox.

Regarding Airplay, you seem to suggest it is only itunes it works with. If you have a mac or i-device it will stream any audio via airplay. Have used it to good effect to stream Spotify off my imac, iphone and ipad. Same for youtube, safari, soundcloud and internet radio. This is true whether you are using airport express/apple tv as i do or an airport enabled device, my dad is able to stream any audio from his imac to his marantz 610, he is especially enjoying streaming youtube vids of old jazz concerts that way.

good point. But which of these othe software streams to multiple devices? Like e.g. BBC iPlayer I think streams to a single device, not to multiroom zones like iTunes?
 

AlmaataKZ

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Xanderzdad said:
re Airplay

The Synology range of NAS allow you to send a wide range of music files to any airplay device without having iTunes running. They do this via their own DSAudio software running on the NAS. Apps are available on Android & iOS (not sure about winphones).

The latest software updates have rteally improved the spped and ease of use. Makes a really effective and simple system out of just a NAS and Airplay (to amp & speakers).

multizone or single?
 

AlmaataKZ

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daveh75 said:
AlmaataKZ said:
AudioPro (not a full multiroom platform but can serve several zones?)

- Dynaoudio Xeo (not a full multiroom platform but can serve several zones?) Any other?

The neither is Airplay...

please explain. What meant was that some systems have max of 3 or 4 zones, unlike AirPlay that have many more not sure how many). I think you mean something else.
 

andyjm

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LHC - good summary of Sonos.

Just wanted to expand on a couple of points -

The sonos 'mesh' network is a protocol that sits on top of WiFi, it still uses WiFi channels and WiFi hardware. The mesh approach allows each Sonos box to act as a repeater, so longer distances can be covered as long as the signal can jump from box to box. It cannot change the physics of WiFi, fix a very congested WiFi environment (if you are in a block of flats for example) or very long runs without intermediate boxes. The mesh topology also imposes constraints on data bandwidth which is IMO another reason why Sonos is not offering HiRes.

The Connect (or whatever it is called these days) has poor jitter performance, one of the worst of the streamer group tested a couple of years ago. If you use it to drive a DAC and your DAC does not have jitter mitigation circuitry, this MAY impact sound quality. To be honest, these days any decent DAC should be able to tidy up the input clock, so this is less of an issue than it used to be. An async USB connection on the Connect would be a nice feature for future development.

Having said all of the above, Sonos is the system I recommend to friends who want multi room playback. It has staying power, great support and a solid hardware and software platform. When my Squeezebox Transporter finally gives up the ghost (still the best streamer ever made...) I will be moving to Sonos.
 

AlmaataKZ

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Apple Airplay

http://www.apple.com/uk/airplay/

Apple’s wireless multiroom platform which can:

- Stream from a PC or Mac running iTunes to multiple zones. The computer is the main zone (you cannot stream to a computer) and each other zone needs to have an AirPlay receiver device (Airport Express, AppleTV or another AirPlay-enabled device), or

- Stream from a mobile device directly to a single AirPlay device

The streaming is always in Apple Lossless at 16/44, regardless of the format of the source file. Unlike Sonos (which can stream different music to different zonez), Airplay can only stream one music programme to all or some zones.

Control is either from the computer or remotely via iOS mobile devices with a free app called Remote.

Works over wired (Ethernet) and/or wireless networks. May or may not work via Homeplugs (turning off ipv6 in OSX may help resolving Homeplug problems if any).

Airport Express has mini-toslink optical and analog 3.5mm jack outputs. Apple TV only has mini-tsolink output for audio (and HDMI for AV).

Pros:

easy to set-up and use, familiar iTunes interface for those using it, plenty of Apple and third party compatible devices (speakers, AV receivers etc), the software is free, the (Apple) hardware is generally inexpensive (other makes vary), generally stable and well-supported by Apple. AEx and ATV have other useful functionality.

Cons:

Only single music programme to all zones (but this is OK for most), limited to 16/44 (but this is OK for most too). No FLAC support (but free converters available e.g. Max or DB Poweramp).

An exmaple of a 5-zone multiroom system based on Apple receivers and active speakers. Budget 2,500GBP.

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/your-system/a-5-zone-multiroom-airplay-system-for-a-friend

Edit: Some additinoal info on AirPlay:

http://www.cnet.com/uk/how-to/apple-airplay-10-things-you-need-to-know/
 

Xanderzdad

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AlmaataKZ said:
Xanderzdad said:
re Airplay

The Synology range of NAS allow you to send a wide range of music files to any airplay device without having iTunes running. They do this via their own DSAudio software running on the NAS. Apps are available on Android & iOS (not sure about winphones).

The latest software updates have rteally improved the spped and ease of use. Makes a really effective and simple system out of just a NAS and Airplay (to amp & speakers).

multizone or single?

Good question - I've only got a single Airplay device so can't test it I'm afraid.
 

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