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Hardware Hacking Media Music

Poor Man's Whole House Audio? 102

robtheauditor asks: "I would love to have my music in all the various rooms of our house. I can't afford the thousands for a turnkey system. What are the possibilities for a poor man's whole house audio system? For example, would it be possible to take my PC external audio connector and feed it to a bunch of powered speakers in different rooms? Could I just bring a bunch of 3.5mm plugs wired together in parallel, or would that not work? I was thinking that even if the signal is weak because it is split to 6 different speaker pairs, because the speakers are powered it wouldn't matter. Or will I risk burning out my sound card?"
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Poor Man's Whole House Audio?

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  • Preamp necessary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:36PM (#14059751)

    Could I just bring a bunch of 3.5mm plugs wired together in parallel, or would that not work? I was thinking that even if the signal is weak because it is split to 6 different speaker pairs, because the speakers are powered it wouldn't matter. Or will I risk burning out my sound card?

    Doesn't matter if the speakers are powered...by the time you split the signal six ways it'll be so attenuated that amplifying it at the destination will also amplify the problems, including distortion and noise in the line (especially if your speaker wires are unshielded). If you want to supply six pairs of speakers, you'll need a very strong starting signal..and your soundcard by itself is probably not up to the challenge. You'll have to preamp the signal before you split it. Shielded speaker wires wouldood idea as well. be a g
  • Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PunkOfLinux ( 870955 ) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:40PM (#14059772) Homepage
    Use some light switches, so that when you enter a room all you have to do is flip the switch, and speakers come on. You could even get some of those switches where only one can be on at a time.
  • by Malor ( 3658 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:46PM (#14059807) Journal
    The Squeezeboxes are about $200 each for the wired model 2, which is identical to the snazzier model 3 except for the appearance. $250 for the wireless version. (add $50 for Model 3s). Their hardware is extremely good, with top-quality DACs and very low-jitter digital outs. They'll outperform CD players that are much more expensive.

    You'll need a computer to run the music server software. You can then easily sync up multiple rooms... and they all come with quite lovely displays and very useful remotes. This would be one of the cheaper ways to do this, and it has a nice side effect of being very, very high-quality.

    But you still need amplification and speakers in every room, and that's going to add a buttload to the cost. You're essentially trying to buy six stereo systems on the cheap. I'd suggest repeated trips to pawn shops and Goodwill stores to get the sound gear... and then add your distributed music system from there.

    The Squeezeboxes would make a really excellent backbone, but getting the signal to a room won't matter if you have nothing to play it back with.
    • Do you have any knowledge of the quality of the DACs and other components in the Roku soundbridge? These can be had for as little as $100 (m500, now $150 with $50 rebate).

      They're even compatible with the slimserver software, which strikes me as a very good solution.

      I like the idea of supporting the squeezebox people but i don't like the idea of spending $250 on the thing when there's a $100 alternative. I'm a cheapskate, i know.
      • I don't have strong knowledge, but after reading the Slim forums for awhile, I get the feeling that the people who know what they're doing are Not Impressed.

        I do know that their new M1001 will no longer do lossless.... they were so cheap on the design that they bought a part that resamples everything to 48khz. This messes up the sound... for some people, pretty badly. And it will definitely break DTS-encoded 44.1Khz WAV files. When asked about that, they just sort of vaguely said something about how DTS
        • thanks for the info.

          re: "if you buy cheap you buy twice": that's almost certainly true. In fact, it's generally my goal with technology purchases - spend $100 now and $100 later instead of $250 now.

          For stereo purchases, i've done both ways - i have a half-decent adcom & b+w system for the main stereo that i spent real money on, and i have a sony receiver with jvc speakers i spent $120 on (used - probably list price $400 worth of gear) that i use much more often since it's in the kitchen where we spen
          • I'm guessing here, but I think it's more of a music purchase, in that you're likely to keep it a long time. Music reproduction hasn't fundamentally changed much since the advent of the CD, more than twenty years ago. It's not like they're going to go away anytime soon... SACD and DVD-A appear to be going precisely nowhere. You're not tracking a moving target in quite the same way that you are with most technology. It'll play music very well now, but in ten years, it'll probably STILL play music very wel
  • Too much splitting! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rocjoe71 ( 545053 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:54PM (#14059849) Homepage
    A signal split that many times is going to be no good.

    Take a trip to your local Radio Shack and look for something called a speaker switch box. It would look like a small brick with a knob on the front with the letters "A", "B", etc. on it, and plugs on the back for input/output signals. This would have the net effect of unplugging thhe unused speakers from your soundcard without the need for plugging/unplugging the cables yourself, sparing you the signal degradation.

    If you're at all handy with a soldering iron, you could probably make your own speaker switch box with $5 or $10 worth of parts.

    • See above posts (with math even!) to explain why you are incorrect.

      Powered speakers provide fairly high input impedence. You can run many of them in parallel before you get down to them impedence level of headphones (which many consumer soundcards are designed to drive).
  • Easy-Peasy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:56PM (#14059860)
    What are the possibilities for a poor man's whole house audio system?

    That would be a walkman and a pair of headphones.
  • by wufpak ( 204617 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:02AM (#14059891)
    Could I just bring a bunch of 3.5mm plugs wired together in parallel, or would that not work?

    That approach has worked great for me, driving a set of three powered speaker pairs. Radio Shack even sells a one-in/three-out adapter plug; I use that to split the signal three ways, coming right off the soundcard speaker jack. Then I run 30-50 feet of shielded audio cable (bought in bulk and then connectorized; an easy soldering job) to each of the three powered speaker sets. Sound quality is fine.

    I'm guessing that a six-way split would work just as well as my three-way split does.

  • Wireless may work? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mitsoid ( 837831 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:10AM (#14059934)
    A friend of mine was considering using an FM Modulator from his PC to broadcast the computer's audio across into another room for his speaker system.. In theory you could do this buying 1 FM Modulator and some basic clock/radio's.. Not super high-tech, not super-powerful, but gives you sound in every room ? Problem would be finding an FM modulator running off AC power -- most are designed for Car's to go from CD-players or mp3 players to car audio... Hell, I might try this myself.. being that I spend most my time in my basement / workshop, I don't get a strong signal for any station without the single cable I have running down from my Antenna on the roof... I could easily set this up and broadcast music into my Exercise room, or my Work room.. as well as my home theater system's reciever... Probably would get a better singal then a 6-spliced wire... but not better then a straight connection, or a two-splice connection... but im not an electrician, I just play with sound systems a lot :-)
    • A variety of FM transmitters can be had at Ramsey Electronics, in kit form or preassembled. They are, generally, not very expensive.

      Google for them.
    • by unitron ( 5733 )
      "Problem would be finding an FM modulator running off AC power..."

      Considering that he would be feeding it from the sound card, and it would therefore be right there at his computer, he could probably steal the small amount of 12 Volt current needed right from the computer's power supply.

    • This is exactly what I intend to do with mp3 jukebox eventually. I will add code to my existing project to use the FM transmitter as a player. This player would be independent of direct to stereo connection and the clients listening to independent http streams. With the right PC, it would be possible to broadcast different music on different FM stations allowing tuned people to play what they want.

      -Slashdot Junky
    • Get a wall wart. The FM transmitter I have has a jack. Just get a 12 volt wall wart with the right plug and your golden. If the one you pick doesn't have a jack a trip to radio shack, an xacto knife, and a little bit of solder can fix that.
    • I actually did this in my last house (a townhouse). We had a whole house speaker system, and connections where I hooked up an amplifier with a built-in radio, but that was all in the basement, and my computer (and all of it's music) was upstairs in my study. My solution was to use the FM Transmitter we had bought for our iPod (which has both a car adapter and a wall adapter)...Plugging into the computer proved to produce good sound quality, which I was surprised about, and I didn't have to move my computer
    • That was what i was gonna say.

      Tried this and it worked fine. I found a micro transmitter preassembled witha jack for a wall wart for like $30 or so. Simply find an appropriate transformer (had one laying around) and a cable (i came from my stereo, computer and TV go into stereo first)

      Bonus, i can slap on some FM headphones and go to 7-11 without missing a beat :)

      Might check your radio dial for nice large dead spot, although i didnt even need to change defaults on mine.

      As long as this solution doesn't become
    • An FM modulator works for me -- but beware, you must get a decent modulator to get good sound without constantly fiddling with things. I built one from a kit -- it's great, but only if you don't mind assembling a lot of loose parts into a transmitter.

      I use the MPX96 FM modulator from North Country Radio http://www.northcountryradio.com/Kitpages/mpx 96.htm [northcountryradio.com]

      Also, the ability to power your transimtter from AC is part of the trick -- it's easy to get them to run quietly from a battery (DC). If you use a wall

  • by wcspxyx ( 120207 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:18AM (#14059973)
    Seriously. Spend your money on getting a really good FM transmitter. Then any radio you can buy becomes a speaker for the system. No wires to run, no hassles.
    • I did this a while back with a 5 watt signal booster and a small antenna on the roof. I can hear it on a FM headset anywhere on my 10 acre property. I also have my office XM reciever hooked to it so I can listen to Opie & Anthony 8^)
      • I did this a while back with a 5 watt signal booster and a small antenna on the roof.

        Soldering a longer antenna onto my tunecast 2 from Walmart made it cover most of my four bedroom house.

        My radios are not cheap, though. You can get some very good tuners at thrift stores. Any digital tuner is good, though not expensive. Really cheap analog receivers are terrible and should be avoided. My wife's favorite little boom box, which she uses for CDs, does not work on FM at all anymore.

        If you are really poo

    • I did exactly this, and we've been very happy with it. I used a "Whole House FM Transmitter" from:

      http://www.my-radio-station.com/ [my-radio-station.com]

      and cheap GE radios ("GE 7-2664 AM/FM Portable Radio", about $11 from Amazon). Just took about an hour to set up, and works without any problems through our whole house.

      Now you won't the same sound quality sending your CD out over FM as you would sending it directly to speakers, but to me the sound quality is fine.
  • Put some speakers all over your house, run them to an amp, run a cable from the amp to your PC. What's the problem?
    • Put some speakers all over your house, run them to an amp, run a cable from the amp to your PC. What's the problem?

      Impedance. Your "solution" will just fry your amp.
      • I've done it before, maybe I'm using the wrong term. I used to have a big receiver that all my components plugged into. I added a Y cable and ran it to my PC. Everything worked fine, I had that setup for like 5 years.
        • You split the line-level audio to two different sets of amps (your computer speakers have a built-in amp). That's completely different than splitting speaker-level (amplified) audio to multiple pairs of speakers. It doesn't work the same.
  • Run a box that is streaming the music via an 802.11g wifi router over your local lan, setup as many terminals you need for the appropriate # of speakers, oh and make sure that if you use an external router, make sure it runs on linux. then you could stream local mp3s or stream streams ... or sumthin like that

    This has been a msg from your Linux User Service Example RepresentativeS. LLUSERS for short.
  • 25V audio (Score:5, Informative)

    by BKX ( 5066 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:35AM (#14060077) Journal
    Alright, the WAY TO GO for whole house audio is 25V systems. You just need a 25V audio amplifier (figure like 2W per speaker) and these special speakers which have transformers built into them. You could also go with 70V audio but its more expensive (although easier to find). Don't try to get this stuff new though; you'll pay way to much. Instead, go to business auctions (restaurant auctions are a good place for this) and going out of business sales. You'll get much better deals. Strangely, this stuff is somewhat hard to find on the internet.

    Just so you know, the benefit of 25V (and 70V) audio over standard direct to speaker connections or 3.3V/5V/8V audio signals is less attenuation. 25V and 70V systems can transmit audio signals without degradation over very long distances, like what you would need to wire a whole house or building. The more usual types of audio transmission can only go a few feet.

    The other benefit (perhaps more important) is that you can have as many speakers as you want on the same wires in parallel (as long as your amplifier can handle it). Under ordinary wiring schemes, you can only have one device per output channel. If you split it, either the signal will degrade or the amplifier will overload.

    The only problem with this scheme is that you need completely separate amplifiers and wires for each channel (left and right) if you want stereo output instead of mono. This precludes the usual combining of grounds that most people use.

    If you want to be able to control the volume of each speaker independently just toss a potentiometer between one wire and the transformer on the speaker. Like a 50 Ohm ought to be fine.

    Now, just so every knows, this scheme is only cheap if you find the equipment used. Brand new, this stuff is quite expensive. BUT, this stuff is pretty easy to find used if you look for it.

    If you have no patience, you could try any number of other schemes. I think one of my favorites (I have a friend how actually did this) is to buy a bunch of very crappy computers (think Pentium 200), take them out of the cases and embed them in the walls (he had fans to push the heat into his airducts). Then he attached them via ethernet and multicasted his audio signal to all his crappy machines. All ten of them (he has a HUGE house). The computers are hooked up to vintage stereos which he uses as amplifiers for each room. He controls all this with his laptop and SSH. He usually leaves the stereos on and turned up and turns the sound to each room on and off by sshing into the approriate machine. He recently told me that he's thinking of changing his setup to using one of those network audio protocols, (nas, I think) so that he can have different stuff playing in each room. He also said he was thinking of adding IrDA transcievers to his crap machines so that he can control them with his Palm.
    • 25V is overkill for most homes. Regular speaker level signals driving 8 ohm speakers will be fine in most cases.
      • My thinking was that if he's in a home big enough that he's asking about how to do whole house wiring then his home must be big enough for standard levels to attenuate too much to be nice. That really isn't that far anyway. Maybe 50-100 feet. I suppose the average home isn't as large as I was imagining. Anyway, for normal sized homes you're right, 25V is overkill. Of course, if you do happen to find it at auction, the 25V stuff is usually cheaper than the standard 8 Ohm stuff. But that's usually because you
        • You are right that the 25v stuff can be cheap. I would not hesitate to use old PA gear. My point was only that it is not required. I didn't want anyone to think that they couldn't use the old hi-fi gear sitting in their (parent's) basement.

          With thicker cable you can run 50, 100, or 200 (with 10 gauge ack!) foot long runs and use 8ohm speakers. You can do longer if you are willing to accept a bit of atenuation. Regardless of the system used there are capacitance issues beyond about 50feet that will atenuate
    • ...you missed the "poor man's" part of the question.

      The guy wants to buy some wire and speaker terminals, not a centrallized full-house entertainment system, which I'm sure Google returns hundreds of. He wants to know the best way of going about this without installing a prefissional sound system.

      • I didn't miss the "poor man's" part; you just missed one of points. 25V audio can be the cheapest stuff money can buy if you look in the right place. I picked up two 25W 25V amps and 16 speakers at auction last year for $100. Try getting audio distribution equipment of ANY kind for cheaper than that.
  • by sahrss ( 565657 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:45AM (#14060120)
    Get a big boombox, and CRANK IT UP!

    Tada, whole house audio. Your neighbors will love you because you're installing systems for them, too, and for free!
    • > Get a big boombox, and CRANK IT UP! Tada, whole house audio. Your neighbors will love you
      > because you're installing systems for them, too, and for free!

      If that's the effect you're after, make sure you play nothing but polka music.

      Either that or just skip the boombox and get a train whistle and an air compressor.
  • Buy 6 cheapass stereo systems, and burn 6 cds? :)
  • one low budget way (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unitron ( 5733 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:22AM (#14060299) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure how big your house is (and how long the connecting cables are going to have to be) or what quality of powered speakers you have in mind, but here's a suggestion:

    Google for Boosteroo. It's a one stereo in, three stereo out preamp/headphone amp that you could stick between your soundcard and your speakers.

    I thought there was a Slashdot article about hacking it a while back but I'm not finding it.

    The reason to need to know how to take it apart is because it runs on a battery or two and you might want to hook up an AC adapter.

  • Slim devices contributes to a GPL'd Server that is typically used to stream to their SqueezeBox player hardware. But, get this, there are software versions of the Squeeze box, namely 'soft squeeze' that emulate nearly perfectly the hardware features, and in some cases, is more useful. If nothing else, WinAMP can be used as a client as well, and it's playlist can be controlled via Slim Server (though some features are lost).

    Here's some features of Slim Server that make this worth considering for your whole
  • Go Mono (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:34AM (#14060355) Homepage

    Get an old, used 4:1 amp on the cheap with a mono output option. Put a speaker in every room. Assuming you have smaller speakers than the manufacturer was expecting to drive, use two speakers per line, for 8 total.

    I wouldn't worry about stereo. When you have music coming from every room, stereo separation gets muddied. Alltogether, the audio is a bit cleaner in mono, if you've got 5 or 6 mono sources from around the house coming at you.

    Another way to do it, if you really want to be cheap, is broadcast. Get a low-powered radio transmitter, pick an unused station, and blast it. Tune the radios in your house, and you're done.

  • I'd look for a second- or third-hand 8-bus mixing console. The console would feed four stereo amps (from garage sales, thrift stores, whatever), and the amps would be hooked to four sets of stereo speakers.

    If you look carefully, you can find stereo receivers from the 80s that have two sets of stereo speaker outputs, so you could have eight sets of stereo speakers.

    The console would also be useful because you could have a number of different inputs, and pipe them to different areas of the house. So maybe the
  • poor man's solutions (Score:5, Informative)

    by dj_virto ( 625292 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @02:20AM (#14060545)
    I'm out of my league when slashdotters start suggesting $200 pieces of gear, but I am an enthusiastic cheap hardware hacker and have some suggestions based on stuff I've tried. Please don't comment saying these approaches are ghetto. I know they are ghetto. That doesn't mean they won't have great results for cheap.

    It sounds like you want a system originating from just one source- since you were willing to spit the headphone hack signal so many times. For starters, maybe poke around for a device called a 'video distribution amplifier'. You can buy one for something like $20-$50 bucks in the US that will split one set of signals five or six ways. If you just want to split audio right now, ignore the video. Later, you can use the video to send an (admittedly low quality) image of the computer screen to TVs and video monitors around the house if your video card supports this or if your scrounge up a VGA to composite adapter.

    Watch thrift stores for old receivers from the 70s. I've had great luck with old Panasonic and Technics receivers- they're surprisingly high quality. You can use these receivers two ways- to distribute and/or to receive audio in each room. To distribute, wire the audio signal from your computer into the AUX or TAPE PLAY inputs. The outputs labeled TAPE REC (there might be two sets of these hopefully) can go to another room to input into gear there. My experience has been that you can safely split each of these TAPE PLAY outputs once without noticeable degradation- so you can go to as many as four sets of amplified speakers, or four more amplifiers, or four car stereos from here.

    Since you're hacking, you can also use the headphone jack on your receiver as another output- preferably to amplified speakers which are designed for this sort of signal. Although, be warned, on some equipment the presence of a headphone plug automatically turns off the local speakers if you were planning to use them. By the way, some (maybe 5% of what I've seen) 70's gear prefers 16 ohm speakers- 8 ohm speakers on them will sound a little funny, especially after you blow them out. :)

    The receiver will also have some other inputs too, for your CD player, etc which then can be easily distributed to the whole house. Keep in mind that the old PHONO inputs prefer a different kind of signal from what your computer and CD player puts out.

    As for cabling.. the best cable I've snagged while dumpster diving was some Ma Bell cabled with 16 or so sets of twisted pair, maybe 16 gauge or so. This works beautifully. For very long runs, poke around for the cable ordinarly used for composite video. There are some semi-cheap options on ebay like this, but for stereo you'll need two. People say not to use coax, but I've used it for audio when I've had some excess laying around, and it worked great for me. You can solder standard RCA plugs on the ends and seal. I like to use a bit of clay epoxy because it not only insulates but also protects. :) Rat Shack and others sell 50 foot cables with headphone jacks on both ends. These are nice if you are terminating in an old set of computer-style self powered speakers. I've run three of them in series with no noticeable noise. If you are really hard up, the dollar store sells 100 foot phone cables. Don't bother trying to solder the fabric woven wires in them, use old phone sockets for breakout boxes. For line level signals this works well enough up to a few hundred feet.

    Ok, now let's talk about how to actually play the audio you've very professionally sent to each room. I think the best bet in this kind of setup is the computer-style self powered speakers. They have volume and power switches on them, which is all the control you're going to have in that room anyway (unless you use VNC or some such like I do to control the media server). You can find old computer speakers in thrift stores pretty easily, but they always seem to be missing their power cables. This is where your lifetime spent not throwing away AC-DC power adapters
    • just wanted to thank you for putting so much time into your post. it's great to see that you enjoy what you did instead of just tossing back a lame (usually derogatory) reply. now I just need to figure out how to take everyone's suggestions and use them in my house (while appeasing the wife's sense of aesthetics, arguably the hardest part).
    • Great post!

      Regarding cheap cabling... I've used standard CAT-5 for the very unprofessional speaker runs I've had in my home at times. I'd twist the 4 solid-colored wires together for one condutcor and the 4 open wires as my second conductor (the logic being that four 26-guage wires would have better properties than one 26-guage wire). Seemed to be less noisey than the crap I bought at Rat Shack (you can tell I'm no audiphile).

      I don't know how this would hold up to high-end gear. This was for my $200

    • However you hack it, try using an old computer power supply to power the car stereo. I do mean old- like 486 or older AT style PSUs that will actually power on without a computer around. You might have to wire up the 5volt leads to run a nightlight or something to get some of these to work.. most will simply work. The red wire is 12 volts postivie, black wire is negative... Hook up your scrounged or on-sale 4 ohm speakers to the stereo. Choose the correct input. Mount creatively. (the stereo I mean)

      Orange

    • I do mean old- like 486 or older AT style PSUs that will actually power on without a computer around.

      FYI: You can easily get ATX power supplies to power on without a computer by shorting the right pins. I think it's green to ground (black), but it's probably better not to take my word on it. Instead, you should trust some random guy who has a web site. ;) Devising a permanent solution isn't hard either, you can also get them from stores. Don't do it without putting some load on the PSU, some people say that
  • by really? ( 199452 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:22AM (#14060907)
    Omnifi DMS1 Digital Media Streamers can be had for as little as US$50, and come with both a wired and wireless NIC. Hook them up to some reasonably priced powered speakers, and you can have each room "wired" for less then US$ 75.

    It's what I recently did for a friend, and he is VERY happy. So is his wife.
  • What you need is an audio distribution amplifier (DA). They do exactly what the name suggests. This [gefen.com] looks like it might do the trick, and it uses Cat-5 cable for the (analog) transmission, so you probably already have all the cable you'd need. Not exactly cheap, but they're certainly cheaper than pro-level DAs. Of course, you may want to go the squeezebox/digital route like many others are suggesting.
    • What you need is an audio distribution amplifier (DA).

      I agree completely, but the one you link to seems quite a bit more complicated (and expensive) than necessary here - You need the $200 base unit plus a $50 receiver in each room? No way!

      The AudioVox VA100 [amazon.com] (not a referrer link, and just search for the model number on Amazon if you don't trust me) does 1 stereo input to 4 stereo outputs, and handles audio separate from video (ie, no need to deal with converting it to RF and back, as with most cheap
    • This is the basic premiss I'd work on. This particular model may not be the best for you, but it's the right idea. Some things to look for: It must be powered. Unpowered systems make for serious attenuation and/or fried sound cards. Make sure it splits the signal when it's at the proper level. A preamp splitter placed between an amp and an unpowered speaker will either cause some serious clipping (bad, a major cause of distortion), or blow the splitter (unlikely, but possible). A postamp splitter bet
  • These are PCI cards you can put into your computer. Broadcast on FM. Card costs 170 dollars if you get it at this christmas website, and 170 euros if you buy it from Europe (biiiig price difference,that's like $260).

    A GOOD transmission antenna will run you another $90 or so. I haven't gotten mine yet, so I can only make it across my house in mono.

    Still, it's more elegant than my 100-ft RCA-cable run, and has better reception quality AND range than my crappy X10 "mp3anywhere" 2.5gHZ transmitter.

  • by gothzilla ( 676407 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @10:47AM (#14062307)
    Speakers, whether powered or not, have an impedance that must be watched if you're going to hook up more than two to each channel.
    Put two 8 ohm speakers in series you get 16 ohms of impedance. This won't fry your sound card but the volume in the speakers will be lower.
    Put two 8 ohm speakers in parallel and your impedance becomes 4 ohms. Volume stays the same but you risk burning your soundcard.
    Put 6 speakers in parallel and you start a fire.
    The best thing to do is put 4 speakers in series/parallel. Split the channel into two lines and put two speakers in series on each line. This keeps the impedance at 8 ohms and gives you 4 speakers.

    Of course, the suggestion below to just buy an FM transmitter is the best one yet. You can buy tiny FM radios to plug into powered speakers if you really want the powered speakers, or just use boom boxes instead.

    •   Speakers, whether powered or not, have an impedance that must be watched if you're going to hook up more than two to each channel.

      Uh, no. Yes, a powered speaker has an impedance, but it's going to be at least 10Kohms. Any audio output can drive such a load; that's how line-level audio is designed - low output impedance, high input impedance. Actual direct driving of speaker drivers by a power amplifier is an entirely different matter.

    • "Speakers, whether powered or not, have an impedance that must be watched if you're going to hook up more than two to each channel.
      Put two 8 ohm speakers in series you get 16 ohms of impedance."

      The phrase "powered speakers" implies a speaker-amplifier combination. The manufacturer has already dealt with the amplifier output and speaker voice coil impedence matching issue. The input of a powered speaker isn't a speaker's input, it's an amplifier's input. Amplifier inputs fall into that nebulous mid to hig

  • There have been several reports [google.com] of people who have successfully gotten SPDIF (the digital audio signal normally used between a DVD player and an audio receiver) to work wirelessly by simply plugging the normal SPDIF RCA cord into the video input of an ordinary cheap wireless video transmitter (buy one transmitter, more than one receiver). Your soundcard probably already has PCM SPDIF output. If it doesn't, you can get a nice one that has it for cheap [google.com].

    The only problem is finding a cheap way to get to analog

    • Wow, it's so simple yet so cunning! It makes sense too. Digital signals are more resistant to interference so I'm sure a transmitter designed for a video signal could carry it fine. I think I might just have to try this.
  • You can build your own squeezebox-alike cheap as nuts. Its a hack, but its cool. Get an OpenWRT box with a USB output and hook up a USB sound card. Cost should come in under $120. You can also get a ATI Remote Wonder for RF remote control. You should only need one or two recievers for the whole house, and you can sometimes buy the reciever & the remotes seperately on ebay. For now I leave sync issues as DIY. More some day.

    -Myren
    • I'm a big fan of the Apple AirPort Express at $129. It'll stream audio over 802.11g or ethernet, will do standard 3.5 or optical minijack out. Granted, you have to use iTunes to stream to it and it may or may not be what you're looking for in terms of having to stream to a specific unit, but it's an option. As an added bonus, it's can act as a wireless router or print server. I don't know how it's feature set compared to the SqueezeBox everybody keeps mentioning, but it's really a top-notch piece of off
  • My only home Audio solution for the last 10 years has been a top-line Panasonic Gettoblaster (RX DT 75 [seesaa.net]). Dual-Tape (fast dub), CD, Radio, Time/Timer (for *everything*, incl. timed radio recording, timed wake-up+playback or wake-up+record from stand-by, etc...).
    And *everything* is remote controlled with a full-blow 40-button remote- my last main buying point.
    On top of that all CD drawers, display covers and tape deck slots are power driven and remote controllable.

    The audio quality is great and even beats (no
  • Do what real audio engineers do, run balanced signal lines. You can buy really good, pre-packaged "balun" transformers for $30 bucks/line or so, or you can by cheap isolation transformers and adaptors at RadioShack or such like, and build your own for cheap. With something like this [fnal.gov]; You should be able to run balanced audio for both the left and right channels on a cat-5 line, and build some boxes with cat-5 jacks, a cheap isolation transformers, and a stereo audio jack, and daisy chain as many speaker box
  • by Black Perl ( 12686 ) on Friday November 18, 2005 @02:09PM (#14064427)
    I see that answers are all over the map. You may want to be more specific in terms of budget, and what you will accept for audio.

    In my case, I wanted a system that didn't require large cash outlay (i.e. no large multichannel amps). I wanted one that I could grow piecemeal and buy things a bit at a time on a shoestring budget, yet they would work as an integrated whole. But I wanted true stereo in each room, from real in-ceiling speakers (FM radios don't cut it).

    The solution I settled on is A-Bus. A-Bus is a music-over-Cat5 technology with You wire a single Cat5 (much easier to fish through walls than speaker cables) from a hub near your music source to each room. The hub is less than $100. In each room, you put an amplified volume control (less than $50 - see e.g. http://www.basshome.com/product_8464_detailed.htm [basshome.com] - you can also get one that can pass IR to your audio source) and wire from that to your speakers, which is usually a fairly short run.

    Works well, sounds great, looks like a high-end system, and not too much cash outlay at any given time.
  • One line output driving a bundle of line inputs: works, but not good (impedance problems, ground loops unless you use symmetrical inputs, cables and output)

    One amplifier output driving a bundle of speakers: too many speakers kill the amplifier (impedance goes too low), lots of loss on long cables. Driving a 4 ohm speaker via a long, thin cable having 2 ohm per wire uses half of the power to heat the cable.

    The standard technique for distributing audio to a bunch of speakers is to use 100 volts (I don't kno

  • http://www.dckits.com/stcast.htm [dckits.com]



    Look at the one at the bottom for hooking directly to your soundcard.

    Or look at this one at Amazon

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007ODOMA/102-27 68592-7307354?v=glance&n=172282&v=glance [amazon.com]

  • There are some people having success with using the Linksys NSLU2 and Unslung as an audio player.
    http://www.nslu2-linux.org/wiki/HowTo/SlugAsAudioP layer/ [nslu2-linux.org]
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0001FSCZO/ [amazon.com]

  • Just do it the old fashioned way.

    Go to a local second-hand stereo store. Buy a big huge heavy stereo with a Tape input (line level) and a big linear amp. Feed the PC into that.

    Some old stereos have up to four "zones" of stereo speaker outputs. Buy a speaker switchbox or make one from a bunch of good quality switches. Be nice to your amp and don't switch things in and out when it's on... turn it all the way down or off and switch in the zones you want music in. (Takes a whole 5 seconds.)

    Run speaker cabl

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