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Thread: Audio and Video setup recommendation

  1. #1
    Automated Home Jr Member
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    Default Audio and Video setup recommendation

    Hi All,

    I'm planning my system and believe I have got to grips with the HA side of things; I’m looking to implement Idratek. I'm now trying to work out what to do with video/audio, and more importantly, how to wire the system.

    My original plans were to have a multi-zone audio system with a pair of speakers in most rooms, and to have multi-room video to a few rooms and also to use the audio speakers for the TV’s.

    However, trying to work out how to wire all this as made me re-think about what I actually need. For example, I've realised that I can stream most of the audio from a PC by ripping the CD's and playing MP3's. Although, I'd still like to be able to play whatever / wherever.

    This has led me to look at the Sonos units. I'm wondering about using them, but via a wired connections rather than wirelessly. (Because I have the opportunity to add data points and the property is old with thick walls). The only issues are that the speaker cables in each room would go directly back to the Sonos units and not to my "node 0" - I'm wondering if that's a good decision.

    For video, I'm planning on a "simple" media room that would contain a flat panel TV and surround sound / DVD / Sky. In other rooms I'd like to install some smaller flat screens and be able to feed media from the media room (I'm also planning on some web cams for security, so may like to view those somewhere too).

    I'd originally planned on using 2 co-ax cables with a distribution box in my "node 0" to distribute the video feeds, but have since been looking at using cat5. I'm not sure which is the best to use, and from there which hardware (I've noticed that a lot of people seem to recommend the Abitana and KAT5 units).

    I'd appreciate any thoughts on my ideas; is there a better way to run things? Is there a better (cheaper!) option rather than using Sonos units, bearing in mind I can add wire where required at the moment? Should I stick to co-ax for video? Should I worry about HD TV at this point?

    Thanks, Dave

  2. #2
    Automated Home Sr Member jaffab's Avatar
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    Hi,

    Sonos is good, but is Very, very, very expensive (if you go for the whole house).

    For audio, I instead went for a Squeezebox system (one server with all the music, connected to the internet for radio), and slim boxes in various rooms (bedroom, lounge and kitchen). It was set up in 5 minutes, very cheap (£300 for 4 rooms) and is ideal, as there is central control and local control. Take a look at http://www.logitechsqueezebox.com/pr.../overview.html

    For video, I stream via a wireless network, with the video played either to computers (laptops in the office), to my main lounge TV (played on a PS3, but there and plenty of options to play video from streams - either wired or not wired), and a Sony TV in the bedroom which has a built in wireless receiver/player. I created a who 'how to' section on storage of the movies (a task in itself) and the ripping of movies in the Projects section of this forum (up one level, and then down to near the bottom).

    Good luck

    Jaffa
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  3. #3
    Automated Home Legend TimH's Avatar
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    Sonos gets a lot of love on the mailing list and is (apparently) one of the few products that “just works”. Yes there is cheaper but you will need to do more config work and the controllers wont be as pretty… A lot of the price/performance feedback indicates you can’t go far wrong with it

    Do you have to locate the zone players in the room? Can’t you locate them all centrally and wire-out to the zone speakers? (I don’t know the answer and I’d probably want a range-test in my own house before committing to that strategy…). The alternative might be to locate ZPs in the room and run cable from the ZP to node zero, then back to speakers in the room. Lots of cable, and long-ish cable runs but this would give you the most flexibility.

    Coax can be a bit ropey for video distribution if you are having TVs of any reasonable size as you will notice the difference in picture quality. That’s not to say that coax is out as it can be very useful for IR distribution and getting an aerial feed to a TV’s internal Freeview tuner, distributing CCTV etc..

    Can you still buy a non-HD TV other than a portable set? Even if you don’t cable for HD now, you could leave provision for cabling in future, or use an HDMI over Cat5 solution and “over cable” to those locations where you might want screens. You’ll need 2 Cat5 cables for these HDMI boxes, so add those to however many cables you were going to add anyway.

    Depending on what you want to do with the CCTV cameras you have a number of solutions. Geovision is a popular system but you’d ideally need to dedicate a single PC to it. Zoneminder is another popular Linux alternative. These systems will let you record as well as view. If you want to view only, you can modulate the camera’s output and distribute it as an extra “channel” over the coax previously included. So BBC etc. on channels 1-5, Sky output on 6, then CCTV on 7, 8 & 9 etc.

    HTH,

    Tim.

  4. #4
    Automated Home Legend TimH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaffab View Post

    I instead went for a Squeezebox system... very cheap (£300 for 4 rooms)
    Hi jaffab,

    Can you elaborate on how you got the cost down to £300 for all four rooms? I thought the units were ~£250 each...

    Thanks,

    Tim.

  5. #5
    Automated Home Sr Member jaffab's Avatar
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    only 1 was new - the others were from ebay
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  6. #6
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    Thanks for that; raises a few more questions for me!

    @jaffab: Re the Sonos units - I've been comparing them to the squeezebox devices and am still unsure which would be best for me. I like the idea of cheaper kit, but I need either an additional amp or powered speakers in each room as far as I can tell. Wasn't sure about which amp, or where to hide it, and I'd read somewhere that you can get interference with powered speakers. Also, is there still a big cost difference by the time you've bought the extra amp or powered speakers?

    @timh: Yes you can wire them centrally, but it sounds like you will need a few extra zone bridges to get the wireless controllors to work ok. I think the best ide is to run cable from ZP's to node 0 then back out.

    Think I'll have to do some more working about video; I'm not keen on relying on wireless. So it looks like it's still worth looking at 2 x coax for video per room, but also include 2 x cat5 for HD.

    Thanks for the webcam tips. I'm looking to tie this into Idratek, so will check what's best there.

    Regards, Dave

  7. #7
    Automated Home Sr Member jaffab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drod View Post
    Thanks for that; raises a few more questions for me!

    @jaffab: Re the Sonos units - I've been comparing them to the squeezebox devices and am still unsure which would be best for me. I like the idea of cheaper kit, but I need either an additional amp or powered speakers in each room as far as I can tell. Wasn't sure about which amp, or where to hide it, and I'd read somewhere that you can get interference with powered speakers. Also, is there still a big cost difference by the time you've bought the extra amp or powered speakers?
    You dont need a seperate amp or speakers. In two of my rooms, I went for the Squeezebox "Boombox" which are self contained units. In the other two rooms, I have them plugged into wall/ceiling speakers (powered) that I already had in place.
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  8. #8
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    just wondering if anyone has compared Sonos or Slim approaches with doing AV via a PC network, instead - one option we're looking at is a Mac Mini + EyeTV + (later) NAS feeding desktops (connected to existing hi-fi) & laptops (with headphones) - would seem to give good flexibility (on where & when) & allow people still to be together when watching different things ...

    any thoughts ?

    Chris
    Last edited by chris_j_hunter; 29th June 2009 at 11:42 PM.

  9. #9
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    If you want a cheapish wired solution have a look at Sonelco. Not as flexible as the Sonos or Slim devices. But may be worth a look. Most of it uses twisted pair wiring. And their cabling is colour coded to match the terminal colours, so its very easy to connect up. It can also work in conjunction with the Sonos and Slim devices as well in a sort of hybrid system.
    http://www.sonelco.com/ing/company/company.html
    info on a hybrid system using a Sonos Zone player is attached as a jpg file.
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  10. #10
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    I can speak first hand on the sonos, and it is fantastic. I use it together with a Napster subscription and don't think that i will ever buy another cd again.
    It is so easy to configure and, as said, 'Just works'. It does suffer from interference from TV senders etc, thus my looking into a fairly simple option for SKY+ in second room by wires.
    I also use a Media Centre PC in the lounge and NAS box hidden in the loft and currently use a laptop to view streamed video in the bedroom.
    Some time in the future i would like to convert this to a wired multi-room system, by rest-assured it will be for video only as i'm keeping the Sonos.

    Wayne

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