multi-room, multi-stream - new setup

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multi-room, multi-stream - new setup

Postby ofmann » 25 Mar 2018, 10:35

I am planning to set up a whole new multi-room music environment for the house I'm renovating. I thought it'd be the best moment to do this.

I have some speakers figured out already, but I'm all new to this. I understand RuneAudio runs with a wide variety of hardware, but I'm not that clear as to what hardware would be best for a multi-room (multi-stream) set-up.

I guess I will need an audio card per room (up to 6 rooms), but I don't know which hardware will support this.

The end result should be I can play a different stream in each room.

Thanks in advance for any pointers.
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Re: multi-room, multi-stream - new setup

Postby janui » 25 Mar 2018, 14:31

Hi ofmann,
If you are currently renovating your house the only thing which is important at this moment is having wired Ethernet in each room where you want to connect a player. While you are at it, think about wall power sockets, you can never have enough. WiFi would seem the best solution for connectivity but can give unexpected problems when streaming audio/video.
Then for each player you need: a minicomputer board, an audio board (DAC – Digital Analogue Converter), an amplifier, a case, some speakers, a suitable power supply and player software.
The Raspberry Pi is probably the best minicomputer board (there are other choices), there are two routes; The Zero model, here you will need to add a network interface dongle (total ±$10, excluding the power supply) or the B2/B3/B3+ model (±$40, excluding the power supply). For a simple bedroom player, the Zero is probably enough. If you want all the possible features, then a B2/B3/B3+ is more suitable.
For the audio board you have a large choice, the market is very competitive, you basically get what you pay for. Ball park prices are $20 to $60. There are also boards which combine the DAC and amplifier, these are very compact and could be interesting for you. There are some boards available from China on E-Bay for as little as $3 (not the best quality, but good for the price), certainly good enough to use in the toilet.
A choice of amplifier is very personal. I would suggest you look at the second-hand market. A lot of people are replacing their old gear with digitally enabled kit. These old amplifiers are ideal for use with streamer applications like Rune. DIY amplifiers are also possible, the amplifier boards are cheap on e-bay, power supplies and speaker protection for these amplifiers can be a challenge.
You could make your own case of buy one which has been specifically designed for your minicomputer board in combination with your chosen audio board.
Speakers; I understand that you have this under control. Even so I would again suggest you look at the second-hand market. The Sonos trend for ever smaller audio is creating an opportunity to buy very good kit for very little. The only disadvantage is that they tend to be bigger.
Don’t forget the power supply, there are suitable models available. Check and double check that it provides the required capacity.
Then the player software, again personal preference tends to play a role. RuneAudio is good, there are serious competitors.
Then some other things...
If you have a music library containing digital audio files it is best if all your players can play the music from one single source. Using a NAS is probably the best solution but this can be expensive. By connecting a USB hard drive to one of your players (it would need to be a B2/B3/B3+ type) you can share the music data with all the other players. Using Rune, I have this setup working for 5 players without problems. If you use a USB hard drive it needs extra power via a powered USB hub or special cable with a power supply.
If you use Spotify, you can only steam once concurrently per licence. So, if you want to stream three different Spotify streams on three different players at the same time you will need 3 licences. The other solution is to stream one Spotify stream to multiple players. RuneAudio can not do this at the moment.
This should get you started…
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Re: multi-room, multi-stream - new setup

Postby ianhaynes » 26 Mar 2018, 18:45

By connecting a USB hard drive to one of your players (it would need to be a B2/B3/B3+ type) you can share the music data with all the other players. Using Rune, I have this setup working for 5 players without problems.


Just wondering how you've done this with Rune?

I've been experimenting with a simple multi-room system and have set MPD up for streaming. My second room currently plays this via a Chromecast Audio, soon to be replaced by a Pi-Zero based Rune system. Wondering what other options there might be.

Ian

Pi 2, Ver. 0.4b build 20170229, IQAudio DAC+
Pi 2, Ver. 0.4b build 20170229, IQAudio DAC+
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Re: multi-room, multi-stream - new setup

Postby janui » 26 Mar 2018, 22:07

Hi ianhaynes,
ianhaynes wrote:Just wondering how you've done this with Rune?
I am afraid it is very simple. I just set up my Pi 2B which has a hard disk drive containing my music collection as a Samba server. This Pi is never switched off, has a fixed IP address and Samba is configured to share my music read-only on my network. My other Pi's connect to it as a Network Mount.
Samba is not very fast but is fast enough to support more clients than I expected. Samba runs at a very low priority, so has no effect on the performance of ‘server’.
Not done any streaming/casting from one Pi to another yet. Planning to do some experiments with snapcast when I have some time.
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Re: multi-room, multi-stream - new setup

Postby ofmann » 30 Mar 2018, 07:01

Hey Janui,

Thank you so much for your very detailed response.
I indeed pulled ethernet cat6 cables all over the house, but I'm planning to put the devices (most probably raspberries) in a central location, together with the network devices and the storage devices. I'll pull audio cables to each room from that central point.
Reason for this is
    a) easy to access devices (don't have to start putting them in the walls to hide them
    b) always know where the devices are
    c) central place for all things that can go wrong (I don't like to run around)
    d) possibility to replace the devices (if I later decide to install different hardware that would not fit in the designated room)

I have already purchased the first speakers (water resistant ones for in the bathroom). These seem to be simple analogue. I'm all new to audio hardware, so I don't know how normal this is.

So, saying we go for a RB B3 or B3+ so I can run other services on them also (print server, openhab, ...). I will need 6 such devices, plus a DAC and an amplifier.
I'll have a look around what are the options. I'm not an audiophile, but I really enjoy music, so basic speakers are fine. It's that of play music from my mono cellphone speaker, so anything better than that is a winner :)

The music is already stored on a NAS (up and around 1TB worth of music), which serves it in multiple fashions (itunes server, samba, nfs). The NAS has 4x1Gbit bonding. it is sufficient to stream at least 4x 4K video plus 6x audio. I'm not worried there :)

Probably the most important point at this moment is the possibility to control all devices through one interface. As I read your reply, it seems that this is also a possibility. This makes me happy.

Thank you again for the expansive explanation. I'm looking forward to get started.

By the way, the longest audio cables I'll put will be around 15m. I still have to check the type of speakers, but I assume a simple analogue audio cable is capable of traversing this distance?


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Re: multi-room, multi-stream - new setup

Postby janui » 30 Mar 2018, 08:40

Hi ofmann,

Your plan is interesting, personally I would go for a setup where the player, amp and speakers are as close together as possible. You don't get any quality loss over a long ethernet cable. But even so, your plan will work, you just need to be careful. Long audio or speaker cables could have an impact on sound quality. Below are some links which should help.

Audio cable (length vs. risk of noise, unbalanced vs. balanced as a solution):
Speaker cable (length vs. required wire thickness):

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Re: multi-room, multi-stream - new setup

Postby eea123 » 30 Jun 2018, 12:08

I hard-wired a central stereo setup in the den using 14ga speaker cabling to various rooms in the house during construction. I used in-wall speakers with Niles Volume and IR Controls to be able to turn off speakers if needed. This might also be feasible in an existing home if your basement isn't finished. I had the electrician run a dedicated electrical circuit for the amplifiers, the blue Hubble outlets hadn't yet been installed on the left. I also have a Niles IR-6 distribution for controlling older infra-red remotes, that's the thinner grey Belden cabling for it in the mix. I also picked up a Niles "RCA to CAT5 to RCA" converter to bring the living room's TV feed into the den. I have an older B&K REF 50 preamp that doesn't support HDMI, but Niles has a similar HDMI system that you could use.

I only recently added a network player using a Raspberry PI w/ an additional DAC's RCA outs into the preamp. I'll have to say that I now use the network player 50% of the time and a Polk XM tuner 40%. I have a Yamaha 110-disc CD changer and FM tuner also, but those get used less and less since the addition of Rune w/ the PI.
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