Audio desires

Current Situation

I have a significant lack of audio options in my house and I love listening to music. I spend most of my time in my office which does have good audio. However, when I am in the rest of the house the options are severely limited.

The wife and I both have laptops downstairs in the living room. On occasion we move them about when needed. My son has an iMac in the
dining room. The iMac is our primary source of audio.

This situation can run into conflicts. When Freeman is playing stupid-flash-games[tm] I do NOT want the blips n bleeps injected haphazardly into my Bach.

The environment

I do not have a McMansion. In fact my house was built in the late late 19th century. This means that I have no idea what is in the walls, or how difficult it will be to run wires all over the place without making my house look like a mad scientist laboratory. This means that wireless is pretty much the only option for connectivity.

I have three rooms downstairs where I would like to play audio on the first floor. I would like to install this setup anywhere though. Listening to music while in the shower would be nice.

1st floor

2nd floor

What exists now.

All infrastructure is in the office on the 2nd floor.

I have a 3TB nas that is plugged into the wired network and is available over wifi. My wifi is an ancient vanilla WRT54GL. Signal reception is pretty good across the entire house. The laptops can play music off of the nfs share without any noticable problems.

I would like to upgrade the WRT54GL to 802.11n, but that thing is stable as hell and I am reluctant to touch it.

I would also like to upgrade the wired network from 10/100Mbps to GigE, but that is for other reasons. (running vmware instances directly off the nas.)

The only thing out of the ordinary which might be notable is that we do not have a TV or audio system of any kind. The only electronics that we have are:

  • 5x laptops
  • 3x rackmounted computers
  • 1x iMac
  • 1x 3TB rack mounted nas
  • 1x n900,n810
  • 2x standard lowend cell phones

All computers are running either gentoo or ubuntu with the singular exception of the iMac of course.

What I would like.

I would like to have a set of speakers in the following rooms:

  • kitchen
  • dining room
  • living room

If the system is cheap enough, I would like to add it to

  • bath
  • bed rooms
  • office


Ideally, I would like a plug n play device. I can deal with a manual config system; ssh, http, config files on sd cards, whatever… As long as I don’t flip bits with toggle switches and patching kernel code, I am ok with it. (I should also add that I would prefer to not sift through gigs of forum posts to figure out how to get the device to work.)

To continue with my hardware minimilization things that it will need:

  • power
  • audio out (preferable ‘standard’)
  • wifi (ethernet a plus)

(the audio processing + cpu, etc… is implied).

As I have looked around I see a lot of these systems have ‘optical audio’ yet I am unable to find speakers that have ‘optical’ anything. I have come to the conclusion that you will then need some kind of receiver that will take the ‘optical’ signals and transcode them into analog over the wire signal for speakers. While it might be great, that is too much equipment to slap in 4-5 rooms.

So I want a small simple box I can plug speakers into. Power + box + speakers.


So this magical box has to do something. I don’t need it to store anything. And I don’t need it to organize anything. All I need this box to do is take audio data and make the speakers sound pretty.

It could mount the shares via nfs,ftp,smb,etc… and keep some kind of continously updated catalog. This would mean some kind of control interface. I would prefer to avoid a broken and limited control interface.

It could also just listen on a stream and play whatever is shove down that, e.g. radio station lists per room/device.

Ideally the control interface would be 1) hackable 2) http based. (note: http != html)

Am I mud yet?

So yes, is that all clear as mud? I want to avoid some proprietary crap device that will die in two years. Then I will be left with having to jailbreak it so it will work with the next codec.

No, I do not want to deal with

Comment (1)

  1. Michiel wrote::

    Sounds like you should take a look at the Squeezebox line. It has a nice html/http based control center (Squeezecenter), which is OSS and cross-platform. Various devices can be synchronised to play the same music at the same time if the user desires.

    I have a Squeezebox Classic (hooked up to my hifi set) and a Squeezebox Boom (which is excellent for standalone usage, and sounds better than its name suggests). They work really well IMHO.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 7:12 am #