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Setting up a multi room audio system

posted Aug 14, 2013, 4:59 AM by Daryl du Plessis
These days home networks are making it easier to expand the devices and options available for entertainment in the home. Home theatres and computer are converging to make it easier to share media throughout the house. The area that I'll be focussing on is setting up a multi room sound system. This can be useful if you want to be able to control playback of videos, music or radio throughout your house. There are various ways of achieving this but I'll focus on using AirPlay technology, a standard created by Apple, makers of the iPhone. 

The following items will be required for this setup:

1. A home network with Wifi configured
2. iTunes running on a computer, with music and/or video library loaded
3. A TV with Apple TV (only required if you want playback on your TV)
4. AirPlay capable speakers (there are various brands available)
5. A mobile device (Android or Apple) that can run the iTunes Remote app.

Once all these devices are connected you will need to configure iTunes for home sharing. This allows access of your iTunes library to the other devices on your network (such as the Apple TV and AirPlay speakers). With home sharing enabled, you can control all the devices playback from iTunes, either directly from the computer or using the Apple Remote app running on your iPhone or iPad.  There are also iTunes remote apps available for android devices. From the remote app you can then choose your media to playback, be it music, podcasts, video etc., and which speakers to enable playback on. You  can also control individual speaker volumes from the remote.

There are some things to bear in mind when setting these systems up:

1. Ensure that all devices have the latest software and firmware loaded.
2. You can only play one stream of music/video at a time with AirPlay. In other words you can choose which speakers you playback on, but only one person can control the speakers for playback at a time, so you can't play radio outside and music in the lounge at the same time. There are other systems that can do this but not through AirPlay.
3. You will need to ensure all your media is in iTunes if you want to play it. This is not a problem if you use iTunes, but is a bit more work if you need to import media from another media player.
4. Wifi can dropout depending on the environment so make sure you have good wifi coverage when you place your wireless speakers around the house.
5. Wireless speakers will need to be powered so make sure you have a power point available when setting them up (especially if you are locating them outdoors).

There are other systems available and standards are becoming a lot more common. Currently the Pioneer range of speakers look good as they support AirPlay and a few other standards. Their entry level speakers cost around $200. The Sonos Zoneplayer system allows for multi stream control so that is an advantage, but you will require additional equipment to make this work. Take a look at your local JB Hifi or Dick Smith store for wireless speaker pricing and options. For more info on AirPlay follow this link: