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7 posts

Wannabe Geek

# 93427 21-Nov-2011 15:39
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Hi guys,

I have been asked to design an AV system by some clients who favour Apple products, which i dont have a huge amount of experience with..

I have a pretty good idea of what we need to acheive, but have gone round in circles trying to figure out the best way to make it happen. Any advice or pointers to similar set ups would be great Laughing

The project is at a house being built at the moment, so running cabling etc is no problem for us.

What i need to achieve:
- Distributed Audio to 2 zones inside and 1 outside (Possibly a fourth if budget allows, but no more than that)
- Iphone & Ipad control of zones and Itunes library (there will be a Mac Mini in the rack to serve media)
- No wall mounted controllers, the Architect does not want any screens or controllers on the walls, everything must be done from the wifi devices.
- Recessed Speakers only, no position for any amplifier within the rooms, this will need to be rack mounted or in the AV cupboard with the Sky box and other bits.

In addition to the audio, there will be one Apple TV at the home theatre, running its own 5.1 surround sound. I am hoping this can be controlled the same way for audio if they want it.

From what i gather, by having the Airport Extreme as their Wifi Router (10+ items is quite likely) and the Apple TV, and using the Apple Remote app we should be able to get the functionality they want in that room at least. The problem i have run in to comes to how to control and power the three (posisbly four) other zones.

They aren't concerned about having true multiroom distribution, as the areas are quite open plan, and would be playing the same source at the same times,, so having a few Airport Expresses feeding in to auto-on amplifiers might be an option, giving them the option to control the zones all from the same App.

Hardware-wise though this seems a bit wasteful to me, particularly if all the hardware is in the one physical location at the AV cupboard. Most of the other multiroom audio systems i have dealt with have been from a 4,6 or 8 zone amp with wall controllers.

Can anyone comment on using something of that sort in place of the multiple Airport Expresses and Single Zone amps?

I know Russound have an Iphone App that allows control of the multiroom, but seems difficult to integrate with Itunes without changing back to the Apple Remote App..

Everyone I speak to seems to have a different opinion or barrow to push with the hardware, so i would love to get some real world feedback or new directions to look at!



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3594 posts

Uber Geek

  # 548046 21-Nov-2011 19:30
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Wasted hardware aside, the simplest implementation for your customers will most certainly be multiple Airport Express devices or Apple TV 2's.
It's just sooooo straight forward for everyone to use. From kids to grand parents...
If your client wants everything hidden from view, likes the kit and finds the interface spot on, then sweet.
Should be a straight forward fit really.

7 posts

Wannabe Geek

  # 548780 23-Nov-2011 10:14
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Thanks for the Feedback. I think you are right - simple is definately going to be best.

Here is the plan i have proposed at the moment:

The main thing i am unsure of at the moment, is whether it would be better to have the Mac Mini at the main TV, and use a Media Centre program like Plex.

it would do away with one of the Apple TV's and seemingly give them more flexibility in playback formats since Jail Breaking isnt really a good option for us.

given they probably wouldnt make use of a wireless mouse / keyboard if i gave them one, is there any other reasons to favour one over the other?

Also if there are going to be controlling everything from handheld devices, i guess that will mean swapping apps to control the media center and multiroom audio? Not the end of the world for most people, but I like the idea of trying to control everything from Apple Remote if possible?

Anyone have any experience with trying to use any of these combinations with the remote app?

Also, other than the wake-on-command aspect and decent wifi, is there any advantage to us using the Apple Extreme instead of an alternative 1gb modem/router? Otherwise i'll effectively be bridging their exisiting decent all in one unit to feed in to the extreme.

Any advice would be fantastic Smile



3170 posts

Uber Geek


  # 548821 23-Nov-2011 11:12
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It may be more than they want to spend but what about a Sonos system?
I haven't had a lot to do with multizone audio systems but from what I've seen Sonos is one of, if not the, easiest systems to install, setup and use.
They have a number of different options for amplified or non-amplified units now and the system can be controlled from an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android phone, PC or MAC. They also have their own controller but not sure why anyone would really want one of these with all the other options available now.
The system can be easily added to / extended later on too.

It is what I will be putting in my new house when we build next year.
With the number of streaming radio stations and music services available on the Sonos system you almost don't need your own music stored locally.
Spotify is supposed to be coming to NZ next year too so that will add heaps of music to the Sonos system.

3594 posts

Uber Geek

  # 549691 24-Nov-2011 23:28
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I've used Plex and XBMC... yet now find myself back with iTunes on a MacMini.
It just works in together so easily. Remember, it's not always the geek in the house who uses it, it's guests, friends, mother in laws...
And the Apple eco-system works - so why run away?

Re: keyboard / mouse. A single Logitech USB keyboard with a built in mouse pad should do the trick.
If they're using an Apple TV in the main room as a movie / music device, then introducing a system like Sonos solely for music would only confuse things. I'm 100% sure that the Sonos would be better for music alone, but as it brings added complication for the end user, I wouldn't recommend it.

I use an Airport Extreme at home and it works well... I find the best part is the Time Machine backup to a 2TB HDD I have plugged in / using the attached HDD as NAS. Teaching your customers to run backups would be key for long term success IMHO.

7 posts

Wannabe Geek

  # 549758 25-Nov-2011 08:45
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Hey guys,

Many thanks for the good replies. I have been going back and forth on this one for a while now. The main problem i have is not knowing enough about products like Sonos, since i come from a Russound background.

Here is the redesign we settled on:

I decided I was being a bit precious wanting to do everything from the Apple Remote App, Watching some videos of the Sonos app on youtube convinced me it is worth having them swap between the two for TV and Audio.

The new plan moves the Mac Mini in to the Home Theatre room, I think with the wireless keyboard and mouse at least their kids will make use of the extra functions there..

We left one of the expresses connected to the Sonos, to (hopefully) allow them to make easier use of the Airplay from their phones. The idea of being able to connect your guests to the system and stream their music from phone or ipod to the rest of the sonos zones seems like a good function to me.

I'm sure that the express only based system would have worked well, and was definately cheaper than the sonos zone players, but since its not my money I think the extra hardware will be worth it in the end (I Hope)

One last detail i was hoping for some feedback on please..

Is there any advantage to running a separate modem and Airport Extreme, and getting a decent quality Dual Band N All in One? The fourth port that most of them have would be good to hardwire the express upstairs, since I am hoping that will serve as an access point for wireless too, since the coverage may not be 100% from all the bedrooms.

Has anyone had any experience running apple or sonos devices from a third party switch or combination modem router?

Thanks for the help to date! Really looking forward to getting this one up and running :)


6971 posts

Uber Geek


  # 549796 25-Nov-2011 09:46
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Do you have a central server for content. Sorry looking at the schematic I couldn't make that out.

What are you doing for freeview/recording of TV, or are they on Sky TV only?

Is there a system for making TV recordings available/schedulable from any apple TV/Mac mini device etc?

7 posts

Wannabe Geek

  # 549837 25-Nov-2011 10:30
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The Mac Mini is what i was hoping to use for that. It will effectively just use the external drive as a network drive. The Mini will run Itunes for the Apple TV's, and the Sonos will take from the Itune Library, or stream from the net or via the airplay. Or so the plan goes...

Regards TV, we aren't making provison to record freeview, as the are going to have a Mysky HDi, which will sit alongside the Mac Mini, as a separate HDMi input, with the other two TV's being sent Component (RGB) picture over baluns. I have done it with HDMi splitters and baluns before, but the extra expense didnt really impress us too much, and you can run the HDMi and component outputs from the Mysky simulataneously.

There is a basic Infrared Hub and Logitech universal remote for each of the rooms, really only to combine the sky and tv remotes, plus the surround sound amp in the living.

I was looking at using a product like the Genie for IPhone based IR Blasting, whcih we have done sucessfully before, but you would need to switch apps again, and budget-wise it's probably too much for them i thught.

It might be nice to record the freeview or similar, but i havent had much experience with it. I understand it should be possible with some software and connection to the Mac Mini, but i dont think they would use it. Hopefully ISky and similar streaming based products will be along to tie in with the Apple TV..

If there is an easy way to record Freeview it would be great to know. It will be all new gear, so would have to come from the inbuilt freeview in the TV? or does the Mac Mini need to intercept it and do its own decoding?




4110 posts

Uber Geek

  # 549856 25-Nov-2011 11:25
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You might be able to do away with the AppleTVs in the bedrooms, provided the TVs are networkable and have DLNA clients, they could then pull the content directly from the Mac mini (running XBMC)

They could also pull content off a freeview recorder (but as you have mentioned you are going to serve Sky via a Mysky over baluns

1086 posts

Uber Geek


  # 549869 25-Nov-2011 11:34
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Mike Thinkflood do redeye, not the mini, which means the ipod touches connect via wifi to a blaster, that might solve the IR hub issue.


1702 posts

Uber Geek


  # 549917 25-Nov-2011 12:37
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jonherries: Mike Thinkflood do redeye, not the mini, which means the ipod touches connect via wifi to a blaster, that might solve the IR hub issue. Jon

Yeah I have the Thinkflood RedEye and it works pretty well with my Ipad/Android for controlling the main home theatre. It is not the most responsive, maybe 1-2s to connect when you fire up the app, but is perfect for firing off a set of commands to get say Sky up and running - i.e. turn on TV, turn on amp, turn on Sky, switch amp to Sky input. Not so good for changing volume, but that just might be my setup.

They have a new device out now as well - the RedEye Pro which is designed for whole house control.

I also have the Squeezebox eco-system which I can't speak highly enough of. All controlled via my Ipad/Android using very good third party apps. A much cheaper option than Sonos, but possibly not quite as 'slick'.  

3170 posts

Uber Geek


  # 549932 25-Nov-2011 12:51
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Just looking at your 2nd diagram and it doesn't look like you have a Sonos unit wired directly to the router.
At least one of the Sonos units has to be directly connected to the router/switch with ethernet, this can just be one of the Sonos Bridge units.
Sonos then uses its own wifi network to connect any other Sonos units, you can't access this wifi network for anything else.

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