Whole House Audio Touchscreen Setup on a Budget

Budget Sonos

Submission by Noel Andrews – I love the idea of Sonos but for me the price is prohibitive.  Being almost entirely a Mac household I’ve used an airport express for a few months now and with the release of the iPod Touch and the discovery of Remote Buddy seeds of a solution were planted.  Read on to find out how I put these items together to create my own budget priced whole house audio solution.

I now have a Mac server (currently an iBook, but I will graduate to a Mac mini shortly to be the main server including Home Automation and file serving for XBMC) running Remote Buddy, an iPod Touch for control and a number of Airport Expresses around the house.  Using the touch I can select the tracks, browse the library, playlists make playlists on the fly (once I learn how), view album art and make any number of changes and controls from anywhere in the house (Many more abilities with other apps but that’s all I’m using).

Remote buddy interfaces with almost any application on the Mac and lets you fully customise the controls and menus you see, it can use a variety of remotes including the Wii controller!

Airport expresses in each key room linked to powered speakers (and in the case of the kitchen a set of ipod travel speakers, just to give me another zone) the system works great.

For the lounge I have a full Mordaunt Short 5.1 setup from a Marantz amp, for the bedroom a set of AE Acoustics powered 2.1 speakers which for the money are excellent.  More zones to come soon – challenging in a small 2 bed terraced house! 🙂

Shortcomings of the solution so far are the inability to select multiple speakers from within Remote Buddy, this is down to the multiple speakers selection within iTunes not being applescriptable at present.

One workaround for this is to use Airfoil through Remote buddy however this means you can’t select speakers by name so not perfect.  My choice at present is to have local control in each room of the speakers whether volume control or on/off switch and leave iTunes permanently connected to all speakers. And yes you’ve guessed it the next shortcoming is the inability (at present) to have different streams to different rooms.  As it’s just me in the house using this it won’t be a big problem however would restrict things for others, sure there’s a way somehow, I imagine running multiple copies of remotebuddy/itunes on virtual servers or similar would achieve but not pretty!

So…for a first phase it’s great for me, won’t suit all but shows that if the aim is to listen to music in multiple zones without multiple sources then it is possible for very reasonable money.

Costs for me:

  • Server: zero so far, using a soon to be sold on eBay ibook but will eventually be a Mac mini however this will be far more than just for audio ~£200
  • Controller: iPod Touch – £150 (New York although Dixons tax free was very close!)
  • Software: Remote Buddy – 20 Euro
    Zones: Airport express – £65
  • Speakers: Acoustic Energy speakers – £90

Any questions feel free to drop me a line and very open to tips on anything more I can do from those more in the know!!! I also have Audio hijack pro recording my favourite Radio shows and adding them to ITunes automatically so they’re there when I want them through the touch.

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