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Setup advice for centrally wired system

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We pre-wired a new home to support centralized, multi-room audio. Each of the 11 rooms has 2 8" in-ceiling speakers (8 Ohm, 80W Nominal/160W Max). A few rooms have 7.2, but for this question, we'll just treat them as a stereo run. Each room also has several cat-6 cables run alongside the speaker wire (probably irrelevant). All of these cables terminate at a single point in the basement. We have both iPhones and Android (tablet and phone). We also have a few Windows PCs that we could use for a media server or anything else. We also have a new, fast WiFi network in place.

We're about to make an investment in switching and amplification hardware. If we use the audio|acacia front-end controllers on our devices and the back-end server software...what do you recommend for hardware? We need to connect all 22 speakers to the system. How is this done? How do I setup each set of speakers as a room? Is this through an external switch or a series of sound cards installed in a PC? Also, we need to amplify the signals to all of these speakers. What is the best solution for that? 11 small, cheap amplifiers? Or one/two multi-zone amps? Price is kind of an issue, and I'm willing to do this in phases (e.g. 4 rooms now, 4 rooms in 6 months, etc...). I see that Plethra sells an audio server. Is that the answer? Will there be anything else that I need? Any advice?

asked Nov 5, 2013 by user773 (2 points)
retagged Nov 5, 2013 by user1

A year later I am solving the same situation.

How did you do it? How would you do it today?


2 Answers

0 votes

I am building a system very similar to yours as well. Currently the plethra software does not support multi zone capabilities like what we are both needing. It is a feature that they are working to implement and one I was told was coming pretty soon. As it is still in beta many features aren't fully realized yet so as to not add too many variables and not know where to look for the bugs as readily.

For my system I will be utilizing an old windows machine for the server end with a couple god sound cards installed for the outputs. (The outputs on a sound card come out stereo same as a headphone jack as that is essentially what they are) They will then jump into some receivers that I have picked up rather cheaply to amplify the signals. Then on to the speakers. Mine receivers are just 5.1 which will allow me to amplify 5 speakers per receiver. So when I am done 5 stereo zones for basically nothing as I found the receivers at yard sales and such for 5-10 dollars each. Can always upgrade them later as well. Would at least get you rolling and sounding good.

Like I said as for the multi zone capability will need to wait till they implement it. I would suggest doing as I have and setting up a couple computers for now one zone each and getting a couple rooms rolling and start testing and sending bugs. Then keep requesting it as often as you can. :)

Both computers will show as separate zones in the front ends if they are connected to the same network. So you have 2 zones just not nearly as efficiently as it will be.

Hope that helps you.

answered Nov 6, 2013 by user609 (34 points)
0 votes

I too am in a similar situation - however my house is still under construction.

My plan is to run a single Mac Mini as my media server. It will run Plethra (in addition to iTunes (hosting the music) and Plex (video, etc - unrelated tot this)).

I am going to have 6 stereo zones, all terminating in my utility room.

Depending on the timing, and the cost/performance of the Plethra hardware, it would be perfect for me. With it, I understand that it will take care of the switching and output 8 different zones. Under this setup it would look like: Mac Mini > Switch > Plethra Hardware > Amp > Speakers

If the Plethra hardware is not ready to go, or is otherwise not well received, I am going to use an Airport Express for each zone. You can pick these up on Kijiji / Craigslist for next to nothing ($30 or so, if you're patient). I am going to have each of them in the utility room, hardwired to a switch (which I need anyway for the Cat6 runs to other rooms of the house + I've had minor issues with the Airport Express over wifi).

Under the Airport Express setup it would look like: Mac Min > Switch > Airport Express (x6) > Amp > Speakers.

For either solution you obviously need amplification. I have been messing around with one of these: and a pair of speakers and I'm extremely impressed. Perhaps if you're a real audiophile you may want something more high performance, but for my needs it will be fine in every room except the home theater, where I will have more proper setup. I considered various multi-channel amps, but for the money, I don't think they add the necessary value. If anything, the real selling feature of them is that you don't need 6 (or 8) individual amps and the associated cables messing up your cabinet.

The total cost of each zone under the Airport Express setup is about $50, plus speakers. It remains to be seen what the Plethra box will cost.

My wife is terrified that this is going to be far too complicated for her to use...but if it works the way it should, that will all run in the utility room, and she'll be able to control everything she wants from her iPhone/iPad and have no idea that

answered Dec 17, 2013 by user363 (5 points)