• Building a multi-room networked home audio solution for FREE, Part 1

    Logitech Squeezebox app
    If you have any questions on setting up a whole house audio system after reading this article, just visit the forums and I'll answer almost immediately.

    Part 1 of the series is the hack version of whole house audio that can be put together basically for free. In Part 2 I'll explore how to do a more professional home audio solution without the need for satellite devices, and it will be done for right around $1000.

    It's attractive to want to listen to your music in any room in the house. With the apparent death of the CD (that should get some comments about music quality) in favor of purchased downloads through iTunes and streaming of services like Pandora, wanting to listen to music stored on the computer without burning a CD is a reasonable request. Today I want to show you how to do this pretty much free, with stuff you have lying around the house.

    We set out to make this happen several years ago and found some options like Sonos to be not cheap at all. On the surface Squeezebox alternatives, when hardware was purchased, were not necessarily cheap either. Then of course you have the Apple pundits who think Apple is the only way to do anything and it's so much better. It makes me cry inside when I hear phrases like, "It’s “easy” if you primarily use Apple products. That’s just the way it is when it comes to wireless audio" from a publication which should know better, like the NY Times. The Airport Express is still $99 for each room, needs speakers, and can only listen to the same song in each room.

    What you'll need to make this happen:

    What you'll have when done:
    • A nice remote control
    • Network-enabled audio in multiple rooms that can either be synched or play independent music
    • A fatter wallet

    Getting Started

    Logitech Media Server

    The first thing to do is to download and install the Logitech Media Server from the link above. It can run on Macs, on Windows, on Linux, and on any variety of NAS. If you've taken my advice and installed a free Vortexbox with any old PC for your digital media viewing then you are ready to go. The Vortexbox includes Logitech Media Server. If you haven't it can be installed on any PC you are using. Putting it on the same PC with the music would be helpful, but not necessary if you are proficient with network file sharing.

    Logitech Squeezebox example

    The clients - SqueezePlay

    The next step may be the hitch for some, SqueezePlay. SqueezePlay is an open-source app which also runs on Mac, Linux, and Windows. It transforms whatever machine it's running on in to a Squeezebox device. If you already have a Squeezebox receiver, or Squeezebox radio, or Squeezebox Boom, it will show up on your remote as just another device. You can control music to where SqueezePlay is running just like any Squeezebox device. You can synch with other Squeezebox devices, or you can simply play something completely different. If you don't have a Squeezebox device, no fear, that's where we'll be using your smart phone/tablet as a remote. The hitch comes in that this will be where your network music is playing from. Today, with most houses having multiple computers it's conceivable to easily use them for whole home audio. The roadblock would be that perhaps a computer isn't in a room where audio is wanted, or perhaps a computer is there, but it has crappy speakers. You'll have to iron that one out.

    SqueezePlay interface

    Once you've figured that out, or even just to test it, load SqueezePlay (from the download above) on to your computer(s) and connect to your Logitech Media Server installation.

    The Remote - your iPhone, iPad, or any Android device

    Squeezebox remote

    The remote is the last piece that ties all this together. If you buy a Squeezebox you get a very nice remote with it. But the cool thing is, Logitech has an app in both the Android and Apple markets that work just as well and they're free. There are also 3rd party developed apps, such as Squeezedroid, that are just as good. Simply download the app, connect to your Logitech Media Server installation, choose your player (whichever computer/SqueezePlay installation you want to listen to), select your music and off you go.

    Squeezebox on Android

    Cost of all this? Free if you have a smart phone and a couple computers with speakers around the house.

    Check out Building a multi-room networked home audio solution for FREE, Part 2 where I show you how to build a professional grade whole house audio system for around $1000!