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Music Media Networking

IP Based Audio Systems? 37

pbrinich asks: "I am in the process of designing a new audio system for a house under construction. I have been looking for a purely IP-based audio system. Has anyone heard of a good, open, IP-based, multi-zone audio system that is ready for consumer use? I have read a bit on a company called netstreams and their DigiLinx line. Any thoughts?"
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IP Based Audio Systems?

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  • RealNetworks StreamServer. Then you could simply write a webpage on a central server for doing such things as choosing from a centralized MP3 library, or setting another audio source through server side scripting and an IR blaster. At that point, any computer in the house with a web browser becomes an interface point for your sound server- and the local computer soundcard and speakers become the output.

    A very interesting idea- and maybe evenutally when I have a 400GB hard drive on my home server, I'll do
  • SlimDevices has a great wireless solution, no built in amp but both digital and analog outputs. The server side is open source that runs most anywhere perl does.
  • Barix (Score:4, Informative)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @05:51PM (#13768884) Homepage Journal
    One that looked interesting was Barix @ []

    Id rather have wireless, which they seem to have. But I understand if you have a house wired with cat5 or better, its tempting to use it. Would be interesting for home surround systems, you dont have to run cables for your rear speakers, and not have to buy a wireless setup.

    BTW, Barix popped up as a google sponsered link.

  • Ever wonder why the dialog doesn't sync with the actors' lips when you watch a DVD on your computer? Even if you have [dedicated] hardware-accelerated MP3?

    And that's just local to one system. Try pushing an audio stream across two different TCP/IP stacks - heck, "ping" [which lives in ICMP, somewhere down beneath even UDP] is lucky if it can make 1ms or 2ms over CAT5.


    • I've always streamed the video with the audio over the link to stop that problem. But on local video hdtv compressed mpeg4, and my PC seems to play it without a sync problem.

      I dont think the latency in your home lan would be enough, though, what is the noticable latency, 5ms? 20ms?
    • Again I will say to try the squeezeBox from They have designed in the ability to synchronize multiple devices to the same audio source. I have heard 3 devices in a house and I have not been able to hear any sync issues.
    • Ever wonder why the dialog doesn't sync with the actors' lips when you watch a DVD on your computer? Even if you have [dedicated] hardware-accelerated MP3?

      Maybe because DVD audio isn't MP3?

      You need hardware-accelerated MPEG-2 decoding in video, a processor fast enough to demultiplex and decode your preferred audio stream AND the video, and buses fast enough to shove all that data through, alongside the usual OS noise. I don't recall ever seeing a sound card that offers hardware AC3 decoding. Your big
  • Pluto Home (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dow ( 7718 )
    Just 3 hours ago I was talking to someone who was trying this out. He said that when he has watching a DVD on his computer downstairs, by going upstairs the system should make the movie go upstairs too.

    It does security, telecom, home automation, media, entertainment and computing. Seems to run on Linux too, and uses your modern mobile phone as a remote control / tracker.
  • AMX or Crestron? (Score:3, Informative)

    by legend ( 26856 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @06:48PM (#13769379) Homepage
    They cracked this nut years ago. Tried and proven technology. Too much $$$? Sonus systems offers a system. Also check out Polk, they now have in-wall speakers that take an IP input.
  • Squeezebox2 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Malor ( 3658 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @06:58PM (#13769472) Journal
    Slim Devices' Squeezebox2 is very, very good. It's about the size of a VHS tape, has a truly beautiful, professional-grade display, and talks to a central server. It outputs both digital and analog, either passing data via coax and optical, or using the high-quality onboard DACs.

    On my fairly forgiving (rather warm/laid back) main speaker system, I wasn't able to hear any difference at all when switching back and forth between the DACs on the Onkyo 901 and the SB2. I don't have golden ears or anything, but they're reasonably good, and digital and analog mode sounded identical to me. The 901 retailed at $1500 (though you could buy them at around $950), so the SB2 matching that means it's doing a pretty good job. If you happen to have gear that's better than mine, and you think you can hear a difference.... well, that's what the coax and optical outs are for.

    The unit also has a headphone jack, which sounds good. It does not, however, seem to have a huge amount of onboard power, so you'd probably want a separate headphone amp for high-impedance cans like the Sennheiser HD580s or 600s. (They still sound good without one, but have much more authority with more power driving them.)

    The higher-end models come with built-in 802.11g wireless, which is more than fast enough to support several streams (ie, several players), though if you got seriously into the networked music thing, with lots of stations, you'd probably want to do it with wires. The wireless model will also bridge to Ethernet via the single RJ45 jack. If you add a hub, you can bridge a whole stack of stuff to your WiFi.

    You can control the boxes from either the included remote, using a very easy interface, or via web browser. If you have several SB2s, you can coordinate them all to play at the same time, so that you have synced music in several rooms or the whole house. (I believe it will do subgroups as well, but I have only the one and can't test that.) I'm not sure if units will sync from the remote or only from the web interface. I'm fairly sure you have to CREATE the sync via web browser, but I suspect it will probably just work from then on. I believe you'd hit play on any unit in a group, and they would all start playing.

    Of course, if that DOESN'T work, you can add the feature yourself. The server software is Perl and very open-source. I believe the boxes themselves run Linux and can be hacked on, but honestly, the software is just so good that I can't really imagine wanting to. Maybe if I had a second one... that display really is neat, and it'd be fun to play with it for other stuff. I'd just hate to break my only one.

    The box natively speaks MP3, FLAC, and WAV. The server software can translate from many other music formats, and will sync with iTunes if you have that. (I don't think it can play Apple's DRM, so you'd have to crack that first.) It understands CUE/BIN images, which is GREAT, because that's how I have all my music archived. It actually supports CUE/FLAC too, so I compressed all my music to save some space. I have verified that I get bit-perfect output... playing a DTS-encoded WAV file through the SB2 (at full volume, of course) gives me music on a DTS-enabled receiver, not just noise. If the bitstream is damaged in any way, DTS doesn't work. It just comes out as a hiss. So a DTS file is a great test of bit-perfect transfer... if you hear music, you're delivering a truly lossless stream.

    If you archive your CDs losslessly, then you'll probably get better results from this unit than you'd get from most 'real' CD players. You can't scratch a CUE file, or get it dusty. I have no way to test it, but I'd guess that eliminating the vagaries of the optical pickup would probably diminish jitter a great deal. I've never learned how to hear digital clock jitter myself, but some people are very focused on the issue. I don't know if it REALLY matters, but if it does, my guess is that the SB2 should do a better job than most real CD transports would.

    Overall, it has mo
    • Or, for about half that, you can get a Roku SoundBridge [], and you also end up with a much more attractive device. It also works in Squeezebox mode if you must, though doesn't offer all its features in that mode.
      • Re:Squeezebox2 (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Malor ( 3658 )
        Not for comparable features/quality, you don't. The M2000 has a better display than the SB2's, (512x32 versus 320x32), but is a great deal more expensive, at $400. The wireless SB2 is $250 right now. There are codes floating around at times that will give you another $20 off that. Roku's M1000 is about $200, but its display is inferior(280x16). And note that BOTH the 'high-end' Roku models only support wireless-B mode. If you have a G network, setting it to mixed mode will give you a speed hit right u
        • The SB2 may have higher quality components, I really haven't checked into that. The higher resolution display doesn't excite me much, I just need a what's-playing status, and the SoundBridge does just fine. Other than the resolution difference, it's the same type of VFD display, and they both look great. What seriously turns me off the SB2 is the looks--there's no way around the fact that it looks like a cheap clock radio. Of course, looks are in the eye of the beholder, so YMMV.

          Regarding sound quality, I c
          • If you're still reading this thread, I thought I'd mention that they just announced (I got the mail about 10 minutes ago) the Squeezebox3, which adds native WMA support and looks nicer. But it's back to the old $299 price for the wireless version, $249 wired. (SB2 is $249/$199). Same very, very high-quality components.

            The new design is more vertical and cleaner. It still kind of reminds me of a clock radio, but it's nicer-looking than the VHS-tape clock radio style of the SB2.
    • Re:Squeezebox2 (Score:4, Informative)

      by FreeForm Response ( 218015 ) <[comptona] [at] []> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:53AM (#13771369) Journal
      I'm also a huge fan of my Squeezebox, and I thought I'd share a couple of tips with you.

      If you have several SB2s, you can coordinate them all to play at the same time, so that you have synced music in several rooms or the whole house. [...] I'm not sure if units will sync from the remote or only from the web interface. I'm fairly sure you have to CREATE the sync via web browser, but I suspect it will probably just work from then on. I believe you'd hit play on any unit in a group, and they would all start playing.

      The synchronization can be done from any Squeezebox connected to a given SlimServer, with any other Squeezebox(es) also connected to that SlimServer. They do behave as you expect, in that the "play" signal from any member of the group propagates to all of the other members. The synchronized Squeezeboxes also share playlists, though, so you can organize a playlist (or load a saved one) on one Squeezebox that all of them will then follow.

      Also, the SlimServer software ships with a Java-based Squeezebox emulator called SoftSqueeze. Your SlimServer web interface should have a link to it somewhere; in the Default skin, it's down in the lower-left corner of the left-hand frame. This software can be used to turn virtually any computer (since it's Java and all) into another Squeezebox, which will then connect to the SlimServer and appear exactly like a hardware Squeezebox. The SoftSqueeze clients can even be synchronized with hardware players.

      Have fun!
  • Technical reference (Score:2, Informative)

    by bdipert ( 244974 ) *
    Perhaps my EDN Magazine cover story 'CAT5 Tracks: Audio Goes the Distance, Reliably and On Time' from earlier this year would provide some useful information. You can find it at
  • Darwin.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2005 @07:53PM (#13769855)
    Darwin Streaming Server from Apple. Works great in Linux, I assume the same for OS X, don't know about Windows.
  • Sonos makes some nice stuff. I worked with the founder at his previous company, and he's an Engineer who does things right. []
  • On a related note, I'd love to be able to redirect the sound over wireless networking from my iBook (and its tiny little speakers) when I watch movies or TV shows with mplayer to my Linux server with a nice speaker setup hooked to it. Suggestions?
  • by 216pi ( 461752 )
    Have a look at the Sonos System at []
  • firstly, latency sucks but can simply be ignored. for instance, if all devices on a network have a reatime clock, they can sync this clock with a central machine and calculate scew from latency to be very very precise. now the player can be told to play this stream starting at this second. now every device will cache a small amount of data and play the file based on realtime instead of play-as-streamed. now if a song should be playing @ 12:35pm(@23.638 seconds) it will be on all devices and latency will
    • Afaik the real bitch is that the soundcards have different skews, system clocks are easily adjustable and de-skewed with working ntp. Getting the sound card not to drift from the computer--- more problematic. also, low latency interrupts are very problematic to generate to start play.

      Please discuss though... I'm very interestd in getting synced audio.
      • i think that calculating system clock from a central machine and adjusting based on average latency will be 'good enough'.

        interesting thought about soundcards skewing playback. possibly different clock values on sound chips could do this. 1 or 2 ms is 'ok' but humans have sensitive enough ears to pick up much more, especially on multichannel output.

        i think 'smart' programming should be able to anticipate starts/stops on playback to be reasonably acurate, but the song could quite litterally drift out of syn
  • I've installed several Digilinx IP-based multi-room systems in several homes (I'm a custom installer), and all of my customers are pleased. What I really like about it is that customers can do the following: 1). listen to multiple streams of music from a hdd based media server 2). view the feed from any Panasonic IP camera on any in-wall touchpanel, their PC, web tablet or PDA. 3). control the entire system from their PC (I have one installation that is set up for that). 4). and now control their lighting
  • It's a wee bit expensive, but in my opinion Sonos is the best complete system out there. Check it out - []

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.