Setting up Home Audio

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If you are unlucky enough to end up with a 1990s era in ceiling system, then you probably have a funky nob on the side of your doors with obscure buttons that say quaint things like FM, Tape and CD. None of which anyone uses anymore. So whats the easy way to upgrade this so it works the modern way, with a computer holding all the music and an actual remote control. Well, it is easier than you think as an old friend asked me what to do. Here is all that you need:

  1. A wireless network. This is actually essential in modern life. These days I recommend that if you are future proofing, you actually install a 2.4GHz network and a 5GHz. A pair of 1TB Apple Time Capsules solves this problem ($1K total, if you want to economize, a 500GB Time Capsule and an Airport Extreme is about $600). I would not skimp on this. A reliable network is so important to everything. I’ve tried D-link, Linksys, etc., and although expensive, this stuff works.
  2. Apple Airport Express. This is a $100 marvel that you connect to the old system via a minipin to RCA cable connector for $24. Then if you have an Ethernet connection nearby, set it up that way. Otherwise, connect your computer to it via the wired connection and set it for “join existing wireless network”. Now your audio system is hooked up to your network. For this example, stick it into the TAPE input.
  3. Computer. Get a spare notebook that you can leave on all the time without feeling guilty. A Mac Mini fits the bill well here as you don’t need the display or if you are high tech, a solid state drive Mac Book works. Copy all your music to it and start iTunes. It will find the Airport Express and at the lower right set it to always play there. Now when you play it, it should go through your stereo system
  4. iPod Touch. Now buy an iPod Touch for each room. Besides being nice for games, it is going to be your controller for you stereo. Find a nice place to dock it. Personally, I like the Logitech dock or iHome clock radio dock as you can then also play directly from the iPod Touch if you are really low tech. A tasteful thing. Connect it to your network and then download the Apple Remote. Turn on that application and it will appear in iTunes, dutiful type in the four digit code.
  5. Set your in-ceiling audio system, to always be connected to the TAPE and now when you want to switch, just turn on your iPod Touch and you can navigate to anything on the computer. Kind of neat isn’t it? No need for dedicated media servers, just use a computer. No need for some funky new remote, just use an iPod Touch. You are actually not playing any music on your touch, just using it as a remote.

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2 Replies to “Setting up Home Audio”

  1. Skip the “spare notebook” and airport express and go get yourself a Sonos.

    If you already have an Amp/Receiver, you can get the ZonePlayer 90 (http://www.sonos.com/whattobuy/ZP90/) for $350. Sonos makes a killer iPhone application (free) that will run great on the ipod touch Rich recommends.

    Get a rhapsody subscription and you won’t have to mess around with iTunes and all those time capsules to keep your precious mp3’s safe.

    Really Rich – storing your own music files?? how “old school” – that will quickly be as obsolete as your hard-wired TAPE button 😉

    Oh – and with the Sonos, you’ll feel a lot better reducing your carbon footprint. Leaving a PC running just for music is such an energy hog 🙂

    The PC will cost you close to $180 / year in energy usage left on 24×7. Eliminating that will pay for your $155.88 / year Rhapsody subscription AND you’ll get access to unlimited music to boot 🙂

    1. Great points Brett. Rhapsody is great, but unfortunately lots of music I have is from the kids and other non-rhapsody sources. And there is something about knowing you have it all around. Final point is that is why I normally run everything from a Macbook or other portable to lower the power costs. I agree leaving a full PC on doesn’t make sense.

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