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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.