Whole house audio (mostly) on the cheap

TLDR version = some existing equipment and about $250 for a whole house music system based on Airplay.


(Yes, it’s been way too long since I’ve blogged…crazy schedule plus a botched WordPress automatic update pretty much stopped blogging in its tracks for much too long.)

I’m one of those people who always has music on of some kind…pretty varied musical taste but whether playing violin/viola in multiple orchestras growing up or now mostly listening I love music. Given that, we paid extra in our first town home 10+ years ago for the whole house music system along with an AUX jack so I could plug in the newly purchased, quite enormous for the time 40 GB iPod. This one

Fast forward 7 years to kids and a new house, the whole house music system didn’t make sense. Within the last year though, AirPlay speaker prices have dropped dramatically. Audiophile quality? No…but that’s not the point really.

So what’s this made of…

  • Existing Stuff
    • iMac as the media station – 4+ years old, still running well by virtue of an external SSD for OS and applications. Internal 750 GB SATA drive used for 300 GB of music and videos. I’ve ripped our CD’s for years so have 50+ GB of music in MP3 and AAC in iTunes. Main music source for all things Airplay as can send to multiple devices at the same time. Also provides audio for the upstairs play room via builtin speakers.
    • Apple TV – gen 2, connected to Visio TV in the Living Room, provides living room audio. $100 or less if you don’t have one.
    • AirPort Extreme wireless router – gen 2 (802.11 a/b/g/n – 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz), rock solid with 15 devices connected. This could be any solid wireless router though.
    • iPhones/iPads – for this discussion, they’re either music sources or remote controls (Apple’s great Remote app to control the iMac).
  • New Stuff
    • iHome IWS2 Speaker – in my office next to the playroom, nice that it has lots of physical controls/buttons on it, currently $70 on Amazon.
      iHome iWS2 AirPlay Wireless Stereo Speaker System - Silver
    • iHome IW3 – in the dining room for downstairs audio (kitchen is between dining room and living room). Also battery powered so can pick up off the stand and take outside to the front or back yard when kids are playing outside (this is really, really nice). $75 on Amazon.
      iHome iW3 AirPlay Rechargeable Wireless Audio System - Black
    • Philips SoundAvia – in the Master Bedroom, best sound quality and nicest looking but not as many controls (just volume and power). May not be very reliable (some forums report talk about a red light of death which I’ve already experience once and had replaced). Currently $62 on Amazon.
      Philips AD7000W/37 Fidelio SoundAvia Wireless Speaker with AirPlay
    • Airport Express – first generation and used to power current Sony tabletop speakers in the kids room. $25 off eBay.

There you go….I was already fairly bought into the Apple ecosystem but for a relatively small additional cost am quite happy with the results. I did look at Sonos but couldn’t justify the cost for a “nice to have” kind of thing…maybe someday.

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