For a long time I have been trying to figure out what I need for a multi-room music set up. Most of the products to buy are a significant cost per room for me considering I all ready have the speakers/amplifiers in place. Spurred on by my children learning about the Raspberry Pi at their fantastic Junior School, St Begh's with their teacher Mr Sharkey, I decided to show them that we can build 'stuff' at home that can be just as good (hopefully) as products you can buy in shops.
I looked at existing audio products and costed them up for 4 rooms.
The Pure Jongo A2, now available for £50 each, totals £200. Whilst it can play high resolution audio, if you want it to stream a music service on its own it uses their own service Pure Connect.
I am already using Spotify on PC, Mobiles and a Smart TV Box, so whatever system I end up with I would like the option to stream Spotify.
The Harman Kardon OMNI Adapt was listed for £100 on their website but looks to have disappeared from it at the point I am writing this and would total £400 for the 4 rooms.
The range that started it all, Sonos, offers the Connect as a means of streaming to existing systems. Priced at £280 this would come to £1,120 in total, an investment. However, it is widely regarded as the best/most useable multi-room system. It can also stream Spotify amongst just about every other service available.
Denon produce the HEOS LINK which looks to me to offer the most adaptability in terms of connections and features and should I come into some money is probably the one I would buy (after I listened to them all!). It is £300 per room so £1,200 for the house and out of my range at the moment.
One step up from this (reportedly) is the Bluesound Node which receives rave reviews and is £400 per room totalling £1,600 for a 4 room set up.
Beyond this you have the likes of Naim Audio and Linn with their in house methods of achieving multi-room music in their high end systems. Looking forward to placing my order after I win the lottery!
So back to the project - put together a 4 room music system to feed my existing equipment, play my music collection from our media server, stream from Spotify and be easy to use and control ........ and sound as good as it can for the target price of £100.
Digital Music Quality
If you're just discovering digital music on your computer I would recommend The Well-Tempered Computer as a place to start, the people at Xiph.org as a place to finish and the forums of What Hi-Fi as place to hang around in between. If you do feel you need a voice of experience on all things audio then always read what Andrew Everard has to say (alternatively if you need the ultimate gods of audio testing and have a degree in electronics to understand them, then both Ken Rockwell and NwAvGuy tie closely at the top).
I have done much listening to music on my laptop including a lengthy trial of the new non compressed (16-bit 44.1kHz CD Quality) service Tidal, ripped CD's using various formats and bitrates including lossless. The lower bitrates I can tell the difference, especially if not variable. Once at 320 kbps variable in both mp3 and ogg it gets tricky for me. I think I can tell a very very small difference in some tracks in some places using my headphones but not enough for me to warrant a change up from streaming from Spotify Premium at the moment. Depending on your equipment and/or your ears you may be able to, I have absolutely no problem with that at all. So for this project, for me, as long as the system can distribute up to CD quality audio I'll be happy.