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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 09:50 PM
Stargazer Stargazer is offline
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Default Newbie considering Sonos for whole house - need advice.

Hi folks. I have known about Sonos for sometime but had not begun looking closely at it until I blew out the Parasound Zamp I had been using to power 7 pairs of speakers. Yea - I know ... I was asking for it but I rarely ran more than 2-3 pairs at once thru a Niles speaker selector w/Niles volume controls.
Anyway - I am trying to figure out if Sonos will work for my setup and what I would need.

Setup:
  • 5 pairs of Parasound in-wall or in-ceiling speakers
  • 1 pair of Parasound outdoor speakers
  • 1 pair of Mirage outdoor speakers
  • 1 planned pair of Stereostone speakers (to go near the pool)
  • Each speaker pair is run through a Niles volume control
  • HP MediaSmart Home Server housing music collection within built-in iTunes server.
  • Upstairs has 4 additional pairs of Parasound in wall speakers. Upstairs is secondary for now but I would like to eventually sync the upstairs with the rest of the house.
  • D-Link Gigabit router w/802.11n/g in a makeshift equipment room in the basement. Mediasmart is connected directly to the router.
  • Cat-6 is run throughout the house with D-link 8-port gigabit switches in every room with equipment. Every piece of networkable equipment I have (receivers, PS3s, X-box, DirecTV DVRs, pcs are all connected to the network). Most are hardwired but wireless is in use.
  • 5.1 setup in the family room with a current Yamaha multi-zone/source receiver and Definitive Technology Mythos speakers/sub
  • 5.1 setup in Master bedroom with Parasound in-walls and Energy sub.


My goals in order of importance:
  • Serve music collection, internet radio & online music services (Pandora, Lastfm etc) to the 5 pair of in-walls on the first floor and 3 pair of outdoor speakers.
  • Provide access to te same music / sources to the upstairs in-walls.
  • Provide access to the family room 5.1 system
  • Provide access to the master bedroom 5.1 system

My plan / hope is to purchase a 16 channel amp (Elan, Nuvo etc) to power the 8 pair on the first floow and an 8-channel amp to power the four pair on the second floor. And here is where I become stuck. Sonos appears to provide access to everything I would want and I love the controller but I can't quite figure out how I would apply it to my setup. I would really appreciate any advice.
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  #2  
Old Feb 27th, 2010, 05:15 AM
buzz buzz is offline
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Stargazer,

First post! Welcome to the forums.

A straight forward approach would incorporate four ZP90's: one for each of the multichannel amplifiers and one for each of the 5.1 receivers.

For each of the multichannel amplifiers, all channels would play the same program (possibly different music for the two amplifiers), unless the amplifiers offer additional source selection. Note that the ZP90 volume controls would effect all of the channels using the ZP90 -- along with your existing volume controls. This will create a potential volume control "war". The best approach here would be to disable the ZP90's volume control by setting the ZP90 for "fixed" output.

Another approach is to skip the multichannel amplifiers and use multiple ZP120's. The advantage of this approach it that each ZP120 could play different music and it would be practical to use the SONOS volume controls. In terms of the operator interface this is a much friendlier solution. You don't need one ZP120 per pair of speakers. For example, a combined kitchen, breakfast area could use the same ZP120.

Multi-zone synchronized music is a cheap trick for a SONOS system.
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 10:01 AM
Stargazer Stargazer is offline
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Thanks for the reply Buzz. Both are good ideas. I hadn't considered the volume control war. In thinking about your second option as it relates to the first floor area - the 16 channels / 8 areas could be narrowed to 6 areas. I guess this means I would need to wire two pair of speakers to each of 2 ZP120s and then I would need four others. Is this correct? If so - would the two that are carrying two pairs see a dropoff in performance?
I suppose this means I would have 6 possible source selection options at any given time - correct? I then I would still be able to add a ZP90 to the 5.1 system - and one controller would be able to handle everything.
I thought I read that you take a perfomance hit for using the Sonos volume control as it operates in the digital domain. Do I have this correct?
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 11:30 AM
buzz buzz is offline
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Stargazer,

A ZP120 will directly support two pairs of 8-Ohm speakers. One can connect more than two pairs by using impedance matching volume controls on each pair.

If I was taking a final exam at engineering school, I would have a slightly different answer, but for your purposes an audio amplifier is a constant voltage device. This means that an amplifier is similar to a lamp circuit in your home. One can keep adding speakers (lamps) until the circuit limit is reached and, as a speaker (lamp) is added, nothing changes for the other speakers (lamps).

Bottom line: Don't worry about connecting two pairs of 8-Ohm speakers to a ZP120. I do recommend keeping the volume controls in cases where two or more pairs of speakers are connected to a ZonePlayer because one area will always be too loud. Without the controls you will have no way to deal with the situation.

With respect to the digital volume control, don't worry about that either. Again, on the final exam I would add a few little considerations, but you are unlikely to bump into these subtle issues in your application because the SONOS internal volume control is 24 bits and the source material is 16 bits. In terms of audible side effects a simple analog volume control will cause more trouble than the SONOS digital volume control.

Bottom line II: Don't worry about the SONOS volume control.

---

I recommend that you wire as many ZonePlayers to your network as is practical. Keep in mind that the SONOS handheld controllers receive their wireless support from the ZonePlayers. Clustering the ZonePlayers in a single location may not provide adequate coverage. Scattering the ZonePlayers is a better idea. If scattering ZonePlayers is not practical, you can scatter ZoneBridges. This might be a consideration in the pool area.

If you play to use any iPhone/iPod controllers, they will use your WiFi for their wireless. SONOS wireless and WiFi will ignore each other.
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  #5  
Old Feb 27th, 2010, 01:50 PM
Stargazer Stargazer is offline
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Thanks for the detailed response Buzz. You've been a big help. I really like what I am reading and I am nearly there. Maybe you can help me over the top.
I had first been comparing the Sonos to the Squeezebox and that comparison is over in favor of Sonos. I had also been comparing the Sonos to more of a standard multi-room system such as those offered by Nuvo and CasaTunes. I am nearly decided on this one but if you have a few advantages to throw in I would like to hear them.

Assuming I decide on Sonos it looks like I can take one of two paths.
Path 1: 1 Sonos Bundle 250 and 5 ZP120 units for the downstairs; 1 Sonos Bundle 250 and 2 ZP120 units for the upstairs. The bundles would provide me with a ZP90 for the 5.1 system, a ZP120 and that very nice CRC200 controller.
Path 2: 1 16-channel amplifier, 2 ZP90 units and a CRC200 controller (or a bundle plus a ZP90 and I would have a ZP120 for use elsewhere) for downstairs; 1 8-channel amplifier, 2 ZP90 units and a CRC200 controller (or another bundle + ZP90) for upstairs.

Path 2 would be a few hundred dollars less. But it is more important to me that I do this the right way the first time. I'd like to fully understand my advantages for path 1. Note that all speaker pairs (except the 5.1 systems and the pool speakers which have yet to be wired) have Niles volume controls in-wall. One outside pair has a Niles outdoor volume control. All downstairs speakers except the pool speakers have already been wired to the family room. I know it's recommended that I put the zone units in different rooms. Other than the downstairs, upstairs and wherever I choose to wire the pool speakers - that may not be practical. I like the idea of controlling volume from the control unit but then a part of me doesn't want to completely waste the already in place volume controls - and I can see an occasional use to adjust volume locally rather than going to the controller.

Anything additional you can provide to help push me the rest of the way to Sonos (from one of the more traditional setups I had mentioned) and then down one of the two paths would be greatly appreciated.
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  #6  
Old Feb 27th, 2010, 02:37 PM
buzz buzz is offline
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Stargazer,

You didn't mention how you were proposing to control the music source for the multi-channel amplifier approach. The beauty of the SONOS system is that you carry the controllers with you. Personally, I do not enjoy the keypad in the wall approach at all. In addition to the SONOS controllers, you can use iPhone/iTouch, PC's and Mac's. Up to 32 controllers of any mix can be in use.

One point to consider is how many different sources of music you might want to use simultaneously. Some people are satisfied with one source everywhere, others want different sources in each area. In your case the multi-channel amplifier approach would would offer four independent SONOS zones, however, each of the multi-channel amplifiers would present the same source to all of its speakers. This level of granularity may or may not be appropriate for you. For example, in your upstairs if there are kids and parents bedrooms, one source will not fit all tastes. Or if you have office and bedroom upstairs, different music might be appropriate.

Another minor point is how to turn ON the multi-channel amplifiers. Some may require a manual switch, others offer an automatic power function based on signal input. Regardless of the marketing hype, the signal based switches are not flawless. If you are primarily a pop listener, the auto switch will probably work fine for you, if you are a classical listener, long quiet passages will cause heartburn.

Yes, most of the speaker volume controls would become surplus. You should splice the unused controls out and cover the hole with a blank plate. Keeping the unnecessary controls in place will create the volume control "war" that we would like to avoid.

Every SONOS user that I meet feels that it has liberated their music. Rather than worrying about arcane control strategies, the system "just works" and the concern becomes what to listen to next.

---

If you read through the forums there are so many accounts where a not so technical arm was twisted to allow another "techno gadget (sigh)" to enter the home. By the next morning the reluctant partner is suggesting where more zones would be fun. This is the level of product that we are dealing with and why we are so enthusiastic about it.
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  #7  
Old Feb 27th, 2010, 03:01 PM
Stargazer Stargazer is offline
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With the amplifier approach I would intend to utilize the Sonos controller.
You make a good point with the separate sources. I would like the flexibility of sending different sources to different zones (within the downstairs and upstairs areas). I suppose I would need to feed more than one ZP to the amplifiers to do this. That would pretty much eat away any price difference and so now it comes down to functionality. Which path would work better, perform better, be more intuitive? I don't know alot about the quality of the amplifiers with the powered units versus the Elan or Nuvo multi-channel amps but I suppose that would be negligible when feeding in-wall speakers and similar.
How much of an issue will I face by placing all of the downstairs ZPs in one room except for the pool which I can place elsewhere and the upstairs which will have its own? I suppose that would spead it out a little bit.
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  #8  
Old Feb 27th, 2010, 03:48 PM
buzz buzz is offline
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Stargazer,

In terms of wireless performance, each location is unique. The SONOS wireless is amazingly effective, but there are physical limits. Brick, stone, steel, and concrete walls and floors block the wireless. You can take some hints from your WiFi. If your current WiFi coverage is easy, the SONOS will be good too. In most situations the SONOS wireless is more effective than WiFi.

If you plug a computer, TV, Blu-Ray or whatever into a network port on a ZonePlayer, SONOS will share its network connectivity -- even if the ZonePlayer is wireless.

Your plan of having an upstairs cluster, a downstairs cluster, and the the pool, will tend to spread things about. The two ZP90's will help too if they are dispersed near their 5.1 systems. If the speaker wires to a room are accessible near a power outlet, drop a ZP120 there. Bonus if there is a network port at that location too. ZonePlayers are easy to hide.

I suggest wiring ZonePlayers where practical. Wired locations protect against future surprises as more and more wireless gadgets invade the home.

The SONOS amplifiers are very good. They will hold their own against any amplifier remotely close to the ZP120 in price. (do the price comparison on a per channel basis)

By the way, each ZonePlayer supports a Line-In. All of the ZonePlayer Line-In's are available in any or all zones. This allows connecting a cable box, satellite receiver, DVD, Blu-Ray, etc. to a nearby ZonePlayer and shiping audio everywhere.

Last edited by buzz; Feb 27th, 2010 at 07:43 PM. Reason: A little polishing on that last sentance.
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  #9  
Old Feb 27th, 2010, 04:01 PM
Stargazer Stargazer is offline
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Sold ... and pretty excited about it. It appears you may have answered another question I had. I know one unit must be hardwired to the network ... and that is no problem. I have the house wired with cat-6 and 8-port gigabit switches in five locations. I was planning to ask if there is any advantage hard wiring more than one unit to the lan. Sounds like there is ... is this correct?
I think you may also have been suggesting cutting off a pair of inwall speaker wire near the speakers and attaching the ZP there rather than using the the wire run all the way to the family room. Correct?
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 04:46 PM
Richard_M Richard_M is offline
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Stargazer your proposed system should be excellent.

I too have Sonos zones throughout the house plus outside entertaining area. I usually have music streamed all weekend at levels a few dB above the noise floor. This way we can enjoy the music, without it interrupting any conversation, or becoming a nuisance.
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