sound advice

We do love us some tunes. At our previous house, I wired the office up to the living room and then back to the kitchen to have ”partial house audio”. It was nice, and we’d like to do this at our new house as well. Ideally, we’d like:

- surround sound in the living room orbiting the telly (something we've never had before)
- sound in the kitchen
- sound in the master
- sound in the master bath (to drown out my awful in-shower warbling...)
- sound outside
- sound in the garage
- sound in the "work-out room"

Also, it would be cool to be able to play and control different sources of sound (radio, internet, telly, itunes) in different rooms or have them all sync up. And it would be nice if the technology wasn’t obsolete in a few years. And it would be soopercool to control the whole system from an iphone and/or ipad and sync with itunes.

In short, we want it all.

In the previous house, an amplifier in the living room with two stereo outs was the main pusher of sound. The source came from either the amp itself (radio), the telly, the CD player, or wires from the office sourced at the computer. First, the CD player went away (we rip everything these days or simply get purchase it digitally [yes, purchase our music]) and then, after getting an Apple TV, the need for wires went away (music was magically transported via WiFi). Now, with iCloud, the computer is no longer needed: We just stream from the cloud via the telly connected up to the stereo.

There are many hawkers of whole house audio systems out there. A dizzyingly dirty swirl of hawkers. To simplify things, we’ve pretty much decided that a system that doesn’t have an iApp isn’t worth considering. We are already swimming in iDevices. We don’t need more. Ideally, the system should work seamlessly with iTunes. No need to reinvent the wheel.

So...... we're thinking Sonos. It's a distributed and scalable system that integrates with iTunes, allows sound syncing among the speakers in addition to individual sources, and is controllable from our iDevices. As an added bonus, deadmau5, one of our fave electronic musicians, is hawking the system (not that we're susceptible to celebrity endorsements...).

On the bad side, the system ain't cheap. To make it work, we'll need a Bridge to connect into the router:

which runs $99.

We'll need a Connect to connect the telly into the system and the system into the telly's surround sound:

which runs $349.

We'll also need a Connect:Amp for each zone:

which run $499 a piece, and a pair of speakers, which will probably run about $300 a pair. 

On the bright side, the system is scalable, so we can add to it with time; however, we'll want to get the speakers wired now rather than later (harder to do later, hmmmm-mmmm).

Stopped in at Modia to talk about systems, and they suggested putting all the Connect:Amps into one spot (probably the pantry). For some unexplained reason, I had it in my head that each box had to be in the room the sound would come from. They also recommend Bowers & Wilkins speakers with Sonos (we would be doing low-end B&Ws if we do them...).

Given the cost, we'll probably scale back a bit (kitchen and master, maybe a portable unit for work-out, outdoors, garage). The local Modia folks are going to give us an estimate for a whole house system, surround sound, and installation (he reckoned $600).

We looked at some other options (circuit bending Apple products; fully wired systems), but think this is the best. I know some of y'all have looked into this. 

Thoughts? Or is silence golden?


  1. We put Sonos in our new house and have never regretted it. Their service support and automatic upgrading, such as to iDevices, is excellent.
    We have just two zones. One in Living/Dining/Kitchen area which I can extend to the patio with a simple Radio Shack speaker connect box. The other is in my office. Have never wanted sound in bedroom/bathroom areas.

    Living/Dining/Kitchen speakers are in the ceiling, as our the TV room surround sound, except for the one center speaker inset into the wall above the TV. I had all wires run as part of the build and installed the speakers myself.