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gareth133's picture
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Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice

I have a collection of around 1600CDs (and growing!). With a second child on the way in a matter of days my listening room is now a nursery, leaving my CDs boxed in the loft.

With the exception of an iPod for the car/travel I have avoided ripping my CDs to hard drive as I find MP3s sound flat and uninteresting, taking the shine off the music. Now, it looks as if I have no choice.

I am looking for a system that would be based in my livingroom but could be streamed to bedrooms etc. As I have said, sound is really important to me so I would like the CDs to be ripped to CD quality if that is possible. Although I would like it linked to a new amp/speakers I will soon be buying, I would still like to be able to listen through my Grado headphones driven by a headphone amp.

I am no hi-fi/tech expert and was wondering how this could be done. I am aware of the Sonos and Olive systems with the Sonos being less expensive but well received in reviews.

The Olive is already a hard drive but the Sonos isn't. How do I connect the Sonos to my music? How do I rip my music at the best quality and what do I rip it to? Can any hard drive take 1600CDs at best quality? Can anyone suggest a set-up that works well for them, including amps/speaker advice?

I would appreciate any advice.

Thanks,

Gareth

 

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice

Hi Gareth,

From my personal experience, Sonos provides an easy to use way of streaming music around your home. With an iPod touch, iPad or Android device to control it, it is a joy to use. If you're non-techy, I'd say something like a ripNAS to rip and store your music in FLAC format is the best bet. The basic one comes with 1TB of storage, if I recall correctly, this is enough to store 3000 CDs in lossless Flac format. You stick a Cd in it's drive, it rips it and spits it out. You connect this to a sonos, either a zone player or a zone bridge, if you want to locate it away from your living room, and you're sorted.

There"s no reason you can't connect a zp90 directly into your existing amp and s5 zone players make a great one box solution for bedrooms or the kitchen. I have four of them!

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice

I agree with Scene. I have 3 zones at home and a NAS sat behind the sofa out of the way. I recorded everything in Flac on to a 500GB drive which is more than enough for my needs (currently c. 11000 tracks). As my collection grows, I can always link another drive to it. For ripping I'd suggest dbPoweramp as a cracking bit of software or mediamonkey. In the living room, one zone connects to my avr and I have two further zones in the kitchen and dining room.

The clever thing with the one in the living room is that I can connect a line-in from another source and broadcast that around the house. So for example, Last night of the proms can be on the TV and the audio can be in every room. 

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice
Lee H:

I agree with Scene. I have 3 zones at home and a NAS sat behind the sofa out of the way. I recorded everything in Flac on to a 500GB drive which is more than enough for my needs (currently c. 11000 tracks). As my collection grows, I can always link another drive to it. For ripping I'd suggest dbPoweramp as a cracking bit of software or mediamonkey. In the living room, one zone connects to my avr and I have two further zones in the kitchen and dining room.

The clever thing with the one in the living room is that I can connect a line-in from another source and broadcast that around the house. So for example, Last night of the proms can be on the TV and the audio can be in every room. 


Just to emphasize Lee's comments - I use iTunes as my ripping software, because I want to sync things with my iPad. If I didn't do this, I'd have gone with dbPoweramp (I might yet!) - I tried it out before I got the iPad, and was very imptessed with it. The RipNAS comes with dbPoweramp pre-installed - which is why I recommended it. I have seen lots of great reviews for it and I believe WHFS&V gives it 5 stars.

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice

+1 for Sonos.

The RipNas option is probably the most convenient, but you pay for that.  A normal network attached storage drive will do the job much cheaper and you can use your computer to rip your CDs.  Rip all your CDs in iTunes (look at WHF's video on this site for how to set your iTunes music folder up on a NAS drive) in AIFF (uncompressed) format and when you connect your ipod after that remember to tick the box to convert everything to 128kbps AAC 'on-the-fly' as it syncs to your ipod (depending on it's capacity you may still have to be selective over what is sync'd.

 

 

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice

Thanks for all your answers. I'm about to show how useless I am at this technical stuff.


The RipNas looks ideal but as Dan points out it is fairly expensive. What are the cheaper drives mentioned and how do they connect? Also, I already have 2 x iTunes running on my computer (one for my iPod and one for my wife's). They are ripped at the default setting which I assume is low quality. I am happy to keep them as they are as all of my CDs won't fit on the iPods.


Therefore, would I need to open a third iTunes programme on my computer and change the settings to Lossless? Would this use any more space on my computer which is already hard pushed for memory? Would my computer have to be on when I was streaming using the Sonos?


Again, sorry for being pretty useless here!!


Gareth

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice

Don't worry about it!

Your already ripped CDs in iTunes will be in low-quality MP3 format (most likely) so they can fit on your iPod. If you have iTunes 10, then you can set it to rip things in Apple lossless (sometimes called ALAC) and "transcode" them to MP3 when you sync them to your iPod. This allows you to maintain a lossless (highest quality) copy on your PC/NAS, but still fit them on your iPod.

The disadvantages of doing this, is that you will have to re-rip ALL your CDs to get them in lossless format (but you were going to have to do this anyway) and that synching your iPod will be slower as it transcodes the ripped tracks from Lossless to MP3 format.

(Sorry, I didn't realise you had iTunes already - with CDs ripped, might have given different advice from the ripNAS)

As for connecting things up. If your music is on a PC with a large enough drive, and you're happy to keep it on all the time - rip everything to their in lossless and connect a zoneBridge to the network hub to which your PC is wired to allow the Sonos system to find all your music. However, if you want to store your music on a NAS, get one and hardwire (i.e. plug it) in to your network (don't rely on WiFi, as ripping will be a pain) and either create a new iTunes DB, or move your existing one to the NAS (there's details of how to do this on the Apple website).

One downside of using iTunes to rip - the way it retrieves album art means Sonos won't find it, so you have to get that manually, which is frankly a pain in the a*se.

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice

For library management I'd suggest MediaMonkey. It will allow you to filter your library by any number of criteria; including file type. You can also add album art fairly easily too. Sonos will then detect the album art that you've added. If it helps, this is how I do it:

 

All CDs ripped to Flac and stored on a NAS (buffalo linkstation). The NAS is connected to my router so my PC doesn't need to be on. Sonos is pointed to the NAS. 

I used dbPoweramp to create an ALAC version of the Flac files and store these on an external HDD (my PC one isn't very big). iTunes is pointed at the HDD. 

A new CD is ripped to both Flac (on to the NAS) and ALAC (on to the HDD) so I have a version for my iPhone and one for Sonos.

I then use ALAC on my iPhone, re-synching (real word?) different tunes every week or so.

 

As Scene said though, the initial rip can be a pain if you have a lot of CDs. When I ripped my collection I plugged the NAS directly in to the PC for speed.  

 

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice

As you can probably tell from Lee H's and my postings, unfortunately there is no one answer on how to do this Wink

Lee H: Have you tried the iTunes auto-transcoding option, or do you want to keep your iPhone versions at full fat lossless?

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Re: Good Quality Multi-Room Music Advice
scene:As you can probably tell from Lee H's and my postings, unfortunately there is no one answer on how to do this WinkLee H: Have you tried the iTunes auto-transcoding option, or do you want to keep your iPhone versions at full fat lossless?

I leave it at full fat. I used to transcode (mediamonkey can do it) but my PC isn't exactly bang up to date and it could take forever. I've got a 32GB phone so get a fair few tracks on in ALAC as it is.

Although we have a decent size collection, a lot of it is my wifes and not really my taste.  

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