I have pondered on the idea of multi room audio for a while. There are lots of expensive options out there, many different multi room amplifiers, and kits such as the Sonus media players, which I feel with a little home network is pointless. There was a time where I even started taking my iPhone into the bathroom to listen to music while taking a shower, but we all know iPhone + Water doesnt mix (thank god that never happened to me).
I quite liked the idea of something permanent in the bathroom, which everyone could use. We all have the use of iPhone’s / iPads, so something using the Airplay technology within these devices would be perfect. Most of the high-end multi room amplifiers now come with this feature, but paying hundreds of pounds for something like this was a bit overkill, and I worked out I could create the same installation for a little under £40.
After many weeks of looking into different (cheaper) options (Apple’s Airport Express > Small Amplifier > Speaker), I stumbled upon a program called ShairPort4W. This application installs on your PC (or server in my case), and allows any Apple product stream sound to the PC (connected to the same network). The main thing that made me happy was – this software is FREE! I had everything already in place (server which I already have set up) – It was a case of installing the software, selecting a name of which the “zone” is to be called and hitting save (I will talk about the advanced options in a moment). Now when I select iTunes on my iPhone, I get the option to AirPlay the song over to my new zone “Bathroom”.
The Software (ShairPort4W)
So now I have the software set up on the PC (server), which is a windows application that mimics the airplay code, and broadcasts the connection to all apple devices (including iTunes). Multiple instances can be loaded (to load on start up also), and different options can be given to these instances. For example:
- Instance 1 – “Bathroom”
- Instance 2 – “Bedroom 1”
- Instance 3 – “Living Room”
See where I’m going here? But wait, one sound card? That means only one output! Yes (well depending how many channel your sound card is) but whats stopping you adding another sound card? Nothing! – This software allows you to select which sound card you would like the music to be streamed to – Insert 3 sound cards (or one sound card with 3 channels), open each instance, select which sound card goes to where, and you have 3 “zones” set up to play music to.
So now you have the software set up, you will need two (or three) bits of hardware:
- PC / Server (If you haven’t got one already – Any old PC will work if you have one lying around)
- Amplifier (TA2021)
Number 1 and 3 are the obvious choices, but some people think – “Oh Amplifier…. that’ll be expensive” – Not at all. I picked up this little amplifier (and I mean little) from our usual online auction site (Search for a TA2021 amp). Don’t be put off by how small it is, because you cannot tell the difference at all from a big amplifier I have to this little one, oh and make sure you get a transformer cable for this (if it doesn’t come with one).
Now for the speakers, again back to our usual online auction site, there are plenty to choose from, and also note, you will require different speakers to go into the bathroom, then what you would use in a bedroom or any other dry room. Bathroom speakers need to be waterproof / steam-proof. You can view the many options on the auction site by searching for the term “Ceiling Speaker”. I would highly recommend trying to get your hands on a flush fit speaker, as these look more professional.
So now the PC (Server) is set up with the software, I have all the parts required, I now need to drill a hole in the ceiling, insert the speaker, wire the speaker up to the mini amp using your normal speaker wire. Then the amplifier wires into the back of the PC (Server) using a 3.5mm jack to RCA jack lead, set your desired sound level on the amplifier (I started streaming my music from my iPhone, set the volume on the iPhone to full, and then adjusted the amp to the peak/drop off point of sound – this was rather loud, but this will stop anyone trying to blast the music and blowing the speaker).
Full installation pictures and review coming soon.