Part of the magic of the whole house audio system is the Apple airport express. This little box is a multi function power house. In this little 4 by 3 by 1 inch package you get a router, WiFi access point, a music streaming device and a network printer adaptor. And one of my pet peeves there is no wall wart. I hate wall warts they are a pain to deal with.
So the part we will be using for whole house audio system is the music streaming device. This part of the Airport Express integrates with iTunes so you can select which AirPort Express you want to send music too. Plus you have the option of playing your music through your Computer speakers and through the Airport Express synchronized. You can also send music to several airport express units all at the same time. So you have the same music playing in several room or areas all at the same time.
We do this with the house, the patio, and pool area. All three areas are playing the same music at the same time.
So now you want to play music in the kids’ room and different music in the family room. OK you select the music from different iTunes library and send it to the desired airport express. Done
So now what about amplifiers and speakers for all this? Being that the AirPort devices are distributed all around your house the cost of wiring is minimal or non-existing, as you can stream wireless to an airport Express using WiFi. So that is where the Audioengin A5 speakers come in to play. More on the speakers next time.
OK, I have been waiting for Microsoft to pull it together for home users for four years now. Microsoft has introduced “Windows Media Center” (with a major version upgrade in Vista) and “Media Player” I have purchase Roku streaming players to stream music through my house and yard. I have also purchased three different kinds of Media center Extenders to route media around the house.
One of the big problems has been remotes and the need to turn on a TV to play music. The Roku Soundbridge solved the need for the TV but you cannot synchronize the multiple devices to play the same music. Plus the display is text only. I know recently that Logitech bought the Squeezebox™ and has been announcing better integrated product this last year, they are expensive. Nothing like Apple is putting together.
Apple is not always the best solution right out of the gate. Give Apple a few revisions and they start to get it right. The announcement that pushed me into the Apple camp was a little piece of FREE software for the iPhone and iTouch called Remote. To me Remote pulled home media all together and the light went off.
So the picture above shows all the parts for a simple, very user friendly and flexible whole house audio system. The core of the system is one or multiple Mini Mac to store all your music. I would use multiple Mini Macs to store diverse music libraries for instance Mom and dad’s music verse the kids music. Running on the Macs would be iTunes as the music server. Ya, I know I did not like iTunes when it first was released, but Apple won me over by integrating their network products (airport Express) and MP3 players (iPods) seamlessly into iTunes.
First iTunes, as we all know works great with the iPhone and iPods. My favored is the iTouch. Why you ask, again it is that free software appilication name “Remote” that runs on the iPhone and iTouch. With Remote I can control my whole house music system from the palm of my hand using a full color remote call the iTouch (better and cheeper then the Squeezebox™ Controller). Very cool…. I can change from my library of music to my Kids library of music. Or I can select an album, see the cover art, select a song, and select what room I want to play the select music in. OR multiple rooms if I desire.
How is this done, through the magic of the Apple Airport express and Audioengin A5 speakers. All that will be in part two.