Whole house audio

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Well-known member
Jan 3, 2005
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Austin, tx
Well, this is sort of ML related, but I figured I try to get ideas here. My wife and I are designing a house right now, and I'm tyring to figure out how to do the AV for the house. I will be setting up the home theater in a dedicated room using my current equipment. Our living room will be more formal, no obvious AV, but I plan to have speakers and a discrete TV tucked in the kitchen somewhere. Right now, I'm thinking a pair of Frescos hung on a wall, and a sub in that room. I'd like to keep all of the sources in the theater room.

Any ideas on a controller and keypads that would allow remote line level switching, and seperate amps for the various rooms? I'd like a nice amp for the Frescos, but the other speakers around the house are not so important. I'll likely go cheaper on those.
I did whole house audio for six rooms on the ground floor. This feeds off the 2 channel system in my living room. I have a separate HT setup in another room. The whole house setup is very simple, consisting of Paradigm AMS250 in 3 rooms, a pair of AMS300s in the bedroom, and a pair of Stylus 250s on the patio. I have a Rotel CD changer that feeds into a Rotel preamp that feeds a Speakercraft BB1235 whole house amp. This CD player is also connected to the HT setup via line level connections, which effectively adds another room. Since I have satellite TV, another line level connection from the sat receiver connects to the Rotel preamp, so you can listen to music channels anywhere (or preferably, Red Sox games out on the patio). There are simple rotary volume controls in all rooms. The only room where a keypad would probably be useful is the kitchen, otherwise the rotary volume controls are fine. I am pretty happy with the system, but if I could change things now I would definitely upgrade the speakers in the kitchen (as you were thinking), since its where we are listening most. Also, the BB1235 is a bit underpowered, and I might move up to the BB1265, which at 65W/channel will allow you to blast in all rooms if you need to.
You might want to check out a local dealer that carries Elan. They have a decent assortment of product that will do almost anything you want it to do with the exception of 2 way rs-232 control on all devices. You can get a chassis that switches audio to 3,6,8,9,10,12, or 24 zones. You can also get a chassis that switches video to either all zones or selected zones. Also Elan has some decent A/B power amps and some pretty awesome class T amps.
However these are NOT DIY products. The programming and install details are unattainable for most consumers.
If you were near KC,Mo. I could recommend several dealers or even my company.
Something to check out.
Elan Homesystems
Thanks for the suggestions. Elan looks like they can accomodate exactly what I have in mind. Regarding the install, since it is new construction, I doubt my builder would let me do it myself anyway. I'll check around Austin for an installer.

If anyone happens to come across something similar, I'd love to hear about it.
Elan Works Well

Did a whole house system very similar to what you describe two years ago. Used the basic Elan System 6 and put an amp on the speakers in the main entertaining area. Now upgrading amps/speakers in other zones. The System6 worked well because I could use the internal amplification initially and then upgrade later.

Also have found that the preamp in the Elan system is pretty respectable. Have a pair of Totem Model 1s on a Musical Fidelity A2.3 amp in the great room and sound is quite good.

Some advice:

Always unplug main system when doing any sort of wiring, movement of keypads etc. - easy to short out entire system if you are not careful.

Ensure the keypads & volume controls go in plastic rather than metal boxes in the walls. Easy to short on metal boxes.

You can burn big dollars on the bells and whistles, touchpads, cameras, chime, intercom, etc. Wire for absolutely everything now even though you may not do it all initially. Wiring is cheap when the walls are open!
There is a new home automation product line called Control4 which is quite powerful and easy to retrofit into existing homes lacking prewiring. Wireless communication is based on ZigBee which can cover an 8,000 sq foot house easily.

These products offer much of the power of Crestron, Lutron, etc without the cost. It is more expensive than X10 but vastly more powerful and reliable.

Right now only installers have access to this product line, but within a year or so it will be available to the DIY crowd too.
Whole house system -- consider B&O

Bang and Olufsen.
From an integration and design standpoint they can't be beat. Not quite audiophile stuff, but if you're looking to put your house first, you should look at their current line. This is a decorator's idea of a stereo, but I've had good luck with some of their pieces ( I use an old Beosystem 5000 with the Beovox CX50 bookshelf speakers as my computer system with great luck. Sounds quite good and looks great next to my iMac G3.)

Otherwise, I'd shop for the installer and dealer before shopping for the equipment if you know what I mean.
or Magnepan

In terms of sound quality, but something that visually disappears, you should consider the Magnepan MMG's. They're small, mount to the wall, and come in white or grey to blend with most wall colors, and sound great. You could even hide a sub and most people would have absolutely no idea where the sound was coming from. This would work well in your formal room.
actually, I hadn't thought of the smaller Magnepans, but that is a pretty interesting idea. Are they very directional?

I had heard on one of the other posts that the Frescos tend to be somewhat directional, which if true would be a problem in our formal space. I plan to mount the speakers on either side of a floor to ceiling window that goes up 16 ft. The speakers would likely be mounted on the wall about 9-10 ft. up. The less directional the better. As far as a sub, I've got two different corners I can hide that in.
magnepan's directional?

Well, I've owned the 3.3R's (fairly large) and while careful placement made a tremendous difference in ultimate soundstage, they "made music" wherever they were. If you mount them to the wall, you only mount brackets on one side of the thin panel, and then you can pivot the speakers out to adjust the sound. As long as you're remodeling, you could actually go with anything up to the size of the 1.6QR and mount them.... Just giving possibilities. There is a dealer here in the Bay Area who has mounted the 1.6's in the same way as you would the MMG's. As long as you (or your contractor) are clever about these things, it should be possible and give you a good sound, probably better than almost all "in-wall" speakers. Good luck!