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Broadcast Music Around Your House - Apple Airport Express? Roku? Squeezebox?

Here's the scenario: all of our music is stored as mp3s. We want to be able to control music from a laptop as we sit in our kitchen or back room and have that music broadcast to speakers all over the house and back yard patio. Ideally we'd rather not have to run speaker wires from a central amplifier to the rest of the house. There seem to be 3 or four solutions to this problem.

Apple Airport Express and iTunes

Now that we're a family of Mac users, this seems like a decent solution. We buy a handful of Airport Express units ($100 new or as low as $60 used/refurbished) and install them in a power outlet near the speakers. The speakers have to have their own amplifier and accept a headphone mini-jack input for this to work. I'm also not 100% sure that the airports would all be synchronized in terms of what they play at the same time, though there are multiple articles which claim that it is possible. So, it probably works ;)

Bonus: Each of the airport express units expands the coverage of the WiFi network as well which will make our house super strong...and perhaps we could sell access to that to neighbors...

Drawbacks: iTunes only.

A Dedicated Device like Roku or Squeezebox

Roku and Squeezebox are two alternatives focused specifically on music. Roku is more focused on using the Roku to control the music, costs $200, and doesn't act as a WiFi repeater. The Squeezebox Receiver or Transporter could also do this but, like Roku, are way more expensive at $150 or $2,000 respectively and don't act as WiFi repeaters.

Drawbacks: Still requires some client software on the laptops that is Windows/Mac only :(

Remote Wireless Speakers - Audio Unlimited

There is also the set of products like Audio Unlimited Wireless Speakers with Remote which provides a complete solution using a radio solution unrelated to WiFi. So, for this I would use an existing Airport Express unit that I have and plug it in to a headphone splitter which I would plug into three of these speaker sets. The benefit is the relatively low cost, ability to use the speakers outside, and flexibility to use whatever future software/hardware I want to get music into the system. The major drawbacks are less control over individual speaker sets, the fact that I already own high quality speakers that I would prefer to use, and of course the fact that it doesn't improve the WiFi signal quality at all...

So Lazyweb - what do you say? Any advice on how to solve this problem?

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i went through a similar dilemma last year when my old stereo died. i'm not sure if you are mac or pc, but for mac this works absolutely fabulous:

  1. bought audioengine a5 speakers ( which are superb and integrate seamlessly with airport express.
  2. bought airport xpress and installed on back on audioengine a5s.
  3. set up airtunes for itunes mp3s and cd playback.
  4. bought and installed airfoil ( which allows you to stream virtually any audio type via the airport express.
  5. rejoiced.

as an extra, installed remote app on my ipod touch (or iphone) as wireless remote to my music library from anywhere in house.

one more note: the wifi network boost from an airport express only works if you are using an airport base unit.

good luck!

About the squeezebox - are you sure?

I'm a bit confused - we have a squeezebox at the house, which we adore, and 1) it's pulling files from our house server, which is running Debian, and 2) it has a web interface, so working with our music collection has been platform-independent -- good for our combination Mac/PC/debian house. The other drawbacks you pointed out were true, though. They just didn't apply to us.