In another spastic decision, I’ve decided to see if whole home audio is possible on a budget. A lot of people know about Sonos and how great it is, but what about people who don’t want to spend 3/4 of a leg to get there.
The primary media playing device is the mac that is connected to my tv set. Apart from that, I have a Linux workstation that is connected to a 5.1 surround sound system in the 2nd bedroom. I also have a Nokia n800 that could be moved from room to room to play media. The solution would have to work with all of these devices. It would also be a bonus if people at my house could tap into the stream and listen in with minimal effort.
For a very short time I flirted with the idea of using bluetooth to transfer the music around. After testing bluetooth audio with a headset and finding out just how flaky the audio is, I through this idea out.
At first, I was looking at broadcasting sound by using the local sound server. This looked promising at first, but it requires that all sound devices be running the specific sound server. Pulseaudio is an example of this. My mac just doesn’t run pulseaudio, nor does my Linux box at the moment. This idea just doesn’t seem to work across multiple platforms.
I took the idea one level higher and looked into broadcasting the sound using icecast. This doesn’t do exactly what I want either. Icecast isn’t realtime. There is processing that takes place to encode the capture from the soundcard. This encoding creates lag in the stream and causes it to loose quality. This idea does have some really nice perks though. The biggest being that anyone can hop on the stream by simply going to a url in their web browsers. I never got icecast to work. It doesn’t listen on my sound card’s digital audio out for some reason. On analog output I didn’t get any sound outputted to a client. It also seams that icecast is out of date. There hasn’t been an update in 2 years. I was trying this using ices. if I go this route again, I’ll most likely try darkice instead.
In my searching for a software solution, I discovered Freecast. It looks like a viable, simple option that would meet my needs. It will most likely have the same realtime issues that icecast does, but it’s the most promising thing that I turned up to that point.
After all these failures, I started thinking about more traditional methods of distributing music. I am currently looking at fm transmitters. The one that is jumping out at me is the whole home fm transmitter. My surround sound systems all have an fm tuner on them. Even the Nokia n800 has an fm reciever. Plus, I could use older clock radios to pick up the signal as well. It is looking like this is the winner solution. I realize that the quality of fm radio isn’t the best, but isn’t itunes selling music at a lower quality still? This is the simplest solution as it uses fm as its delivery format. There are no cross platform concerns.
I am currently playing around with darkice. We’ll see how this turns out. Sara says I can’t buy anything till after the Christmas season 🙂 .