Powered Speaker Reviews and Setup Ideas

In order to effectively roll out your budget home networked system your going to need some speakers.  While most people will have at least one zone ready to go (plugging their android device into their main audio system in the TV Room), Sonos and Squeezbox do have one advantage I didn’t mention in my original post (The Alternative to Sonos / Squeezebox Players).  If you want to add another zone, simply buy another Sonos or Squeezebox Device and the powered speaker is included (with network connectivity).

For those of us budgetwise operators we need powered speakers, or a receiver to run passive speakers.  So let me tell you what I’ve done.  I don’t claim this to be a particularly great set-up, but for me it works for the moment.  If I can generate some ad revenue from this site…maybe I can afford to review some better options ;-)

Zone 1 (Serves Outdoor as well as Main Zone – 3.5mm to RCA Plug -> Radio Shack 4-way Distribution Amplifier -> HT Receiver (Speakers) & 900 Mhz Wireless Outdoor Speakers ($25 @ Garage Sale).

Zone 2 (Basement) – 3.5mm to RCA Plug -> 2 – Channel System (NAD Pre-Amp, Power-Amp).

Zone 3 (Master Bedroom) – 3.5mm to 3.5mm -> I-Home Clock Radio (Aux Input)

Zone 4 (Office) – 3.5mm to RCA Plug to Powered Computer Speakers (w/Sub)

Zone 5 (Dining Room) – Since it’s cold outside… I’m using one of my outdoor wireless speakers in mono setting.  Sit’s on the floor out of the way and works fine.  (Though Green Plastic doesn’t really do the dining room justice, nor does the audio quality).  Here is where my next purchase will likely go.  Here are my current thoughts on the future.

I plan on reviewing the following setups in the next little bit. All are self powered 2-channel solutions. I’d be interested in knowing if anyone has any experiences with some of these. I’ll stay unbiased until I hear for myself.

Speakers A: M-Audio AV40 ($159)

Speakers B: M-Audio BX5 D2 ($249)

Speakers C: Audioengine 2 ($199)

Speakers D: Audioengine 5+ ($399)

My guess of which setup I’ll like most before even hearing are the AE 5+’s… that’s just normally how it goes with my luck (the most expensive pair).  I’m very interested to hear the M-Audio Studio Monitors (both models).  I’ve really never considered a traditional studio monitor in a true sense.  I’m expecting much less bass but a stronger mid-range than the AE 5+.   Not necessarily a bad thing for the dining room paired with a little Dave Brubeck or Chopin.  We’ll see.

Cheers for now!


Posted in Network Audio, Speakers | 2 Comments

Now Hear This! (All About Speakers)

Whether your listening to streaming audio though your computer powered speakers, or a pair of B&W Nautilus’ (if you are, I’d love to come over for a listen ;-).  It helps to know a little bit about speakers.  Speakers come in all varieties of sizes, shapes, materials, tonal qualities, dynamic ranges, and can create different Sound Pressure Levels (spl’s) in your listening area depending on the size of the room, size of the speaker, and amount / quality of amplification.

If you’ve got all the speakers you need, I’m happy for you.  I always want more!  If your in the market for some new speakers and/or your new to the audio listening ranks it may be worth five minutes to read through some of my experiences, common vocabulary, and tips/hits for selecting your speakers.

A wise audiophile once told me,

“One thing is for certain, the technology of receivers, amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, and digital to analog converters (DACs) will constantly change.  However, if you find a set of speakers with a sound that you love, they can last you a lifetime if you take care of them.”

That sentiment resonated with me (no pun intended) and I haven’t forgot it.  In fact I still have my first set of big boy speakers that I got while I was in college (Mains: NHT – Super Two’s, Surrounds: NHT Super One’s, and of course my M&K MX 105 MkII Dual 12″ Subwoofer (oh how that 14 year old sub still make’s me smile).

So what makes a good speaker?  Frankly… That decision is up to you.  If you like the sound comes out of your $15 Dollar Computer Cube Speakers, that’s great!  If you are a music nut like me then perhaps you would want to explore your options a little more.  I feel a “pieces of flair” Office Space moment coming on.  Apologies if you don’t understand that reference.  You need to watch Office Space right now!

As you explore your options, I hope this post will drop some that ideas will make your speaker search a little easier and more fruitful.

Tip #1 – Bring your own music to the demo!!!

Most better quality retailers will allow you to demo different speakers while listening to your own music.  I’ll focus on music here because movies are a bit different in my mind.  Having a CD (or two) is often the easiest route…but if you have your music on an MP3 Player…bring a patch cable (3.5mm to RCA Plug) and most sales staff will accommodate.

This accomplishes two key things.

1) You get to listen to music you like while conducting the demo.

2) Most importantly you get to hear the speakers playing the types of music that they’ll pushing out for years to come.

Tip #2 – Understand what type of equipment is attached to the demo speakers

If your prospective $500 pair of speakers are being demoed while attached to a $10,000 Tube Amp / Pre Amp combo… you’ll likely have a different experience when you get home and hook up to your $500 Home Theater Receiver.

Tip #3 – Understand what some of the basic technical spec’s mean.

There are some basic relationships that will be helpful when fitting your speakers to an amplifier / receiver / your listening area.  There are two basic stats (Theory’s) you should understand.  Nominal Impedance (typically represented as 4-8 Ohm) & Sensitivity (typically shown between 82-94 decibel) Ratings.  The Power Handling stats (Watts) don’t really matter that much to be quite frank (assuming your are buying a decent quality speaker).

Nominal Impedance (ohm) – The basic theory is here is resistance to power (current).  A speaker rated @ 8 ohms “resists” power more than one that is rated at 4 ohms.  To think of it another way, the 4 ohm speaker draws more power (current) from the amplifier and therefore requires a more powerful amp to drive the speakers.  If your interested in a 4 ohm speaker… make sure your power source can handle it.

Sensitivity Rating (db) – The basic theory here is that sensitivity (db) is the measure of a speakers efficiency in converting power into sound.  The traditional measurement is obtained by measuring the sound pressure level (db) with a microphone 1-meter away from the speaker after having been supplied with 1-watt of power.   The bottom line is that some speakers are much more efficient then others in turning power in to sound.

The key relationship you’ll want to remember is the 3 decibel rule:  For every 3 db decrease in the sensitivity rating it will take double the power to drive the speaker to the same volume.

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The Alternative to Sonos / Squeezbox Players

Welcome to HomeNetworkedAudio.com!

I’m happy that you found this site, and I’m excited that you will now have the information you need to start enjoying your favorite music in any room of the house, streaming from the web and from your personal library.

Let’s get started! If you are here because you love the idea of Sonos, Squeezebox or another solution that requires you to purchase expensive components in order to expand your listening area to multiple rooms in your home or business, but hate the costs,  there is now a solution that some enterprising individuals have developed and discovered that is extremely low cost and flexible.  Thank God for Open Source!!  It is based on the Logitech Squeeze Box infrastructure the whole of which can be installed and up and running in minutes – hours (depending  your specific install desires) with a PC or Mac (as a Music Server), Logitech Media Server Software, and at least one Android Device (expandable to as many as your network can handle).  The Android device (when running a $5 app), acts a squeezebox emulator.  From the Audio Out (Aux Headphone Jack), simple plug-in to any powered speaker, receiver, pre-amp etc. and enjoy synchronized audio across your home or business!

Step 1:  Have the following in you Home/Business

  • PC or Apple Computer (faster = better) and Local Music Library (ITunes etc.)
  • 1+ Android Devices (Tablet, Phone etc.)
  • Wireless Network Router / Modem (faster = better)

Step 2: Download Logitech Media Server Software

Step 3: Configure Logitech Media Server

  • Depending on how well your install goes (and your networking equipment auto-config’s itself) you may need to configure port forwarding on your router later.
  • Here a link to a now obsolete page that has some good install tips.
  • Here is the current Logitech Support site that should be able to fill in any gaps in the above.

Step 4: Purchase and Download  Android App SqueezePlay from Google Play Store to Android Device

  • Run App and Point to Logitech Media Service (should be running)

Step 5: Download Android App Logitech Squeezebox Controller from Google Play Store to Android Device

Step 6: Sync-up Devices (assuming multiple rooms) and Enjoy!

I will work on publishing more of the details shortly… but this at least will get more savvy operators going in short order.

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