Apple Airplay Multi-Room Setup 6 Zones
Apple Airplay is one of the best wireless home audio solutions available. With it’s lossless audio design, it sounds as good as digital audio gets when delivered wirelessly. It is bandwidth heavy but can be overcome with some design considerations. This Do-It-Yourself wireless project will end up costing far less than other solution providers with proprietary equipment. This project is wireless in the control aspect as it can be controlled via most of the Apple products available, but the speakers still need to be wired from the central equipment. The system will be able to be controlled anywhere in your home where there is a wifi network signal. The Airports are going to be wired via ethernet cable to help with the high overhead of bandwidth needed with 6 Airplay instances operating at once. In my experience, I could use 3 or 4 Airports via purely wifi, but they would drop out above that number because of the traffic. Newer, faster wifi routers may be able to overcome this limitation. Look into “multicast” if you attempt a straight up wireless system. I’ll hook up one of the Airports to operate as the wifi router for the audio only traffic.
A note on some of the other options out there with Open Source processes of Airplay: (Raspberry Pi, TPLink, Dolry, etc.) I’ve researched these projects for a few years now trying to develop a product to bypass the expense of Apple’s products and have found that as of this writing; none are ready for prime time easy use for the average consumer. I consider myself fairly tech savvy and I’ve found the solutions challenging to implement. Some of the problems I’ve encountered are the problem of synchronization of the Airplay instances, where all the zones are off by a few milliseconds causing weird echo/reverb through the house, dropouts at specific intervals respective of each hacked module, and flat out failure due to inferior equipment design and other bothersome miscellaneous problems of smaller notation. Another worry of using a hacked version of Airplay is that Apple has an encryption key that may render ALL these devices useless should they decide to pull the switch on a new OS or IOS version, unlikely but nevertheless a consideration.
6- Airport Express Modules A1264 (aka MB321LL/A). $35-$90 These are out of production but can be acquired easily used on Amazon.com, Ebay.com or Craigslist.org.
They’re great values starting around $35. They have easy factory reset buttons and are ready to go in less than a minute.
Warning: There are two types that look identical. The ones to avoid are the ones starting with A108_ (Most popular A1084) These do not work with the current Airport Utility provided with the current Apple OS. See Wikipedia for more info on Apple Express versions.
The current version is fine also, but the form factor of the A1264 is much easier to mount a series of them together in my opinion. MC414LL/A