Wireless Music Streaming Made Easy with Airplay and Bluetooth Music Zones in Newly Renovated Juhu Apartment
Pre-Installation and Setup
The key to this setup was providing clear and dynamic audio in individual rooms across the residence where our client could wirelessly stream music from their phone or tablet. Whether it be a workout playlist or dinner with friends, all options needed to be user friendly and quickly accessible. The Guest Bedroom was a workout area as well and a requirement for good low frequency response for their workout mix was a must. The Living Room would be a combination surround sound system for movie watching and entertainment zone for party music with guests. Last, but certainly not least, a dinner mix needed to be provisioned for when enjoying relaxing dinners at home or a secondary zone of audio when guests are over.
In the Living Room the goal was to accomplish a wireless solution with good bass and great clarity without largely sized or even a large number of speakers. Based on the layout of the room and the acoustics of the room the best choice we felt would be a soundbar with a wireless subwoofer. The soundbar would still be able to take a digital input and provide a 5.1 surround sound experience. The wireless subwoofer would ensure a good bass response is felt around the room even during theatrical or music listening sessions. One of our favorite choices when working with soundbars is the Yamaha YAS-203 with wireless subwoofer. The YAS-203 has a digital optical input so any sources connected to the television can easily be connected directly to the soundbar. The soundbar itself mounts very neatly just below the television and requires just an optical cable to be run from the television to the soundbar. The wireless subwoofer can be placed neatly below where the bass response is most accurate for the sweet spot of the room. All this can be easily accomplished without having to run any additional wiring, or dealing with the aesthetic challenges of speakers filling the room.
Since the Guest Bedroom would largely be used as a workout space we knew speakers which would deliver a well balanced mixed of mids, highs and low frequencies was really important. We did not want to take away from the aesthetics of the well decorated room and have a subwoofer taking up space. The end goal was to provide clear audiophile grade music which can be turned up and worked out to when required. Enter the NHT Super Zero 2.1 wall mountable Satellite/Bookshelf speakers. The reason we call these Satellite/Bookshelf speakers is because they are not quite small enough to be called Satellite speakers, but not as big as Bookshelf speakers either. Don’t let their size fool you though, when provided enough power they are extremely clear and solid performers. Their frequency response is rated down to 80Hz but we found they easily play low frequencies down to the 60Hz range. When wall mounted on opposite sides of the room they provided great stereo imaging and a wonderful listening experience. These speakers were a favorite with our client and they truly enjoyed listening to them for any genre of music.
On-Wall or Protruding Speakers would not match the aesthetics of the beautifully designed Dining Room and Open Kitchen of this Residence. It was designed with a very minimalistic feel and required speakers and electronics to be neatly hidden. Listeners should get a “wow” feel but not be overwhelmed by the audio or even easily distinguish exactly where the music was coming from. For such environments we have a soft spot for the BIC America MSR-PRO6 In-Ceiling Speakers. Although inexpensive, these speakers provide a very classy defined sound stage. A pair of these speakers can easily bring a room to life or quietly blend in to background conversation without even being noticeable.
With our Yamaha YAS-203 soundbar having built-in Bluetooth and a wireless subwoofer powering this setup was already taken care of. Our client could easily change the input to Bluetooth when they wanted to wirelessly play music in the hall or change the input to TV when they wanted their Cable Box or DVD Player to be heard in Surround Sound through the Yamaha soundbar connected to the television.
For the Guest Room we wanted our client to be able to easily pick up their phone and airplay their favorite songs or stream internet radio to the NHT Super Zero 2.1 speakers we had setup. Taking the room size into consideration we knew a stereo amp which would have an Apple TV connected, would be an optimal solution. We chose the DNM AV 499 two channel stereo amplifier. The DNM AV499 is a very neutral amplifier with enough power to help our client power through a serious workout, but still give an extremely defined sound stage and stereo imaging. Since the amplifier lacked bluetooth or built-in airplay, we connected an Apple TV 3rd Generation with a small digital to analog converter which converted the optical output to an analog output which could be connected directly to the AV 499 Amplifier. This allowed our client to choose the Apple TV connected to the Guest Bedroom speakers from her airplay option and start wireless streaming to the NHT Super Zero 2.1 speakers at their convenience.
The HDMI output on the Apple TV being used for the Guest Bedroom speakers was still unused and available. Since only a wall separated the Living Room and Guest Bedroom we decided to connect the Guest Bedroom’s Apple TV HDMI to the Television in the Living Room. This allowed the client to easily watch apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Youtube on their Living Room Television and listen in full surround sound from the Yamaha soundbar. If they ever wanted to listen to music in the Guest Room, airplay is easily available from the same Apple TV by streaming audio from its digital output to the DNM amplifier set up in the Guest Bedroom.
With the quality soundstage we achieved in the Guest Bedroom with the DNM Amplifier and the ease of use with the Apple TV Airplay solution, we provided the same option to our customer for the Dining Room Audio Zone. The DNM AV 499 and Apple TV were stored away in a Dining Room Cabinet and the BIC America MSR-PRO6 placed on diagonal corners of the room were connected to them.
Network and Media Streaming
Media streaming needed to be flawless with the high res music and movie collection the client wanted to be able to stream. We stuck with one of the most reliable brands we know for solid network throughput, D-Link. The D-Link DIR-816 was set up to serve as an Access Points so that a fast and efficient WiFi Network which can be easily roamed from any location was at the client’s disposal. For LAN distribution we installed three Netgear GS108PE 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch with 4 Port POE.
Initially our Dining Room Apple TV would drop on and off the network when wirelessly connected to the network. Music streaming was buffering and did not have a stable connection. Keeping the Apple TV on a wired connection was not possible because a cat6 cable had not been run to the Dining Room Cabinet. We turned to one of our favorite solutions when faced with these situations, a Powerline Adapter. We used the TP Link AV500 Powerline adapters which was able to pass network connectivity directly through electrical outlets in the residence. One adapter was connected at the Living Room AV Unit where the Netgear Network Switch was connected, and another at the Dining Room AV unit. We were then able to connect the Apple TV through a wired ethernet connection and this provided us a much more stable solution for wirelessly streaming music.
Components and Cables
Amplifier: DNM AV 499
Living Room Surround Sound: Yamaha YAS-203 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer
Guest Room Speakers: NHT Super Zero 2.1 Satellite/Bookshelf Speakers
Dining Room Speakers: BIC America MSR-PRO6 In-Ceiling Speakers
Media Room Subwoofer: NHT Super 8 Subwoofer
Multi-Zone Speakers: BIC America HT-8C In-Ceiling Speakers
Network Switch: Netgear GS108PE 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet Switch
WiFi Access Point: D-Link DIR-816
Media Player: Apple TV 3rd Generation
Speaker Cable: Monoprice 16 AWG Speaker Wire
HDMI Cables: Tributaries UHDP-010B
Stereo Analog Cables: Tributaries 4A-010B
Optical Cable: Tributaries 2AO-010B
Digital to Analog Converter: FiiO D3 Digital to Analog Converter
We were very pleasantly surprised with the musicality of Yamaha YAS-203 setup in the Living Room and the NHT Speaker Setup in the Guest Bedroom. Both provided a very detailed and realistic sound stage. The customer was thrilled with the detailing and clarity both setups resonated and found them very easy to use by wirelessly streaming music from their phone.
The 5.1 experience of the Living Room soundbar we felt could have been better. The surround experience wasn’t as identifiable and defined as we are used to when listening to 5 individual speakers. This could be used to the fact that all speakers are located in the front soundbar and surround sound is generated by reflecting sound from the sidewalls to the main listening position. In this room’s case the right side was open leading to the center of the house, so sound was not able to reflect to the sweet spot to create a true surround sound visualization.
The NHT Super Zero’s created an extremely neutral sound stage no matter what music was delivered. The biggest surprise was the DNM amplifier who with its relatively less powerful 20 watts RMS per channel did not leave the NHT speakers feeling underpowered at all. The low frequency effects from the NHT’s also delivered a great tight bass response and created a very enjoyable experience for our client during their workout sessions.
The Dining Room combination of the DNM AV 499 and BIC America MSR-PRO6 also created a sublime soundstage and a very realistic and detailed listening experience. No matter the volume our client pushed through the amp the speakers responded with a great mix of mid’s and highs. Low frequency response was clear down to 80hz and the speakers sounded amazing when music genres like jazz and soft pop were played. The initial issues with airplay streaming buffering and disconnecting were resolved with the addition of the TP Link Powerline Adapters. After that music flowed through the wireless stream and created a streamlined solution to stream music in independent zones of the residence.
The Final Verdict
The NHT speakers as always were extremely impressive and proved to be the favorite speakers of choice for our client’s music sessions. Airplay streaming of music through the Apple TV’s or bluetooth proved to be incredibly user friendly and easy for our client to use. They could easily turn on or off independent zones in their residence and control volume from the airplay or bluetooth stream sent from their phone or tablets. DNM amplifiers are a company we will definitely be working with in the future. They provided an extremely clear and powerful output despite their diminutive size and can be easily placed away in AV cabinets or other tight spaces. Airplay worked extremely well as a solution when wired. Our experience in this project serves as a lesson for us to ensure a cat6 is run to all AV locations for wired connections to Apple TV’s or other such devices for future installations.