My own multi-room audio setup
I always liked the idea of having a Sonos-like multi-room setup in my house. The same tune near my dining table, in the kitchen or even outside. But I don't want to create another audio system next to my fine tuned hi-fi stereo setup. I already support Airplay, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, etc. through my high-end AV receiver. But that audio setup is only perfect for my living room area.
Physically wiring up other rooms by creating extended zones doesn't feel like a flexible solution. Wires suck, so wireless, right? Yes, but now we're stuck with its latency that will interfere with the existing wired setup unless you like echoes or a 2 second delay (looking at you Airplay). The scope of my wants:
- Multiroom speakers which are in sync
- Existing receiver as audio source
- No wires throughout the house
- Amplified speaker, preferable portable
- Relative high quality output
- Control volume local and central
- Stereo (optional)
Most existing wireless audio solutions introduce a hub setup, where a piece of hardware only job is to sync up the hooked up speakers. Every brand comes has it's own solution. My issue with those is that they introduce an (expensive) piece of hardware, which actually introduce latency from the source. There must be a better way.
The solution lies with Bluetooth. Apparently Bluetooth - of all technologies - has improved significantly over the years, and can now feature an audio codec focused on low-latency audio transmission: aptX. To be more specific, although confusing, the newly launched aptX low-latency variation. Without making this sound like an ad, it's actually kinda cool: it specs at 32ms latency end-to-end while keeping a 'near CD quality' signal (352Kbit/s).
Compared to Sonos prices, I can now create a relative low cost custom wireless solution, which extends my existing hi-fi. Bringing in a quality Bluetooth speaker (or any amplified portable speaker or soundbar) and a $50 USD Bluetooth transmitter.
Unfortunately, currently there are only a limited number of these low-latency speakers available that support aptX. I did find a match with B&O's Beoplay S3. Released recently, but packed with a nice Class D amp and beautiful design. Pricey yes, but compared to what's available, this matched the best. The sound feels big for its relative small size, and it is nicely tuned.
After getting everything hooked up, the real test came. Was Bluetooth aptX low latency the solution to my wants? How is the experience throughout the house? Happily I can say it sounds great. Honestly I did do a audio sync between the two speakers. But the setup is easy to understand, and very flexible.
I now own only one speaker, but it also has a stereo mode when paired up with another S3.
- Miccus Mini-jack TX4: AptX low-latency capable Bluetooth transmitter with an audio-in.
- B&O Beoplay S3
- Denon X4100W receiver
- Kef LS50
- Spotify app, with Spotify Connect
- Denon app
- Bluetooth's 10 meter open range and pairing.