"...Our home is located in the beautiful and historic Via’s of Winter Park, FL, a suburb just north of Orlando.
Since it was purchased as a spec home, we were at the mercy of the builder, as to what he had installed with respect to low voltage infrastructure and home automation..."
As co-founder of CasaTunes (the parent company of the musicBox), I have always enjoyed listening to music in my own home. We founded CasaTunes back in 2007, after both Kim (my business partner and co-founder) and I built our homes and installed various audio matrix switches. I installed a couple of Russound CAV 6.6 switches, while Kim installed a couple of AudioAccess matrix switches. What Kim and I quickly discovered was there were really no good music servers available, and the music servers that were available, were extremely expensive, and so we founded CasaTunes to address this need.
Over the last 10 years we have witnessed dramatic changes in the multi-room audio market. There has been a shift from wired to wireless products, a move from owning your own music to Internet based streaming music services, from stand alone solutions to solutions that integrate with home automation products, from custom control systems to Apps running on phones and tablets, and a shift from selling products through the custom integrator channel to selling direct to the end consumer.
The launch of our musicBox 6 line, our first foray into the DIY multi-room audio market, happened to coincide with our family moving to a new home. So, what better way to experience what our customers experience, than installing the musicBox in my new home?
As it turned out, I was somewhat lucky. The builder installed all the expected networking, phone and coax cabling, which was nicely enclosed in an On-Q panel enclosure, and a DSC security system. Beyond that, the builder installed a Lutron RadioRA system, and also pre-wired the home for video cameras and speakers. So far so good.
What didn’t turn out so good, was where the builder ran the speaker wires. Our home is a so called “open plan home”, where the Kitchen, Dining Room and Living room all share the same open space. In this space, the builder wired the Living Room area for a home theater setup, with Left, Center, Right, Surround, and Sub speakers wires all ceiling mounted. The other wired rooms were the Master Bathroom, Downstairs Office, Bonus Room (upstairs), and the Patio and Cabana (both outdoors).
This meant there were two rooms in our new home that were not wired, and where we definitively wanted music. These included the Master Bedroom and my Office upstairs, since the office downstairs was being used as a combination wine room, mud room and office for my wife, Jodi. Add to that we also had to decide what to do in the open area (Kitchen, Dining Room and Living Room). As you can imagine, there are many ways to solve these issues, but here is how we solved them.
The first decision we had to make was in the open area. In this area, we could have re-purposed the Surround Sound speaker wires and used these for multi-room speakers, but we also wanted a surround sound home theater setup, so we shied away from this option. Instead, we decided to use an AV Receiver for the home theater setup, and also use this for the multi-room music in this area. The main benefit of this approach is we get to use a high powered AV Receiver with high quality speakers to cover this large open area. We chose to install a NAD receiver, as it was primarily being used for audio (and not used for video switching).
One real nice feature of the musicBox is the ease of integration with AV Receivers. You simply connect the pre-amplified output for the Living Room from the musicBox power amplifier to the CD analog input (or whatever input you like) on the NAD receiver. Next, connect a serial cable from the musicBox music server to the NAD receiver, then use CasaSetup and configure the Living Room to use a NAD Receiver and you are done. Now when you power on the Living Room from the App, the musicBox will power the NAD Receiver on, and switch the input source on the NAD Receiver to the CD input. When you change volume, the musicBox issues volume commands to the NAD Receiver to change the volume up or down. To the user, it is completely transparent whether they are controlling a room powered by an AV Receiver or the power amplifier. Not only is it cool, but it works really well!
The next decision we had to make was how to solve the issue that no speaker wires were pulled into the Master Bedroom. There were two easy ways to solve this problem.
We could have used wireless AirPlay speakers. The musicBox automatically discovers your wireless or networked AirPlay speakers in your home and will auto-configure them as rooms. The cons are: 1) wireless is not as reliable as wired, 2) my wife likes the speakers hidden in the ceiling or walls, and there are no in-wall or in-ceiling AirPlay speakers available, and 3) the AirPlay protocol introduces a two second delay during playback.
Fortunately, the Master Bedroom shares a TV wall with the Living Room, so we decided to use Definitive Technology’s wall mounted flat panel speakers in the Master Bedroom. With a shared wall, we also decided that we would keep all the electronics for the Master Bedroom in the Living Room entertainment center, providing a very clean installation in the Master Bedroom. In addition, this solution also provided the flexibility of using either a second AV Receiver for the Master Bedroom, or to simply connect the wall mounted speakers directly to the musicBox power amplifier (which we decided to do for now, although we can easily change this at a later date).
Next, we had to decide how to wire the music in the Upstairs Office. This was relatively simple since we already had speakers wires in the Bonus Room, which is also upstairs, and were accessible via the attic. So we split these for use in the Bonus Room and Office. The musicBox power amplifier is capable of driving a 4-Ohm load, so you can use the same output from the power amplifier to power two rooms, as long as you use 8-Ohm speakers in each room (which most speakers are). We did the same for the Patio and Cabana in order to keep the installation down to a single musicBox 6 power amplifier. In both cases, we could have solved the wiring issue by using wireless AirPlay speakers instead.
The last piece of the puzzle, believe it or not, was the design of the custom entertainment center for the Living Room that would house all the electronics for the Living Room, Master Bedroom and the musicBox equipment. This piece was produced by a local custom furniture design studio called Qui Studios. Although we ended up with a beautiful piece of furniture, I would like to share some suggestions, if you decide to go this route, instead of the recommended approach of using a rack.
First, always budget enough room. You can never have enough room. The tighter the dimensions, the longer it will take to install and wire your components. Our dimensions for the unit were extremely tight, and it was painful getting everything to fit and wire it all.
Second, make sure you have sufficient venting. In our case, we installed an extremely quiet AV specific fan from AC Infinity. We mounted this fan, which is designed for racks, on the bottom of the unit. Ideally, it should be mounted on the top of the unit, but for aesthetics, this was not possible! They also offer many different fans specifically designed for cabinets and AV components. You set the target temperature and it will automatically adjust the fan speed based on the internal temperature and your target temperature. What is great about this fan is how quiet it is. We literally cannot hear it when it is running.
Finally, make the top of the unit retractable so you have access to the back of the components. This will save you a huge amount of time and allow for a clean install.
Obviously as a co-founder of the company, we are biased, but we love the musicBox system. At the company, we believe in using our own stuff, and encourage all our employees to install our music systems in their homes. We call this “eating your own dog food” because it is not always pretty!
We love waking up to music, getting ready to music in the morning, listening to music throughout the day while we work (we both work from home), relaxing to music, and entertaining friends while music plays in the background. The musicBox is simply part of our lives, it is always on, and like a great coffee machine, we just could not live without it!