Sound system for the whole house

italjohnJune 12, 2008

Help! I am astounded by the cost of a fully integrated sound system for the house. Does anyone know of a cost effective and good system or solution for a sound system that is good thoughout the house

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I know what you mean about the crazy prices on dedicated sound distribution equipment. I send music/video around my house with my WIFI. You can buy basic laptops for the places you want sound and add an upgraded external speaker set for about the same price as most good sound systems. You free yourself from the wiring this way plus get the advantage of internet radio and the ability to move the computers around easily.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 1:30AM
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yes - in fact I installed a lower cost system that can be upgraded later once the prices start coming down. It's quite simple, here is what I did:

1. Installed moderately priced speakers inside sound enclosures that I built using MDF plywood and 1 inch insulation. This step is not necessary (you can just bury speaker wire if you want) but I didn't want the mess later cuttting out drywall. See for the selection of speakers - I think I paid $60 per pair for 6 inch speakers that i used in most most rooms, but the family room got 8" Kevlar speakers which were a bit more. Total cost of around $600 for all the speakers, and around 100 dollars for the materials to make the boxes. The speakers are decent and can be upgraded over time - if needed.

2. Run high quality speaker wire from volume control boxes to the speakers. This is one area you don't want to skimp on - once drywall is up it would be hard to change. I used 16 guage wire rated for inwall use - it was 4 conductor 64 strand wire I purhased on-line at Midsouth Cable.

3. Install volume control boxes in the rooms that have speakers. IMPORTANT - run 1 inch conduit from these boxes down to the basement so that when it is time to upgrade - you can change out the wiring. Use an analog volume control - see They run about $30 each.

4. Run 16 guage, 4 conductor insulated wire from a central location to each of the volume control boxes. I chose the family room TV area so that I can tap into the Satellite TV music broadcasts. I installed 3 double gang boxes where I ran all of the wires (4 conductors x 8 pairs of speakers = 32 jacks. 12 jacks per 2 gang box. ). I used the Lutron quick connectors and wall plates to attch the wires and used the banana jack inserts. IMPORTANT - run conduit from these boxes to the basement so that you can change out the wiring later.

5. Now take the output of your sound system amp and run an audio pair into a separate 200 amp amplifier (you can use a lower rated amp if you want - but 200 amps, 100 watts per channel, is a good match for 8 pairs of speakers.) Make sure that the amp is rated to drive 4 ohms (not all amps will do this) since placing multiple pairs of 8 ohm speakers in parallel will drop the impedance below 8 ohms. You can find these for about $400 on Note: it is best if you sound system amplifer provides a dual audio output. The one I have is old and I have to manually select the output to drive the whole house system.

6. Take the output of the amplifer and run it into an 8 position impedance balancing speaker selector. You can find these with and without individual volume contols. Since you will already have volume control at the wall - no need for the individual VOL control, but a nice to have. These run about $200. Make sure that the impedance rating of the selector is matched to the output spec of the amplifier.

7. Now take the output of the speaker selector and connect to the wall jacks - 32 connections for 8 pairs of speakers.

I arrived at this solution for several reasons. First, the lower cost digital systems did not have the power I felt necessary to drive the speakers. The ABUS stuff is rated for about 4 watts per channel which will provide a low level of background music - not good enough for my home. Second, the higher end digital systems were very high priced - well beyond my budget.

The analog system I came up with will work fine for now and can be upgraded to a digital system later if I choose to do that. I think the total cost for everything was around $2000. The ABUS stuff would have run about $1000 for the same number of rooms. The high end systems were in the 4 to 5 grand range and higher.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 7:21AM
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sniffdog and Garymunson thank you for your help

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 7:56PM
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I'll strongly disagree with what's been suggested in this thread..

Although the Abus product is rated at a mere 4 watts per channel, it will OUTPERFORM the system that sniffdog has installed for a couple of reasons.

Sniffdog isn't taking into account the loses of the volume controls and the speaker selector, which can be upwards of 70%, or the basic math of dividing the 100 watts by the amount of speakers (100/8=12.50). Bring those factors into play and you have LESS wattage going to the speakers.

Not only that, but you now have NO control over the sources (Tuner,CD,Etc) from the individual rooms/speaker locations.

Sorry, but I'll call this one as I see it. A poor system design.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 9:45AM
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The ABUS system is not scalable - you are stuck with 4 watts and that is limited (AND ALWAYS WILL BE) by the amount of current you can transmit safely over cat5 wire - which isn't much.

My system scales - if I need more power I can simply use a bigger amp. And I can because i am using shielded 16 gauge wire that can handle a much larger current load than cat5. But I don't need that much power - the losses in the volume controller are not 70%.

I certainly didn't loose control either. The volume contollers have an IR input and I can send signls from any room to control the audio equipment. Check out Xantech - they make a complete line of volume contolr devices that have integrated IR for remote contols.

I do intend on installing a digitial system down the road but it won't be ABUS which is a cheapo low end system. When the time is right and the prices drop I will install a real digital system, which I can do because I installed the conduit which is the key feature of the system I installed.

Just calling it they way i see it.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 5:13PM
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"The ABUS system is not scalable - you are stuck with 4 watts and that is limited (AND ALWAYS WILL BE) by the amount of current you can transmit safely over cat5 wire - which isn't much."

You need to do some reading up on the system....

You're wrong....

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 10:02AM
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The maximum current supported by 24 gauge wire for power transmission is .577 amps. At 24 volts - the maximum power is 13.8 watts total or 7 watts per channel. The actual power delivered to ABUS speakers will be less than that. 7 watts per channel won't sound good in large rooms or outdoors - it's just not enough power.

16 gauage wire can carry a maximum 3.7 amps. For my analog system, the output voltage of the amp is 12 volts so I can push a maximum of 44 watts to each speaker.

The only way around the ABUS limit is to run seperate power to high performance in wall amplifiers. On-Q makes such a system - and you can get up to 20 watts per channel out of those in-wall amps BUT you aren't running power over Cat5e anymore. You run Cate5e for line level audio and seperate conductors (16 guage wire min) for power. Of course these high performance units costs about $170 each and you need the On-Q power amplifers to drive them. For an 8 zone system it will cost around $1400 - and that is just for distibuting power. Then add on all the other components needed.

My system was cheaper and I get more power out to each speaker. It's analog but that's good enough for a low cost whole house audio system.

I am correct on the statements previously made on ABUS power limitations over Cat5e. There are ways around them, but they wind up costing more. The OP asked for a low cost solution, and the one I provided works and meets the need.

Kt says I am wrong but provides no data to support his claim.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 10:04AM
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Anything wired is sooo 20th century....

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 4:31AM
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Have you looked at HTD direct? Don't know much about them but they seem to be low cost??

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 11:33PM
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