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We wanted to have audio available around the house and in the back yard primarily for background listening. Our first choice was about the appearance of the speakers. We decided that we wanted them to be as unobtrusive as possible, so we opted for inwall units rather than bookshelf or sat/sub speakers. You can see where we installed the speakers on this floor plan. The blue S's denote the location of the speakers. The kitchen speakers are mounted in the ceiling. The outdoor speakers are mounted under the eaves. The living room and guest room speakers are in the walls about 6 or 7 feet up. All of the interior speakers are painted the same color as the walls. They blend in pretty well and don't attract much attention to themselves.

We really just use this system to listen to CD's and occasionally to radio. Though there is already a receiver in the media room for the home theater, we have a separate receiver and CD player for home audio. The receivers aren't connected together in any way at the moment. The key to the system is the Niles RVL-6 Modular Multi-Room Controller. This slim box can accept up to 6 modules that provide either on/off or on/off and volume control. The output of the amp/receiver feeds into the RVL-6. You can run up to 6 sets of speakers from there. It does the impedance matching and volume control. There are two main ways to control the volume in a given zone - infrared and X10. We chose X10. The RVL-6 connects to a TW-523 X10 module. We have X10 wireless remotes spread around that can send on/off and volume up/down. This works pretty well, but X10 commands have a noticeable lag that makes adjusting the volume a bit clunky.

I did find a cool remote control device at SmartHome. It's basically a keychain sized remote that can learn X10 RF commands. It has four buttons which I programmed to be on, off, volume up, and volume down. It's a great size to have laying around. The full size X10 remotes can be used to adjust the volume in all the zones, but these are great for single room control. We opted for this rather than in-wall volume controls or IR sensors simply for appearance sakes. We probably could have hidden the IR sensors reasonably well, but this seemed like an adequate solution.

Component List

My system consists of the following:

Manufacturer Component Description Relevant Discussion
Harmon Kardon HK3270 Receiver Basic stereo receiver Suggestion?
Niles RVL-6 Modular Multi-Room Controller Audio distribution and volume control Suggestion?
Sony CDP325 5 Disc CD Player (pic is of 345 model) Original ReplayTV model Suggestion?
Niles HD650 In-wall speaker In-wall speakers for the living room Suggestion?
Sonance T1000 In-wall speaker (pic is of similar model) In-wall speakers for Mary's office Suggestion?
SpeakerCraft 6.1 CRS In-ceiling speaker In-ceiling speakers for the kitchen Suggestion?
Niles OS-1 Indoor/Outdoor speaker (pic is of OS5 model) Exterior speakers for the back yard Suggestion?
AudioRequest ARQ1 This jukebox stores music as MP3's on a hardrive and displays a UI on a TV. AudioRequest Message Board

If you have suggestion for other relevant discussion forums, let me know.

System Evolution

September 2000

Learned the hard way...