How do you upgrade your normal speakers?

Retrofitting multiroom without Sonos: This is how it works for little money

Multiroom systems are a great thing. You can fill the kitchen, living room and study with sound from your smartphone or laptop and create a party atmosphere. The disadvantage: Corresponding systems from Sonos, Loewe and others can cost several hundred euros. If you still have some old speakers lying around, you can retrofit Multiroom for little money. We tell you how.

Step 1: Analyze what you already have

We are simply assuming that you still have some older speakers that you want to network now. First you should take a look at what kind of loudspeakers these are and whether they are already multi-room capable. Take a look at the product number and the technical data of the devices online. Can the loudspeaker dominate ...

  • DLNA and UPnP
  • Miracast
  • Apple AirPlay
  • Bluetooth
  • Or any other network capability such as Ethernet or WLAN?

If so, you “only” need the right adapter, for example an Apple TV for Apple AirPlay. We will come to the individual access routes in a moment.

Step 2: make the loudspeakers network-compatible

Your speaker is a speaker and nothing else? Maybe it should even be an old stereo system that you now want to retrofit with multiroom?

Then again: Take a close look at your loudspeaker or system. Which connections are available? Are there any audio inputs? Somehow the music must have gotten into the loudspeaker up to now. Maybe via jack, cinch, loose cable ends that you can put in a bracket? True to the do-it-yourselfer motto "It can't be done", there is almost always a way to go. For example, my colleague Sven Wernicke recently equipped his old GDR radio with voice control. And it was anything but witchcraft.

So all you have to do is identify the interface and get the right cable to the network adapter. Of course, you also need the latter ... And we come to that now.

Step 3: Which network technology do you need for multiroom?

If your old loudspeakers do not yet have one of the networking technologies mentioned above, you will have to upgrade. All reception technologies have their advantages and disadvantages, but we recommend an adapter with WLAN or Ethernet. Because the network technology offers a greater range than Bluetooth and DLNA / UPnP. In addition, more end devices are supported than with Miracast.

Step 4: With which adapter can you retrofit Multiroom?

There are numerous ways in which you can equip your speakers with WiFi or Ethernet. Technology-independent adapters are ideal, but unfortunately sometimes also expensive. So you would not have to rely on Spotify or iTunes, but can stream any music flat rate and also MP3s or radio and podcasts. Such WLAN audio adapters are available from Terratec for around 50 euros. The versatile LinTech AirLino, which supports numerous protocols, but also costs around 90 euros, is also popular.

There are also numerous proprietary applications. Here is just a selection that does not claim to be complete:

  • mydlink Home Music Everywhere: In addition to its function as a WLAN extender, the plug can also be used to transmit music and is simply plugged into a socket. Cost: around 50 euros.
  • Google Chromecast Audio: This WLAN adapter is connected to a loudspeaker via a simple jack plug and can then stream music via Google Cast. Simple principle, with the disadvantage that Google logs your data. It only costs 40 euros.
  • Apple AirPort Express: WLAN repeater with extra features. One of them is the ability to connect a speaker to it and then stream multiroom music to it via AirPlay. That's why it's a bit more expensive at around 100 euros.
  • Amazon Echo Dot: Yes, the handy, smart speaker Echo Dot with Alexa can also serve as a WLAN adapter for old speakers with a jack plug. Using Spotify Connect, for example, several echoes (and their connected loudspeakers) can be exposed to sound. However, Amazon always listens in here as well. Costs 60 euros.

The list of possibilities could be extended indefinitely. Audio fan Michael Sonntag, for example, has retrofitted Multiroom with Raspberry Pi mini computers. Of course, this requires a bit of tinkering - and with at least 50 euros per adapter solution, it's not that cheap at all.

Step 5: Server and router for multiroom

Many multiroom concepts rely on a server that is usually installed next to the wireless router and then functions as an audio router. He controls the loudspeakers while himself receiving commands from an app on a wirelessly connected device (smartphone, tablet, laptop). This has the advantage that the control unit does not have to fill the loudspeakers with sound itself, which would result in performance losses and rapid battery consumption.

Network storage (NAS) can serve as such a media server. Apple solves the problem with the HomeKit-enabled 4th generation Apple TV. A separate server can (but does not have to) serve for this purpose with Sonos and other multiroom systems. Modern routers from the manufacturer AVM ("Fritzbox") can also use these for this. You control the music using the appropriate software, for example the Fritz! App Media.

And of course there are also cheaper Sonos alternatives, for example from no-name manufacturers in China. Examples include Müzo Cobblestone, Auvisio Airplay and Docooler M5 Audiocast. Google redirects music and videos via Chromecast via your WiFi router so that the battery of the control device does not suffer. An Amazon Echo itself has an integrated processing unit.

Step 6: choose the right software

If you want to redirect your music, regardless of the source, to your multiroom system, this is best done with a Chromecast or suitable software. The Fritz App Media mentioned above lets you set up the audio source and destination as you wish. Another universal app for Mac and Windows is AirFoil. A multiroom system can be set up and sounded here with just a few clicks.

Retrofit Multiroom with DLNA / UPnP

Sony, JVC, Onkyo and Yamaha in particular use the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliacne) network technology for many speakers. This often comes in combination with the UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) protocol. If you have speakers that use this technology, it can be worthwhile to retrofit your multiroom with a DLNA-capable media server.

Unfortunately, DLNA has not caught on to such an extent that each Playback device (laptop, tablet or smartphone) or receiving device would be equipped with DLNA. The technology is only advisable if most of the existing end devices already support DLNA / UPnP.

Retrofit Multiroom with Miracast

Miracast is even less widespread than DLNA. The technology was once inserted, mainly to transmit video or screen content. In principle, it is also suitable for audio. Because the range is small and, above all, compatible end devices are rare, the technology for multiroom is actually not recommended. Only if existing loudspeakers and playback devices happen to be already equipped with the technology.

Multiroom and Bluetooth?

A widespread technology has not yet been mentioned at all: Bluetooth. Many modern loudspeakers are equipped with the wireless radio standard, as are smartphones and tablets anyway. And the latest version, Bluetooth 5.0, supports the ability to distribute a signal to multiple Bluetooth receivers. In other words: multiroom directly from your smartphone. Or?

The problem with Bluetooth is the short range, which unfortunately doesn't make a leap forward with Bluetooth 5 either. Bluetooth only reaches about 10 meters, is difficult to circumnavigate objects and does not go through walls at all. That means: multi-speakers are possible with Bluetooth, Multiroom but is not recommended.

In a test with the Motorola Moto X4, I also tried the multiroom component. The smartphone can play the same music on several Bluetooth receivers at the same time. But there were problems when I wanted to sound a speaker in the living room and the smartphone was in the kitchen. The whole thing only worked so well if the Moto was in the middle of the apartment.

Conclusion: retrofitting multiroom is possible, but ...

Yes it works. You can retrofit old speakers into a multiroom system with a few tricks. Sometimes the solution can even work elegantly and a dusty, old loudspeaker is suddenly brought back to life.

Apple HomePod: More Alexa or more Sonos?

However, the manufacturers are paying for the opportunity well. If you first have to spend 100 euros or more on a suitable adapter, the bill hardly pays off. Comparatively inexpensive WiFi adapters such as a Google Chromecast Audio or an Amazon Echo Dot have the price to research your data according to your mood. Not everyone likes it either.

And so long-established multiroom systems like Sonos Play: 1 no longer seem so terribly expensive. If you want a fast, elegant solution that simply works, you can go for it without hesitation.

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