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Question: use iTunes as wireless remote for 6 zones

I want to use iTunes as a wireless remote control for 6 zones in my house.


Network Functions I’d Like to Have

  1. 1) 6 zones, one zone for each room area. Bedroom, Family, Living Room, Porch, Pool, Studio
  2. 2) Be able to combine zones into Groups that play the same song in sync. For example, the Pool Group would really be the pool deck and porch combined.
  3. 3) I think I’d really probably have 4 Groups and would like each to play a different song. Example: Pool & porch zones grouped “Pool” playing one song, while the living room & family zones grouped as the “Family Room Group” zone are playing a different song.
  4. 4) Would like to be able to control volume of a song independently for each zone.


The hardware and network (speakers already wired back to a closet):

  1. Network Music Server: Apple mini with attached 4 TB RAID external hard drive and Apple Airport Extreme Router
  2. Each zone (room) will have wired speakers, Apple Airport Express Router and a small dedicated amplifier. The Express Router headphone output will be plugged into the dedicated amp for that zone.
  3. Control will be from Iphones, Laptops or Ipads.


Advice Needed:

  • How do I configure ITunes?
  • What app(s) would you recommend?
  • Would the only ITunes library exist on the Mini’s RAID? Can we keep some on laptops for using remote?
  • How does the ITunes library work in this type of network?
  • How would I incorporate Streaming services?
  • It would be great to retain ITunes preferences, rate songs, count number of plays, etc. across the network.
  • Could the Mini/Extreme/RAID also give us remote access to files/music outside of our home?
  • SPECIAL NOTE: After seeing what Onkyo and Yamaha want for wifi controlled amplifiers, I’ve decided to buy Audiosource 100 watt amps that turn on and off once they see a signal at their input (I hope). At $100 per amplifier I’m just planning to dedicate one amp to each set of speakers (one amp per zone)
  • We have a cable modem connected to a LINKSYS Fifi Router, that currently serves internet to devices in our home and controls our network printer. Do we still need the LYNKSYS router?

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Nov 16, 2017 11:23 AM in response to jumpstart1 In response to jumpstart1

FWIW. I had a somewhat similar setup as you are proposing. In my case, all speaker zones were wired back to a Denon amplifier. In turn, a Denon whole-home AVR connected to the amp. Finally, I had a single AirPort Express base station connected to the AVR by an digital-optical cable. The Denon I had back then did not support AirPlay streaming directly.


I could then stream to the Express from any of my devices, but was always limited to streaming a single song at-a-time to the Express. That was the limitation of AirPlay. It does not support streaming more than one source simultaneously to different AirPlay-ready devices.


It looks like you have basically the same goals only your approach is different by using multiple base stations/amps. These amps would require the ability to receive an analog/digital-optical line input from the base station(s). iTunes gives you the ability to stream to one or more AirPlay-ready devices ... but again, only a single source. AirPlay 2 is changing this, but the current AirPort Express base stations do NOT support this new protocol. Apple has not released any information that would indicate that it would by either providing a firmware update or a new product.


Ok, with that said, let me see if I can address some of your questions:

How do I configure ITunes?

iTunes is basically comprised of two major components:

  1. iTunes Library
  2. iTunes Media Folder

The former is a type of database. By default, both of these components are located in the Music folder on your startup drive; however, you can relocate either or both to another drive. I would assume you will want to use the 4 TB drive for this. If so, I would recommend that you move both components to that drive. You would then just need to "point" to them from within iTunes.

Would the only ITunes library exist on the Mini’s RAID? Can we keep some on laptops for using remote?

You can have multiple iTunes Library(s) and/or iTunes Media folders ... but this can get messy. I use and recommend an app, called: PowerTunes, for this purpose.

How does the ITunes library work in this type of network?

Not very well. If you only use one instance of iTunes, streaming shouldn't be an issue. Where you may have issues is with using a different instance of iTunes running on a second, third, etc. device, and that user for example, creates a playlist. iTunes was not designed to be a network multi-user application.

How would I incorporate Streaming services?

Are you referring to Internet-sourced streaming services, like Spotify? If so, any source that iTunes can control, can be streamed from iTunes. Otherwise, if that streaming service provides an app, AND that app is AirPlay-capable, you may be able to stream to your home system that way.

It would be great to retain ITunes preferences, rate songs, count number of plays, etc. across the network.

Again, this would be difficult with multiple instances of iTunes on different devices all accessing the same iTunes Library.

Could the Mini/Extreme/RAID also give us remote access to files/music outside of our home?

Potentially, if your network router is configured properly, then yes. One thing to consider is your ISP-provided Internet service speeds. If you want access audio remotely from your home's system, then upload speed will be critical.

We have a cable modem connected to a LINKSYS Fifi Router, that currently serves internet to devices in our home and controls our network printer. Do we still need the LYNKSYS router?

If you are saying that this "cable modem" is actually a combination modem & router, also known as a gateway device, then you may not need to use a second router. It will really depend on your networking goals and performance requirements. You may want to hire an audio/networking specialist to review your goals and provide you with a bid to get it implemented.

Nov 16, 2017 11:23 AM

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Question: use iTunes as wireless remote for 6 zones