IP Making Home Music Distribution Easier
The complex job of bringing music and control to every room of your house is now being made much simpler, thanks to IP-based distribution systems.
This relatively recent method is revolutionizing home entertainment systems, and can send audio and even video throughout your house with a minimum of fuss, wiring and labor. If you’re considering a distributed audio system for your home, you’ll want to check into this exciting new technology.
IP stands for Internet Protocols, but that doesn’t mean your home music system is now on the Internet (though it can communicate with it easily). Simply put, Internet Protocols are a way of looking at data and the devices that send and receive it. A specific identifying number — called an address — is assigned to each device on the network, which in this case the same home network that carries your broadband, Wi-Fi and other common computing technologies. When data — digital or analog audio — is sent through the network to these devices, it’s broken down into byte-sized (ouch) “packets” of digital information, which are lighter, more manageable and more versatile than full analog audio or video signals.
Why Go For An IP-Based System?
There are numerous advantages to IP-based entertainment distribution systems. For one thing, the wiring in your home gets a lot simpler. A single conventional Ethernet cable can carry stereo or multichannel audio all throughout the house, without the need to run separate speaker and amplification wiring to and from each room where you want music. Conventional distributed audio systems use separate dedicated wires (often more than one) for each device in the system. When you start adding up components and speakers throughout a typical whole-house, you’re talking about an awful lot of wiring and drilling through walls and floors. More wires means more things to go wrong.
The fewer-wires approach of IP-based audio systems aren’t just about removing installation hassles, they’re about getting better, more reliable sound too. Old-school analog audio signals are inherently fragile, and as they travel throughout distances in your home, they lose integrity and attract interference, both of which affect the sound quality, sometimes severely. In conventional (analog) distributed audio installations, specialized components like buffer amplifiers and heavily shielded cables are needed to keep these signals intact as they get moved from room to room. With IP-based systems, the audio is broken down into digital data before being distributed, and arrives at the playback components in the exact same shape as they were when they were sent.
Another great advantage to an IP-based system is the possibility of remote access to the system. If something goes wrong on a conventional distributed audio system, a repairman needs to come to your home to diagnose and solve the problem. Since an IP-based system is addressable via anywhere the Internet (with security passwords, of course), this opens up the possibility of remote diagnostics and troubleshooting from your installer.
So what are the downsides to IP-based audio? From a technological standpoint there aren’t many, and IP is seen as the logical direction that all in-home distributed entertainment will eventually take. For now though, the major downside is choice. There aren’t nearly as many IP-based distributed audio manufacturers as there are making conventional distributed audio systems. Yet.
In the coming months and years there will be many more players in the IP-based distributed audio arena, because the technology makes so much sense. Given that your entire home network — computers, routers, tablets, DVRs and the like — already run off Internet Protocols, there are good reasons why audio and video components can be treated the same way, with the same flexibility. If you’re looking into a whole-home entertainment system, IP is a new option worth considering.
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