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7K Sq Ft Home under construction; please help with Sonos design


Site:
3 level (basement, main floor, upstairs) home. 7k sq ft. Lot size about a half acre (want coverage for my lot/yard as well).

Requirement 1 - Great sound quality in major entertaining areas, all bedrooms, and the backyard grilling terrace, and dining courtyard.

Requirement 2 - so easy my kids can use it.

Requirement 3 - easy for guests to connect and stream their own music

My wifi will be robust inside and outside via a Ubiquiti Networks design being implemented. I can use that same WIFI network (separate VLAN?) for Sonos or can even do hardwired since the framing has just begun on the house.

There's a comms closet in the basement.

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Best answer by jec6613 19 August 2017, 22:44

[quote=langonej]Awesome will do. I spoke with one but they didn't exude confidence in designing a proper Sonos solution. Maybe I just need to look harder. That's because at 7k square feet, Sonos stops being the ideal solution - I can count more places on your floorplan that I'd want audio in than Sonos itself can support as devices, which maxes out at 32. Just think about it, a decent surround sound setup easily has four devices at a clip (bar, two surrounds, sub), and other rooms can end up with two. Even if you're just using Connect and Connect:Amp devices, you're pushing the limits. By my count, I see about 15 independent zones with upwards of 50 total loudspeakers (not counting subwoofers) if you do it right.

Most vendors doing this size of house are going to point you first to the Cadillac of solutions - Crestron or Elan, coupled with an Autonomic media server or similar, and there's a reason. Despite the sheer number of zones of audio, there's no need to have each zone independently playing its own audio stream. And then there may come into play issues of network contention (Sonos is hell on STP as it scales on a wired connection) that simply don't exist as you move into high-end home automation devices. Remember, despite Sonos being as awesome as it is, it's still on the upper edge of the low end as the absolute scale goes for whole house audio.

If you really like Sonos, and it sounds like you do, your easiest option is going to be to couple it with a Russound or Niles distribution amplifier (I'm partial to Niles, I find their sound less artificial and more enveloping). Yes, run Ethernet everywhere, but also run speaker wire down to your MDF and into in-ceiling/in-wall speakers throughout the home. You can then use Connect:Amp to power some zones, and for others where the zones are going to be dependent (e.g. a back yard zone with 4-8 speakers), run a Connect into a distribution amplifier. That will cut down significantly on the number of broadcast/STP network devices you need, and still get you sound everywhere. Speaking of Sonos on a hybrid network, do be sure that you're back-ended on a good switch, HPE or Cisco or Juniper, and are using OSPF instead of spanning tree. A stacked 2960X (one with PoE) is all you really need. This is a solid middle of the road solution.

If you really want to go whole hog and do it right, you should get Elan. It integrates with both Alexa and Sonos, as well as lighting control, climate control, surveillance, and major HT receivers from Onkyo, Denon, Marantz and Yamaha. You can give each resident a Sonos Connect that's their own, and pipe it anywhere in the house on demand, as well as pick up any of your controller devices (smartphone, touchpad, even wall keypads) and control the entire house from a single interface, right down to starting a movie playing on a Kaleidascape system as well as full Sonos control from your Elan system. Doorbells mute your music and pop up the camera on your devices as well as their own PoE powered touchscreens anywhere in the world. Be warned, it comes at a price tag and only through authorized vendors, and the equipment for a 7k square foot house is at least an entire 42U 2-post rack. But at the end of it all, all of your equipment is in a central location, you can change it out as times change and upgrade as needed, and is fully modular, while the wiring and loudspeakers remain unchanged (as they're tuned to each room individually).
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I'd also add ideally it integrates with Alexa at some point because the house will be as automated as possible through Alexa and homebrew scripts. CCTV will be integrated with Alexa, for example.
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I'd recommend you hire a company that specializes in home audio/video for this. I think it would well worth the extra effort. You really need to have an back and forth conversation with a specialist who take your ideas and come up with an actual design before proceeding.
I'd recommend you hire a company that specializes in home audio/video for this. I think it would well worth the extra effort. You really need to have an back and forth conversation with a specialist who take your ideas and come up with an actual design before proceeding.

Awesome will do. I spoke with one but they didn't exude confidence in designing a proper Sonos solution. Maybe I just need to look harder.
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Call Sonos and see if they know someone in your area that know the Sonos system
Userlevel 7
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If an installer tells you some specific things you are unsure about, you can also ask them here. I'm sure you'll get a confirmation or clarification.

BTW, I think it's a very smart choice to be thinking about Alexa integration, although it's not all there yet.
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Since you say you are building, and its a large house, make sure you put in lots of Ethernet drops BEFORE they close up all the walls. You will regret it if you try to go all wireless. Personally, I'd have a minimum of two runs to every room, and probably four for entertainment/home office/other-special-needs-rooms.
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[quote=langonej]Awesome will do. I spoke with one but they didn't exude confidence in designing a proper Sonos solution. Maybe I just need to look harder. That's because at 7k square feet, Sonos stops being the ideal solution - I can count more places on your floorplan that I'd want audio in than Sonos itself can support as devices, which maxes out at 32. Just think about it, a decent surround sound setup easily has four devices at a clip (bar, two surrounds, sub), and other rooms can end up with two. Even if you're just using Connect and Connect:Amp devices, you're pushing the limits. By my count, I see about 15 independent zones with upwards of 50 total loudspeakers (not counting subwoofers) if you do it right.

Most vendors doing this size of house are going to point you first to the Cadillac of solutions - Crestron or Elan, coupled with an Autonomic media server or similar, and there's a reason. Despite the sheer number of zones of audio, there's no need to have each zone independently playing its own audio stream. And then there may come into play issues of network contention (Sonos is hell on STP as it scales on a wired connection) that simply don't exist as you move into high-end home automation devices. Remember, despite Sonos being as awesome as it is, it's still on the upper edge of the low end as the absolute scale goes for whole house audio.

If you really like Sonos, and it sounds like you do, your easiest option is going to be to couple it with a Russound or Niles distribution amplifier (I'm partial to Niles, I find their sound less artificial and more enveloping). Yes, run Ethernet everywhere, but also run speaker wire down to your MDF and into in-ceiling/in-wall speakers throughout the home. You can then use Connect:Amp to power some zones, and for others where the zones are going to be dependent (e.g. a back yard zone with 4-8 speakers), run a Connect into a distribution amplifier. That will cut down significantly on the number of broadcast/STP network devices you need, and still get you sound everywhere. Speaking of Sonos on a hybrid network, do be sure that you're back-ended on a good switch, HPE or Cisco or Juniper, and are using OSPF instead of spanning tree. A stacked 2960X (one with PoE) is all you really need. This is a solid middle of the road solution.

If you really want to go whole hog and do it right, you should get Elan. It integrates with both Alexa and Sonos, as well as lighting control, climate control, surveillance, and major HT receivers from Onkyo, Denon, Marantz and Yamaha. You can give each resident a Sonos Connect that's their own, and pipe it anywhere in the house on demand, as well as pick up any of your controller devices (smartphone, touchpad, even wall keypads) and control the entire house from a single interface, right down to starting a movie playing on a Kaleidascape system as well as full Sonos control from your Elan system. Doorbells mute your music and pop up the camera on your devices as well as their own PoE powered touchscreens anywhere in the world. Be warned, it comes at a price tag and only through authorized vendors, and the equipment for a 7k square foot house is at least an entire 42U 2-post rack. But at the end of it all, all of your equipment is in a central location, you can change it out as times change and upgrade as needed, and is fully modular, while the wiring and loudspeakers remain unchanged (as they're tuned to each room individually).
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If your focus is on music (vs video or home automation) you should look at Roon for audio library and multi room. It is mainly software but becoming an ecosystem (Roon compliant). It is high end. If I was starting over I might look at Roon controlling Bluenote gear. Bluenote is similar to Sonos. Sonos cannot stream Hi Res music formats like MQA.
[quote=jec6613]Awesome will do. I spoke with one but they didn't exude confidence in designing a proper Sonos solution. Maybe I just need to look harder. That's because at 7k square feet, Sonos stops being the ideal solution - I can count more places on your floorplan that I'd want audio in than Sonos itself can support as devices, which maxes out at 32. Just think about it, a decent sur...).

Thank you so much for this reply. There's not a lot of info on Elan other than marketing stuff. I'll try and locate a local dealer and get some help, but it looks like it's the route for me to go, especially if Elan has an API I can tap into (eg use geofencing to trigger API calls to Elan to do certain things in the house, or require 2-factor authentication for opening the front door).
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Something to think about...several of your rooms don't really need to be part of multiroom audio. Take the bedrooms (excluding owner's) for example. Do you really need for each room to be tied into a larger multiroom audio system? I would consider setting them up with their own isolated system. You could tie them into a sonos, or other, network, but 99% of the time, whoever's in the room is going to be selecting music to play in that room alone. Perhaps a stand alone echo, or an echo tied to a separate amp with in-ceiling speakers is the way to go.

It's a much different size house, but I opted not to have my kids rooms as sonos zones, and went with echo's instead. It fit what they needed/wanted much better then sonos does (or did at the time). After the alexa/sonos integration, that could change

Then there is other rooms like the media room. I would assume that again, 99% of the time, that's going to be an isolated zone, used for watching tv/movies/etc. I'd probably focus on getting the best system for that room without worrying about tying it to everything else. The same may apply to the exercise room, is there really much use in tying it to the rest of the house as far as sound system goes? That's debatable perhaps.

You'll definitely want rooms like the rec room & wet bar, outdoors, all the rooms on the mid floor, and your owner's retreat to be part of the overall system, but the others...think about them and see what makes the most sense for each room.
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Not really relevant to the OP, but background info in general about these types of things. When you get to this sort of scale, there are professionals for this...

Something to think about...several of your rooms don't really need to be part of multiroom audio. Take the bedrooms (excluding owner's) for example. Do you really need for each room to be tied into a larger multiroom audio system?
If you're using Sonos, maybe not, but if you're using something like Elan, definitely yes you do want everything integrated.

Then there is other rooms like the media room. I would assume that again, 99% of the time, that's going to be an isolated zone, used for watching tv/movies/etc. I'd probably focus on getting the best system for that room without worrying about tying it to everything else. The same may apply to the exercise room, is there really much use in tying it to the rest of the house as far as sound system goes? That's debatable perhaps.

These are two cases where you'd definitely want them to be integrated. For the media room, cutting off integration means that you lose your whole house music sources, including radio tuners and the like, as well as any whole house distributed video (yes, Elan can send HDMI throughout your home). So you'll need to duplicate whatever you want there. Ditto with an exercise room - it's another stack of equipment when all you really need is just an amplifier connected to your matrix switcher. And let's not even get into cable/sat box expenses, where Elan can share 1-3 boxes with your whole home, vs paying the cable company for each TV.

You'll definitely want rooms like the rec room & wet bar, outdoors, all the rooms on the mid floor, and your owner's retreat to be part of the overall system, but the others...think about them and see what makes the most sense for each room.

Now this part is always true, but the question really is do you want it to be an independent zone. For instance, do speakers in your WIC need to be independent from those in the bathroom? Probably not, and you could just use a simple in-wall volume control for those. One can make give a room an on/off and volume control, without making the zone able to play something on its own. A perfect example would be the wet bar and great room - you'll want to be able to individually toggle off and on each area and control volume independently, but there's likely no case where each would be playing something different, because of the overlapping sounds. So it becomes a single zone with two volume controls.
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I don't know too much about Elan, but see that it's more of a home automation system than just audio system. In that regard, I would agree that lights and whatever other controls you have should all be on the same system. And I agree that you don't really want to maintain all these difference music sources. However, you can put an echo in a room, and it gives the user easy control over the audio, with all the sources you setup with Alexa, and control over lighting and such (I would guess with Elan). If the echo isn't enough quality sound you can pair it with sonos or a simple stereo amp and speakers.

I would think you don't want to get into a situation where the guest in bedroom 1 can't play music because he can't figure out the controller, or because there are other 3 different music sources going (if there is a limit, I don't know)

And I agree regarding the connected rooms as one zone. You can a volume switch for the wet bar on the wall, or back in the control room if you don't want to see it.

Regardless, although you can pay some body to just take care of this, ask a ton of questions and consider as many options as possible. I wouldn't assume that your installer is thinking the same way you are on the design and how it should work.
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First and most importantly, a good installer doesn't need to think the same as you - they know how to ask the right questions, and each install is custom. Every installer I've ever worked with has this ethos. Also, Elan starts as a whole home audio system, but ends as an automation system - it just depends on how much you want to spend and how much you want to automate. At the low end, there's the Niles MRC-6430 (Niles and Elan are owned by the same company and share much of their hardware), which runs 7 zones (6 onboard + 1 receiver) and can be gotten on Amazon for $1500 or so, and it climbs to systems costing hundreds of thousands of dollars with whole home AV distribution. The home automation part came much later on, in the early 2000's, after they'd been handling the AV part for years.

Alexa is honestly much more difficult to use, and Sonos is more expensive, than adding zones to an Elan, Crestron, or similar system, once you've made the initial investment. First, I need to know how to use them, what sources are available, and so on, and I have to trust everybody who is a guest not to try and order two ton of creamed corn from Amazon. Adding a zone on a centralized whole home system is simply another amp channel pair, speakers and a keypad (keypad optional), and while a house is being built is the perfect time. Lights work like ordinary household lights, curtains like curtains, and the list goes on. True whole home systems are designed for people who aren't geeky, who don't enjoy throwing together a bunch of bits and constantly dealing with the problems that crop up (which, as the system gets more complex, more problems come up!), and are designed to just work while providing the latest in high tech everything - the price is, you need a professional dealer to configure it and get it to that point. If you've never been in a house and used on of these systems, they're fantastic, with everything from facial recognition door locks with voice greetings, speakers which are concealed completely inside of walls (not just in-wall speakers, I mean speakers installed behind acoustically transparent wallboard).

And, when you boil it down to it, what does Sonos really bring to the table, anyway? Other companies make speakers, even wirelessly linked ones. Other companies have app integration, too - no, their uniqueness comes down to the breadth of what they can handle in terms of streaming services, and that they're being constantly updated, so that even the original ZP owners can come today and use the latest music services - that's what makes them unique.
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You obviously know much more about Elan than I do, so I shouldn't comment on that. However, your comment regarding ordering items through the Echo is false. It can be setup this way, but you can also turn off voice purchases or require that the user speak an authorization code before a purchase is accepted.

Regarding what a good installer does. I don't have too much experience with A/V installers, however, I have dealt with installers/contractors in other areas. Yes, they want you to be happy with the product, but they will naturally steer you towards the products that they like to work with and bring in the most profits. Not a knock on them, just human nature. They will also assume certain details about the plan when 99% of consumers go with that assumption, and they don't want to bother the customer with this stuff. That's not necessarily a bad thing either as they have a better idea of what the finished product will be then you do, and want to keep you from making a bad decision.

Which I suppose, doesn't really say much at all...other then keep communication through the process.
I have a home in the 6.5k range and did the Elan which works great and does supply a lot of Sonos flexibility. If you can find room, as an elevator-big plus in my home. IMHO. good luck,