Multi-zone audio: a discussion of the options


Multi-zone Audio: the last 15 years

Multi-zone audio has been possible in the home for decades now, but until recently has only been an option for the super-house; the high price of systems and installation meant it was out of reach for the average home.

The first cheap device I know of that opened-up multi-zone audio to the consumer market was the SliMP3 (2001), which quickly matured into the Logitech Squeezebox ecosystem of devices and apps. Unlike the old paradigm, where a multi-zone amplifier had to be connected to a central source which was then controlled from each room – thus requiring direct connection from each room to the central unit (i.e. in-wall wiring) plus speaker cable running from a central location back out to the rooms (i.e. in-ceiling wiring) – the Squeezebox was situated in your living room and bedroom and connected to your speakers directly. It used a wireless connection to talk to the central controller, providing access to a central store of music, sync’d or independent control of audio for each zone, internet music, and other bells and whistles.

Sadly Logitech abandoned the product in 2013, but as of 2015 the ecosystem lives on thanks to software players and a surplus of cheap, high quality second-hand audio players which are still traded online.

Sonos filled the vacuum. Their units are more expensive than Squeezebox devices and many have built-in amplification. They are frankly sexier and more user-friendly, but for the audiophile, advanced music cataloger, classical music listener, DIYer, or home automation expert, Squeezebox still has huge advantages over Sonos.

The Problem / The Dream

The problem with the Squeezebox/Sonos paradigm of multi-zone audio is this: although you can play different music or listen to different radio stations in each room, you are limited by what the system itself can do. For example, Squeezebox and Sonos are internet-enabled music players. They don’t play Bluetooth audio or music playing on your Apple TV, they don’t play CDs, and they can’t pump the music from a YouTube video projected onto your wall around the home. Surely this is “The Dream”?

You still need a multi-zone audio amplifier for this. And they cost bucks. Big bucks.

You want

  • expensive hi-fi quality audio in your living room, and some cheap amplifier to power the speakers in your bathroom and hallways?
  • 12 zones of control instead of 4 because your hallway speakers are next to the kids room and you would rather have them off and night?

Forget it. Not without quadrupling your budget from £1500 to £6000.

The likes of Niles Audio who produce a network-controlled amplifier, and Russound who make interesting looking wireless-powered receiver amplifiers amongst other things seem like good options. Again these options do appear to total the thousands, not the (very) low hundreds which I’m aiming for.

And sadly even if you spend £6k+ do you think you can have the bells and whistles? What about

  • controlling audio volumes in each room from your central automation system (e.g. OpenHAB) as well as some proprietary wall panel?
  • fading the music across the whole house when someone calls you on the ‘phone?
  • fading the music down when the doorbell goes?
  • having your house speak to you?
  • speaking to the burglar when he enters to freak him out?
  • [insert your own #homeautomation fantasies!]

Possible Solutions

I looked at multiple source, multiple zone systems for a long time before deciding that I needed to home-brew my own. Here was my thought process:

  • I have some nice Class A amps sitting around. They cost me hundreds in total, not thousands. Why can’t I use them?
  • I can pick up a Class D amp with power supply for £20, for kitchen and non-audiophile zones
  • I just need to find a way to do the switching and mixing of multiple audio sources

Reed relay switches. With a view to making my own Arduino-controlled source switcher I looked at using transistors, relays, or dedicated audio ICs. I gravitated towards the idea of a series of reed relays to switch multiple audio sources. A relay is a cheap and very high quality way to switch an audio signal because it introduces no distortion or load to a circuit. Reed relays are great because they would minimise the audio click you’d otherwise get when using a metal relay to switch from one source to another. Reed relays unfortunately don’t come in complex arrangements such as 2P6T which would be nice, as this would allow you to switch the positive signal path for L and R between 6 sources – but this is not a huge problem as they are only a couple of quid each and so you can buy multiple reed relays.

After thinking about this a little more, it becomes apparent that you can’t just connect up a load of relays and hope for the best: your board design must account for minimising cross-talk. Whatsmore, using relays only solves 1/3rd of the problem: the input stage. You still have to route signals to multiple rooms and if you are aiming for the dream option of fading something down when something else happens, you have to design gating and signal detection. Routing audio to multiple rooms isn’t simply a case of connecting one signal path up to multiple rooms’ amplifiers. Adding more than one load will introduce distortion. And although gating and signal detection is possible with cheap ICs, this is starting to grow into a big project!

Wow… this idea got out of hand quickly.

Using dedicated audio ICs. Whilst it’s possible to find audio switching and mixing ICs, it becomes apparent after a little research that such ICs have rather specific applications, furthermore then aren’t very “black box”; a significant investment of understanding about their inner workings is required to design them into an application. When an ICs application notes is a document 45 pages long, this particular home automation DIYer knows it’s time to consider alternative options!

Making the Dream Happen!

Sorry, dear reader, to drag you through this rather pointless process. I’ve banged-on about my take on the development of multi-zone audio over the years, and let you into my raw thoughts about designing my own system, which amounted to nothing.

If you’ve got this far, however, I do have a great solution for the Audio / Home Automation enthusiast looking for the same things as me.

The ClearOne XAP 800

  • It’s a 12×12 audio switch / mixer
  • No it’s not an amplifier, but it will be the core of your multi-zone automation system
  • It’s cheap – very cheap and highly available second hand (£30 ebay)
  • It’s very powerful
  • It’s rackmount

And here it is:

ClearOne XAP 800 – a 12×12 audio mixer



If the above looks to you like it has worryingly few buttons on the front, then like me you may be thinking… “hmmm, is this thing software controlled?” Yes it is.

And if the above looks to you like it may be far too small to house the numbers of inputs and outputs you would need to power a whole home, then rest assured:



I’ve just bought mine on eBay for £25.

Don’t be put off, it’s called a “microphone mixer” and a “conferencing system”, and whilst I’m sure it’s great for B&Q’s staff announcements, this baby is a dream come true for home automation and multi-zone audio.

Why is it so cool? The product manual will answer that (nicely written too), but here’s my take with a Home Automation hat on:

  • Core use: an audio routing matrix. Basically this provides everything that the most expensive Crestron multi-zone system does, and more. Route an audio source to a single room, multiple rooms, or groups of rooms. Route another audio source to another room or set of rooms. Switch the source or zones from anywhere in the home. Keep going until all rooms have the exact audio you want. Rooms could be set up as stereo zones, mono zones (e.g. bathroom), or even 5.1 theatre zones.
  • Scenario presets. Because of the possible complexity of a 12×12 routing matrix (i.e. assigning different sets of audio to different rooms) you will want to have presets. The XAP 800 supports 32 whole-system user presets.
  • GPIO: interface with your home automation hub via an Arduino. Amazing! Imagine the possibilities:
    • Remotely control the presets, e.g. listening scenarios.
    • Remotely control volume, set EQ Presets, and control audio routing direct from my MQTT wall panels! (Did I mention this thing has digital signal processing?)
    • Page someone from another room, and fade-down the audio if they are listening to something
  • Not only does the unit have GPIO, it has GPIO assignment. There’s even a “GPIO builder window” in the software, meaning that you can assign whatever you wish to the input / output pins.
  • The device supports gating, gating groups, configurable ramps, and a whole load of other advanced stuff when it comes to stopping one sound when another one happens.
  • The device has echo cancellation and some advanced “adaptive ambient level”, which means it can detect noise even when there’s ambient noise in a room. Useful if you want to hook-up some home automation voice commands with boundary mics
  • Rest assured, mic/line level can be configured for each input

Looking forward to getting my new XAP 800 hooked up with some pre-amps, amps, audio sources, speakers, and an Arduino to give it all a whirl!


63 Responses

  1. Lewis

    April 19, 2015 7:41 pm

    A great post and just what I was looking for. You mentioned your MQQT room panels, how are they going, any chance of an update as I am trying to make something similar.

  2. admin

    April 19, 2015 8:18 pm

    Hey Lewis – thanks! It was a bit of a revelation for me. Haven’t touched the MQTT control panels for a few months but as of tonight I’m starting work on them again. The project is in a “working” state but the code has become unruly so I’m spending some time documenting and re-factoring it. Promise to update and publish the code soon!

  3. Gary

    April 20, 2015 10:31 am

    *Drool*…just off to eBay now to order mine!

    Do you have your eye on any good ceiling speakers?

  4. admin

    April 20, 2015 1:24 pm

    I’m not so experienced with ceiling speakers. I bought a pair of Yamaha Natural Sound speakers, £100 a pair, plus a pair of PyleHome PDIC80 300W (half that price). Both 2 way, 8 inch drivers. I connected them up but haven’t been able to compare them properly in the ceiling as we haven’t started work on the home refurb yet.

    They sounded pretty similar in my comparison out of ceiling, that is to say, completely rubbish and lacking any kind of decent frequency response. They need putting in a ceiling to compare.

    It’s a minefield choosing ceiling speakers! Loads of crap guides online that don’t really discuss the thing that matter, such as how they are mounted and what you need to do to get good results…

    I want to cover the house in ceiling drivers but haven’t got the budget to go crazy and I have a sneaking suspicion that if I did have, it might not actually help with audio quality.

    Let me know if you have any success on this front!

  5. James Mc Bride

    April 20, 2015 2:06 pm

    Hi Mat,
    I like the look of this audio matrix, especially at the price!

    I currently use squeezeboxserver exclusively throughout my house for multi-room audio and get on very well with it.

    My current setup is:
    Main server (centos 6.6) running LogitechMediaServer 7.8 and 7 instances of squeezelite outputting to soundcards in the server and controlling the Amps using “denonserial”

    Then I have my zones split up as:
    Main zone – (lounge) Denon 4310 – this doesn’t run ceiling speakers, I’ve got 5.1 in the lounge (B&W CM9 main speakers)
    Kitchen – Zone 2 of the 4310 – Polk Audio ceiling speakers
    Master Bedroom – Zone 3 of the 4310 – Polk Audio ceiling speakers
    I then have two Denon 3803’s (cheap on ebay) running the remaining 4 zones – These zones just have “Adastra” 2 way 6 inch ceiling speakers, which, for what they cost me (about £30 a pair on ebay), sound really good.
    I like the polk speakers in the kitchen and bedroom, I tried a pair of B&W (I think they were ccm665’s) but preferred the sound from the polk’s (and the price). Obviously putting them in the ceiling does make a huge difference. I also made sure that I put plenty to insulation (just normal rockwool) in the ceilings before they went up to help deaden the sound.

    It’s not the most elegant setup, but it does work flawlessly and produces good quality sound where I want it.

    I have experimented with the very cheap class d amplifier pcb’s found on ebay (around £10 for a stereo 50w one) and these work surprisingly well. So much so that I’m now considering building a multizone squeezebox to do the “non-audiophile” zones using these.

    My rough design is along the lines of:

    Raspberry pi running squeezelite–> powered usb hub –> 8x usb dac’s –> 8x stereo amps
    Then have relays controlled by the pi to power the amps on and off.

    I’m interested to hear how you get on with this matrix though, along with the other projects!


  6. isittheReebokortheNike

    May 1, 2015 6:53 pm

    A product called “audio|acacia”,, comes *very* close to doing what you want on the cheap. Its a software solution to multiroom audio like Squeezebox, but has a more impressive feature set in my mind.
    1. It can play to to all your iOS, Android, Mac, PCs, etc. in sync
    1. It plays to AirPlay devices in sync as well
    2. It plays from AirPlay streams (so you could set your AppleTV to play to audio|acacia to get its audio to play to any room)
    3. It has an HTTP based API so you can integrate it with a home automation platform of your choosing.

  7. admin

    May 1, 2015 7:04 pm


    I’ve now spent a good 12 hours testing the XAP800 matrix mixer. If it fits with your plans I would say it’s an absolutely amazing device. It just works, SO many options for routing audio, not just 12×12 permutations but more if you consider that you can route audio through the virtual effects channels. The EQ options are bedazzling, as are the array of options for other useful DSPs like delays etc. There’s even a very nice built in signal generator that sweeps through a frequency range you specify, produces white or pink noise so you can configure your EQ for each room to perfection… loads of external control options including RS232 and GPIO (I just made an Arduino network interface to switch presets, much fun!)

    I’ll write another post about my findings on the XAP soon – watch this space.

    Question for you: I’m interested in saving dosh (7 zones, 4 ceiling speakers in each), the Ad Astra speakers look decent. We all have different tastes and audio requirements, but would you personally be happy to use Ad Astra speakers in e.g. a kitchen? I prefer floor standing speakers in the basement where I want to listen to high end audio, but mostly listen to talk radio, iPad, etc. in the kitchen and living areas…

  8. admin

    May 1, 2015 7:07 pm

    Oooh, this looks very promising indeed. I’ll investigate, thanks for the tip!

  9. James Mc Bride

    May 1, 2015 11:11 pm

    Hi Mat,
    The XAP certainly sounds very interesting, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for one for my next project! Have you managed to get it tied in to openhab yet? At the moment I do it all in software, but having the ability to have some sort of master mixer for the whole house would be quite handy!

    I think the Ad Astra’s are actually really good – I’ll try to pop up into the loft at some point over the weekend and find out which models I’ve actually got. When I got my first couple of pairs of them, they went in the kitchen and, bearing in mind this was my first real experience with ceiling speakers, I was really impressed with them – especially at the price. I wouldn’t have “upgraded” to the polk’s if I hadn’t had the need for more speakers elsewhere and I hadn’t picked them up for such a good price either (about the same as the Adastras).
    By the sound of it, the adastra’s would be absolutely fine for your requirements and budget. With a decent input, they sound fine, they can be driven pretty hard if they need to be and produce a good, full-range sound at all volumes. With music, you can tell the difference in walking from a room with the polk’s to the Adastra’s, the polk’s are quite a bit brighter and crisper and have a bit more bottom end too, but for talk radio etc, that doesn’t really matter and at the end of the day, they are speakers mounted in the ceiling, they are never going to sound amazing, so I definitely wouldn’t be spending the £2-300 per pair that you could!

    I’m interested to hear how you intend to route the audio from an ipad or the like to them? The addition of bluetooth to the wall controller?

  10. Gary

    May 2, 2015 11:34 pm

    Another question related to the XAP device. Given it’s versatility for routing microphone sound, any plans to setp mics for voice activation and do you have any suggestions for good quality mics that would work?


  11. Lewis

    May 3, 2015 12:49 am

    I have managed to get hold of one of the XAP-800 from eBay and just received it this morning. After a quick look at the 149 page manual it does look very good with plenty of control options.
    I just wanted to check something, it is a 12×12 matrix, am I correct in assuming that is 6×6 stereo connections or is there a way to send a stereo signal through the three wires?
    I am also looking to have an intercom type system to page different rooms, would you recommend any type of microphone?
    Also in terms of wiring, would cat5 or cat6 be ok to send the signals to the amplifiers?

    I look forward to hearing the latest on the room controls as I am very interested in those and would love to see some of the code so that I could learn a bit more about how it all works together.

  12. Gary

    May 3, 2015 9:08 am

    @Lewis, I read an article somewehere that cat5e also makes for the best speaker cable for long runs. Something about having solid core wires seperated from each other…low loss etc. Much cheaper than normal speaker cable. So versatile POE, audio, network…
    Not sure whether the extra for Cat6 brings any benefits for these applications though.

  13. James Mc Bride

    May 4, 2015 10:05 pm

    Just checked, and I’m using the Adastra 952.135’s – they are currently £20 each at CPC

    I’m also using CAT5 (not e) for all my ceiling speakers and find it works very well, even for the long runs, upstairs etc. I used it partly because I had plenty of it and didn’t want to use it for my data cabling. If you’re going to use CAT5 /e /6, just make sure it’s solid copper, not CCA.

  14. admin

    May 4, 2015 10:17 pm

    @Lewis Yes it’s 12×12, so that would be 6 stereo by 6 stereo, or if you want to use it flexibly (eg mono summing of L and R source to hallways, likewise mono inputs such as doorbell) you can do so. Ultimate flexibility!

    I’ve had great success hooking this into OpenHAB now using a USB to serial cable. Basically you can set up a switch in OH to do any combination of things, then send whatever serial commands you like to the XAP.

    For example I have got the following working:

    Switch for kitchen audio that allows you to select a different source. The OpenHAB rule then sends a series of serial commands like this:

    Stop routing input channel 1 to output channel 11
    Stop routing input channel 2 to output channel 12
    Start routing input channel 3 to output channel 11
    Start routing input channel 4 to output channel 12


    I’ve been absolutely bowled over by the power of this little device so far. I’d like to review it properly and list out the possibilities for home automation once I have time.

    If you need any help in the meantime understanding yours or getting it to integrate with anything just give me a shout on here.

  15. admin

    May 4, 2015 10:25 pm

    @James thanks! I’ve been toying with using CAT6 for speaker as I always keep a 305m roll in stock at home! (Use for work too…)

    I am going to look into this in more detail before taking the plunge.

    Those Ad Astra speakers really are cheap. I’ve always suspected that people pay over the odds for the reassurance of quality when it comes to ceiling speakers. If you REALLY want amazing audio you don’t buy ceiling speakers! Can’t quite believe they will be okay but certainly need to test them somehow!

    (If anyone lives in West London and doesn’t mind me popping in, please let me know!)

  16. admin

    May 4, 2015 10:32 pm

    I am thinking I will set up mics yes. The XAP is amazing for this purpose. The reason is that, if you are already routing your music through the unit, it has a special feature that allows you to cancel out the sound of the music in a given room by subtracting the waveform. Essentially this means you can talk in a room with music on, and it will successfully completely isolate your voice from the music, as if the music isn’t turned on at all! It also has phase and micro delay capabilities to fine tune this to perfection.

    Very, very nice.

    Main thing re mic choice is to only use boundary mics, as other mics are not sensitive enough. Worth spending a bit here. I may purchase a decent one for £100+ and a cheap cheap one, get them working and test. Then purchase the rest accordingly. I’m way off this though (6 months plus) so don’t wait for my results 😉

  17. James Mc Bride

    May 4, 2015 10:32 pm

    Yes, CAT6 would do the job just as well, although I’m not really sure if it would be worth the extra cost for audio. I use 1 cable per speaker, which goes back to a patch panel – makes connecting up very easy!

    You’d be welcome, but I’m afraid I’m a bit out of West London (North Essex)

  18. admin

    May 4, 2015 10:34 pm

    Thanks for the offer! Probably won’t be passing but if I do I would certainly get in touch…

    CAT6 just as cheap as CAT5e now. (I think?) I hear your point about getting infrastructure (single core) cable too.


  19. Lewis

    May 6, 2015 6:26 pm

    Thanks Mat and Gary for your help, I will try and source some copper cat5e or cat6. does anyone know a place with good prices as I am after about 4 boxes of cable.

    I saw the mention of boundary mics above, is there a cheaper solution as I am just after a basic intercom for occasional use and don’t fancy having to spend much on mics.

    I am looking to setup a mesh network of arduino and nRF24L01 based room controllers and sensors, I am going to try and use MQTT and openHAB, do you have any guidelines on how to set this up or any more details on your room controllers. I am looking at the website to start me off.

  20. Rolf

    May 23, 2015 8:00 pm

    What is the right connector for the audio connections on this ? All units on ebay, looks like they are missing the Phoenix connectors…

  21. admin

    May 28, 2015 5:17 pm

    Yep- always check whether unit comes with the connectors. Annoyingly when people remove these units from venues I reckon they leave the blocks on the end of the cables hanging, make off with the unit and don’t bother with the blocks. Grrr! Anyway, triple way Phoenix block connectors. Mouser do them quite cheap. I was lucky enough to buy a unit on eBay with a full set, but I bought another one without so I need to purchase.

    They are three way because each input is balanced (do not complicate this with the thought that an input may be stereo!)

  22. Lewis

    May 30, 2015 12:28 am

    I have one unit with no connectors and one with about a third of the connectors so going to have to buy quite a few.

    Do you have a link for the phoenix connectors on mouser as I am struggling to find them?

  23. admin

    June 23, 2015 6:35 pm

    Hi, there’s no binding but you don’t need one because it’s possible to send messages over serial port directly from OpenHAB. Everything – I mean everything – can be controlled this way. Bit of a hassle setting it up in the first instance but it’s very well documented. Good luck!

  24. jo barclay

    June 24, 2015 11:24 am

    Hi guys I have read your writings with great interest. As a complete novice but having wanted a multi-room sound system for years but as you have stated price is the issue.

    What I am a looking for is to have music but more important dab radio running especially to the bathroom and kitchen. I would start by buying the system you mentioned; after that ???? Would be grateful for any advice, thanks . . .

  25. admin

    July 10, 2015 10:50 am

    Hi Jo. The system I mentioned is only a small part of the system you would need for multi-room audio. Unless you could get one of these units and program it yourself, it’s most likely you would need to go to a company to do your installation, which is when it gets expensive. To properly answer your question though, you’d start by plugging your audio sources into the XAP, then plugging the XAP into a multi-zone amp or a number of single stereo amps, then wire it up to the speakers. Lastly you’d need some way to remotely control the XAP so you can switch audio inputs. In my case I’m making a wall controller which will interface with the XAP through an automation hub (OpenHAB). Hope that helps!

  26. rlagarto

    July 24, 2015 2:41 pm

    Great unit the only issue I found in your design is that this unit is that only accepts Line level inputs that means the signal need to be amplified before it reach the speaker in case of a multi room you will need an amplifier for each room or a multiroom amplifier that means like $1K or use powered speakers. Do you have any Idea about this part?

  27. rlagarto

    July 24, 2015 7:02 pm


    Sorry for some reason i miss the part you were talking about class d amplifier pcb.

  28. admin

    July 31, 2015 2:40 pm

    Hi. I mentioned in the post that the XAP is not an amplifier, and that the solution requires separate amps or a multi channel amp.

    My solution is to use existing Class A amps for high quality audio zones (living room, bedroom). You can buy an old amp on eBay cheaply. And for low quality zones (eg bathroom) you could use a Class D amp, these are £20-30 and are very small.

    Hope that helps

  29. James

    September 17, 2015 6:01 pm

    I’m a bit new to multi-zone audio, but am quite intrigued by the capabilities of the XAP unit. I’m curious as to how one could control volume through software, if using an array of smaller amps as you suggested?

  30. Louis

    September 26, 2015 3:05 pm

    Stumbled across you’re site a while back, really great reading and great home automation implementation, It’s always great to find someone out there who is pretty aligned thinking wise! Already have a system in place with openHAB and also an MQTT addict!

    Anyway, when I read this post I basically thought you had written (in slightly more structured English) my exact thoughts ! I have since got myself an XAP but need to take a look at it first since it seems to crash (looks like the PSU, probably needs re-capping).

    Just a thanks you post… perhaps in time we can all share findings to get a solid openHAB implementation down!

    @James, those class D amps blew me away for the money, like you say for general application they are unbeatable value!

  31. Ethan

    October 19, 2015 11:31 am

    Hi, Mat, great job with your project!

    I understand and have some experience wit OH but dont quite understand the communications between OH and the serial port on the XAP 800.

    I understand that a usb to serial cable is needed but what part of OH communicates with the GPIO pins on the XAP 800, is it the GPIO binding within OH?

    Any help would be appreciated, even a sample example would be helpful to others too.


  32. Huw

    November 27, 2015 11:38 pm

    Hi Mat.

    Could you give me some more info on your squeezebox setup? Specifically server versions and Os etc. I’ve tried to get it working but I can’t get it all to play nicely together.

  33. Rialb77

    December 1, 2015 5:49 pm

    Guys, this is a great idea, just wondered has anyone got this configured issuing squeezelite players and individual / multi zone amps? Can it all be controlled through squeeze, and what about idle power on the amps?


  34. Jason

    December 3, 2015 7:54 pm

    Hi Mat,
    Very very cool on this device. Have you been able to do your write up? Just curious if for your inputs if you are using some sort of device that is connected to your logitech media server? I have an LMS system setup and would like to be able to use that as one of the inputs. But was also wondering how I could tie in my living room speakers into the home automation as well.

    Another question is, you mentioned you could lower the volume if a room is listening to something.

    Would it be possible to for instance have my home theater audio routed in to this then back out to my speakers. Then if openhab needed to make an annoucement, it could read then lower the volume of my movie, play the announcement then restore the audio volume all while still playing both audio sources? This would make this invaluable to me if i could do announcements while not completely interrupting existing audio streams


  35. admin

    December 7, 2015 8:25 pm

    Hi Jason

    When you say “for your inputs if you are using some sort of device that is connected to your logitech media server”, what inputs do you mean? Do you mean all the other inputs I want to play out of the system, e.g. iPod, TV, etc.? If so, the point of the audio matrix mixer is that this thing will handle all those inputs. LMS would just be another input, alongside those aforementioned ones. Then you can use OpenHAB to control this matrix mixer and switch the inputs as and when you need to.

    So, you are happily listening to music from the LMS, and someone rings the intercom / doorbell. Your doorbell is hooked up to OpenHAB, a rule triggers, and OpenHAB tells the matrix mixer to fade down the music and switch on the input that the doorbell is connected to (in my case I’d have the doorbell as a WAV being generated from the OpenHAB server or something).

    Hope that makes sense!

    Re the home theatre – yes, this is possible, although it depends on what system you have. If you have a separate 5.1 decoder and amplifier stage, you could route the outputs from the decoder through the matrix, and back out to the amp.

    If not, perhaps there is some other way by routing just 2 channels of the home theatre system through the matrix. That way you could cut out your surround speakers and have a doorbell chime coming through those.

    Or something like that!

  36. admin

    December 7, 2015 8:27 pm

    No reason why squeezelite players can’t be routed through the matrix. I plan to do that myself if I run out of hardware players.

    I’ve also now tested my solution above and it works as expected, so yep – no problem controlling multi zone amps if that’s what you want to do. Although there’s no need to spend the dosh on multi-zone amps of course, with this solution!

  37. Jason

    December 7, 2015 8:28 pm

    So when it fades down the music, does it mix the music and doorbell or is it only 1 input to 1 output? or would you still hear the music playing quieter under the doorbell tone?

  38. admin

    December 7, 2015 8:29 pm

    I just run SqueezeServer on Windows. Default installation. Then connect a number of hardware players. I’ve run SC on everything from WinXP to Server 2012 R2, through Win 10 – works well for me…

  39. admin

    December 7, 2015 8:35 pm

    Hi Ethan

    Sorry for the delay responding.

    With the USB to serial cable plugged in, we completely ignore GPIO on the matrix mixer. The XAP can be controlled by a separate serial port, with its own command set. So basically you can configure OpenHAB to send serial commands to the unit directly.

    When I wrote this post, I hadn’t fully experimented to realise the above.

    So I have an OpenHAB string item, then I use a rule like this:

    rule “Bedroom Source”
    Item Bedroom_Audio_Source received command
    switch(receivedCommand) {
    case 0 : {
    sendCommand(XAP800, “#51 MTRX 11 I 1 O 1 \n”)
    sendCommand(XAP800, “#51 MTRX 12 I 2 O 1 \n”)
    sendCommand(XAP800, “#51 MTRX 9 I 1 O 0 \n”)
    sendCommand(XAP800, “#51 MTRX 10 I 2 O 0 \n”)
    case 1 : {
    sendCommand(XAP800, “#51 MTRX 9 I 1 O 1 \n”)
    sendCommand(XAP800, “#51 MTRX 10 I 2 O 1 \n”)
    sendCommand(XAP800, “#51 MTRX 11 I 1 O 0 \n”)
    sendCommand(XAP800, “#51 MTRX 12 I 2 O 0 \n”)

  40. Golden

    March 18, 2016 9:23 am

    I just stumbled across this old blog post but I have a question. Do you still recommend the XAP800 or is there something newer/better? How can I use this with a chrome audio cast, HDMI, other inputs? From the picture it doesn’t look like it can support all of these inputs. I’m really new to audio hardware so apologize in advance. It seems I need to pair this with another device? A receiver? Can you help list out all the hardware I would need to do the following:
    -Audio from Game Console to Room Speakers
    -Audio from TV to Room Speakers
    -Stream audio from mobile phone to rooms independently as well as whole house (3 zones)

  41. Huw

    March 28, 2016 12:25 am

    Hi Mat.

    I’ve just bought my XAP800 on ebay so hope to have it soon to start playing with.

    I have a couple of questions.

    Is it possible to mix multiple inputs to a single output? Two scenarios where I can see the need:
    1) I have a stereo feed from Spotify but only a single speaker in the kitchen; will this downmix to a single channel for me?
    2) I have music playing from Spotify in my living room on output 1 and 2 from input 1 and 2 respectively. The doorbell is pressed so I would like the music to fade down and input 12 to be mixed to output 1 and 2. Music plays at a lower level, and openhab plays doorbell.wav – Can this be done or would I need to store current volume level, fade down input 1 and 2, then switch to input 12, fade up, play the wav, fade down, then switch to input 1 and 2 again and fade back up to previous volume.

    Have you found any decent multi channel amplifiers? Or any amplifiers that allow power on / off via serial to save on the electricity bill.

  42. Josh Pedersen

    July 13, 2016 2:50 pm

    Hello, do you have an email address I can contact you on for more information and your experience on using the XAP800? Just had mine delivered and am eager to hear how you’ve gone about implementing some things.

  43. HAferret

    July 20, 2016 6:07 pm

    @huw: yes downmixing is possible, as in you can have mix several sources to one speaker. As such you can mix stereo to mono as well.

    2. Is possible as well, you can set volume levels for each input independently and mix all inputs you want together.

    There are lots of multi-channel amps available that automatically go in standby mode after +\-15mins of no audio signal. And turn on when they detect an audio signal. Look for Dayton Audio ma1240a, AudioSource 1200, Niles, Russound etc 12 channel amps on Ebay. Grab a good deal for 200-400$

  44. Gilbert Osmond

    November 4, 2016 3:30 am

    The XAP800 looks fantastic, and the price point (now) is unbeatable. (The successor product from ClearOne goes for ~$2,000 USD.)

    Questions for anyone who has used it:
    What is the response time (latency) when sending control commands via the RS232 port (assuming max baud, 38,400)? I.e. could you use it as a 2-way or multi-way intercom controller, where someone pushes a physical “talk” button that activates an OpenHAB rule which sends the commands to the XAP800? And then when they let the “talk” button go, OpenHAB sends new commands to change the configuration? Basically, is it possible using RS232 only to get this unit to behave like an old NuTone intercom?

    I’m thinking “no” due to RS232 (and OpenHAB) latency. But it looks like one could easily emulate an old-school intercom, with near-zero latency, using presets that are controlled through the GPIO ports. Comments?

    Issue / application #2 — whole-house audio. Any comments on the stereo audio quality of the unit? I.e. if you are putting the analog output of your high-end outboard DAC CD player into the input of the XAP800 — by the time that analog output makes it through to the desired output(s) and downstream amplifiers on the other side of the XAP800, what is the music sound quality like?

    Issue #3, standby power consumption. It’s rated at 30 watts (120-volt). Has anyone taken actual measures (using a Kill A Watt meter or true-RMS AC meter) of power consumption in standby? 99% of the time the unit will be idling, so standby power is the figure of merit for calculating annual power usage & cost.

    Thanks & regards.

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