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Before you start to consider spending money on a multi-room music system, it is worth considering the answers to a number of questions. If you answer the following questions in turn, you will prevent wasting time and money and hopefully end up with a system that meets your needs.
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What Is The Core Of Your System Going To Be?
At the heart of your system you will have a music library. The first question is to consider is where physically the music is going to exist. If you have a PC already then, you can store your music here. Alternatively, you may wish to store your music on a separate Network Accessible Storage (NAS) box, or you may wish to purchase dedicated audio hardware. To find out more about the options available and the reasons for making a choice read my Bright Hub article on Hardware Options for your Streamed Audio Networked Music System.
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What Type Of Music Systems Are You Going To Have In Your Different Rooms?
The choice of playback equipment will depend upon your budget, degree of obsession with sound quality and the nature of the room in which the system is based. You may wish to connect the system to an existing sound system, or to have a standalone box which can play music but may also act as an alarm or clock.
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How are You Going to Connect up Your System?
You can distribute your music across your home, using a wireless network, wired network, power network, or simply download your music onto an iPod or other MP3 player with a large storage capacity, in which case you may avoid a network completely. To find out more about the options available and the pros and cons of each alternative, read my Bright Hub article about Connecting up Your Streamed Audio Networked Music System.
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What Format and Resolution are You Going to Use to Store Your Music?
Digital music comes in a wide range of formats and resolutions. Your choice will be influenced by your priorities for audio quality, storage capacity requirements and the replay equipment you are using. You can find out more by reading What is the Best Way to Encode Music for Replay Through a Home Theater or HiFi System?
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Where are You Going to Obtain Your Music?
It’s fine and dandy having a music system, but you need music to play on it. These days there are range of options to consider as sources for your music collection. These will be influenced by the size of your existing collection, the audio quality required, and the type of music you listen to. To find out more about the options available and the pros and cons of each alternative, read my Bright Hub articles on Downloading Music for Your Streamed Audio Networked Music System or Finding Music for Your Streamed Audio Networked Music System Without Going To The iTunes Store.
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What Software are You Going to Use to Play Back and Organize Your Music?
Assuming that you choose to use a computer-based solution, you will need software to play and organize your music. You will need a principal digital music player, such as iTunes, or its open source alternative Songbird as well as supplementary applications to rip music from CDs, convert audio to your preferred format. To compare the different options read my Bright Hub article on Software Options for Your Streamed Audio Networked Music System.
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How are You Going to Classify Your Music for Easy Retrieval and Playback?
One of the key benefits of a music collection stored in one place is the ability to locate your music quickly and to play individual tracks, albums, or music types either sequentially or using shuffle mode. The key to this facility is properly ordered metadata. Using the correct tools, much of this can be automated and, where not automatic, made simpler by multiple operations carried out in one step. You need to make decisions about the categories you wish to use for genre, and naming conventions for artists. To find out more about the options available and how to achieve them efficiently, read my Bright Hub article on Organizing Your Music Collection for Replay on Your Home Streamed Audio Wireless Music System.