Distributed audio or zoned audio systems are those that send music to multiple areas of a home. These systems feature a suitably equipped receiver and sources, connected to multiple pairs of speakers in different rooms. Long a staple of these systems, compact-disc changers are limited in terms of overall capacity and content flexibility. Solving these inherent problems is Apple’s iPod, storing hundreds of gigabytes of music arranged and organized exactly as you wish. Distributing music from an iPod is yet another method in leveraging the device’s music server functionality when teamed with a receiver featuring multizone capabilities.
From the inception of the iPod, audio receiver manufacturers attempted to integrate the device into their products. From USB ports to proprietary iPod docks, they designed from the premise that the device had become for many user the primary method of listening to music. Creating carefully curated playlists for an event, whether a quiet dinner with family and friends or a birthday party in the backyard is a possibility with an iPod in a way that CDs and radio cannot match. Since many upper-end surround-sound receivers offer music in the primary space and two or three additional zones, the marriage of iPod and these receivers is a natural for anyone wanting distributed entertainment.
How It Works
Receivers with zoned audio work in two primary ways, using internal or external amplification or a combination of both, sending different sources than that playing in the main room into other environments. For example, you can watch a baseball game while sending music to the patio via the iPod by assigning the “Zone 2” output to the iPod input in the receiver. From there, using the receiver to control the iPod or controlling the device from the unit itself allows you to select the playlist you desire and begin entertaining the other zone.
Selecting a surround receiver featuring a dedicated iPod USB input or a port for the manufacturer’s iPod dock is a matter of brand preference and other critical features you may desire. Multizone receivers allow you to use the sixth and seventh amplifier channel to drive the second zone in lieu of using those channels in surround back duties. Third and fourth zones require a separate amplifier, connected via RCA cables from the “ZONE 3/4” or similarly-named preout jacks. Speakers for these areas are connected directly to this secondary amplifier, while the zone 2 speakers connect directly to the receiver’s “SURR BACK/ZONE 2” speaker wire binding posts.
Wireless Apple systems like AirPlay, in conjunction with equipped receivers, allow you to stream content directly from an iPod Touch or iPhone to the receiver itself. The AirPlay system works on your existing Wi-Fi setup, and the input may be assigned to play in other zones just like any other. You can use the AirPlay system with an external device like the AirPort Express, connecting to a receiver’s RCA or optical digital input to feed music from a Wi-Fi-equipped iPod the same way.