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Audio System

In my old townhouse, I went with a speaker selecting system using serial controlled relays to control my home-brew zoned audio system. This time around I knew I was going to need something much bigger. After plenty of shopping around, I decided on the Nuvo Grand Concerto 6-Source 8-Zone System (Amazon) along with the Grand Concerto Expander System (Amazon) for a total of 16 separate audio zones throughout the house. I decided on this system for several reasons:

  • Powered OLED wall-mounted displays with capacitive touch buttons along with complete song title, artist, album, and station/channel information.
  • Complete serial control capability for every function imaginable.
  • Paging port (source 6) for MisterHouse to use for TTS (text to speech) output to designated zones.
  • Party mode that allows you to control the whole house using one keypad when you want to.
  • Separate dual-tuner interface that I purchased that allows me to listen to Sirius-XM satellite radio, FM Radio, or AM radio in each zone.
  • Entire system is completely rack mountable on a 19” two-post rack.

Nuvo Paging & Text To Speech

Source six can be configured to be used as a paging input on the Nuvo Grand Concerto. This works perfect for MisterHouse since you can output the speech from the audio card to source six on the back of the Nuvo to enable whole house announcements. You can setup a “speech hook” in MisterHouse to tell the Nuvo which zones you are about to page using the Do Not Disturb function (DND). Enabling DND in a zone will exclude it from the list of rooms that are paged when you send the “page on” command to the Nuvo. Then, once you are finished speaking, you simply send the “page off” command and disable the DND for the rooms you enabled. If a zone is currently off when a page is executed, it will turn on quickly before the page starts and then turn off when you are finished all by itself. It works seamlessly!

Right: Wiring closet rack with the Nuvo Grand Concerto (top), Grand Concerto Expander (middle), and Dual Sirius-FM Tuner (bottom)

Nuvo iTunes Interface

Nuvo sells an additional device called the Nuvo MPS4-E Music Port Elite that allows you to play music from your digital library and to stream radio stations online. It's rather expensive, so I put together a plan to emulate it instead. It's very simple to just hook up a computer's speaker output to the back of the Nuvo as one of the sources and call it a day. There are two disadvantages to this. The first is that you can't use the keypads in each room to control the static source since the Nuvo can't push next, previous, fast forward, etc. on the computer. The second disadvantage is that none of the display information about the currently playing music is available on the displays in each room.

Right: Example keypad when a satellite radio station is selected from the dual Sirius-FM tuner

The serial interface on the back of the Nuvo allows you to emulate a source and provide the details for the current source on all the keypad displays around the house. It also gives you two-way access to the buttons on each keypad as well.

I use iTunes as my music library of choice since I have purchased so much music through it over the years. So with this information in mind, I knew that I could create a “virtual” iTunes interface using MisterHouse and just simply pass the track display information (title, artist, album, etc.) to the Nuvo and also tell iTunes when someone presses a button on a room keypad.

To do this, MisterHouse first has to pretend to be an iTunes remote. ITunes has a remote control server built-in so that apps like the “Apple Remote” can be used on your iPhone to control iTunes running on your computer. I wrote a script that allows the main controller running MisterHouse to pair up with the iTunes running on my MacMini media server. Once they are paired up, iTunes updates MisterHouse automatically when a song changes, someone presses a button, track information changes, etc. I can also control what iTunes plays using playlists and navigate through a currently selected playlist using the standard next and previous commands.

As soon as MisterHouse receives new information from the iTunes server on the MacMini, I immediately pass that information along to the Nuvo. If a room is currently playing music from the iTunes source I have setup, the information on the keypad display will be updated automatically. Even if none of the rooms are listening to iTunes, the Nuvo saves the last information update so when someone does switch to the iTunes source, the information is immediately shown on the display.

Right: Example of playing an online radio station from my custom iTunes interface run by MisterHouse

ITunes plays almost every online radio station as well. All I have to do is load it into iTunes to listen to it and then save it to a new playlist. Then in the future I just select the playlist and the station starts streaming to my Nuvo along with the station name, artist, and title information of the current track as well.

Jon Scott 2012 -- All Rights Reserved.