I am a music freak. I make it alone and with others. I’ve been a music programmer on two radio stations. I listen to music almost all the time. Good music from a variety of genres. No talk. NO COMMERCIALS. Currently my favorite source is this one. No talk and a broad variety of programming curated by a human with an outstanding taste in music. What a concept. It’s free, but I support them every month.
So this sound needs to be everywhere. As it came the unit had a Jensen radio receiver with three outputs. The speakers right there, two speakers in the ceiling of the garage and two speakers outside. The speakers in the garage are not the worst. The rest of it sucks. I had better sound quality in my 1976 Impala. (Well, not quite but you get the idea.) Anywho, I needed a better amp, more speakers in the salon and bedroom A way to control the individual pairs of speakers. Bluetooth sourcing of course. And TV sound which the Jensen didn’t have. It did have sound for the built in DVD player, which we don’t really use. (We watch cool vids on Youtube mostly).
I can not overstate the desire and urge I felt to throw a bunch of money at Bose or Sonos and get a nice multi room wireless setup. Plug and play. Awesome quality. But $eriou$ly expen$ive. In the house maybe, not in the camper. Not this week. I’m a music lover, not an audiophile. And I have other projects I want to do too.
I spent a lot of time trying to cobble a combo wireless/wired (remember the speakers in the garage and outside) system with affordably priced gizmos but that got too complicated with a lot of questions about sound quality and reliability.
In the end there is only one alternative to the expensive solution and that is old fashioned wired speakers. It works. No interference, no screaming “Why doesn’t it see the bedroom speakers?”. But there is a challenge in that. Running wires over the length of a camper is not easy. Drill holes in the floor and go under? Try to get behind corner trim? How about getting around slides….. Then there was an endless amount of Googling “the best amps under $500”, speakers, zone controllers etc etc. I’m not going to explore all the ideas I had here, I will show how I did it.
I sat in my spot for a long time looking at it all, and in the end I decided the “conduit” was right there….. the AC ducting. It’s made from foam board inside the roof. About 9″ wide inside, and 2 to 2-1/2″ tall. No sharp edges to chafe the speaker wires. Looks like this. (Inside Bathroom looking forward to flashlight which is in the duct through the door side register above the bed. The opening you see down and to the left is the connection to the bedroom AC) Relatively free of construction debris. I’ve seen worse, a lot worse.
I can go sideways out of register openings and install ceiling speakers, except for one spot in the galley where there is no register. I will also have to locate the 120VAC wires to the AC units. Drilling into those is not the objective.
Next was the design. Here is the current setup:
And here is the plan/after:
1-amplifier with Bluetooth input
1-6 zone volume controller (two speakers L+R per zone)
Existing outside and garage speakers connected to volume controller. I will at some point upgrade these speakers.
1-powered sub woofer up in sleeping loft
2-speakers down low next to the fireplace
2-speakers overhead by fireplace
2-speakers overhead galley
2-speakers overhead bed in bedroom
Audio feed from BR TV to amp. With that selected as input and only the BR zone volume up we can have the TV sound on the nice speakers in bed and control volume with the TV volume.
This also adds salon TV sound into the audio system. An optical connection if possible, otherwise analog.
Overall a pretty “analog” setup. Even the iPad can be hardwired into an analog input in the amp, but I like having it next to me on the couch. Also gives me master volume control when I go outside.
As part of this there will have to be some re-decorating of the fireplace to house the components. And, my lovely bride wants a mantel.…..
After a LOT of shopping and reading, and a brief but intense Amazon ordering session this arrived on my door step. (Wooden balls were not used in the end…. long story)
First things first: Demo. Glass plate on the fireplace lifts up and off…. (Hmmmm……) Four screws and the fireplace box comes out. Cord is plugged into an outlet in the garage and goes through a hole. Four screws and the Jensen with speaker combo was hanging on its wires. Labeled things and cut where needed. Five screws remove an upholstered piece of plywood (particle board more likely) on which the TV is mounted. LOVE this. Someone gave a shit and you can get to things easily! Then the cabinet doors above that. Silver? Really? And mat glass? Matches nothing…… So they are off. What goes back on is still in R&D in the “Cabinets” department. Note behind the fireplace all the plumbing for the WD. And no, I did not put that hole in there. But I’m gonna put in a lot more…..
Increased the opening 2.5″ each side to accommodate equipment. Punched out (literally) the filler pieces on the lower side. Did some shaving and adjusting.
Then I made mounts for the JBL’s . They are Zone 4. (Four on the floor) They needed to stay put and I was able to angle them slightly upward using the wood base I made and the wall mount they came with. (Note the little boom box providing the work tunes…… 😉 )
And here they are securely in their spot.
Next: Power. There was one double outlet for the TV. The Jensen was 12V, so no power there. The wire feeding the outlet did pass through the equipment compartment so I tapped into that wire.
Next: wires UP……..
3 pair of speaker wire for zone 1-2-3 (bedroom/galley/above fireplace)
1 feed for the sub woofer
1 feed from the bedroom TV.
There is a clear path in the wall between the salon and the garage all the way into the upper cabinet. Drilled a hole in the back of the upper cabinet and dropped a piece of string with a weight down. Then I had to get into the driver side ducting which JUST overlaps the upper cabinet on the right (as in stereo right). Drilled a hole and viola:
And the I fed the wires:
So I ran all the wires for zones 1/2/3 Except there was one catch. The driver’s side duct does not run through to the bedroom. It’s blocked above the control cabinet. Wires and a vent run up there. So for 1-R (bedroom, driver’s side) I ran down the door side duct with all the left side wires. Once over the bed I brought it over to the other side. I also ran the sound wire from the bedroom TV to the equipment.
The roof is constructed out of a wood frame, with plywood/roofing on top, and the ceiling on the bottom. There is an attempt at insulation in there. But there is also a lot of pathways. From the door side bedroom AC vent I was able to slide a 3 foot metal ruler between the ducting hole and the ceiling plywood, all the way over to the other vent hole, and pull a wire. Some new seal tape when done and good to go.
The speakers have nifty little mounts. Wings like you find on the side of an electrical box to mount after drywall is in. Cut hole, insert, tighten screw and the wing swings out grabbing the wall. Easy. Except these were designed for a drywall thick wall/ceiling. And, the speaker wasn’t going all the way into the roof due to it being JUST thick enough and the insulation being there. I din’t want to remove the latter and to give the clips something to grab on and give the whole opening some rigidity (the luan roof is not very rigid) I made these MDF spacers.
At this point it was a matter of finding suitable locations for the speakers. I was able to poke around between the finished ceiling and everything above it through the AC register holes. Then it was drilling a test hole and feeling and poking around to make sure there were no wires etc. Once the speakers were in, I re-sealed the AC vent holes, reinstalled the registers. Bedroom done:
I was also able to find a path from the door side duct, bathroom register to a spot above the bedroom TV. This is were I brought the cable that brings sound from the TV to the equipment, and then I can get it back on the bedroom overhead speakers.
Zone 2, over the galley was a bit of a challenge. There’s a lot going on in the ceiling up there. Bracing, lots of wiring coming up out of the control cabinet going in different directions. Took me a while to find suitable locations. There was also a piece of particle board floating around above the ceiling. It was not attached to anything and I don’t know why it was there sliding around. The light fixture wires came through it, so who knows. In the end I eliminated said light fixture. There’s the lights over the stove and the plethora of galley lights. I’m not going to miss it.
Found locations for the remaining speakers, taped up the register holes and got it all back together. I am not going to lie, this was not for the faint of heart. I got within an inch of cutting a 10 wire bundle in half with a hole saw. Cut the test hole, stuck my hand in there and they were RIGHT there. Got lucky. Man needs a bit of luck once in a while. I would have fixed it all, of course, but it would have been a PITA. Bottom line is that if you drill 6 large holes in the ceiling you’re going to run into something….. Again, I got lucky and I’ll take it.
Anywho, got it all in, and the wires down. The zone controller has very nice plugs you put on all the wires and then it’s easy to put the plugs in the box, instead of messing around upside down behind the box trying to get 28 wires in. MDF shelf for the equipment will be hidden once I’m done.
Woofer went up in the loft. There is an outlet up there and the feed went through the wall. Easy.
Some stain on the shelf and a soft rubber OSHA style mat from Home Depot to keep it from sliding around and it was testing time.
Well, I am VERY happy with the sound. No, it doesn’t sound like a $10k system or even $4K worth of Bose/Sonos, but it sounds a LOT better than the roughly $1500 I have in to this. At low volume it is pleasant and even all over the coach. In bed we can watch TV with decent sound over our head. (We watch a LOT of concerts etc. Beats standing in a crowd not seeing anything). When I crank it up it’s decent. Movies have that surround sound effect going. (If you squint your ears.) Only hair in the soup is the fact that the sub woofer is rattling things around a little at higher volumes. I’ll chase some of the rattles down, but it is after all a camper built in Elkhart. It’s gonna rattle some.
Overall very happy, I would do this again.
Now, to finish the “hearth” my sweetie wants…… over to the cabinet making department.