Whole-House Audio  
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Misterhouse Whole-House Audio and Speech


This page is dedicated to the audio portion of my Misterhouse setup. You must first setup and be fairly familiar with Misterhouse, which can be found at http://www.misterhouse.net.

Basically, I use Misterhouse to control my home, including my whole-house audio system. I installed the Festival speech engine which Misterhouse uses to talk. I can then send this speech, multiple streams of MP3s, and (in the future) other audio sources through my whole-house audio system.

You can see pictures of pretty much all the hardware I talk about and more by going to this page.

User Interface

The whole user interface right now is done through the Musica keypads or one of my Home Theater Master MX-500 learning remotes that have learned codes from the Musica remote. Basically, the user can do any of these:

  • Turn Musica system on/off
  • [Updated 10/03/04] I just switched to a two-tier menu system that is very easy to change as it is all stored in a hash array in the code. Basically, each button on the keypad, if held down for two seconds, jumps to a specific virtual source (mostly various MP3 playlists). But, you can also press another button immediately after holding down the first button to go to various other virtual sources. For example, one button when held down for two seconds goes to the "rock" virtual source, but if you follow that with other buttons you can get to "classic rock", "soft rock", "alternative", etc. Also, holding down the same button a second time will cycle through the various virtual sources available under that button.
  • Use the Pause/Play/Next/Previous buttons to control MP3 playback.
  • Use the left/right buttons to scan through virtual sources.
  • Press the 'up' key to switch between internal+external amp or external only. I have this because the audio output is variable so when I switch to external-only it cranks the volume all the way up to provide the best output level for my home theater receiver.
  • When tuned to the AM/FM tuner from my home theater receiver (which it sends out on its zone2/zone output when needed), the last/next track buttons change presets.
  • When tuned to the DVD changer the Pause/Play/Next/Previous control the DVD (presumably for when an audio CD is playing).
  • When tuned to the Dish Network PVR, which is typically used for TV viewing, you can press the next/last track buttons to change between "preset" music channels.
  • At any time, pressing the Stop button switches to voice-only channel. This channel also turns on automatically when you have been in a room for a few minutes (through the occupancy code) or when a voice message with high enough priority causes it to turn on.
  • I have the mode button cause the name and artist of the current song to be spoken.
  • Finally, the Misterhouse MP3 Jukebox web interface can be used to play selected songs over the channel normally reserved for voice-only.

That's it. All of the rest is handled by Misterhouse with the software I have written that is discussed below.

Hardware Overview

This is the overview of the main components of the audio portion of my whole-house audio system. What you don't see is the ChannelPlus Video/IR distribution system I describe in "Advanced Hardware" below. I have IR control of my home theater receiver, its components (i.e. the DVD/Tivo/etc) and the IR-controlled A/V switch boxes. I also use modulators to put all of the video devices (Tivo, Dish Network PVR, DVD changer) as well as some cameras onto the video amplifier so that you can view what you are listening to on the whole-house audio system (of course there is also audio as part of the modulated channels, but that is mono since I only have mono modulators).

As you can see, I have some physical limitations. First of all, since the Musica system only has four real source inputs, only four different sources can be listened to at the same time. Since I only have 6 zones this is not a huge problem. I can have up to four MP3 streams or three MP3 streams and one dedicated voice-only stream (I also put voice onto the MP3 streams (pausing them first) for important messages). Alternatively, I can have two MP3/voice streams as well as two other sources (internet radio/DVD/Tivo/etc) in use at one time. But I can not have more than two of those other sources in use since I only have them going into two switch boxes.

I have space for one more device into the fourth input on the switch boxes, or I could change the internet radio to only use one of the switch boxes and then I could have three more inputs. I also could put several more inputs into my home theater receiver. But, for now, this is all I've got.

Hardware Details

As far as hardware goes, I use the Netstreams Musica whole-house audio system (http://www.netstreams.com) for the audio distribution. Netstreams uses a dealer network but if you contact me I can put you in touch with my dealer who allowed me to do a self-install. It has excellent control via RS232 and very nice keypads. It supports 4 sources and 6 zones. Each zone can listen to separate sources or multiple zones can listen to the same source. The 4 physical source inputs means that only 4 different sources can be listened to at the same time in my house. But, using my VirtualAudio.pm (below) I can make more than four sources available.

Along with this, I have a M-Audio Delta 410 sound card which provides 8 channels of output which I have configured into four separate stereo audio channels. This is in a Red Hat Linux 8.0 system with a custom-compiled 2.4.27 Linux kernel with the ALSA sound drivers (http://www.alsaproject.org). It works rather well. To play my MP3s I use AlsaPlayer (http://www.alsaplayer.org).

If you want to set things up exactly how I have them, you'll need a dedicated Linux system that can run Misterhouse and contain the Delta M-Audio 410 as well as a free RS-232 port to connect to your Netstreams Musica ADC. I use four RCA stereo hook-up cables to connect the four outputs from the sound card to the four inputs on the Musica ADC.

You then need up to six Musica amplified keypads and any necessary speakers. One thing I like about the Musica keypads is that you can buy an optional local input/output module. You can place this in the same room as the keypad (also installs in the wall) and it has an audio input and output. The input can be used to connect a local source (such as a TV) to your local zone for a fifth source for that particular zone. The output can be used to hook up a dedicated amplifier instead of or in addition to the amplifier built into the keypad. Or you can hook that up to your home theater receiver so that you can listen to music on you home theater speakers.

Advanced Hardware

If you want more than just MP3 sources, read this section...

Finally, I use even more hardware to provide more physical sources. Basically, inputs #3 and #4 have an IR-controlled A/V switch box that I got from Radio Shack (Cat# 15-1977) in front of them. The first input into each of these switch boxes is audio out from the M-Audio Delta 410 (the other two channels go directly to inputs #1 and #2 on the Musica ADC). The second input to the first switch box is zone2 output from my home theater receiver. The second input to the second switch box is zone3 output from my home theater receiver. The third input to both switch boxes is the output from my Windows computer (split to both inputs) which I use for Internet radio. I currently have the fourth input to both switch boxes available for future use.

This allows me to have up to 4 MP3 streams or 2 MP3 streams and 2 other sources in use at one time. The other sources are either the Internet Radio from my Windows computer or any of the sources available from my home theater receiver, which currently includes its internal AM/FM tuner, my Tivo, my Dish Network PVR (which I don't recommend), and my Pioneer DVD Changer.

In order to control all of this, you have to have something like the USB-UIRT which is supported by Misterhouse, although currently you have to use the Windows-based Girder program to learn the IR codes.

While it is a bit more difficult, you need to have a way to get the IR output from that device to your IR-controlled switch boxes, your home theater receiver, and your various components. I chose the ChannelPlus video/IR distribution system which I bought from Worthington Distribution. I got a 4-channel and 2-channel modulator for all of my video devices and cameras. I also got the DA-550BID amplifier which does a nice job combining my modulators into 8 outputs, as well as distributing IR. The disadvantage is that you have to install a wall plate at each location for the 12-Volt system. The 5-volt system is easier, but I didn't see that it provided arbitrary IR outputs like the 12-volt system does (each wall plate provides coax out, IR out, and IR in). I just put this system in, but I'm having probems right now with minimal video/audio distortions while IR signals are being repeated... even on sources not directly connected to the video distribution system. But the IR system is very reliable and the modulated and distributed video is very good quality otherwise.

My home theater receiver (Yamaha RX-V1400) has a wide range of audio/visual inputs and, most importantly for this project, provides two audio output zones in addition to the main output. These zones can output any source regardless of what is being listened to in the main zone. Most important of all is that the receiver has discrete on/off IR codes and discrete IR codes for each input for the main zone as well as zones 2 and 3... all on the original remote! This means that from Misterhouse I can turn each zone on or off independently and control each source with discrete codes. I love this receiver -- it sounds great, automatically calibrates itself with the included microphone, is THX-certified, and does component video switching including up-conversion from composite/S-Video up to component.

If you want a bit more power, a RS-232 port, and a much better remote (as well as video out for zone 2, I believe), you can get the RX-V2400. Unfortunately, authorized Yamaha resellers were not allowed to sell these receivers over the Internet when I purchased mine, so I bought it from a local store.

Since I have several Home Theater Master MX-500 remotes (with the IRClone-MX for easy programming), I had no need for the original remote apart from learning the IR codes, so I opted for the less expensive receiver. I highly recommend BlueDo.com to purchase these awesome remotes. They even have a MX-500 2-pack and a MX-500/IRClone-MX package. The MX-500 is very user-friendly with an adequate number of hard buttons as well as 10 devices which you can label and 20 soft buttons per device with custom labels. It has full learning capability and great IR output strength as well as the ability to store numerous macros. I currently own three of these things and use them to control my A/V equipment as well as my whole-house audio system.



First, you need to have Misterhuose on a Linux system. I recommend having at least one system dedicated to you home automation system. In my case, I have a PII-450Mhz that runs Misterhouse, monitors two security cameras, and plays up to four simultaneous streams of MP3s. But that is pushing it -- if I am doing something like compiling a kernel it can't play MP3s too well.

Misterhouse is not easy to set up and not easy to learn, even if you already know Perl (as was my case). But it is well worth the effort as you can do anything with it. You can get Misterhouse from http://www.misterhouse.net.

Be sure that you are using version 2.89 of Misterhouse or newer.


You can get ALSA drivers and utilities from http://www.alsaproject.org. To play my MP3s I use AlsaPlayer (http://www.alsaplayer.org).

Also, I made the following change to AlsaPlayer to allow songs to be shuffled while AlsaPlayer is already running:

--- app/Main.orig       2004-03-15 12:24:37.000000000 -0700
+++ app/Main.cpp        2004-03-15 12:25:25.000000000 -0700
@@ -291,6 +291,7 @@
                "  --volume vol          set software volume [0.0-1.0]\n"
                "  --start               start playing\n"
                "  --stop                stop playing\n"
+               "  --shuffle             shuffle playlist\n"
                "  --pause               pause/unpause playing\n"
                "  --prev                jump to previous track\n"
                "  --next                jump to next track\n"
@@ -363,6 +364,7 @@
        int do_remote_control = 0;
        int do_start = 0;
        int do_stop = 0;
+       int do_shuffle = 0;
        int do_prev = 0;
        int do_next = 0;
        int do_pause = 0;
@@ -415,6 +417,7 @@
                { "crossfade", 0, 0, 'x' },
                { "output", 1, 0, 'o' },
                { "stop", 0, 0, 'U' },
+               { "shuffle", 0, 0, '!' },
                { "pause", 0, 0, 'O' },
                { "start", 0, 0, 'T' },
                { "prev", 0, 0, 'Q' },
@@ -582,6 +585,10 @@
                        case 'I':
                                global_interface_script = optarg;
+                       case '!':
+                               do_remote_control = 1;
+                               do_shuffle = 1;
+                               break;
                        case 'U':
                                do_remote_control = 1;
                                do_stop = 1;

I don't understand a lot about configuring Alsa, but I got this configuration working for my Delta M-Audio 410 with some help from the mailing list:

pcm.ice1712 {
   type hw
   card 0
   device 0

ctl.ice1712 {
   type hw
   card 0
   device 0

pcm.dmixer12 {
     type dmix
     ipc_key 1024
     slave {
        pcm "hw:0,0"
        period_time 0
        period_size 1024
        buffer_size 6553
        rate 44100              # set to your source rate
    bindings.0 0
    bindings.1 1

pcm.dmixer34 {
     type dmix
     ipc_key 1024  # must be same as for dmixer12
     slave {       # all parameters in this section must be same as for dmixer12
        pcm "hw:0,0"
        period_time 0
        period_size 1024
        buffer_size 6553
        rate 44100
    bindings.0 2
    bindings.1 3

pcm.dmixer56 {
     type dmix
     ipc_key 1024  # must be same as for dmixer12
     slave {       # all parameters in this section must be same as for dmixer12
        pcm "hw:0,0"
        period_time 0
        period_size 1024
        buffer_size 6553
        rate 44100
    bindings.0 4
    bindings.1 5

pcm.dmixer78 {
     type dmix
     ipc_key 1024  # must be same as for dmixer12
     slave {       # all parameters in this section must be same as for dmixer12
        pcm "hw:0,0"
        period_time 0
        period_size 1024
        buffer_size 6553
        rate 44100
    bindings.0 6
    bindings.1 7

pcm.channel12 {
    type plug
    slave.pcm "dmixer12"

pcm.channel34 {
    type plug
    slave.pcm "dmixer34"

pcm.channel56 {
    type plug
    slave.pcm "dmixer56"

pcm.channel78 {
    type plug
    slave.pcm "dmixer78"

pcm.dmixerALL {
    type dmix
    ipc_key 1024
    slave {
        pcm "hw:0,0"
        period_time 0
        period_size 1024
        buffer_size 6553
        rate 44100
    bindings.0 0
    bindings.1 1
    bindings.2 2
    bindings.3 3
    bindings.4 4
    bindings.5 5
    bindings.6 6
    bindings.7 7

pcm.channelALL {
    type plug
    slave.pcm "dmixerALL"
    ttable.0.0 1
    ttable.1.1 1
    ttable.0.2 1
    ttable.1.3 1
    ttable.0.4 1
    ttable.1.5 1
    ttable.0.6 1
    ttable.1.7 1

The channelALL works but doesn't always sound too great, so I don't use it unless I have to.

Finally, I use the following file for ~/.alsaplayer/config. You can disable the parsing of ID3 tags if you don't need them.


You may want to consider following the instructions here to add a low-latency support to you 2.4.X kernel. When I did this Perl would segfault when starting Misterhouse... so I went back to a standard kernel, but I do get occasional audio delays.

Misterhouse User Code

First, I define all of my objects in my house.mht file:

MUSICA,        Musica
MUSICA_ZONE,   music_kitchen,    Musica, 1
MUSICA_ZONE,   music_mb,         Musica, 2
MUSICA_ZONE,   music_patio,      Musica, 3
MUSICA_SOURCE, music_source1,    Musica, 1
MUSICA_SOURCE, music_source2,    Musica, 2
MUSICA_SOURCE, music_source3,    Musica, 3
MUSICA_SOURCE, music_source4,    Musica, 4

VIRTUAL_AUDIO_ROUTER, audio_router, 6, 4
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_classical,    audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_opera,        audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_enya,         audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_romantic,     audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_soft,         audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_jazz,         audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_kirk_mp3s,    audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_pink_floyd,   audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_the_cure,     audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_les_mis,      audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_rock,         audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_soft_rock,    audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_country,      audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_blues,        audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_dance,        audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_reggae,       audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_comedy,       audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_classic_rock, audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_alternative,  audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_80s,          audio_router
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_tivo,         audio_router, 3|4
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_pvr,          audio_router, 3|4
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_dvd,          audio_router, 3|4
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_tuner,        audio_router, 3|4
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_internet,     audio_router, 3|4
VIRTUAL_AUDIO_SOURCE, v_voice,        audio_router

As you can see, right now I only have one zone connected! I have a lot more wire to run and speakers to buy before I'll have my other zones connected.

Then you can use my user code to create your own:

  • speech.pl: Handles the piping of Misterhouse speech through my whole-house audio system. Also supports importance of speech events.
  • musica.pl: Controls my Musica whole-house audio system and the routing of virtual audio.
Misterhouse mp3_alsaplayer.pl

I wrote this Alsaplayer interface to the standard mp3.pl included with Misterhouse. It requires the AlsaPlayer.pm module listed below. The file is alsaplayer.pl.

Audio info/control page for Misterhouse

I wrote this Misterhouse web script to provide status and limited control of our whole-house audio system. Note that it is not complete at this point. Just put music.pl in your web directory somewhere.

Misterhouse Modules

I wrote the following Misterhouse modules to allow this system to all work properly. Although some of these are in Misterhouse version 2.88, these are more up to date:

  • Musica.pm: A complete Misterhouse driver for the Netstreams Musica whole-house audio system.
  • PlayList.pm: An abstract object holding an audio playlist. Currently only supports MP3s (and reading of directories and M3U files), and is currently only used by AlsaPlayer.pm (below). But could be expanded to do more.
  • AlsaPlayer.pm: A module to start and control the AlsaPlayer MP3 player to play MP3s through your ALSA-enabled sound cards.
  • VirtualAudio.pm: A module designed to work with any whole-house audio system to allow more sources to be transparently available to the user than the audio system actually has physical inputs for. Currently, I have numerous different MP3 playlists that each seem to be a separate audio source but are really transparently routed to one of the four physical source inputs on the Netstreams Musica system. This was written to support any type of source, and in the future I want to add additional external audio sources to my system that are routed using either an IR-controlled audio switcher or relays controlled from a Weeder board.
This page last modified Wed Jan 3 20:48:05 2007 Copyright 2020 Kirk Bauer