EPR Blog

Mar14

How to create a Home Entertainment System with Apple Products

How to create a Home Entertainment System with Apple Products
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Over the last few weekends, I have set up a complete entertainment system for some family friends. Being a lover of all things Apple, I attempted to use as many Apple products as possible. It is actually a not so secret desire of mine to have a sizable budget to use at my discretion at Apple and Best Buy.

In putting together the system, I was quite surprised at how much Apple has created the ability to connect multiple devices in the home. Products that used to seem disconnected now work together to create a home entertainment system you could have only dreamt about just a few years ago.

Here is a list of Apple products that were combined to make a super connected home entertainment system:

Here’s what I did:

First of all, I connected Apple’s Time Capsule to the home Internet connection in the basement of the house. The Time Capsule serves two purposes. It is a 802.11n wireless router that works great with Apple products. It also acts as a 2TB hard drive. The Time Machine functionality can be used so that every computer in the house backs up wirelessly on the hour. No more carrying around an external hard drive and having to remember to back up your computer. This one happens automatically for the whole family.

Another great feature of the Time Capsule is its ability to connect a printer and provide printing capability to all household computers.

The next thing I did was to connect two different Airport Express devices in the house. One was connected on the main level and the other was connected in the master bedroom. In a similar fashion to the Time Capsule, the Airport Express acts as a wireless router. The beauty of the device is that it can also be utilized as a repeater of the main wireless signal. So, if your wireless signal coming from the basement is weak in the upstairs levels, the Airport Express repeats the signal to make it stronger.

You can also connect a stereo system to the Airport Express’ auxiliary output. This output can go into a stereo input. So, in the living room on the main level of the house, we connected the Airport Express to a Bose Wave Radio. In the master bedroom, we connected the Airport Express to the bedroom TV.

With these stereo connections in place, the MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone all became portable music players that could play music on any of these two stereos. So, as long as the computer, tablet, or phone was connected to WiFi, it could send any song located on the device to the stereo system. You could be a DJ in the basement while reclining in the den.

The realization of how much things had changed hit me as I set up the mid-level stereo system. I removed a 100 disc changer from the entertainment system cabinet and told the family they could now control even more music from their phones.

After setting up the stereos, it was time to work on the TVs. I got 2 Apple TVs for this part. One was for the family room tv and the other was for the downstairs children’s entertainment room. In addition to being able to stream Netflix movies, you can now stream music, photos, and movies from the computer, iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone. And this ability only became available on the iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone with the release of IOS 4.3, and that was only released within the past few weeks.

So, we’re talking about brand new functionality here that really only came out in the last month. The family already had two flat screen tvs and I set up some nice sounds systems to the tv/Apple TV comination.

The final product was really astonishing. By using an iPad, this family could now choose which movie to watch on their TV, change the music playing in the basement, set some jazz music in the living room, and have classical music going in the master bedroom. And they could do this from any room in their house using a computer, iPad, or iPhone.

The Apple products cost around $3500 total. Then of course, tvs and stereos were needed throughout the house. But if you wanted to, you could do a similar system for less than $1000. Here’s how:

  • One iPhone 3GS (currently $49)
  • One Apple TV ($100)
  • A surround sound receiver with 6 speakers ($350)
  • 40″ Flat Screen TV ($450)
  • HDMI, Taxes & Other Cables ($50)

Now, I’m making the assumption that you already have wifi set up. With these devices, you could use the iPhone as a remote or as a music player that would play music, podcasts and music through the Apple TV and through your surround sound receiver. You could even show photos and videos you took on your iPhone on your new flat screen tv.

If there is anyone else out there with a big entertainment system budget in Atlanta, let me know. I’d love to help.


Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a product from the link, Amazon thanks me for the business with money. I wrote this blog post 2+ years before adding the affiliate links so my recommendations are no way based off of me making money. I have used all of these products listed above and would recommend them whether I was being paid or not.


Blog photo by Needoptic

23 Comments

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  3. Erik Rostad

    Here are a few updates as of February 2012 to the information listed above:

    The new Mac Operating System, Mountain Lion, that is set for Summer 2012 release, will include a feature to AirPlay Mirroring from your laptop or Mac desktop. This has quite a few implications. The biggest one is that if Apple TV is set up in a conference room, anyone with a Mac will be able to show their screen to everyone else. This feature could also be utilized in an office setting without having to plug the computer to the monitor. Only an Apple TV device would be required.

    Also, I’d like to highlight that it is possible to use the Remote App on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod to choose between multiple Apple TVs or AirPorts to play music to. If you are just using the iTunes feature on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod, you can only play that music to one Apple TV or Airport at a time. But if you are using the Remote App to access music from a computer on the system, you can play the same song to multiple devices.

  4. ty makombe

    where do you buy the iPhone for $49

  5. Erik Rostad

    The iPhone 3GS is now free if you sign up for a phone plan on AT&T.

  6. Fred

    Hi Erik, looks like a great set up!

    I’m trying to get something organized for my home network with a similar set up, I’ve just taken the step towards an Apple ecosystem and invested in a iMac and Time Capsule after several years of PC environment. I have previously used a ISP provided modem / router as the common connection point with an external HDD at the back allowing both PC’s and PS3 access to files. However with my new purchase (iMac, OS X Mountain Lion) I can’t access the attached HDD over the network (long story involving legacy issues). I have now included a Time Capsule in the system to use together with an external HDD as the main shared network drive for my home network. As far as I have read the Time Capsule is not recommended as a network storage facility rather just a backup device for Mac computers. The modem / router is now bridged and I’m using the Time capsule as the main connection for all devices.

    I was just wondering in the set-up that you described above, where did you store and load up all the shared media files for the family to use / share…?

    I have also found the Time Capsule disappearing (un-mount?) and has to be reconnected to at start-up of the iMac, did you experience any connection problems as such with the network set up you did….?

    /Fred

  7. Erik Rostad

    Hi Fred – I used the Time Capsule to store all shared documents. The added benefit to that is that if you turn on sharing, you can access those files anywhere in the world as long as you enter the password. It effectively acts as your own Dropbox area.

    Are you able to switch to solely use the Time Capsule as both the router and the backup drive/server drive?

    I have not heard of the un-mounting problem before. From what I’ve seen, setting up the Time Capsule as a bridge to your existing network connection should work without it un-mounting. Not sure what to tell you there.

  8. Jan

    Hi Erik, I like your comments and advise a lot! I am currently investigating what will be the best home-setup for me. I now have:
    a macbook air 13″
    an iphone for my wife and one myself
    an ipad
    an apple tv device
    a 500gb G-drive external HDD
    a 3TB time capsule

    The last machine I bot this week. I used to use the G-drive for backing up my macbook air, but the macbook is completely stuffed so I need to move my data. Somewhere.

    What I understand is that you are using the time capsule as a hard drive. That sounds very handy in order to access data everywhere, and even online. But my question is, how are you making a back-up of your data now? It sounds like you do not use the time capsule at all for this. But I would hate to somehow lose all the data on there, such as photos of special moments et cetera.

    Wonder what you think. I am thinking of buying an iMac with a big hard disk to store all data on. And then back up all devices automatically on the time capsule. Wonder what you think.

    Thanks again for all the hints!

  9. Erik Rostad

    Hi Jan – all media was stored on a Mac. From what I understand, the media needs to be on an actual device whether that is a Mac, iPad or iPhone. Your best bet is to have a family computer and load all media on that computer. You can go with the iMac as you have mentioned or save some money and go with a Mac Mini. As long as that is connected to WiFi, you will be able to access all of that media content through the Apple TV device.

  10. Marcin

    Hi Erik,
    Thanks for the very good article.Could you advice please?
    I’m trying at the moment to figure out how to create something similar in our home and what I equipment need more. At the moment we have:
    - MacBook 13 with os 10.8.5
    - MacBook Pro 15 (a1150) with 10.6.8
    - iphone 5 with iOS7
    - iPhone 5s
    - wireless printer
    - Full HD TV, with usb (one at the moment, thinking about second one)
    - stereo
    - external USB hard drives – one for backups and one for media files – movies, pictures, music. No one wireless. Opt for buying one wireless.
    - wireless internet by SKY HUB router (printer works fine wireless with macbook & iphones)
    I would like to be able to watch movies (on-line & from hard-drives), share (between iphones and macs and watch pictures on tv), listen the music on stereo.
    What we need more and how to setup?
    Many thanks for your help
    Marcin
    Marcin

  11. Erik Rostad

    Hi Marcin – do you have an Apple TV? That appears to be the main missing component at the moment.

  12. Marcin

    Hi Erik,
    Thanks.
    I don’t have the apple tv so far.
    Marcin

  13. Marcin

    But planning to buy it. Anything elso should be purchased? How to connet it and setup all? Thanks

  14. Erik Rostad

    Yes – you’ll need an HDMI cable and your flat screen will need to be able to accept HDMI inputs.

  15. Marcin

    Cheers Erik. Maybe naive question but can be content from Time Capsule like movies, pictures played on connected tv? I’n trying to keep mostly of this on external hd.

  16. Erik Rostad

    My understanding is that the content has to be on a computer or an i device. It cannot be accessed from a Time Capsule. That may change in the future, but last I checked, you can only play content from your computer or idevice.

  17. Dale

    Hi Erik – I’ve been searching the net for a home solution and your article is exactly what I’ve been looking for, so thank you for posting. We currently have two iPhones (4s), two iPods, an iPad, Apple TV and a four year old MacBook Pro. We plan to replace our PC desktop and I was leaning towards an iMac but the system you outline is cheaper since we’d only need to get the time capsule and a wireless printer. Thanks so much for saving my sanity and some $$.

  18. Erik Rostad

    Hi Dale – thanks for your comment. The only concern I have about what you wrote is that I don’t believe you can access movies from your Time Capsule to play through your Apple TV. The movies themselves would need to be loaded onto your MacBook Pro or mobile devices. That is definitely doable, but if you had planned to store a ton of movies on your Time Capsule and access them that way, as far as I know, that would not be possible. In that case, you would want a desktop or laptop with a lot of hard drive space to store the movies. A lot of people get the Mac Mini for that exact purpose.

  19. Dale

    Hi sorry I should’ve been clearer. Rather than getting an iMac (and using that as a server) we’ll get the time capsule instead. Right now we manually backup and remove movies from the macbook to conserve real estate and then reload as needed but being able to do it wirelessly will be so much easier. I wouldn’t really care if we lost movies we’ve already watched, but photos are another story so I will likely keep my PC desktop and use that as a secondary back up for the important things.

  20. Erik Rostad

    Sounds like a good plan.

  21. Pat

    Erik – very good article. I’m also looking at creating the perfect system at home and I think Apple is the way to go. Someone finally got it!

    I look forward to more interesting posts from the online community.

  22. Marty

    Hi Erik. You CAN store all your media on the TC and just point iTunes to that folder…

  23. Erik Rostad

    Hi Marty – thanks for the correction.

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