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I'd like some advice on what direction to take for a noob with building a DIY system for Audio monitoring a home (Good quality audio, pickups in several rooms, 100% recording and ability to listen real-time from mobile phone as extra desired bonus).

When I asked around on SE chat sites, AVP.SE was named as a possible site where this could be on-topic.

  • Is that an accurate assessment? Would questions pertaining to such a project be on-topic here in general?

  • If so, are shopping recommendations within such topic in scope? Most SE sites don't allow shopping recommendations in general so I assume the answer would be "no".

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    have you looked at diy.stackexchange.com ? Home monitoring is likely to be considered off-topic here. If you need to incorporate web-based access, perhaps poke around webapps.stackexchange.com – JoshP Jan 24 '13 at 16:17
  • @Josh - I'm more concerned with the audio (which kinds of microphones/pickups to use; what technologies to use to record the sounds?) than with the networking aspects of it. – DVK Jan 24 '13 at 16:28
  • That's cool. I took your question here about "building a system for audio monitoring a home," as implying much more than which microphones to use. – JoshP Jan 24 '13 at 16:36
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    Regardless of the outcome of this discussion, DVK should be congratulated for bringing this issue up here and posting very clear questions both here and in AVP. I disagree that this particular question is on-topic, but definitely welcome on-topic questions from DVK in the future. – ObscureRobot Jan 24 '13 at 21:05
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As with most edge cases, it really comes down to the content and purpose of the questions - not just the question's subject, but what it's really about. Any question that deals with the technical issues in using your camera is probably just fine, but questions that are really more about your house than the audio setup probably aren't. Based on your description, here are some example questions that might be good:

  • What sort of microphone best suits a home-monitoring system?
  • Can I run microphone cable across long distances (such as across rooms in a house)?
  • Does there exist a tool that will record continuously and stream the audio digitally?
  • For that matter, does there exist a tool that already covers this situation entirely, or do I need to be building this myself?

Shopping recommendation questions are off-topic here for the same reason they're off-topic on most SE sites: because they're usually lazy and too localized to a point in time with regards to the market. However, choosing equipment is a pretty big deal in audio and video, and you can usually reword these questions to be useful and insightful.

Say you need a microphone. Instead of asking "which microphone should I buy?" you can ask "is there a 'standard' mic in this situation?" or "what do I need to look for in a mic for this purpose?" Both of those questions invite explanation, not just one-liner answering. Often there is a fairly standard brand or type, and there's usually a reason for that. And if not, then the best answers are where someone teaches you how to find what will work best for you.

For example, take this question about multitrack recording into a computer. The asker didn't ask what to buy, he asked "what sort of thing should I be looking for, and how do I evaluate it?" The question got several upvotes and I've linked to it lots of times since the answer to that kind of question ended up being useful in a lot of other conversations I've had.

So yeah, you're probably on-topic, just make sure it's about audio/video production!

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  • +1 and thank you - incidentally, the 4 questions that were your examples are exactly what I was planning to ask, except worded better :) – DVK Jan 24 '13 at 16:30
  • @DVK Haha, awesome! Yeah, ask away. If anything doesn't fit, we can edit them. – Warrior Bob Jan 24 '13 at 16:41
  • Here's my first attempt. Feel free to critique - I'm an old hand on SE, but a total A/V newbie, so any feedback welcome. If you feel the question's too broad, it can probably be split into several sub-questions – DVK Jan 24 '13 at 17:12
  • It is an interesting question, but I disagree that it is on-topic. The core question isn't about AV production, it is essentially about home surveillance. I would rather not see a flood of home surveillance questions on AVP. – ObscureRobot Jan 24 '13 at 20:56
  • If the question is more around the functionality or privacy or security implications, then it could be welcome over on security stack exchange, but over there we wouldn't be worried about the audio or video aspects of it (except possible questions on what resolution may be needed for use in court etc...) but I think I agree with Warrior Bob in general here. – Dr Mayhem Jan 28 '13 at 10:29
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I'd like to offer the dissenting opinion: I don't believe that home surveillance is on topic for AVP.

There is an entire surveillance industry out there (it is a subset of the physical security world. If you have never seen an armored BMW 7-series have a close encounter with an improvised explosive, I suggest attending the next security trade show you can!) that offers a wide array of solutions for these kinds of problems.

It is true that the solutions are built on some very similar technology to what is used in pro-audio and pro-video, but the emphasis is different. While pro-audio and pro-video is generally about creative use of media, security is about building reliable, automated systems that require as little creative input as possible.

From a solution-design perspective, this is also wrong. You will end up with a bad solution if you predicate your solution on a particular type of technology rather than your actual use case. The use case here is audio monitoring of the home. There are many possible solutions, some of which may be built with pro-audio gear. But starting with pro-audio gear excludes a lot of possible solutions that involve less expensive or more specialized equipment. You could argue that starting in the surveillance world creates the same kind of problematic bias, but at least that world is focused on addressing this particular question.

DVK's question is well constructed, but I don't think AVP is the right starting point for it.

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