Surround sound systems are great for single-room audio and an immersive experience. But if you entertain a lot and want to standardize the music experience—or just dream of hearing your favorite podcast in every room without headphones—you’ll need a whole home audio system.
In this post, we’ll explore some whole home audio configurations and considerations that you should keep in mind while building the audio experience of your dreams.
Whole home audio is also known as a multi-room system, because you’re able to link the audio that is in multiple rooms to the same source. Technically, there is nothing that prevents you from doing this with older stereo systems as long as the wires are long enough. But you’d want a more elegant solution for putting up whole home audio in 2020! There are wireless solutions that should be able to help you do this with more accuracy.
The goal of a multi-room or whole-house system is simple. You want to be able to cue up a song from Apple Music or Spotify and have that song play through your entire house simultaneously. Usually, multiroom audio systems are controlled through a centralized app that should be able to stream your music.
How Do Multi-Room Systems Work?
Multi-room systems can link through wireless speakers or a hi-fi setup. You can also use a closed mesh network to spin off your existing Wi-Fi network. Alternatively, some systems combine an individualized mesh wifi network with bluetooth connectivity so that you have an even more versatile system.
These days, you can get Google, Amazon, and Apple solutions for your whole-home or multi-room systems. As you might imagine, these systems sync with Alexa, your Google Assistant, or Siri. The systems are also more intuitive and easier to set up than older systems which required more technical knowledge.
For example, you can get a Samsung model with the R-series of speakers which creates a mesh network that allows the speakers to talk to each other and bounce music around every single room.
What Brand of Speakers Should I Buy?
Apple’s second update to AirPlay is a whole-home audio system so that you can play the same song on the same system around the home. Apple’s system automatically connects your various Apple devices so that you can easily move content around your home. They have also released the HomePod, their Siri-enabled competition to Google and Amazon’s home devices. AirPlay works on TVs and on a variety of different Sonos-compatible speaker systems.
Sonos is not only a great surround sound brand, but they also have an amazing multi-room audio market. Instead of connecting through Bluetooth, Sono also allows you to set up a wifi mesh network underneath your existing wifi network. The mesh network easily connects all your Sonos speakers together. And their app, the Sonos app, is a really intuitive solution to audio control. You can sign into music services through the audio app to stream content right to your whole mesh system directly through the Sonos app.
As usual, Google has the best interface for creating a whole-home audio experience. The Google Home app has a function that allows you to create an entire speaker group. As long as all your speakers are connected to the same wifi network, you can create unlimited groups and create unique whole-home audio experiences. Want to make a speaker group specifically for your bedroom, the kitchen, and the patio? Great. Want a different speaker group that just covers the living room and backyard? Great. You can add and drop individual speakers and pipe music through a specific group.
Bose has some popular multi-room solutions, and they prefer to use hi-fi connectivity. The SoundTouch line also uses bluetooth and wifi dual connectivity, with controls on the speakers, a remote, and an app. Bose focuses on functionality so much that sometimes there is too much functionality! It’s great for sound pros who know exactly what they want from their system. Other kinds of consumers may find that there is too many bells and whistles for it to be useful.
Whole Home Audio Design
Since modern systems don’t require any technical knowledge to set up, they’re really easy to use. But there are still plenty of other considerations for your whole home audio system!
Many people purchase different sound systems for their home audio and their entertainment center. You don’t usually need the TV in a single room to play through the whole house. Additionally, you can get better sound systems if you simply focus on one thing at a time. Buy a single entertainment center for your living room, and buy a separate one to control audio throughout your whole house.
Most great sound systems that are built for multi-room use have outdoor models of speakers. Outdoor speakers usually focus on clarity in an environment with bad acoustics, which is essential for outdoor use. It’s easy to pair outdoor speakers with the system. Just make sure to spread them out, and check the mesh WiFi connectivity of speakers on the far side of the yard.
Mesh WiFi Connectivity
Mesh WiFi is a type of WiFi connection that relies on different routers at different access points to create a mesh of connectivity, instead of a single beam from a single point. Many of the whole-home systems that we’ve been talking about here require that your speakers are all individually connected to WiFi. That means if you have speakers in the front of the house and at the back edge of the backyard, you’ll need a strong WiFi connection to reach everything. The best way to do this is through a mesh system that connects it all. If you’re going to upgrade the speakers, also consider upgrading your WiFi!
Apple’s AirPlay system generally syncs with other kinds of smart speakers, which means you could connect Siri to everything and have voice control. Sonos generally supports Alexa, which is a huge benefit. And of course Google’s systems use the assistant across all devices.