Multiroom audio systems have transformed the way we can enjoy music, podcasts, radio, or news in our homes. If you’re looking to stream media across your home or business without needing to stress about cabling and amplification, a multiroom setup is the way to go.
Multiroom systems link devices source and playback devices together wirelessly, allowing for seamless media playback in any environment.
Multiroom audio systems offer several advantages over traditional home audio systems, including:
- Excellent control range. Multiroom audio systems allow your media to be controlled from anywhere in your home, office, or shop using any smartphone, tablet, or computer.
- Independent control. Multiroom audio systems allow each component to be controlled independently, allowing you to set different volume levels for each room, enable different people to play from separate playlists simultaneously, or perform room-relevant equalization on the speakers without affecting the rest of the system.
- Multiroom audio systems offer superior sound quality. Typically, multiroom audio systems make use of high-quality speakers and audio components, coupled with advanced audio processing technologies, to optimize the sound for each room/area’s acoustic properties.
- Multiroom audio systems are flexible. When using a multiroom audio system, you can generally connect multiple devices to the ‘brain’ unit, allowing different users to enjoy their own content, or it can be used to wirelessly link your office computer, smartphone, home theater system, and outdoor sound system together, for example, eliminating the need for you to establish a pairing or plug in a cable every time you want to listen to something.
- Low Latency. Multiroom setups typically utilize Wi-Fi connectivity which has the benefit of lower latency than typical Bluetooth connections.
How Do Multiroom Audio Systems Work?
Multiroom audio systems operate using wireless signal transmission technologies: no cabling is involved. Multiroom audio systems can utilize several technologies to transmit their signals from a central source device to multiple speakers. Most commonly, multiroom audio systems use one of the two (or both) below technologies:
How Are Multiroom Audio Systems Set Up?
Most multiroom audio systems rely on a local area network (LAN) connection to transmit audio signals, usually a Wi-Fi connection. Multiroom audio systems using Wi-Fi are preferable for several reasons:
1. The connection speed is much faster than alternative wireless streaming options.
Those using their multiroom audio system for watching movies or gaming won’t notice the delays or ‘lag’ they would when using a Bluetooth pairing, for example.
2. The connection can be maintained over a longer range
Wi-Fi signal transmission can run smoothly over quite a reasonable range and can always be extended using router extensions or boosters. For the best results, I’d recommend purchasing a mesh system. Mesh networks provide better coverage across larger home areas and can dramatically improve the overall Wi-Fi signal across your home. You are also able to easily scale up mesh systems for greater coverage.
3. The connection can carry a wider bandwidth.
A wider bandwidth allows for more data to be carried wirelessly, meaning the quality of your media will face less signal degradation as it is decoded and re-encoded on the receiving end. A Wi-Fi connection is best for you if you’re looking for the best possible sound quality without involving cabling and amplification.
Various streaming protocols can be used as an alternative to Wi-Fi, including Apple AirPlay, Chromecast, and Bluetooth. These technologies require the audio signal to be transmitted from the central source to the network, and from there, to the individual speakers. The above streaming protocols can transmit data in great resolution; however, depending on the application at play, you may experience some lag/delays, and if you’re an audiophile, you may notice some signal quality reduction. It’s also important to note that using such streaming protocols will require more battery power from your source device, whether it’s a smartphone, laptop, or tablet.
While the above two options are the most common for multiroom audio streaming, physical connections are sometimes used. Speaker wiring can be used if you’re looking to preserve the audio’s signal quality as best as possible. However, this can cause things to be more expensive to set up and will require a bit of know-how.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Signal Transmission Compared
|Feature||Wi-Fi Signal Transmission||Bluetooth Pairings|
|Range||Wi-Fi range can be extended and offers uninterrupted connectivity.||Bluetooth only operates within a specified range, and signal degradation can occur after as little as 30 ft.|
|Operation||Bluetooth pairings are power-hungry, and will drain the battery of your source device much faster.||Bluetooth pairings need to be established each time the devices need to be used.|
|Formats||Wi-Fi offers a large bandwidth, allowing for high-quality signal transmission anywhere within range.||Bluetooth signal quality is greatly affected by both the range and the codec/format used. Older Bluetooth versions will not transmit audio in a lossless fashion.|
|Battery||Wi-Fi signal transmission does not draw any more battery power than usual since the source device acts as a control unit.||Bluetooth pairings are power-hungry and will drain the battery of your source device much faster.|
|User-Friendliness||Wi-Fi allows you to accept a phone call, send a voice message, or listen to something on your source device without affecting what’s playing through the speakers – unless you want it to.||Bluetooth pairings will override all onboard signal flow and send any audio signal through the system. This means you’ll need to deactivate and re-establish your Bluetooth pairing to accept a phone call.|
What do I need to set up a multiroom audio system?
If you’re looking to install a multiroom audio system in your home or business, you’ll need to consider your goals and gather the necessary equipment.
The first step involves determining the type of system that’ll best suit your needs. For some applications, purchasing the components individually might save you time and money. However, you might find it easier to purchase a complete home audio multiroom system box with everything you need.
First, begin by deciding how many speakers you want, where you would like to place them, and how you want to control them. From there, you can look at the finer details, such as the connectivity options/protocol, the frequency response and technical specs of the speakers and system itself, and what other gear you might need to make the most of your multiroom audio system.
It’s worth noting at this point that if you’re currently running a wired home audio system, say for your TV/home theater, for example, you don’t necessarily need to get rid of this equipment to invest in a multiroom audio system – there is always a way to integrate your current setup into your new multiroom audio system.
A multiroom audio system involves several components, so it should be fairly easy to find the point where you can convert your cabled system to a wireless one. The best place to do this is generally at the amplification source, where all the signal is coming in and going out.
There are, however, a handful of things to consider before heading straight onto Amazon…
Ensuring the components you choose (receivers, amplifiers, speakers, etc.) are compatible with each other and your existing equipment is vital. This step ensures your multiroom audio system can be set up quickly and easily and no compatibility issues arise later down the line.
Invest In Your Audio Performance
Sound quality is crucial to generating an enjoyable listening experience, as with any audio-related equipment. Investing in components that don’t compromise sound quality will save you both money that you may need to spend on upgrades down the line and time spent equalizing and fiddling with speaker placement to get the most out of the speakers. I always recommend spending the extra bucks at the start, eliminating future troubles.
The following articles will help you find some of the best-performing home audio equipment:
You may find yourself wanting or needing additional speakers down the line. Maybe you want to add some on your porch, in your bathroom, or in your garage – in places you might not have thought of/needed initially. Investing in equipment that is easy to expand and configured to different devices and setups can also save loads of time and money.
Ease of Use
A multiroom system is meant to be hassle-free and enjoyable. Purchasing a system that connects to your source devices easily, reacts how you want it to, and is easy to navigate/configure while sounding great is highly recommended.
Multiroom audio systems can vary dramatically in price. I recommend looking for systems that offer what you need while falling within your expected expenditure. If you cannot get all your components at once, start small and upgrade as you can, rather than compromising quality and ease of use for price.
Pros and Cons of a Multiroom Audio System
This wouldn’t be a fair article if we didn’t weigh out the advantages and disadvantages of a multiroom audio system. While a multiroom audio system offers convenience and flexibility, other factors such as pricing, installation, and setup can sway your opinion, depending on your specific needs surrounding your media preferences/taste, the layout of your home, and the connectivity options available to you, among other aspects.
- Convenience: Multiroom audio systems allow you to enjoy audio content across your home or business without needing much equipment and manually switching sources.
- Flexibility: Multiroom audio systems can be entirely customized to suit your needs.
- Superior Sound Quality: Multiroom audio systems provide enhanced audio quality as the possibility of poor cabling and amplification isn’t a concern, and if Wi-Fi transmission is used, you’ll find you can experience crisp, clean sound quality that is far superior to Bluetooth pairings.
- Increased Home Value: Installing a multi-room audio system in your home will increase its value and appeal to potential buyers.
- Cost: Multiroom audio systems can quickly become very expensive. This of course, depends on your needs; how many speakers you require, the possible need for Wi-Fi extensions, and the cost of the speakers itself, where price often determines quality, can make this an expensive exercise.
- Complexity: Depending on the specifics of the system you’re looking at installing, some technical knowledge may be required when it comes to speaker placement, configuring the Wi-Fi connections, and organizing all your devices into a central source system.
- Installation: Setting up a multiroom audio system may require serious modifications to your home or business, which can include running cables discreetly and drilling holes in walls and ceilings. Depending on your living situation, these alterations may not be permitted or can be challenging.
- Maintenance: Multiroom audio systems require regular updates and maintenance to ensure your equipment functions correctly and can communicate with each other. This can be time-consuming.
Multiroom audio systems can make your content consumption at home or at work far more enjoyable, but investing in one may not be the right choice for everyone. A multiroom audio system requires careful consideration and planning. With the right circumstances, a multiroom audio system can enhance your listening and viewing experiences tremendously.