Wireless Speakers & Multi-Room Audio
We’ve looked into what you need to create a HiFi system to produce the best sound, but it’s unlikely that you’ll want to get a complete HiFi for every room in your house. The two most popular ways to get audio into the ‘other’ parts of your house are wireless speakers and ceiling speakers.
Wireless speakers can work using Bluetooth or WiFi.
Bluetooth speakers are a very simple, universal and portable solution. They can pair up with any phone, tablet or laptop which can transmit in bluetooth. So anything you play on that device will play out of the paired speaker. They usually feature an internal battery and they don’t require a network to work, which means you can use them anywhere. They are great for taking camping, to the beach, or down the garden.
However they are not really a multi-room product and lack some functionality.
Wireless speakers connect to your devices over your home network and are controlled using an app on your device. Unlike with Bluetooth speakers, it is possible to have many wireless speakers spread throughout your house either playing the same music all in time together, or different music in different zones. Using the app, you have independent control of each speaker and can have the app installed on as many different devices as you like.
Everyone who lives in your home can have the app installed and use the system. Your daughter can have her own music playing in her room, while your partner listens to internet radio in the kitchen and you can listen to your ‘in the bath’ play list while your having a bath.
It is important to bare in mind that most wireless speaker systems are closed systems. This means you will need all the speakers to me made by the same manufacturer and manufacturer’s own app to control them all. You could have different systems working on the same home network, but you’ll need different apps to control them. This will mean that the two systems will work separately, so you need to control them separately and it’ll be tricky (if not impossible) to get the music to play in sync on the two systems.
The main wireless multi-room audio brands now are SONOS, Yamaha MusicCast and Denon HEOS. There are also token offerings from the big TV manufacturers like Samsung, LG and Panasonic.
Here in the UK, the market leader is SONOS. From my own experience, this is very well deserved. The SONOS system and products are incredibly well designed, reliable and intuitive to use. It is a closed system, the SONOS app and the streaming services which work within the SONOS app are the only way to operate the SONOS speakers. However, this is part of the reason SONOS is so reliable and intuitive. It just works.
The thing with multi-room audio systems, wireless speakers and steaming products, is that they can be very glitchy and unreliable. I’ve experienced these difficulties with some of the systems; certain speakers don’t show up on the app, music doesn’t play in sync with all speakers and products disconnect from the WiFi. I can say with honesty that I have never experienced any of these glitches with either SONOS or Yamaha MusicCast.
Just for the purposes of clarity, I will stop at this point to say that we do not receive any financial incentive from specific manufacturers. Although we do have advertising on this website, it is generated at random. My recommendations are based purely on several years experience within the industry.
I equally recommend SONOS and Yamaha MusicCast. Specifically which of these I’d choose would be based on this on wether you will be using wireless speakers, or if you are wanting your multi-room system to integrate with other products. In this post I will outline the pros & cons of both systems in more detail.