Audio for the whole home: wired or wireless?

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The idea of ​​music floating through every room in your home sounds great, but getting there isn’t always easy. Choosing between a wired or wireless multi-room audio setup can be tricky, but we’re here to help.

Two types of whole home audio setups

If you’re not familiar, whole house audio (also known as multi-room audio or whole house audio) refers to speakers placed in various locations throughout your home. Instead of treating them as separate systems, you control them all from one place and music plays on all of them simultaneously.

There are two main ways to set up a complete home audio system. The oldest and most traditional route uses speakers and speaker cables, which usually run through walls. These systems have traditionally never been very popular outside of enthusiast circles.

However, interest in multi-room and whole-home audio has increased in recent years with companies like Sonos offering wireless speakers that easily connect to each other. Smart speakers from Google, Apple, Amazon, and others also often offer multi-room playback.

Wired Whole Home Audio: The Pros and Cons

One of the most popular reasons people opt for wired complete home audio systems is the ability to customize. You can carefully choose each component, place them exactly where you want, and design each element of the system exactly how you want it. That’s why this method still appeals to audio enthusiasts.

These are usually standard home theater and audio components, meaning you can mix and match anything you want. If you want to use one brand of speakers and another brand for your amplifier, nothing is going to stop you.

Using standard off-the-shelf stereo components also helps keep things cheap. Speakers and speaker cables are much cheaper than buying wireless speakers with built-in amplifiers and other built-in components. This is relative, and you can still spend a lot of money, but you can certainly save money if you try.

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While you may end up saving money with a wired whole home audio system, there is a tradeoff: time. All that customization ability means you’ll need to make sure all your components work well together, like matching the impedances between your amp and speakers.

You may think that the wiring aspect is not difficult, especially if you have wired your home theater system before. That knowledge translates, but there’s more to consider, like running cables through walls. If you are a new owner or in the middle of a remodel, this may be easy, but otherwise the wiring will be the most difficult part of the installation.

It’s not always just a single amp, speakers, and cables. Depending on the size of your setup and the number of rooms you’re connecting, you may need additional amplifiers and other equipment.

Whole Home Wireless Audio: The Pros and Cons

The wireless variety of whole home audio is probably what most people think of these days when they hear the term. Modern wireless multi-room speaker systems make it easy to set up whole-home audio. Just plug in your speakers, connect them to Wi-Fi, and start listening.

Whole-home wireless audio systems are also often easier to use. Instead of a physical remote for a wired system, most wireless multi-room systems allow you to control every aspect of it with your voice or your phone. This makes adjusting volumes or playing solo in certain rooms much easier.

Beyond controlling playback and volume, wireless whole-home systems are generally much smarter than wired systems. You can create a basic multi-room system with Amazon Echo speakers, for example. Even if you’re not using a smart speaker, they often allow you to activate and interact with your phone’s voice assistant.

A black Sonos One speaker on a shelf.
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No wires means no installation. Running speaker wire is the hardest part of setting up a wired home audio system, and the only wires you need to worry about with a wireless system are the power cords you plug into the wall.

A final advantage with wireless systems is that you can potentially get the best of both worlds. You’ll find product lines like Yamaha MultiCast, which have the convenience of wireless home audio with more traditional home theater systems and other speaker options.

Of course, this ease of use doesn’t come cheap. Wireless whole-home audio systems can get expensive quickly, and the price only goes up with each additional room. For example, setting up a simple two-bedroom with Sonos One speakers will set you back nearly $600.

The other big drawback to whole home wireless audio systems is that many brands don’t work with other brands. For example, it won’t be easy for you to get Apple and Google speakers to work well together.

Which is the right option for you?

If you’re looking for the easiest option, then wireless wins hands down. A wireless multiroom system is easy to set up, easy to use, and you can start with two or three speakers and add more as desired. Just be sure to remember that the price can start to go up pretty quickly.

On the other hand, if you opt to have someone install a complete wired home audio system for you, you’ll be spending a lot too. The wired option is best if you absolutely must have the custom design of your dreams. This is also perfect for you if the journey is the destination and you think you will enjoy the building process.

Regardless of which way you choose, chances are you’ll be delighted with the results.

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