Up to now 20 years or so, multi-room music has gone from being a pursuit purely for the dear customized set up market to 1 that’s accessible to just about anybody available in the market for a wireless speaker. In fact, you possibly can spend a number of a whole lot, and even hundreds, if you want, however you can even fairly simply handle a two-room setup for beneath $100/£100.
Sonos led the way in which for the mainstream from the early days, however now it has way more competitors, so choosing the proper system is changing into more and more difficult. There usually are not solely a number of corporations providing their very own proprietary methods, like Sonos, however there are quite a few platforms too, together with AirPlay 2, Alexa MRM and Google Chromecast, which let you combine and match gadgets from totally different appropriate producers.
We have compiled all the perfect choices out there in the marketplace that can assist you resolve which multi-room audio system is for you.
What’s multi-room audio?
Put merely, multi-room audio merely is the flexibility to hearken to music throughout a number of rooms. That may very well be the identical track all through the home, or totally different songs in other places – although it could rely on the system you select as to the choices you’ve got right here.
Music performed throughout a multi-room audio system can come from streaming providers akin to Spotify or Apple Music, or your personal private music assortment whether or not that be on a NAS (Community Connected Storage) drive, your laptop, a CD and even vinyl – with the precise setup.
Multi-room audio methods are usually wi-fi, related over wi-fi and managed utilizing an app, so other than making certain an influence provide is close by, your web connection is respectable and you’ve got your smartphone prepared, audio system might be positioned wherever you want in your house. In fact, you may want at the least one speaker in every room you wish to hear music in, and at the least two to make it a multi-room system – although after all you possibly can all the time begin with one and construct up over time. Simply be sure you know the ecosystem you wish to construct into, which we’ll clarify slightly extra under.
How does multi-room audio work?
A multi-room system includes a sequence of audio system, whether or not they be wi-fi audio system, a soundbar or soundbase, or perhaps a conventional hi-fi setup with an hooked up streaming module to get that audiophile goodness on-line.
Completely different methods use totally different platforms and these platforms not solely decide consumer expertise and the way every multi-room system works, however additionally they dictate which audio system and methods work collectively and which do not.
There are two essential ways in which multi-room works, and that’s by way of a mesh connection, or a direct connection to your Wi-Fi. A mesh connection is the higher, and extra steady possibility of the 2, but it surely does have some extra necessities.
You will nonetheless want a Wi-Fi connection, natch, however you may often hardwire an preliminary speaker to your router. That speaker then creates a devoted community on your audio system, the place all of them communicate to 1 one other and in the end act as extenders on your Wi-Fi. This allows your system to work higher and extra reliably in homes the place Wi-Fi sign may wrestle in some areas of the home.
Some methods – like Sonos, Denon, Samsung and Bluesound – supply the choice of both connection, however others will carry out a purely wi-fi setup. Simply remember that if doing the latter and connecting over Wi-Fi alone that you will wish to have a great Wi-Fi connection in all areas of the home that you just wish to playback music, and it will additionally have an effect in your bandwidth whenever you do.
It was once the case that when you’d chosen your multi-room system, that you just have been tied into it – and in some instances, that is still true. Because of this in the event you’ve purchased a sure model, you possibly can’t combine and match varied audio system from different producers and anticipate them to work with one another.
That is actually the case with manufacturers like Sonos, Bluesound and Denon, however there are actually quite a few platforms that may will let you hook up audio system from a number of manufacturers right into a multi-room setup – although these do include some restrictions.
Whichever system you select, as soon as it is up and working you may typically have to obtain the associated app to your telephone or pill to manage it, or you possibly can even now use your voice because of Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. The one exclusion to that is methods arrange utilizing AirPlay 2, that are typically managed inside the iOS ecosystem.
Which multi-room system ought to I purchase?
As we have touched upon, multi-room music methods are available in varied styles and sizes, so selecting the perfect one for you and your property is usually a demanding activity. We have compiled a listing of the primary gamers within the multi-room audio sport, from the all-conquering Sonos, to particulars on the platforms that may will let you mix totally different audio system from totally different producers.
Arguably probably the most intensive and easy-to-use multi-room system in the marketplace, Sonos might have sturdy competitors now but it surely continues to rise to it with its vary of multi-room audio system. Whether or not you want a small speaker for a kitchen or bed room, just like the Era 100, a bigger spatial audio-compatible speaker just like the Era 300, a soundbar just like the Beam Gen 2 or Sonos Arc, or a conveyable speaker just like the Sonos Move 2 or Sonos Roam (each of which additionally assist Bluetooth playback), you’re lined right here. And simply attempt to discover a streaming service that Sonos would not assist. There isn’t any high-res audio assist right here but although, so audiophiles eager to hearken to their 24-bit/192kHz tracks in all their glory might want to look elsewhere.
Talking of high-res, Bluesound provides precisely the assist that audiophiles might really feel is lacking from Sonos, with assist for 24-bit/192kHz playback throughout a spread of wi-fi audio system, soundbars, streamers and third-party hi-fi package by way of its multi-room platform BluOS. Its system might not be fairly as refined as Sonos however its made large enhancements just lately, and the efficiency out there right here is prime notch throughout the board.
Denon’s Heos system goes throughout its standalone Heos House speakers and soundbars, in addition to being constructed into extra hi-fi and AV merchandise from the broader Denon and Marantz household – one thing the model calls Heos Constructed In. This implies appropriate AV receivers and stereo amps can feed into your system, and share their audio all through the home.
Like Sonos, Denon Heos makes use of a mesh Wi-Fi community so you possibly can solely join Heos-enabled merchandise – which fortuitously there are numerous of. Every thing is managed by way of the Denon Heos app, which is appropriate with Android, iOS and Amazon.
Bose is a giant participant within the audio world, so it is no shock that it too has a spread of multi-room audio system. Falling beneath the «Bose Sensible» branding, there are three soundbars and two audio system, in addition to an amplifier for hooking up older hi-fi package. The system connects on to your Wi-Fi, however Bluetooth can be supported, so you possibly can stream to a single speaker (although this would possibly not work with multi-room). You will want the Bose Music app for the perfect expertise, although the audio system within the line up are additionally all appropriate with the likes of AirPlay 2 and Chromecast Constructed In too, supplying you with the choice to hook up a number of audio system to play the identical content material, or play your personal on to a speaker of your alternative.
We have actually favored quite a few Audio Pro speakers now, and whereas the multiroom expertise on supply right here might not be probably the most polished or complete, there isn’t any doubting the sound high quality this proficient little speaker household has to supply at some higher costs in comparison with the competitors.
Google may be very a lot a supporter of multi-room audio and its Chromecast Constructed In platform might be discovered on many wi-fi audio system now, together with after all, Google’s personal Nest and Google Home speakers, but additionally audio system from B&O, Sony, Philips and LG, It is utterly open, so all appropriate gadgets will work with each other and the variety of supported providers is huge. You may mirror the audio from an internet browser or YouTube too, plus as you possibly can think about, voice management is baked into the system at its core. You may solely management playback of a single supply to a number of audio system although, which is kind of totally different to one thing like Sonos, so simply pay attention to the variations so what to anticipate.
Apple AirPlay 2
Apple introduced AirPlay 2 at WWDC 2017 and with it, launched multi-room audio. Naturally, it is solely supported by Macs and iOS gadgets in terms of management, however the variety of gadgets out there with it inbuilt is rising on a regular basis. As you possibly can think about, Apple’s personal audio system, just like the HomePod Mini and HomePod 2 are able to go together with AirPlay 2, as are lots of the audio system that assist Chromecast Constructed In, nonetheless equally to them, you possibly can solely stream the identical track to a number of audio system and rooms, reasonably than play totally different ones across the residence.
Amazon’s Echo speakers are a few of the most inexpensive methods to construct a multi-room system, however like Google and Apple, Amazon has opened up the ecosystem to third-party audio system – although the quantity is comparatively low in comparison with these above. JBL’s just lately introduced Authentics range of speakers will use it (in addition to Chromecast Constructed In).