A multiroom audio system gives you control over speakers throughout your home or office, so that you can play different music in different rooms at the same time. It’s a bit like having your own private soundscape, and one that can be enjoyed by family members or even guests if you wish.
Whether you’re after the simple convenience of wireless streaming, or something more complex that can be tweaked to suit your specific acoustics and tastes, there’s a multiroom speaker out there to suit every type of lifestyle and budget. You can start from scratch with a dedicated multiroom speaker, or add streaming to hi-fi equipment you already own.
The most straightforward multiroom options use Wi-Fi to communicate, and most rely on a dedicated app that you can download for free on your smartphone or tablet. These apps also typically let you access a selection of major streaming services, as well as local storage on a connected NAS (network attached storage) hard drive.
Most branded multiroom speaker systems use their own proprietary ecosystems, but there are some that work on multiple platforms. For example, Sonos’s wireless multiroom audio system uses its own app, but you can also connect to it using Apple AirPlay, which is used on many Apple devices, or Denon’s HEOS platform. Regardless of which option you choose, the set-up process is similar to that for any wireless speaker or pair of headphones. It involves creating an account, adding wifi details, and pairing your speakers by listening for a series of chimes and beeps.
There’s a wide choice of multiroom speakers to choose from, from compact stereo systems such as the Sonos One and Sonos Play:5 to larger soundbars that can replace your TV speakers. The top-end Sonos Arc is a 5-star Stuff Recommends product, and it can be expanded with an optional subwoofer for a more immersive movie-watching experience. There are also plenty of options from Sonos’s rivals, including the Amazon Echo and Google Home, plus soundbars that have the technology baked in like the UE Focus 2 and Bose SoundTouch 500.
Another option is to add a bridging box to your existing hi-fi system, such as the Sonos Bridge or Bluesound Powernode. These connect to your hi-fi integrated amplifier or receiver via an Ethernet cable, and let you stream audio over the same Wi-Fi network as your other speakers. They usually have a dedicated app that lets you select your favourite music, listen to the radio, or control playback by voice.
If you’d prefer not to get rid of your current hi-fi equipment, you can also add multiroom capability with a separate speaker or a bridging box that plugs into an existing audio system and streams audio over your existing Wi-Fi connection. Most of these systems, such as Sonos and Bluesound, support both types of speakers, so you can mix and match to create the perfect configuration for your space. They also have their own dedicated apps that let you control your music, and they offer higher-quality sound quality than Bluetooth pairings. multiroom audio system