Of all the cool home electronics, the one system that strikes a chord with nearly every homeowner is whole-house music.
“With all the options available, multiroom audio is still the most sought-after electronic home upgrade,” says Rick Ho of London Audio in Ontario, Canada. “A great sounding and easy-to-use system will often be played from morning till night.”
It’s easy to see the appeal. With just a touch of a button, your favorite music can follow you throughout your house—and you won’t have to blast the stereo or don a pair of headphones to get the full effect.
A multiroom audio system is designed to stream tunes from your audio components, no matter where they’re located, directly to speakers positioned in several areas, or zones, of your house. However, these systems can differ dramatically, both in the way they’re engineered and how they’re installed. While some setups cater to the diverse musical tastes of large families, others are better suited for couples who share a love of the same artists. There are systems that need to be wired into your home and those that require no wire at all. You’ll also find systems that can synch with your iPod.
No matter what type of household you live in or what kind of music you crave, there’s a system that’s right for you. We asked several custom electronics professionals for their recommendations and put together six hypothetical solutions in a slideshow.
Todd Levenson, evanesce: The new Series3 HD TiVo, for its value-packed punch. It can play music from networked computers and expand its storage capacity to hold up to 292 hours of HD content.
Glenn Kalber, GDK Surround: The coolest product we have found is the Universal Remote Control PSX-2 iPod docking station. It provides an iPhone looking interface on your TV and very cool graphics.
Mitch Arthur, Living Intelligent Inc.: Some great audio distribution systems that can be networked with and controlled by other systems are the NuVo Grand Concerto and the Crestron AAE (Adagio Audio Expander).
Mitch Fogelman, Design Electric Inc.: The Niles GRX-2 is the perfect solution for multiroom audio projects. It automatically discovers and configures the keypads, and it comes with a two-way radio-frequency remote that can display metadata (information about the song that’s currently playing).
Ralph Carratura, HomeLife Technology: I find that Control4 has a solution for almost any price point. Once the system is in place, streaming music from a network drive, an iPod dock, Rhapsody, XM or whatever couldn’t be simpler.
At the most recent Multi-Room Awards, Crestron dominated with its AMS-AIP Adagio Media System. And why not? This relatively affordable powerhouse includes a surround sound receiver, amplifier, and four-zone multiroom audio system. Plus, it’s a control system so you can add automation. Crestron also picked up a prize for its CEN-ISERVER, a dedicated, networkable audio server for the iPod.
Russound is a staple for a good chunk of A/V professionals. The C5 Multizone System (part of the flagship C-Series) has it all: an eight-zone, eight-source controller amplifier, built-in AM/FM tuner, and Class D digital amp. The keypad is typical Russound: elegant and intuitive. Perhaps you’d like some Russound Acclaim in-wall speakers to go with that C5?
NuVo Technologies is probably the most successful newcomer in multiroom audio, offering extremely affordable multiroom audio systems with plenty of punch. Add some digital music to your multiroom system with Music Port, which lets you distribute digital content—inexpensively —throughout the house. And, with partner Autonomic, NuVo brings Pandora right to the keypad.
SpeakerCraft is best known for its loudspeakers, but the company was a pioneer in iPod-based music distribution with metadata. The MODE system lets users access their iPod libraries, as well as XM radio, AM/FM tunes and music stored in a MODE Jukebox server.
Click here to view a slideshow of our six multiroom audio solutions.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.