There are two schools of thought when it comes to installing a whole-house music system into a home: you can run no wire at all, relying on your home’s wireless network to deliver music from audio components to speakers, or you can utilize low-voltage cabling as the mode of transportation for your music. Both have their merits, which can make it difficult to decide which route to take. That’s why we asked Michael de Nigris, CEO at Autonomic Controls, and Kostas Reissis, Director of AV and Specialty Sales at Sonos, to battle out the finer points of wireless vs. hardwired whole-house music systems. — From the Editor
Hardwired Whole-House Music Systems Rule
By Michael de Nigris, CEO, Autonomic Controls
Home systems integration firms predominantly use wired solutions as the foundation for whole-home audio systems. By in large, they are not transporting audio wirelessly to loudspeakers as part of their primary solution set. They do, however, rely on music sources (such as an Autonomic MMS music server) to give consumers access to and control over their music wirelessly from a handheld iOS and/or Android device. These sources, although accessed and controlled wirelessly, operate most reliably when they are wired and integrated into whole-home audio systems or larger global home automation systems that include multi-zone amplifiers and loudspeakers. And, just because a whole-house audio system requires wiring, does not mean that it will be an eyesore to look at. Most consumers want everything neat and hidden away, and are often misinformed that wireless technology is the only way to achieve this outcome.
The drawback of using wireless hardware to transport the audio signal is a potential sacrifice in both sound quality and reliability, despite the growing number of wireless solutions that support higher resolution digital formats. A wired solution serves all brands of hardware equally, while a wireless solution often relies on signal compression and is at the mercy of the home network, as well as external RF factors that could impact performance. Although Wi-Fi networks have evolved, their reliability and performance is not equal to that of a structured wiring solution. An additional benefit of going with a wired whole-house audio system is that most can be easily integrated with a variety of home control systems. This means, for example, that from one system you can access and control music, operate the lights and thermostats, and monitor a security system. It’s usually more difficult to fuse a wireless whole-house audio system with a home control system.
And you can’t talk about whole-house audio systems without commenting on loudspeakers. Wireless speakers provide the benefit of easy, flexible installation, but when compared cosmetically to hardwired speakers, they simply don’t stack up. Hardwired, architectural speakers are visually stunning, offering consumers beautiful options for their homes. Architectural loudspeakers serve as the eye candy of a whole-house audio system and give consumers the opportunity to make their whole-house audio systems unique while leveraging the power and reliability of a hardwired solution.
Systems like the Autonomic Mirage Audio System and Mirage Media Server address a different market than wireless systems that are designed to be sold to DIY consumers. While do-it-yourselfers may find self-installation and configuration appealing, nothing beats having a professional handle the set-up. With a professionally installed hardwired whole-house music system, you’ll reap the rewards of audio that’s been calibrated for listening perfection in each room, controls that are tailored specifically to your family’s needs, and components and speakers that are integrated beautifully into a your home’s design and architecture.
Wireless Whole-House Music Systems are the Best Solution
By Kostas Reissis, Director of AV and Specialty Sales, Sonos
A silent home is your foe. This is true for wired and wireless solutions alike. We see a wireless solution as the way out of silence with its flexibility, future expandability and most importantly, superior music experience.
Today’s music lover needs the flexibility wherever they want to listen to music: family room, bedroom, media room, bathroom, even the garage. They have to be able to place a speaker where they want it to live.
But not everyone is building a new home nor is able to afford cabled solutions. Nor does anyone want to have contractors pulling wires and cutting holes in the walls and ceilings of their homes. This does not mean that they won’t do so in future, but their current needs are the ones that must be solved. A wireless solution allows for the music fan to play music in more rooms based on the same budget as a wired solution. We know from years of experience that a customer with more than one room of music is far more satisfied than a customer with only one room of music.
One of the other key advantages of connected wireless smart speakers is future expandability. At Sonos, our speakers are built to stand the test of time (we want them to be in customers’ homes for 10+ years) and are purposefully designed to improve over time. Regular software updates ensure that our speakers get better and better with each new version we provide our customers. Wired products generally do not allow for simple and regular software updates. We know that the product you buy today will bring pure musical joy now and in the future.
Flexibility and expandability are very important in creating a music-filled home; also key is having an enjoyable music listening experience. This means that every single person in a home must be able to quickly, simply, and routinely play the music they need at the moment they want it to play. This music has to keep playing without dropouts, and today’s routers and powerful wireless mesh networks are up for the task, providing music fans with a skip-free music listening experience.
Wireless speakers must also be controlled by a simple app that is on a phone, iPad, tablet, or desktop, which allows any listener to effortlessly manage any music. If Miles Davis is needed in the kitchen and the living room while The Bare Naked Ladies blast in the kid’s room, anyone should be able to make this happen. If the whole house needs to bump Macklemore for a dance party, then it should only be a couple of clicks away. And once it starts playing, the music needs to be rich in tone and detailed in clarity. The sound quality of the music must draw the listener in, not push them away. Wi-Fi based speakers offer the robust connection needed to allow for lossless streaming of a family’s favorite music.
The future of music enjoyment in the home is clearly rooted in a wireless solution and its superior flexibility, expandability, and experience opportunities by everyone in a home. Wireless speakers are the only growing category in home audio and is why wireless speaker customers are the happiest music fans around.