Designing a Whole House Audio System


1. What, exactly, is whole house audio?

Whole house audio is, you guessed it, audio for your whole house! And while that may seem like a “no brainer” answer, when it comes to planning and implementing whole house audio it is anything but a “no-brainer”.

There are more than a few variables to consider when planning your whole house audio system. This guide will provide you with a useful overview of the things you need to consider and outlines the process; however, it is no substitute for an experienced (and FREE!) system designer. But with this whole house audio guide and a system designers to assist you, you’ll be rewarded with premium sound exactly where, when and how you like it. Soon you’ll close your eyes and be unable to discern if you’re in your surround sound living room, orchestra level at Lincoln Center… or your kitchen!

Whole House Audio Systems? Multi Room Audio? Multi Zone Audio? Multi Source Audio? Multi Control? What’s the difference?

Whole house audio systems are frequently and synonymously referred to as multi room audio or multi zone audio. These terms are used interchangeably and while whole house audio usually includes one or more “primary zones” like a home theater or surround sound living room; it is, by definition, a multi zone system that includes “secondary zones” like hallways, bedrooms and other spaces that aren’t a priority for the very best sound experience.

Multi source home audios systems can comprise any number of rooms or “zones” but these zones will have more than one source of audio input. You may find yourself tying in multiple audio sources to this whole house audio system; TV, DVDs, iPods, Stereos, In-house intercoms, even door bell to your home may be input considerations.

Multi Control refers how you control input for your sources and zones. Controlling zones independently for volume becomes a priority when dealing with multiple zones whole house audio distribution. (Do you really want to have to leave the room to control the volume for that room?). Similarly, multi controls are virtually a requirement for multi room, multi source home audio environments (Do you really want to leave the room to forward the song on the CD player?)

As for controls themselves, there is an assortment of options, largely dependent on the controls that are available from the manufacturers of the systems you’re buying. They can either be wall mounted, wired keypad controls, IR (infra-red), or Wireless (radio signal). Each has their own benefits.

2. Why Should I have a System Integrator (System Designer) involved in the whole house audio? Can’t I do this myself?

Whole house audio is confusing. But it doesn’t have to be. A good system designer will make achieving your home audio goals an easy prospect. The number of variable to take into account for a well engineered whole house audio experience is mind numbing. What rooms to include in what zones? How many independent controls are needed and where? What are your “input” sources? TV? Stereo? The doorbell? What is the furniture arrangement in these rooms? Do you want speakers discreetly embedded in the walls? Are the floors tiled? Is the ceiling vaulted?

These are just a few of the question’s you won’t know to ask if you haven’t designed or installed whole house audio before. Save yourself a nightmare, and work with a free experience CEDIA certified system integrator who can take the hassle out of putting together an amazing home audio experience.

3. What are your goals? It’s all about you!

There are a tremendous number of variables in designing whole house audio, but all of them are subject to your goals. Ultimately, it all comes down to a simple question: what kind of home audio experience do you desire?

An important key concept in designing the perfect whole house audio solution is understanding your goals and lifestyle needs. Sure, budget plays a big role, but don’t start there. Dream big! There is always room to scale back based on your priorities. (Maybe the master bedroom closet doesn’t need multi-speaker surround sound?)

4. What kind of music lover are you? Lifestyles & Preferences.

How and where you enjoy your music and even the type of music plays a role in the design of a new system. Knowing your entertainment preferences will help you define the needs your whole house audio will fulfill.

Entertainers. Entertainers may find themselves open to a lot of options depending upon how and where they entertain in their home. Do you entertain in multiple areas around the house? Dinner parties tend to prioritize one room, whereas larger parties may sprawl from living rooms to game rooms and outdoor areas. These systems are usually focused on one source of audio covering multiple zones.

Backgrounders. A side from entertaining, another benefit of whole house audio is the ability to continuously pipe music (or any audio source) throughout the house. Home owners who value background music for their everyday life, may not favor multiple primary zones- with full surround sound speakers- but prefer quality audio strategically placed contiguously throughout the house to provide continuous quality sound from room to room.

Home Theater Buffs. The big game? Movie fanatic? Nothing has brought premium audio into demand more than the rise of home theaters. Whether it’s a dedicated home theater room complete with reclining chairs, cup holders and a popcorn machine or living rooms transformed by over-sized plasma screens; the demand for home theaters has set new standard for premium sound systems. This new expectation for great sound has homeowners asking themselves: why can’t i have this quality sound throughout the whole house?

If entertaining in smaller groups around the TV in one room sounds like all the “whole house audio” you need, then you may find whole house audio isn’t the solution after all. Home video junkies can build a premium surround sound systems for that “primary zone” without adding additional zone. (You will still do well to consult a free system integrator for this task!)

But as is frequently the case, once people experience the amazing difference a premium surround sound system makes in the living room they find a reason to extend that quality to additional rooms of the house. Sports fans may extend the living room audio to other areas so they don’t miss a second of the big game. Movie buffs on the other hand, may enjoy their movies in their master bedrooms as well as the living room and choose to invest more than one “primary zone” multi-speaker surround sound as part of their whole house audio design.

Audiophiles. These users are prone to multiple “primary zones” valuing the best quality sound in a variety of rooms. Beyond great listening in the family room, they’ll want superior sound in game rooms, outdoor living spaces, home gyms or master bedrooms. (Or, budget willing, all of these areas!) For someone who loves music and cooking, premium surround sound in the kitchen may be as important as the living room. If you entertain a lot in the game room, then you may ante up and invest in a sub-woofer and additional speakers.