What do we know about multiroom? Until quite recently this term could be heard only from the lips of professional installers and sellers of expensive equipment for a smart home. The cost of the simplest solutions was tens of thousands of dollars. In order to install such a system, it was necessary to first develop an individual project that takes into account the features of the material of the walls of the house, the layout, the wishes of the owner. And it was desirable to start the installation during the construction or major repairs of housing, long before the finishing stage. For example, the same cable laying required the strobing of walls and other dirty work.
But technologies are changing and becoming more accessible. With the development of the capabilities of Wi-Fi systems, there is the possibility of wireless signal transmission, which significantly simplifies the task. Instead of music servers with a space price tag, inexpensive high-quality media players and devices with support for DLNA-protocol, which allows to transfer multimedia files over local networks. With such a set, you can build a simple multiroom system without resorting to the services of expensive installers and without damaging the situation.
However, in reality everything is both rosy and not very good. But about everything in order.
Varieties of multiroom systems
Multi-room audio systems can be conditionally divided into several classes. The main criterion is the scale and complexity of the installation. Hereinafter, we will consider those of them that can be installed without the invitation of specialists.
So, the simplest solutions are based on wireless speakers, where the sound source is a smartphone (and maybe a tablet, a laptop – at will). Here everything is very simple. Take any wireless audio speakers you like by sound and design and connect with your gadget. Usually the phone supports one or two columns, but with the help of additional software you can connect and more than ten.
The key element is the way to connect the columns to the gadget. For example, Bluetooth in the latest version can offer quite high quality of sound, but it limits the number of simultaneously connected devices, and also works only at short distances, within one or two rooms. So it's better to use Wi-Fi.
For the smartphone / tablet you need to install specialized software, which now offers every manufacturer of wireless speakers. As an example, Korean Samsung has developed its own wireless protocol Multiroom Link, working on the basis of a home network. The user just needs to set the desired number of columns that support this function throughout the house and connect them to the home network. After that, it will only be necessary to send music to the right room or immediately to everything.
The software offers many scenarios for using audio systems, there is even an algorithm for creating multi-channel audio on the principle of a home theater. Similar functions with minor differences are also present in other manufacturers – LG Electronics, BOSE, JBL and others.
More complex systems
Wireless audio systems of higher quality represent already a whole An ecosystem consisting of the speakers themselves (including subwoofers), power amplifiers, wired and wireless receivers and transmitters. A striking example is Sonos. In the lineup of this manufacturer there are both columns that play streaming music from your gadgets, and compact multimedia players that support the transfer of music from various network services: DLNA, streaming services. Sonos has even its own devices, which provide stable wireless communication between all connected devices.
Sonos not only supports its own speakers, but also allows you to connect third-party high-quality speakers, for which the line has a Sonos Connect receiver: AMP. Everything is controlled by a smartphone.
Work scripts allow you to send different music to different zones or use one playlist for the whole room. It is not necessary to use a third-party music source – a smartphone, a tablet or a network drive: many Sonos devices have a built-in Internet radio receiver, which greatly simplifies the life of a fan of streaming radio.
A more complex and expensive option, but it's also more interesting – Hi-Fi components with wireless capabilities. Simply put, it's the same stereo or AV receiver with the Multiroom system. The sound quality in this case directly depends on the owner of the system, as the choice of suitable columns entirely lies on his shoulders.
Here you need to take care to lay the cable from the receiver to at least one other room. However, some manufacturers, for example Yamaha and Onkyo, offered a variant with wireless transmission of sound stream from one room to another using their branded devices. Several receivers of one of these brands, supporting the proprietary technology of wireless multiroom, will be able to fully voice the entire dwelling or transfer music from one device to another. For example, you can include an interesting concert on TV in the living room, and transfer the sound to a music center in the bedroom or in the office. This is what Yamaha proposes to do with its proprietary MusicCAST protocol. In the company's lineup, there are already many devices supporting this protocol: receivers, micro- and minisystems, soundbars, wireless speakers and even headphones. And, yes – many other well-known companies, for example, Pioneer or Onkyo, have their own multiroom solutions.
Complicated and simple
At first glance, all the above described systems are easy to install and use. But it is not so.
The main stumbling block for today is the incompatibility of the protocols. Each manufacturer tries to equip its technology with proprietary technology, which is not "friendly" with the technologies of competitors. From this it follows that in order to create a full-fledged multiroom system, it is necessary to purchase the equipment of only one manufacturer. It's good when the future owner is a fan of one brand. But sometimes it happens that even a favorite brand does not have the functionality that a specific adept of the brand needs. In this case, the task is complicated either by the invitation of the system integrator (whose solutions, as we have already said, stand by orders of magnitude more expensive) or by finding a compromise option.
One of such variants can be already mentioned Sonos Connect devices: AMP, allowing to connect any acoustics and not dependent on others. However, in this case, the final cost will also increase. If the future owner wants to build the main system on the basis of a certain brand, using the central device (receiver) as the source, then one can not do without compromises.
More One controversial issue – the management of modern multiroom systems. Almost all manufacturers offer a smartphone for this role. It would seem an excellent option. But not for those who still prefer smart dialers to smart gadgets.
And one more, not the most obvious, minus – this scheme does not allow at least for a while to put the smartphone aside and enjoy only music, Not being distracted by the gadget. There are also questions to support certain operating systems by different manufacturers and compatibility with specific gadgets. But as a matter of fact it is already details.
How to choose
Probably, this is the simplest point. "Choose your heart!" – was said in one electoral slogan. But here, too, mistakes may lie in wait. For example, excess capacity or functionality is unlikely to add comfort to the owner, who installed a powerful stereo pair (often with a subwoofer) in a room or a soundbar in the kitchen. It is more logical to apply different approaches for different premises.
So, for a living room a multichannel system or good outdoor stereo is better, and in a kitchen where we do not sit for a long time in one place, we can get by with a quality monophonic speaker. For a corridor, a loggia or other small premises, a built-in or hinged satellite speakers will be a good choice, since there is a need for a musical background rather than an ideally accurate stereopanorama or all the nuances of recording.
Do not forget about convenient access to power outlets and a stable coverage of the wireless network in all corners of the home. For example, in two or more floored houses, you will probably need additional Wi-Fi access points. And in a multi-apartment house it's better to pre-analyze neighbor networks in order to choose the most free channel, and not rely on automatic router tuning.
Wireless audio system Samsung WAM7500
Is it worth talking about design in detail? Probably, you yourself can correctly assess the appearance of future technology and understand how harmoniously it will look in your interior. But the sound is not exactly worth worrying about – practically all modern multiroom systems have a very good sound. Therefore, the choice is yours.