Let’s Demystify Multiroom Audio

What is multiroom audio?

What exactly is multiroom audio?

A multiroom audio system is one that allows music to be listened to in different parts of the home. An integrated system that allows multiple users to listen to different or the same music simultaneously, and at a volume of their choice, in separate rooms. Terminology commonly used in multiroom audio discussions:

Multiroom amplifier: This is an amplifier that has multiple inputs for sources, and multiple outputs for speakers. It typically will have the same number of inputs as it will have outputs in a matrix configuration, allowing any source to be selected and played on any speaker in any zone.
Source: This is where the music is provided from. It could be physically similar to a CD, local but digitally stored on a computer, or hard drives. It could even be cloud-based through a subscription, or a completely free service. For example; YouTube, Spotify, streamed radio stations such as iTunes, BBC radio, etc. 
Zone: A music zone is a logical area where music is played. You could have this in one specific room, or multiple rooms, logically bound together. To give you a better idea of this: in an open plan setting, a kitchen and a dining room, for example, could both have physically separate speakers grouped so they always play the same music 
Subzone: A subzone plays music from its associated main zone. You can power on or off the subzone and control its volume, but you cannot play music to it independent of the zone it is connected to. A good example of a subzone is an ensuite to the master bedroom of a house. You are most likely going to play the same music in both areas at the same time but may not want to pay for an extra amplifier. They can both be connected to the same output on the multizone amplifier, but the subzone will have a physical volume control allowing you to raise or reduce the volume manually.
Interface: This refers to a medium by which you interact with the system. It could be integrated as part of the multiroom system, or a part of your overall smart home interface. Examples are your smart phone, tablet, remote control or a dedicated wall pad 

How is it installed?

Although there are wired and wireless multiroom systems, the best multiroom audio systems are planned and wired to a central location. All speaker wires and some local source cables are run back to a rack area and connected to one or several multiroom amplifiers, depending on the size of the project. There are several advantages of having the cables run centrally, which are:

How does multiroom music work?

Music will be provided by the combination of a music source or sources, and a multizone amplifier, and speakers which could be in-ceiling, bookshelf floor-standing, wall-mounted or even hidden speakers. Depending on the source and interface type, you will be able to choose and play music from either an application on a smartphone, installed wall pad, or handheld controllers. The interface for interacting with the music can be from the native streaming server or even the smart home application configured to control your whole home. Correctly installed and integrated, you should be able to choose what you want playing in each of the zones, and independently control the volume of each zone. 

The advantages of multiroom audio are:

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