Multi room audio is transforming the way we listen to music. Rather than being tied to a single room, these systems let you link up several speakers into a single whole. With just a few clicks on an app, listeners have complete control over their home's soundtrack. If you're not already up to speed on multi room, then not to worry. Our complete guide tells you everything you need to know, from how it all works to the best brands around. Read on, and you'll soon be completely up to speed!
Related: Top 10 DAB Radios for 2019
What is a multi room audio system?
As the name suggests, multi room speakers let you sync up your music across several rooms. The level of control depends on your individual setup, as well as the brand of speakers you’re using. For instance, some just let you play the same music throughout your home. Others, meanwhile, give you complete control over what plays where.
For the most part, multi room audio systems are controlled through an app. Some brands, like Sonos, have their own apps, while others use a universal solution like UNDOK. Virtually all of them, though, allow you to play music from an enormous range of sources if you have the right setup. Whether you’re playing locally-stored files, streaming through Spotify, or even laying down some vinyl on your turntable, multi room lets you fill your entire home with the soundtrack of your choice.
How do multi room audio systems work?
A multi room setup is usually made up of wireless speakers. However, with the rise of smart technology, more and more devices are multi room-compatible. In recent years, some higher-end DAB radios, as well as soundbars, have been built with a multi room setup in mind.
15 years ago, a multi room speaker setup require you to rewire your home. Now, though, everything is done wirelessly, making everything that much more convenient and flexible. Exactly how they connect up will vary depending on the particular brand. Virtually all of them will need to connect up to your WiFi at some point. Many speakers stop there, but some, such as Bose and Sonos,go a step further. They will then create their own independent mesh network to connect up with each other. That takes some of the pressure off your home network, so could be a good choice if you don’t want your internet speed to lag as you listen. In practise, though, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.
What are the advantages of multi room speakers?
Total control over your listening experience
The main benefit of multi room is that it gives you complete control over your home’s soundtrack from one easy place. Most are controlled through an app. That means users can instantly select what plays where. Instead of having to crank up the living room speaker when you leave the room, you can have your music follow you around the house. It’s also perfect for parties, to ensure that your guests can all enjoy your carefully selected playlists, wherever they might be. But if your family or housemates all have varying tastes, then not to worry. Most multi room audio systems allow you to blast different music from each speaker. That way, everyone can enjoy their own soundtrack when it suits them.
Another key benefit of multi room audio is that it’s incredibly easy to set up. The days of reading through lengthy manuals and tinkering with settings are long gone. Most speakers can connect to your WiFi network without even entering a password. Just open the network settings menu, and a setup wizard will typically guide you through the process. This normally only requires you to press the WPN button on your router, and hey presto- you’re ready to start enjoying multi room audio!
Superb sound quality
Multi room speakers also generally offer fairly high sound quality. That’s because the speakers need to be WiFi-compatible in order to slot into your multi room setup. For the most part, only high-end speakers include this feature. Naturally, these also tend to have significantly better sound quality. This is only a broad rule of thumb- some brands just tack on the WiFi features to some models without adding anything else. Generally speaking, though, multi room speakers are some of the best around- certainly superior to their standalone counterparts.
Multi room audio, anywhere you want
Finally, multi room speakers are also (somewhat) portable. In the past, multi room speakers needed to be wired in. Now, though, they communicate wirelessly- so you can move them about as much as you like. So long as they have a power socket to plug into, and a stable connection to your WiFi, you can place them just about anywhere in your home. Some, like the Como Amico, are actually fully portable with a built-in battery pack. That makes them ideal for listening during a long soak in the bath. It also lets you take them out and about with you, whether that’s as near as the garden or as far as a family holiday.
Will any WiFi speakers work as part of a multi room audio setup?
So long as the speaker is configured for multi room audio, yes. Strictly speaking, though, you’re not really supposed to combine speakers from different brands in a single multi room setup. That’s because major brands, like Sonos and Bose, create their own independent network. In addition, they have developed their own multi room audio apps. Their speakers will only work with these.
That’s not to say this is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, these apps often come loaded with extra features and functionality that help to justify the higher price of those speakers. Sonos, for instance, provide one of the best music apps we’ve come across. It offers full compatibility with almost every streaming service out there. However, this does limit users to a single brand- so think carefully before diving in.
If you’re looking to create a multi room audio setup without this restriction, though, then don’t despair. Not all multi room compatible speakers have their own dedicated app. Many brands use a universal app called UNDOK. This allows you to easily link different speakers together. Since it’s not tied to a particular brand, you can use it with any compatible speaker. That means you can mix and match as you see fit, and expand your system at your own leisure. It’s not quite perfect- it doesn’t offer all the features you’d find in branded apps. Most notably, getting streaming services other than Spotify to work can be a bit tricky. On balance, though, the greater compatibility more than makes up for this.
The Best Multi Room Audio Brands
Sonos are the original multi room audio company. From the very start, they have exclusively focused on interconnected speakers. When they started out back in 2002, wireless audio was still pretty rare. Thanks to Sonos, though, we've seen a multi room revolution since then. While their products can be a little on the pricey side, they offer superb sound quality and are notoriously long-lasting. In fact, they only discontinued support for their very first model in 2018. While the Play:5 is expensive, they also offer the Play:1, which is a lot easier on your wallet and a great standalone speaker to boot. Recently they’ve moved into the soundbar market, too, allowing you to pair up a soundbar, a couple of Play:1s and a Play:5 for full 5.1 audio in your living room.
Revo are a DAB radio company very close to our hearts. In fact, they are based just down the road from our offices! While they aren’t quite as well-known as big names like Sonos, they have long been the radio of choice for in-the-know audiophiles. Using their own custom audio components, their sound quality is truly second-to-none. What’s more, their beautiful mid-century modern design will have you wanting to fill your whole home with Revo speakers. So it’s a good job that they offer multi room audio, too!
All of Revo’s internet-enabled radios- the SuperConnect, the SuperSystem, and the SuperCD- are multi room-compatible. Rather than using an in-house app, these speakers connect through UNDOK. That means you can mix and match with other brands that don’t have their own app, like Ruark. So, if you want a really great-sounding system as the heart of your hifi, you could buy a SuperCD, and then have less expensive speakers dotted throughout other rooms.
Como Audio are relatively new to the multi room audio scene. However, they bring years of experience to the table. Their founder, Tom DeVesto, is also the man behind Cambridge SoundWorks and Tivoli Audio. Both of those companies are huge names in the audio world, and Como Audio certainly live up to that reputation. With superb sound quality, stylish Italian-inspired design, and a range of preset options to make life that much easier, Como are an excellent choice.
Like Sonos, all of their products are fully multi room-compatible. But unlike Sonos, they also all come with radio functionality built-in. DAB, FM, and even internet radio are all available at the touch of a preset button- so there are literally tens of thousands of stations to choose from. Plus, with Spotify Connect, Bluetooth connectivity, and a range of wired options, you still have the option of choosing your own soundtrack.