Woman in a kitchen using voice commands to control a smart speaker.
RossHelen/Shutterstock.com

The idea of music floating through every room in your home seems fantastic, but getting there isn’t always easy. Choosing between a wired or wireless multi-room audio setup can be tricky, but we’re here to help.

Two Types of Whole Home Audio Setups

If you’re not familiar, whole home audio (also known as multi-room audio or whole house audio) refers to speakers placed in multiple locations in your home. Instead of treating them as separate systems, you control them all from one place, and music plays through all of them simultaneously.

There are two main ways of setting up a whole home audio system. The older, more traditional route uses loudspeakers and speaker wire, usually running through your walls. These systems have traditionally never been wildly popular outside of enthusiast circles.

However, interest in multi-room and whole home audio has picked up in recent years thanks to companies like Sonos offering wireless speakers that easily link with one another. Smart speakers from Google, Apple, Amazon, and others also often feature multi-room playback.

Wired Whole Home Audio: The Pros and Cons

One of the most popular reasons that people opt for wired whole home audio systems is the ability to customize. You can carefully choose each component, place them exactly where you want, and craft every element in the system exactly how you want it. This is why this method still appeals to audio enthusiasts.

These are typically standard audio and home theater components, meaning you can mix and match as much as you feel like. If you want to use one brand of speakers and another brand for your amplifier, nothing is going to stop you.

Using standard, off-the-shelf stereo components also helps keep things cheap. Speakers and speaker wires are much cheaper than buying wireless speakers with integrated amplifiers and other components built-in. This is relative, and you can still spend a lot of money, but you can certainly save money if you try.

Banana plug on speaker wire
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

While you may end up saving money with a wired whole home audio system, there is a trade-off: time. All that customizability means you’ll need to make sure that all your components work well together, like matching impedances between your amplifier and speakers.

You may think that the wiring aspect hard isn’t, especially if you’ve wired your home theater system before. That knowledge does translate, but there is more to consider, like running wires through walls. If you’re a new homeowner or in the middle of remodeling, this may be easy, but otherwise wiring will be the toughest part of the setup.

It’s not always just a single amp, speakers, and wires either. Depending on the size of your setup and how many rooms you’re wiring, you may need additional amplifiers and other equipment.

The Best Speakers of 2022

Best Speaker Overall
Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
Best Budget Speaker
Tribit StormBox Micro
Best Bluetooth Speaker
JBL Charge 5
Best Outdoor Speaker
Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2
Best Smart Speaker
Sonos One
Best Bookshelf Speaker
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2
Best Speaker for Music
Kali Audio LP-6 V2

Wireless Whole Home Audio: The Pros and Cons

The wireless variety of whole home audio is likely the one most people think of these days when they hear the term. Modern wireless multi-room speaker systems made whole home audio easy to set up. Just plug in your speakers, connect them to Wi-Fi, and start listening.

Wireless whole home audio systems are also typically easier to use. Rather than a physical remote control for a wired system, most wireless multi-room systems let you control every aspect of them with either your voice or your phone. This makes adjusting volumes or only playing in certain rooms much easier.

Beyond controlling playback and volume, wireless whole home systems are generally much smarter than wired systems. You can create a basic multi-room system with Amazon Echo speakers, for example. Even if you’re not using a smart speaker, they often still let you trigger and interact with your phone’s voice assistant.

A black Sonos One speaker on a shelf.
Sonos

No wires means no installation. Running speaker wire is the hardest part of setting up a wired whole home audio system, and the only cables you have to worry about with a wireless system are the power cables you plug into the wall.

One final pro with wireless systems is that you can potentially get a best of both worlds scenario. You’ll find product lines like Yamaha MultiCast, which have the convenience of wireless whole home audio with more traditional home theater systems and other speaker options.

Of course, this ease of use doesn’t come cheap. Wireless whole home audio systems can get expensive fast, and the price only goes up with each additional room. Setting up a simple two-room with Sonos One speakers will run you nearly $600, for example.

The other big downside with wireless whole home audio systems is that many brands don’t work with other brands. For example, you’re not going to have an easy time getting speakers from Apple and Google to work well together.

The Best Smart Speakers of 2022

Best Smart Speaker Overall
Sonos One
Best Budget Smart Speaker
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
Best Smart Speaker for Music
Bose Home Speaker 500
Best Portable Smart Speaker
JBL Charge 4
Best Smart Speaker for Alexa
Amazon Echo Studio
Best Smart Speaker for Google Home
Google Nest Audio
Best Smart Speaker for Apple HomeKit
HomePod mini

Which Is the Right Option for You?

If you’re looking for the easiest option, then wireless wins by a mile. A wireless multi-room system is easy to set up, easy to use, and you can start with two or three speakers and add more as you want. Just make sure to remember that the price can start rising pretty quickly.

On the other hand, if you opt to have someone install a wired whole home audio system for you, you’re going to be spending a lot as well. The wired option is best if you absolutely must have the custom layout of your dreams. This is also perfect for you if the journey is the destination, and you think you’ll enjoy the build process.

No matter which way you choose, you’ll likely be thrilled with the results.

RELATED: What You Need to Know About Speaker Wiring Cables

Profile Photo for Kris Wouk Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk is a freelance tech writer and musician with over 10 years of experience as a writer and a lifetime of experience as a gadget fan. He has also written for Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, Android Authority, and Sound Guys. At MakeUseOf, he was Section Editor in charge of the site's Mac coverage.
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