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How Whole-House Audio Works

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If you have a big house, why not put music in every room? In this article, Michael Miller explains all the different ways to create a whole-house audio system.

Until recently, only the very wealthy could afford a whole-house audio system. Such a system required professional design and installation, and cost a lot of bucks.

Fortunately for the rest of us, technology advanced, which means that the dream of music in every room is now within reach of the average consumer. And, as I'll explain shortly, there are even a number of ways to create a multi-room audio system. The right approach for your home depends on the number of rooms involved, the type of listening you plan to do in each room, and your budget.

Different Types of Listening for Different Types of Rooms

Before you determine which type of whole-house audio system you need, you should evaluate how you'll be using that system—that is, what type of listening you'll be doing in each room. Putting together a system for background music costs a lot less than setting up multiple audiophile-quality listening rooms, for example.

Start by determining what type of listening you do:

  • Background listening. This is the equivalent of in-home Muzak. You don't really care what's playing, and you don't listen to it terribly critically. It's background music, pure and simple.

  • Entertainment listening. This is a step up from background music. You want to choose your music, but listening is typically subsidiary to other activities. That is, you play the music while you're doing something else—reading, visiting, whatever—although you may turn it up occasionally for a party or dance.

  • Critical listening. This is what you do in your main listening room. Sound quality is important, because you're turning up the music to give it a good listen.

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