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Controlling the System

Also important is how much control you want over the music in each room. Is it okay to pipe the same music source into multiple rooms, or do you want to listen to one thing in the bedroom while another source is playing in the family room? And do you need to control the sound source in each room, or can you settle for a central control in one main room?

The simplest controls are nothing more than volume controls. You can control the volume of the music in each room, but not the source; to switch sources or change CD tracks, you have to use the master control in the main room. A better—and more expensive—solution is to put total source control in each room. You can choose from radio frequency (RF) remote control units that you can carry from room to room, or go with fancy custom control pads mounted in the walls.

This begs the question as to what equipment you want to use for your music sources. These are the most popular choices:

Type of Equipment


CD changer or jukebox

Continuous CD playback

AM/FM tuner

Listening to radio broadcasts

XM or Sirius satellite radio tuner

Listening to the latest satellite radio feeds

DIRECTV or DISH satellite receiver

Listening to the digital music channels offered by each of these satellite services

Cable box

Listening to the digital music channels offered on most digital cable systems

Obviously, you don't want to place separate CD changers (or AM/FM tuners or satellite receivers) in each room of your house. That's the whole point of a whole-house system—you feed a single audio source to multiple rooms. For a simple installation, you can place all your headend (source) equipment in your home theater room. In fact, most of your headend equipment will double as primary components in your home theater system. For more complex installations, you may want to place your headend equipment in a separate equipment room—typically in your basement or in a small closet.

Then, in each room, you install separate speaker systems. These systems can consist of low-cost ceiling or in-wall speakers (great for entertainment or background listening), or full-sized freestanding speakers (for critical listening). You connect each of these individual speaker systems to your headend equipment, which typically requires running a length of speaker wire or CAT-5 cable—although some options let you transmit the audio signal wirelessly using WiFi technology.

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