How to Build a Whole Home Audio System On a Budget: A Roundup of Options
A house filled with music is a happier place. I know this for a fact. Since we picked up a set of wireless speakers and a couple of Bluetooth-enabled streaming devices, every room in our home has been filled with music. A whole home audio system is so uplifting and motivating, especially compared to the incessant, distracting drone of the television.
Not so long ago, this type of whole home audio immersion was the purview of the very rich, or electricians with side jobs as drywallers. This was because it required extensive wiring throughout your home.
Today, technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are eliminating the need for wired sound systems. Don’t go ripping out your speaker wires if you have them—wired connections are still the most reliable, being less prone to interference—but if you’ve been holding off on a home audio system because of the expense of hiding the wiring, then read on.
These are Your Wireless Whole Home Audio System Options:
- Begin investing in a proprietary system of high-end wireless speakers. This will provide the best sound quality and integration but is still expensive. However, you can enjoy the benefits with just one or two speakers, starting at around $400 for 2, and grow from there as your budget allows.
- The second option is to select different devices designed for specific use cases for each room in the home. This is more of a hodge-podge scenario but achieves a similar end result, at a much lower price.
A Proprietary Home Audio System
A complete wireless audio system from a company like Acoustic Research uses a Wi-Fi network to play music from local and/or cloud services (such as Spotify or iTunes). Each speaker has only a power cable, and connects with its siblings through its own wireless mesh network, so you can play the same music through every speaker in your home, in sync, or select different tracks for different rooms. You purchase each speaker separately and there is a wide selection that can combine to make one large system or operate alone.
- You can play the same music in every room in your house.
- There is no need to pair the speakers with your devices; just use the app to play the music.
- You can play your locally stored music through a Network Attached Storage device.
Cost—while not as expensive as the traditional hardwiring, a proprietary home audio system is still a pricey proposition: a minimum of $1,700 to have each room un-wired for sound. However, the benefit of this wireless technology means you can start small and build gradually.
More and more manufacturers are getting in on the wireless audio game, meaning we may start to see lower prices and more options. Samsung released its competitor to SONOS, the Samsung Shape M7 wireless audio system. According to CNET, this is the best competitor to SONOS yet. The speakers are at a similar price but Samsung’s have the benefit of Bluetooth playback and the ability to wirelessly connect with some Samsung TVs. Another recent competitor to Sonos, is the DTS Play-fi sound bar, which has HDMI inputs and a portable speaker. The sound quality is very similar to the SONOS, the app for the speaker is not as nice or easy to use. Other competitors to SONOS include Denon HEOS, Yamaha MusicCast, Bose SoundTouch and LG’s Music Flow.
All systems start between $99 and $299 for a single speaker and go up from there.
Room-By-Room Audio System
If you want audio in every room but don’t need it to all play the same music and sync seamlessly, then consider some of these Bluetooth speaker options. Bluetooth works by pairing with your smartphone or computer, so you will need a device nearby to make these work. The biggest drawback to a Bluetooth system is that your device can only stream to a single speaker set at a time, and it will have to un-pair and re-pair with each device as you move from room to room.
Living Room Audio System
A medium to large sized A/C powered Bluetooth speaker such as this Jensen Bluetooth Wireless Stereo Speaker will work well in a living room or den. And at only $60, it’s ideal for those on a tight budget.
Bedroom Audio System
For the bedroom, the Pulse Dimmable BR30 LED light bulbs with built-in wireless Bluetooth speakers ($169.99 for 2) offer a simple, wire-free way to incorporate sound and energy-saving lighting into the bedroom (or any room). Simply install the Pulse like any other light bulb and wirelessly connect from a Bluetooth-enabled phone, tablet or PC. Control light/sound intensity, audio equalizer modes and launch Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, etc. from the free iOS or Android app.
Alternatively, this stylish GOgroove Bluetooth speaker ($59.99) would look great on any bedside table and incorporates time and temperature on its display. You can also plug your device into it directly to play audio.
Bathroom Audio System
Options for streaming music into your bathroom are actually quite varied. You can replace your exhaust fan with the Homewerks Ventilation fan with built-in Bluetooth speaker ($129), and never have to worry about recharging it as the speaker draws power from the bath fan wiring.
If the ceiling fan isn’t an option, the Kohler Moxie showerhead with a built-in Bluetooth speaker ($149) will pipe music and water directly into your shower. The speaker is also removable so you can use it elsewhere in the bathroom. It works off a rechargeable battery that lasts about 7 hours on playback.
Along the same lines, this little $10 splash proof speaker from SoundLogic will deliver music straight into your shower. Just stick it on the wall and pair with your smartphone. You can even answer phone calls through it.
Kitchen Audio System
The under-the-cabinet radio your grandma had gets a tech upgrade with the iLive Bluetooth Under the Cabinet Music System & Radio ($39.99). It’s perfect for keeping the counters clutter free while still enjoying some tunes as you whip up that gourmet meal.
As you can see, the options for piping music into your home wirelessly are plentiful and growing. The best part, however, is that with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled speakers you can easily achieve a high-end music experience throughout your home that is totally portable—meaning that if you ever decide to move, you can take the entire whole home audio system with you without leaving any damage behind.
About the author: Jennifer Tuohy, is a gadget geek who loves to share her technology knowledge for The Home Depot. You can find a selection of Home Audio products, like the ones Jennifer talks about in this article, at The Home Depot.