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What is a Whole House Audio System? A Brief Guide for Homeowners

A whole house audio system can greatly improve your home entertainment experience.

There are still many people who are not aware of the concept of whole-house audio systems. In fact, one of the questions we most often get is, “What is a whole house audio system?” So, it’s no surprise to us that those who don’t frequently create multi-room or whole-house music systems may find the process intimidating.

However, if one considers things and plans beforehand, this seemingly challenging project may be easily completed, just like with many other things in life. Like following a recipe in the kitchen, it helps to be ready with the required supplies and equipment set aside before planning the installation.

Choose the functions and connections of audio you want from a system before you begin measuring the lengths of speaker wire or shifting furniture. Compare your needs to the capabilities offered by your existing setup or equipment. By accomplishing this, it would be possible to know whether any purchases need to be made and whether employing a contractor could be necessary.

What is a Whole House Audio System?

A whole house audio system is a unified network of speakers and audio elements that lets you enjoy your favorite music, podcasts, radio shows, and more! With a whole house audio system, you can have full control of your audio entertainment wherever you are in the house.

If you are asking, "What is a whole house audio system?" You are not alone. A lot of people are still not aware of this home entertainment concept.

Types of Whole House Audio Systems

Single Source-Single Zone

One amp/receiver and a pair of speakers are often placed in one room for single source whole-house audio systems, single-zone setup. This sort of system, which is less popular nowadays, can be employed in bedrooms and entertainment areas where it is used independently from other house areas. There is no requirement for speaker selections or volume controls with this kind of setup. The wiring from in-ceiling/wall speakers to the placement of the audio system in the room is minimal for a single source, single zone setup. One system in a single room and restricted coverage are the drawbacks.

Single Source-Multi Zone

A single amp powers speakers in several rooms using a single-source, multi-zone system. These systems, which are excellent for entertaining or setting the mood with music around the house, are generally simple to install and, as long as the amp has adequate power, may be expanded with individual volume controls for every pair of speakers.

To change sources, like switching from the iPod to the radio, you must return to the central source using this setup since only one source can be played simultaneously. Nevertheless, most systems will let you install separate volume controls in every room. You may even add infrared transmitters to the system to increase access from remote areas.

Multi Source-Multi Zone

The fascinating part of whole-house audio systems begins here. Multi-source, multiple-zone systems come in two different varieties. One form uses an average multi-channel amplifier with six zones (12 channels or speakers). Imagine having six tiny amps in a single gadget. Every speaker pair can use the main input or their input.

A complete kit-equipped whole-house audio system is the second kind of multi-source, multi-zone system. Usually, the kit includes the amplifier and keypads for every zone of the system.

A whole-house audio system is more usable and adaptable if the keypads in every zone or area can switch between multiple sources. However, more wiring is needed for this kind of system; typically, the speaker wire connects the main unit to the speakers, and the Cat-5 cable connects the main unit to the keypads. These systems are often more difficult to maintain and more challenging to operate. Adding more speakers and zones is typically impossible unless you install a system.

Multi-source, multi-zone audio systems are excellent if your house is big and only a few people use them. However, since many systems only have one iPod input, one satellite radio input, etc., things can get tricky if several individuals attempt to use the system. These systems allow you to play numerous zones from a single input, but you must use that input to listen to the same iTunes library, radio station, etc. Consider including more than one of the most used inputs if many people are using the system simultaneously.

What to Consider when Planning a Whole House Audio System

Upon considering the elements above, the next step is planning your whole-house audio systems. This involves identifying the specific rooms that will accommodate a home theater setup, determining the anticipated quantity of speakers in each room, assessing whether keypads, volume controls, or wall plates are necessary for room functionality, and making a decision regarding whether these rooms will operate independently or as part of a comprehensive whole-house system.

Running Wire

A custom home theater installation lets you have cinematic enjoyment at home.

Speaker wire connections typically involve linking either from the main unit to the volume controls or from the volume controls to the speakers. It is critical to note that the length of the speaker cables should remain constant unless they are being routed through a speaker selector. Therefore, irrespective of factors like volume controls, the number of speakers being used necessitates an equivalent number of speaker cables leading back to the master unit or speaker selector.

Brackets and Boxes

The inclusion of gang boxes is imperative when installing volume controls, keypads, and wall plates. The size of the gang box required is determined by the dimensions of the device being installed. While most keypads and volume controls typically require a single-gang box, curtain wall plates may necessitate a double-gang box or even a triple-gang box, depending on their specifications.

Additionally, mounting brackets are accessible for installation before construction. These brackets are optional for most residential setups, but they could be required if the wall or ceiling material cannot hold the speaker’s weight. The use of pre-construction brackets may be considered in some drop ceiling installations. Brackets on big projects may indicate the speaker’s position before construction.

Setting Up In-Ceiling/In-Wall Speakers

When installing in-ceiling or in-wall speakers, it is worth noting that all these speakers come equipped with convenient dog ears that facilitate quick installation by securely latching to the walls. To ensure proper installation, use the provided template to determine the appropriate cut-out size, remove the speaker grill, connect the speaker wires, carefully insert the speaker into the designated cut-hole with the dog ears facing outward, securely fasten the front screws, and finally, reattach the speaker grill.

Connecting Wires

In terms of connecting speaker wires, it is important to recognize that these wires do not have individual labels. The key lies in guaranteeing a matching connection from one end to the other. For illustration, if the left positive wire is attached to the red terminal on one end, it must be linked to the red terminal on the other end. In most circumstances, determining the proper connection for red and black wires is fairly clear.

However, identifying the white or green wires within a 4-conductor wire, which is used for two positive and two negative connections, can be slightly more challenging. The safest approach is to compare the connection on one end with the corresponding connection on the other end by visual inspection.

A whole house audio system has many elements.

Setting up whole-house audio systems is actually easier than you thought. When building your home, we highly recommend that you consider the design and arrangement of the wiring. It is extremely simple to speak with a local audio/video installation if you’d like to add a music system to your existing home.

Which Rooms Do You Want Music In?

Analyzing how you use each area of your home in detail will help you build the multi-room audio system. Note the areas in which you spend the most time. Next, categorize the kind of listening you’ll be doing in each space.

Critical Listening

Where will you (at least periodically) sit still with your back to the speakers so you can fully focus on the music? What room is this? The room where you watch movies at home? You position the speakers toward the best hearing positions in important listening rooms.

Entertainment Listening

Regard all the spaces where your family and visitors gather to read, talk, work, cook, or play. Most of the time, you play music at a low level in these settings, but occasionally you can boost it. Both you and your visitors do not sit in a single location. The speakers are placed wherever they can best fill the space with stereo sound.

Background Listening

Consider the hallways, restrooms, and laundry room as background listening rooms because you only spend brief periods in them.

What Type Of Speakers Should You Use?

You shouldn’t feel obligated to use a similar speaker design across the house as you learn about the wide speaker varieties. Each room or space can have different speakers to best suit its design, aesthetic, and intended use for listening.

In rooms with modest bracket-mount, flush-mount, or bookshelf speakers, putting a powered subwoofer is a terrific option to generate deep bass, especially in locations where you’ll be undertaking critical listening. A powered subwoofer must have speaker-level inputs for use in a multi-room system. Since the same wall-mount knob controls the speaker and subwoofer volumes, this simplifies volume control.

Powering Your Speakers

Professional whole house audio system installers can help you install a whole house audio system properly.

The next choice you’ll have to make is how you’ll power all of your speakers once you’ve chosen which spaces you’d want to install speakers in and which type(s) you will be utilizing. While in-ceiling and in-wall speakers have been employed in professional settings for many years, only a few manufacturers have recently created devices capable of faithfully reproducing music and motion picture soundtracks in the house.

Like ordinary speakers, in-ceiling and in-wall speakers are fixed in a frame and installed into the wall (or ceiling). They use the wall as the speakers’ box rather than a separate cabinet. (Even though most in-wall speakers are full-range, you might wish to upgrade your system with a powered subwoofer for enhanced bass, especially for home cinema.

These speakers sound fantastic and, with correct installation, may meld perfectly with the design of your home. Furthermore, you don’t cram speakers onto your floor area. But bear in mind that installation requires more work than placing conventional speakers. Of course, you will also need to run speaker wiring within the walls.

We understand that setting up whole-house audio systems can seem like a lot of work—because it is. There are a lot of elements to consider and set up properly. But don’t worry: we at Custom Integrators are here to help! We have years of experience installing home theaters and whole-house audio systems, so you can rest assured that we can provide you with the best home entertainment system you deserve. Call us today!