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Whole House Audio Installation

Sonos Play1 r

What type of speaker is best for your whole house audio system? 


Music is loved, transcends cultures and countries and has been an important part of our lives since we were cavemen whacking on rocks with sticks. These days, most of don't live in caves anymore but we do have a desire to get quality music throughout our homes and in our outdoor living spaces. Below, we discuss some GOOD>BETTER>BEST ways to get whole home audio and some considerations to be aware of.


GOOD whole house audio system


Sonos Play1 r

 Sonos Portable Speaker For Musical Bliss In The Kitchen


This can be accomplished with using portable speakers from Sonos, Denon Heos, Yamaha or Bose. Years ago, we would use "boom box" portable radios to enjoy sound in a room. You can think of these modern solutions as 2023 boom boxes, minus the tape deck and rad lights. Today's portable solutions use apps that allow you to play music via streaming apps in each room individually or to touch a button and "group" all of the rooms so they play the same content simultaneously. You can also access music stored on some form of device such as a hard drive, USB drive, etc. with these solutions.

The advantage of these GOOD whole home audio systems is that you don't need to run speaker or communication wires to the different rooms that you want music in so the cost is minimal and installation is non-invasive.

The disadvantage of these options is typically that your sound quality isn't as good as step-up options (we'll discuss those shortly...see why under our BETTER audio solutions below ) and need AC outlets in each spot that you want to plug these in as they requrie AC power. Another disadvantage is that these systems aren't as designer friendly as you have to physically place and see a speaker like our pictured Sonos One speaker in the picture above. If you want a cleaner look, our BETTER and BEST options are the way to go.


Some popular GOOD streaming speakers for whole house audio are the:

Sonos: Sonos One, Sonos ERA 100, Sonos Five, Sonos Move

Denon Heos: Denon Home 150, Denon Home 250, Denon Home 350

Yamaha MusicCast: Musiccast 20, MusicCast 50, MusicCast Sub 100


BETTER whole house audio system


Episode in ceiling r

In-ceiling speaker without the front grille


products originacoustics

Where's Waldo? Flush in-ceiling speakers sound great and blend into the room


Our BETTER whole house audio systems typically feature in-ceiling or in-wall speakers in each room that are powered by a centrally located set of amplifiers or streaming amps. Our Sonos Amp has been a great solution in this scenario. See our earlier article about the Sonos Amp for whole home audio >>> Sonos AmpWe normally will build these systems with amplification from Sonos, Yamaha, Marantz or Parasound and separate speakers from Origin Acoustics, Martin Logan, KEF or Monitor Audio.

A big advantage of our BETTER whole home audio systems is that they are typically comprised of better quality speakers than you find in portable solutions. The addition of larger drivers, better materials and more advanced crossover networks (the guts of the speaker) can provide sound that is more lifelike, detailed and transparent than most portable solutions can offer. The amplification for these BETTER audio systems typically offers more power, more current and less distortion than you find in our GOOD offerings. BETTER whole house audio speakers also present a cleaner look when they are some form of in-ceiling or in-wall speaker design. These are built into the wall or ceiling so they present a flush, clean look. The grilles can also be painted to match the wall color.

The disadvantages of BETTER whole house audio systems would be the cost and the wiring. These speakers and amplification will cost more than portable selections do. As speaker wires are needed for these audio options, whole house audio installation will cost more and can be invasive, requiring paint and patching after the wires are installed.


BEST whole house audio system


Kef speaker r

Bigger speakers sound better than little ones. $85K for these KEF beauties.


In our BEST whole house audio systems, we utilize many of the design concepts of our BETTER systems with some subtle differences:


1 - High end speakers: $10,000.00 speakers sound better than $1000.00 models. Bigger speakers almost always sound better than smaller ones. Using high-end speakers in these BEST audio installations allow our clients to get the best audio quality possible in their areas. In many cases, we may opt to go with BEST level audio speakers in a Living Room, Listening Room, Outdoor area or in any area where incredible audio quality is desired.  We may then step down to BETTER speakers in other areas of the house.

2 - Add a subwoofer: In many systems that have in-wall or in-ceiling speakers, we can add flush mounted, built-in subwoofers to fill in low-end bass. This makes for a huge improvement in whole house audio quality.

3 - Better amplification: Using high-end amplifiers can provide more punch, mid-range attack and dynamics to today's speaker systems. When our clients want the best sound they can buy, we will design audio systems with better amplifiers in place. Using stereo amplifiers from Parasound Halo and Marantz will provide the best power and clarity for our BEST home audio systems.


The disadvantages of BEST audio systems are the same as BETTER systems with an emphasis on cost. Our Martin Logan Neoliths are $120K/pair. Our Parasound JC1 monoblock amplfiiers are $9K/channel. This stuff sounds amazing but costs more...just like anything in life that has high-end technology or craftsmanship.


How to Control Your Whole House Audio System


Controlling your whole house audio system also comes in GOOD>BETTER>BEST flavors. In many cases, one could opt to have BEST level audio in an area but opt for GOOD level control. A few things to consider regarding control:


1 - Cost and "simple" or "basic" can be inversely related terms: If we hear a client state "I just want something simple to control the system", sometimes these words don't mean that they want it to be easy to use. Upon discovery, lots of times this actually means "I want something inexpensive". If you want something that is actually simple, it will cost more. Read on.

2 - Difficult to use?: 25 years ago...everything was simple. You popped in a CD, turned the knob on your volume control to listen in the Dining Room and you were rocking! Nowadays, phone-based apps, firmware updates, need for power-cycling, Internet issues and more have made things much more difficult in this industry.


Many people: "But wait...I heard that Sonos was simple to install and use?" The hundreds of thousands of views on our Youtube pages about Sonos and specifically, how to make Sonos work would run counter to the comment above. Fortunately we have support and products to minimize the confusion. However, knowing your own capabilities re: technology and potential troubleshooting is important when choosing a whole house audio solution. Here are some different methods to play music throughout the house.


GOOD whole house audio control


Volume control

Niles on-wall volume control for simple volume attenuation


One solution for this is to use wall-mounted volume controls or keypads. This option has been around for 40 years and still is functional. This method requires speaker wire to be installed to each volume control location but they are simple and do the job. There are also central volume control units that house 4 to 6 separate volume controls. These units can be installed in a central area of the home that ideally is somewhere in the middle of where all of the whole house speaker pairs are located. This lets you adjust the volume for all areas quickly and makes it so you don't have to walk all over the place to turn the volume up/down in different areas. With separate volume controls in different rooms, you literally have to go to each separate unit AND room which can be taxing in large homes, multiple story houses, etc. A big disadvantage of "old school" volume controls is that they are just that...a volume control. They don't let you change sources (ex: go from cable TV to streaming audio) or turn systems on/off. For these capabilities, our BETTER or BEST control systems have their place.


BETTER whole house audio control


On wall iPad

Rancho Santa Fe whole house audio installation - On-wall iPad audio control


Want to touch a button on your wall-mounted iPad, pick "The Three Stooges Soundtrack" and start listening?

Want to activate music with the touch of a button on a wall-mounted decora keypad that has your favorite Pandora favorites programmed to taste? 

Want to utter " Bach" and you are suddenly immersed in sweet, sweet music from your favorite composer?


If any of the above are appealing, BETTER home control is for you. This can be accommodated by some home smart home automation solutions from URC, RTI, Savant or Control4. Listening to music is no fun if you can't get it to work. Our better and BEST whole house audio systems and related controls make this process effortless. Want to enhance your life with music and whole home audio? Let our San Diego whole house audio installation teams show you the way to sweet sounds and beautiful music!