Especially in this day-and-age, when we have become accustomed to being able to access our entertainment whenever and wherever we want it, a fully connected home entertainment system has become almost the standard amongst tech heads and audiophiles.
Thankfully, you don't need to be an expert engineer in order to hook up a home speaker system that will allow you to start listening to an album in the kitchen and finish it off in the bath. It is definitely a job that shouldn't be taken lightly though, so here we'll be taking you through the basics and making sure you understand exactly what it is you're getting yourself into.
These days, it's a lot easier to have your music playing throughout your home thanks to the advent of wireless technology. Wireless technology, however, isn't for everyone, and can prove to be not only more costly, but less reliable than good old fashioned cabling. So there are two major options here, and whichever you choose will depend very much on the layout of your home, what kind of equipment you're comfortable with and, ultimately, how much you're willing to spend.
With a wireless multi-room speaker system you'll be able to simply keep a central hub receiver in your music room, living room or office, which will send out music to all of your other wireless devices. This hub could be a home computer, a smart device or a bespoke unit, but either way, it will function as a nexus point for your collection. This hub will then send the music out as a signal through bluetooth or airplay (much like wi-fi), which will be caught be the various speakers and/or systems scattered around your home. These systems are generally pretty foolproof when it comes to setting up so might be a decent option if you really don't have a clue when it comes to electronics.
Be warned, however, that the more units you have and the further they are away from the hub, the more the signal will degrade. It might not be noticeable to some, but those with keenly focused ears might find it's just not good enough unless they fork out for a seriously pricey system. Wireless systems also don't tend to work that well with older systems, so if you're a vinyl collector, you'd probably be better off sticking with a wired system. If, however, you've given yourself over completely to streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, a wireless system might actually be the best fit.
The good old fashioned way is still the most flexible option, but unless you're happy with a house full of exposed RCA cables, it's going to take a little effort to keep things under wraps. As with a wireless hook-up, a wired home stereo system will send all audio signals from a central AV source, which is likely to be your amplifier, so when you're choosing your amplifier, make sure it's powerful enough to output to multiple speakers.
In a perfect world, you'd have the system wired into the bones of your house, but, as it's more than likely your home is already built, we'll instead be looking at more subtle methods. The first thing to consider is where you want your speakers, switches and wall sockets to be. Plan out exactly where you want everything to go and measure the distances between them as you'll need to know exactly how long your RCA cables need to be. Of course, one of the most difficult aspects of any project like this is managing to get the wires running through your home without tearing up the walls.
How difficult this is will depend on your home. If you have particularly deep floorboards, for example, drilling holes through them to reach the next floors might not be an option, instead, you might need to buy longer cables and bind them to the skirting boards or under the carpets depending on the cable sizes. If you do decide to drill holes, remember that fishing wires through these holes can be incredibly tricky, so make sure you have some tools to hand that will help and use a weighted string to pull wires from lower to higher floors.
Another you're going to want to consider is where you'll need to use splitters, adaptors, couplers and switching boxes, as you won't want to have them simply hanging around your home waiting for someone to tread on them. This, once again, will depend on your individual setup. Splitters, adaptors and couplers are used to alter the output from your hub system, either to alter the quantity of outputs or simply adapt the size of your audio jacks to bridge the gap between the source and its output. They are generally rather small, so can be hidden and tucked away with relative ease.
Switching boxes, however, are used to switch between outputs. Say, for example, you have speakers installed in both your bedroom and your office, but want to send an audio signal to just your bedroom. A switching box would allow you to do this with simply a flick of a switch. Switching boxes will, however, by their very design, be a lot larger, and will need to be installed on tables or where they can be easily reached. This can be circumvented completely, of course, if you go the wall sockets and switches route, but more on that later.
How to Fit Installation Speakers
Installation speakers are, literally, speakers installed into your walls or ceiling in order to save room. They can also look pretty aesthetically pleasing, and, because they are not losing any sound out of the back, they generally offer a more direct and fuller sound. In terms of speaker placement make sure you use a stud finder to detect pipes, studs and existing cabling so that you don't drill into anything important, but you also want to make sure they are placed so as to offer the fullest possible sound and that they are spaced quite far apart so they don't clash.
Fitting your speakers will require a drywall saw and utility knife in order to cut into the plaster and a lot of wiring. It's not a particularly difficult job, but it is one that could prove quite disastrous if you make a mistake so it would be wise to ask for help if you're not 100% sure what you're doing. Once your speakers are installed, however, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them! If you're concerned about installation, we do offer a custom speaker installation service here at Superfi.
Fitting Wall Sockets and Switches for Multi-Room Playback
This is if you really want to streamline your home speaker setup and keep things nice and clean. It will require quite a bit of work, but the final results should be more than worth it as you'll be able to use these permanent installations in the same manner as a light switch. The switch systems will allow you to switch between different amplified sources, but they are not the only kind of wall-mounted sockets you'll be able to install.
You could also install wall-mounted speaker volume controls or wall-mounted infra-red sensors in order to accept remote control demands. The options are pretty varied if you have the patience to look. Actually installing these systems is not as complicated as you might believe, but if you're worried, you could always hire an electrician to wire everything up for you as it will require running wires through the walls.
We didn't go into the specifics of the installation here because there are so many variables to consider. When it boils down to it though, if you want a more reliable and flexible system, you're going to want a wired system. If you've absolutely no confidence in your electrical skills or don't wish to hire an electrician however, there are wireless options available that certainly won't leave you wanting, especially if you live in a smaller home with thin walls where wireless signal can travel without interference. Ultimately though, the choice of your setup is very much a personal one. Hopefully we've been able to point you in the right direction and help you consider every angle.