What are The Best Living Room, Desktop and Tabletop Wireless Audio Systems?
That’s a very long question and the whole reason why Rate Your Sound is here. Today the very best audiophile and hi-fi music / audio systems are often of the wireless variety. These speakers are home decor friendly, great looking, can be hooked up in 5 minutes, and are a breeze to use. What we love about these audio systems is they pack all the needed components like Bluetooth, WiFi, Digital Signal Processing (DSP), Multiroom Pairing, Control Apps, Power Amps, DACs inside the speaker.
We will explain what all the granular details mean, how you use these products, and also help you decide what's the best music system for your home. If it’s about multiroom, audiophile quality, expensive luxury audio products, we can help. And, if it’s great Hi-Fi in one room or throughout your home for a great price, we can also help. Or finally, something for the desktop, ore more intimate listening situations, we can help.
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Why Is Wireless Multiroom Home Audio The New Big Thing?
If you’re pondering a new or multiroom wireless audio system, keep in mind the landscape may have shifted since you last took a good look. Not to long ago the norm was stereo components, home theater, multi-changer CD players, DVD and Blu-Ray.
Now, all this has faded a bit into the background. Optical disc and all the components and discs themselves seems limiting compared to music, TV and movies now available via streaming at the touch of a button or voice command. Tip: It is a fact, a high-end music or streaming TV system needs, a high-end router, and high-end speedy Internet.
New To Bluetooth and Wireless WiFi Audio?
If you’re new to the idea of Whole Home Audio, the subject can be confusing, but we are here to help answer questions. The basic concept is pretty simple – instead of having a single stereo system in one room, where you have to sit down and listen to it, you have all of your music streaming from the cloud or stored in some central location, and then tap into it wherever you happen to be.
You can have your main hi-fi in the living room, your office can have a pair of speakers on your desktop music, in your bedroom on a dresser, and the equivalent of a table radio in the kitchen, but they all have access to your entire music collection.
Bose SoundTouch® wireless music systems [Video]
Finding the best of these wireless Bluetooth audio systems and holding your hand through all the bits and bobs of how things work is what Rate Your Sound is all about.
The concept is simple, the details can get pretty complicated, there are lots of different companies making this sort of products, and each has a slightly different idea about how they should work. As a result, it can be difficult to figure out which system will work best for you.
How do I Control My Music?
In a whole home audio multiroom world you are in complete control of your music. It will be a combination of physical onboard controls on the speaker, your tablet-phone-touch-devices and usually a physical remote control will be part of your system or offered as an add-on accessory.
All wireless speakers and audio systems we recommend are controlled these three ways and there is quite a bit of variety and some are better than others. You may just use your streaming app like Spotify most of the time but we suggest you go granular on the Control apps for your audio system! At a minimum, when you’re ready to buy, go the Apple or Android store and check each app out and the reviews. These Control apps are mostly good but some are great so it’s worth you time to learn more. Tip: Make sure the Control app is full featured and fun and easy to use for you.
The good news is you’ll have plenty of other choices if you don’t want to use your company’s Control app. Depending on what streaming services you choose you will find Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, Tidal and many more will do the job just fine.
Where Is My Music?
When people got interested in Whole Home Audio system, streaming wasn’t around and so your music is stored in a central location, and the speakers or other devices in each room tapped into that central source. This let every device, in every room, have access to all of your music, and even lets you do cool stuff like have the same music playing in every room, and send music from one room to the other.
In fact, your music doesn’t have to be stored at a single central location, as long as it’s all stored in places that are connected to your network. Your system can have a server where you’ve stored music from CDs or albums you already own, or a connection to one of the many Internet music services available, or both. When you set up the player or speaker in each room, you’ll tell it which sources you want it to use, and how to connect to them.
Remember The Old Days of CDs?
In the old days, you got bought albums or CDs, or maybe pre-recorded tapes, and then there was the radio. If you wanted to listen to a CD, you popped it into the player, hit the Play button, and you had music. If you wanted to listen to the radio, you turned it on and tuned in your favorite station. And, if you wanted to listen to music in another room, you went into that room and listened.
Most of us had a good stereo in the living room or den, and a small system, perhaps with just a radio, in each of the other rooms. Having a CD player or turntable in more than one room was a nuisance because then you had to keep track of where your discs ended up. One solution was to run some sort of remote speaker from your main stereo to the other room; but then you had to keep running back to the main system change the disc or the radio station.
Well, we’ve come a long way with our music sources. We still have CD discs, and quite a few people still enjoy vinyl and FM radio, but now we have lots of other options.
Is There A Best Streaming Music Service?
Streaming is the popular option these days and one of the reasons that Wireless Music Systems for many are going to be the way to go. With a streaming service you get to pick what songs you want to listen to and when.
Each service offers slightly different options, but on most you can choose to hear a particular song, or give them a list of songs to play, or have them pick songs for you based on what they’ve learned about the type of music you like. Some services have a truly massive library of music available – so, whatever you want to hear, they probably have it available.
Most streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music are subscription based, so you pay a monthly fee to use all of their features and hear your music at the best quality level. Some streaming services are free, like Pandora or SoundCloud.
If you just want to listen to your own music library ad-free without internet radio we like using the Google Play Music app on our touch devices. We think it’s fantastic that Google lets you upload 50,000 of your songs to your Google Play account.
Bottom Line: There are lots of choices.. Some have a pricing tiers and low cost options or with a free model you may have to listen to the occasional commercial.
Internet Radio is the modern equivalent of the radio stations you’re used to. These days the most popular are TuneIn, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio. Most broadcast radio stations also provide an Internet version, and there are lots of stations that are only on the Internet. The Internet is worldwide and, with no range limitation like an old-style transmitter, you can tune in any Internet Radio station anywhere on Earth – so you have a lot of them to choose from. Like old style FM stations, Internet Radio stations are free – you just tune them in.
Devialet Phantom Multiroom Wireless Speaker - Review [video]
I have Bluetooth, What Do I Do With My CD’s Now?
Of course, you can place music you already own on a computer file server, and then play it from your system as well. If you’ve purchased and downloaded music files, they can simply be placed onto an appropriate server or “network attached storage device”. If you have CD discs or vinyl albums, you’ll need to transfer them to the server – a process called “ripping” them. (Transferring CDs is simple; the process is a bit more involved for vinyl.)
Some systems, like Sonos, also let you send music that you’re playing on your CD player or turntable in one room through the system directly to devices in other locations.