- Enjoyable sound reproduction.
The most important thing about any audio system is how much you enjoy listening to it. If
your audio system is unpleasant to listen to, then nothing else makes up for this - not
the manufacturers big brand name, snazzy displays, futuristic controls, swish cabinets,
trendy small speakers, or how many songs you can store on it. Sound quality should be your
most important consideration.
- Use quality local room amplifiers and short heavy duty speaker cables.
Ensure that your multi-room audio hi-fi uses
distributed room amplifiers, such as C-Bus room
amps located close to quality speakers (such as Krix speakers) in each room to minimise
speaker cable lengths. By minimising the
impedance between each hi-fi room amplifier and your room speakers in this way, each room
amplifier better controls its speakers to produce better quality sound.
Relatively large currents flow through speaker cables, so that
even small increases in speaker cable resistance or impedance adversely affect
reproduction quality. If you mistakenly use one centrally located multi-channel audio
amplifier with long speaker cables radiating out to all your remote room speakers, you
will usually increase speaker cable impedance and substantially reduce the quality of
sound from your multi-room speakers.
For the same reasons, you should use the thickest heavy duty
speaker cables that may be terminated easily at your room amplifier and speaker terminals.
While electricians are used to selecting power cable sizes based upon how much current
they have to handle, if you let your electrician apply this approach to your multi-room
audio speaker cables, then you may spend years wondering what is wrong with your audio
system. (Many electricians consider that speaker cables should be thiner and lighter,
until they hear the difference that using a heavier speaker cables
makes to the sound quality.)
Speaker cables also act like antennas, picking up unwanted EMI
and noise and injecting it into your multi-room audio hi-fi system. This unwanted noise
audibly degrades sound quality further. The shorter you keep your speaker cables, and the
further you keep them from sources of electromagnetic noise, the better your multi-room
system will sound.
- Use pre-power-amp volume controls.
Every volume control in your multi-room audio hi-fi system
should be implemented before the multi-room audio amplifiers, and definitely not
after your multi-room amps along the speaker cables. Any self-respecting audio system
implements volume control between the preamp and poweramp where currents are very low, and
multi-room audio hi-fi systems should be no different.
Many poorly designed multi-room audio systems take the low-cost
approach of installing inefficient analog rheostats/potentiometers (those round volume
knobs) on wall plates inside each remote room, to reduce the volume reaching the speakers
through the speaker cables. This inserts a large impedance (that of the wall volume
control) between the amplifier and the speaker, making it impossible for the
amplifier to accurately control and drive the speaker. In other words, it makes your
multi-room system sound awful.
Using pre-power-amplifier volume controls requires that:
(a) The room amplifier be accessible inside the room and have a volume control on its
front panel, or
(b) A special wall mounted wired remote control panel or home automation touch screens,
wall switches, or Internet user interfaces, should be installed and wired to a
hidden multi-room room amplifier. Even though the multi-room control panel or home automation
interface device may itself seem
to be the whole volume control, allowing you to see and change the volume level, it
actually controls the pre-power-amp volume control located inside the room amplifier.
- Install quality loudspeakers.
Speakers vary widely in the quality of the sound they can
reproduce. It follows that you should select the highest quality speakers that are
appropriate for the room and the application. This remains true in a multi-room audio
hi-fi system. Examples of "quality loudspeakers" include Krix
- Use the best sounding speaker type appropriate for each room.
Loudspeaker types include free-standing floor speakers, bookshelf speakers, on-wall,
in-wall, or in ceiling loudspeakers. Loudspeakers depend heavily upon the quality of their
cabinets to perform well. A free-standing floor speaker's ability to produce enjoyable
music depends more on the quality of its own cabinet and less upon the acoustic properties
of the room in which it is placed, because of its relative isolation from the floor, walls
and ceiling. In contrast, the performance of in-wall or in-ceiling speakers is affected by
the construction of the immediate wall cavity (that often forms the in-wall speaker's
speaker box), and also how well the plaster is braced around the speaker.
Since quality loudspeaker boxes are built with better acoustic
properties than the rooms in which they are placed, you may list loudspeaker types in
order of sound quality as follows, from best sounding to worst:
1. Floor standing speakers,
sitting at least 1m from any wall (best sound quality).
2. Bookshelf speakers, with
care to leave sufficient space behind and around them and a rigid shelf.
3. On-wall speakers, which have
their own enclosure but are mounted with brackets on the wall surface.
4. In-wall speakers,
mounted at ear height with care taken to seal in-wall cavities and brace the plaster.
5. In-ceiling speakers,
which are worst of all because the dispersion pattern from the ceiling is usually least
ideal, and ceilings are usually less rigid than walls.
As sound quality decreases in the above order, so too does
aesthetic impact, with in-ceiling speakers being the most inconspicuous. Tiny Krix
Holographix downlight size speakers are even available for minimal aesthetic
impact. Good multi-room audio hi-fi system design usually involves reaching a
performance/aesthetic trade-off that is appropriate for each room.
- Carefully consider loudspeaker locations.
Loudspeakers also need to be carefully located to get the most from them. Location affects
frequency response, stereo imaging (how well soundstage is recreated for you) and how
evenly they disperse music throughout your room.
Your Clever Home engineer
will be able to advise you on the best speaker locations, while taking into account the
other restrictions and priorities associated with you home, as part of your Clever Home
automation project proposal.
- Install a wired multi-room audio hi-fi system.
Use hardwired connections between all audio components for higher quality and more
reliable communications and audio transmission. Wireless is a great option to have when
you cannot install any cabling, and you are prepared to accept audio drop-outs and reduced
sound quality. However, unless you need mobile room speakers, a wired multi-room
audio system is a much better option when access is available to install
wiring. Marketing hype for wireless convenience tends to be at odds with practicality when
it comes to multi-room audio hi-fi.
- Make good use of your best sounding audio source.
Your music can sound no better than it does as it comes from your audio source. Every
amplifier, cable and speaker that follows cannot improve on the audio source. A defining
feature of multi-room
audio is that remote rooms may listen to a shared "main room" audio
source, so this audio source sets the upper limit on how good your entire multi-room
audio hi-fi system sounds.
It makes sense to use the highest quality source in your home theatre
(or listening room) also as the main room source for your multi-room
audio, as it will usually sound better than the audio source included in most
multi-room audio components.
- Seek Engineering standard support.
A home multi-room audio (hi-fi or not) is a significant long term investment. You deserve
and require better advice and guidance than a shop salesperson or an electrician may be able
to provide. It is up to you to seek out genuine engineering-standard
support from a custom installer and home automation Systems Integrator with the knowledge
and experience to help you.
- Install a suitable multi-room audio user interface.
audio system should allow you to change the volume, and monitor and control
shared main room audio sources from within each remote room. This means that you will
require a multi-room audio user interface, with which to see and change the current radio
stations or music track, or to stop, pause, or fast forward/rewind, for example.
While using your Android or Apple Internet tablet or phone may
initially seem to be a great solution, you should ask yourself:
(a) How many of these tablets or phones will you need?
(b) How do you plan to keep track of where they have been left?
(c) What schedule to you plan to implement to keep their batteries recharged?
(d) How many tablets or phones may be dropped and damaged while they are being picked up
to make frequent audio adjustments?
While a wireless controller is a
great add-on for your home multi-room audio, it is no replacement for conveniently placed
in-wall control interfaces. After you have been living in your home for a short period of
time, you will discover how important it is to be able to operate your multi-room audio as
easily as you operate your lights or any other home automation device. No one always has
their Internet tablet or phone with them, especially in a steamy bathroom, for example.
It remains essential for any well designed multi-room audio
system that fixed wall mounted multi-room control panels or home automation touch screens
or wall switches be installed in most remote rooms. These fixed interface devices may be
audio-system-specific, or they may be part of an integrated home automation system.
If your multi-room audio system supports monitoring and control
over an IP browser interface, then any PC on your home wired or wireless network may also
control your multi-room hi-fi. However, as with control by smart phone or Internet tablet,
this is a nice feature to have, but it does not replace the need for fixed on-wall control of your home
multi-room audio system.
- Ensure your multi-room audio hi-fi is expandable.
You should not only support the initially needed number of room
shared and local audio sources. Plan further ahead and cater for the possible addition of
extra rooms or sources, or upgrades to more powerful or higher quality power
amplifiers or other audio equipment and methods of monitoring and control.