How digital music makes multi-room audio simpler… and more complicated

These days, we’re become accustomed to carrying vast music collections around with us in our pockets. No matter where you go, your Smartphone is right there with you, ready to connect to a car stereo auxiliary input or your favorite pair of mobile headphones.

But what about the music in your home? Wouldn’t it be nice to queue up any song in your personal musical library and stream it anywhere in the house, with cover art, track info, and the ability to create custom playlists without ever touching your computer? And not just the essential songs that fit on your phone or personal media player—literally every song on your collection?

It used to be that multi-room music distribution was a major structural investment, requiring racks of amplifiers and centralized wiring, not to mention speakers embedded in the walls and ceilings. And that’s certainly still an option an option for some homeowners. But just as the digital music revolution changed the way we bring music with us on the go—replacing big bulky folding books full of CDs with one tiny portable device—it’s also made multi-room music a lot simpler. And a little more complicated at the same time.


A Small Sonos System

Simple, because all-in-one music streaming solutions like Sonos make touch-of-a-button music streaming a snap. Sonos is an incredibly popular system with many of our customers, because its wireless connectivity and integrated simplicity make all of those centralized wires and racks of amplifiers unnecessary. With Sonos, you simply connect a handy streaming box to the same home network as the computer housing your digital music collection. As for the playing end, Sonos offers a number of systems, from compact players with built-in speakers to amps that allow you to use your own favorite pair of bookshelf speakers—even a streaming box that connects directly to your home theater receiver or hi-fi stereo preamp. Thanks to Sonos’ mobile control app, searching your music collection and accessing it from any room of the house is a breeze, and you can even just as quickly access a world of internet-based streaming audio services like Spotify, Pandora, internet radio, and more.

And if you want more advanced control of your Sonos system, you could even opt to connect it to a Control4 home automation system, giving you instant control over your music from the same screen you use to control your lights, locks, comfort, and home theater system with a single button-press.

That’s a great, simple, wireless solution if, like most people, you buy your music from iTunes or Amazon, or rip your own CDs in MP3 or AAC. But the little bit of complication we mentioned before is that, while the digital music revolution has given us the utmost in portability, it has also brought with it massive, audiophile-quality music downloads from sites like HD Tracks and AIX Records—gigantic files that far surpass the quality of Compact Discs, and that don’t play well with simple solutions like Sonos.

If you’re developing a sizeable collection of high-res downloads, though; don’t give up on streaming it around your home just yet, though. There are a number of advanced media servers on the market designed to handle all of your 24-bit music files. Granted, those more audiophile-oriented media servers rarely offer the slick, seamless, simple control solution offered by Sonos, but again, that’s where a home automation system like Control4 can come in to take the work out of accessing and playing your tunes.

Speaking of playing tunes, getting the most out of your high-resolution music playback system involves a lot more than merely streaming all of that dense digital data from one spot in your home to another. Before it reaches your ears, you need to convert the digital format in which songs are stored into analog sound, and although integrated digital-to-analog conversion—or even the DACs built into your home theater receiver—may be fine for iTunes-quality audio files, if you’re stepping up to hi-res audio, you’ll also want to add a high-quality external DAC to your setup.

Those are just a few of the options available for accessing your digital music in any room of the home, but the truth is, there are almost as many ways of distributing music around the home these days as there are digital audio formats, and finding the right solution can be tricky. We at Paradyme Sound and Vision are staying one step ahead of the digital music revolution, though, and we’re here to help. So stop by the shop and let’s talk about music for a bit. We’ll work with you to design and install the perfect multi-room system for your tastes, your music, and your lifestyle.

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