This is one of the most common questions we get when working with homeowners building their own home. In the past, wiring speakers was the only way to enjoy synchronized music in every room. But with the wireless speaker systems of today, you can enjoy music all over the house without running a single wire. While every homeowner has different preferences for audio, we’ll give you some recommendations based on our experience.
Let’s make this clear: we LOVE wireless systems. The flexibility, ease of use, and clean aesthetic are hard to beat with a wireless system. You may be surprised to hear then that we DO recommending wiring up some speakers in your home.
One quick note: when we say wireless, we mean plug-in speakers. In the A/V industry, wireless audio generally means that the speakers are not wired into the walls using speaker wire connected to an amplifier in a different location. Wireless speakers have amplifiers built-in, connecting over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Everything needs power, and while there are battery-powered speakers, those need to be charged with a wire!
As a rule of thumb, we recommend that clients use wireless speakers indoors and wired speakers outdoors. Having wireless speakers indoors allows you to move things around as furniture, design preferences, and remodels happen to the inside of the house. It also allows you to totally remove the speakers if they don’t fit the room anymore.
Outdoors is where wireless speakers suffer. There are no wireless speakers that are outdoor weatherproof, constantly powered on, and integrated with a multi-room music system (yet). The challenge here is that wireless speakers need to be plugged in to power, which exposes electrical outlets to rain and weather every day of the year. The speakers also need a Wi-Fi connection, which can be difficult if the network doesn’t broadcast outdoors far enough.
Using weatherproof speakers pre-wired into outdoor ceilings and walls will deliver a solid audio system to the outdoor spaces while protecting the wires. Couple this with a robust amplifier that connects to the home’s network, and you can enjoy music across the home. Outdoor structures generally have a lot less redesign and remodel work done, which protects the investment of wiring up speakers to those locations.
The key to this hybrid system is to use speakers and amplifiers from the same multi-room audio system (SONOS, HEOS) or use a master controller system (Control4, etc.). That will ensure you can control your indoor wireless speakers and your outdoor wired speakers with the same app, synchronizing the music between the speakers. Otherwise, the indoor and outdoor systems will be separate.
Designing an audio system for a new home typically takes an expert touch to ensure that the system works as expected the first time. Luckily, advancements in wireless and speaker technology means you can have a whole-home audio system at a much lower price.