What should be discussed with customers ahead of a smart multi-room audio project and how do you ensure a smooth install? Mark Brady of Hamilton Litestat shares his advice.
Multi-room audio control is rising in popularity, and it’s easy to see why. Homeowners can benefit from the luxury and flexibility of listening to any audio they wish in any room of their home – even outside – with the touch of a button or swipe of a finger. This technology isn’t restricted to the super wealthy either; it’s making its way into many homes all over the country as control technologies continue to become more accessible. As simple as some systems can be to install, it’s making sure that the customer is fully informed of the benefits and the options related to multi-room audio that’s most important – otherwise, the final system may not have the functionality the customer imagined.
Scalability: how many rooms need to be incorporated?
Multi-room audio systems have the scalability to include one room or zone – think kitchen/diner – or could span the entire property. Discussing these expectations will determine whether the customer would be best suited to an entry-level, two-channel system or something on a larger scale. The smaller two-channel systems are very affordable, but more expansive audio systems needn’t be hugely expensive either. It’s important to outline a budget with the client early in the process to avoid any installation hiccups and manage their functionality expectations if the budget is limited.
Selecting sources: what type of audio would you like to listen to, and where?
The number of audio sources needs to be determined. Would the customer like the audio sources to incorporate a CD player, AM/FM radio, DAB radio, music streaming services, record player, TV and/or Blu-Ray/DVD player? And do they want to listen to the same source in all rooms/zones or be able to play different audio in each?
Receivers often offer multi-zone features but not all receivers can support more than one source at a time, so it’s important to establish the capabilities required. Devices such as a wireless music bridge allow the streaming of internet radio and music services to a specific zone, or can allow each member of the household to play separate streams to different areas.
The demand for multiple sources can make a system more complex and expensive, so it may be best for customers to list their sources in priority order and then make a recommendation after referring to the budget.
Wired or wireless: is this a period property and do you wish to move the speakers?
At Hamilton, our preference is a wired solution wherever possible to ensure the highest levels of quality. Disguising the wires by chasing them into walls of a new build or an extension is a simple process. And with a wired system you can still have wireless control for flexibility and then add wireless aspects to the system later.
There are, however, some situations where the installation is in a period or heritage property and the walls can’t be touched. Under these circumstances a wireless solution is most suitable. It may also be that the customer often rearranges their living spaces, so the ability to move the speakers is a priority.
Subtle or statement: would you like the speakers to blend into the décor?
Speakers could be considered a design ‘focus’ or ‘faux pas’. Some customers may want large eye-catching speakers that make a statement while others want their speakers to disappear into the ceiling or walls and be barely visible. In-wall and in-ceiling speakers can be painted to match the room’s design but are more demanding to install, whereas floor-standing speakers or those that sit on shelves are easy to move but do take up space. There’s a huge range on the market now, so it’s possible to select those that have discreet, sleek designs.
Having explained the benefits and options surrounding a multi-room audio system, it should then be possible to make an installation recommendation that works for the customer’s budget.
One final thing to consider is CAT-5 cabling. If a home has CAT-5 cabling it can be a cost-effective and time-efficient
way of connecting speakers. If using it for audio, the property will need an amplifier in each zone to control the system and speakers. However, the network can’t be used for computer networking and audio concurrently, so
may not work for all properties.