Been a while since I’ve written something for everyone.
There is so much demand for multiroom lately considering how easy it is to set up Google Home and Amazon Alexa in your own home. There are things to consider first hand though. Weather you want ceiling speakers, how many zones, streaming services etc…
I’ve covered Wi-Fi networks in a previous post, but I will say it again. YOUR WI-FI SUCKS! The router that your ISP (Telstra, Optus, TPG, whatever) sucks. It has the processing capacity of a small box of sock puppets. They are designed for basic browsing, a small number of users, and tend to need restarting (often) if you use your internet any harder than a couple of devices browsing Facebook. This is an issue in large houses, apartments, concrete buildings, or where many houses are very VERY close together.
What I have at home is a Ubiquiti Unifi security gateway (router), a network switch, and a couple of Ubiquiti wireless access points. My network is rock solid. I have all of my lights on the network, a powerful computer, a few streaming speakers, Google home stuff etc. It doesn’t hiccup at all. We use a fairly similar setup at work and it is solid.
If you are considering multiple audio zones to operate over Wi-Fi, lighting, voice control etc, your network NEEDS to be up to scratch. Your Telstra router will NOT cut it. Even if you have network coverage over your entire house, it will fall over when you try to make it do anything more than the basics.
Google has even produced a new, very easy to use, mesh Wi-Fi system called Google Wi-Fi. Combining that with the Ubiquiti Unifi Security Gateway and a network switch will give you a very VERY solid performing network. Spending money on a pretty gaming router will help, but my experience with it so far is that the Ubiquiti unit will blow it out of the water (and then some).
If you are renovating, run Ethernet EVERYWHERE. Run it all back to a central point. Home networking infrastructure can keep you from many headaches. With it all wired you can set up wireless access points easily to get rock solid Wi-Fi everywhere, set up home security, stream movies on your TV without issues or buffering, have Google Home or Amazon Echo units wherever… The possibilities are endless.
You want ceiling speakers or outdoor speakers? Keep in mind that each pair of speakers should have their own amplifier. You can stretch one amplifier to cover 2 pairs (as long as they are 8 ohm speakers), but keep these in one area (say a kitchen or dining room). Heos by Denon have a 4 zone amplifier unit called the Drive. It has plenty of power, and if you needed more speakers in a particular zone, you can run a power amplifier (Emotiva A-150 for example).
If you have a pair of ceiling speakers (or multiple pairs in one area), it may be worth setting the amplifier to a Mono output. Having wide swings of audio can be a little disorienting, especially if you listen to Money by Pink Floyd. Having a mono output will give you a full, consistent sound everywhere.
Small outdoor speakers have small bass output. There isn’t really a way around this. Don’t be afraid of larger speakers, you will get used to them and they will blend in rather quickly. White is available most of the time.
Treat open plan areas as ONE area. Splitting the sound between a kitchen and the living room and playing different audio through them sounds like a good idea, but it just turns into more zones that need more control. Keep it simple. Have one control for the whole area. In many cases, I suggest a Home Theater receiver that covers surround sound in that ENTIRE open plan area. I mean, put the rear surrounds WAY BACK THERE! Put the surrounds off to the sides. Putting speakers in the ceiling (unless they are for background music OR Dolby Atmos/DTS:X height channels never quite sounds right.
Don’t be afraid to spend more on speaker wire. Going up from the basic clear jacket oxygen free copper that you can get for pennies per meter, can give the sound out of your ceiling speakers a very noticeable clarity boost, and a bit more bottom end kick. Clear jackets also allow copper wire to corrode easier, getting something like the Chord Leyline will sound great and last for MANY years.
Getting a multiroom system to sound good, look great, and perform flawlessly is not a cheap task, and requires a fair amount of planning. We are here to help.