Back in 2002, far before smart homes and high-performance audio were within common reach, David Bowie made an insightful observation. “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity,” he said.
The context? How the internet and technology would forever change how we access entertainment.
He was right, as he was about many things. Pairing our daily tasks with audio is as natural as putting on comfortable clothes (well, just about). And we can add that soundtrack to our lives via smart devices and systems.
We take our music everywhere, and for good reason. Music has the power to transform a dull day into a bright one, exhaustion into exhilaration, stress into relaxation. If you need to set a mood or even have a cathartic cry, music can do that, too.
In today’s smart homes, we can go beyond just enjoying music — we can immerse ourselves in it. After a taxing workday and a dreadful commute, nothing washes away worries quite like flicking on your favorite tunes. You know you have the exact track to match the moment, whatever that moment may be.
So, adding a premium home sound system to your smart home can be a vital part of personalizing your space — it creates your own little slice of paradise.
[Related: Why You Should Work With a Contractor and Architect Early on in Your AV Project]
Learn the Elements of Great Sound
It’s an exciting decision to make: “Let’s install a premium home sound system!” But how do you go about it? What elements create great sound?
In essence, sound systems have three core parts. And you need all three for a fully functional system.
As the term indicates, this is where it all begins.
You’ll likely use the internet to stream music, but the source can be practically anything that carries audio. You might use your smartphone, computer, CD player or modded-out turntable (you know, when you want that authentic crackling sound).
Stereo Amplifier or Receiver
In plain terms, the amplifier or receiver then picks up the energy the source generates and prepares it for the speakers.
An audiovisual (AV) consultant can walk you through purchasing one, but here’s a basic word of advice. The simpler an amplifier/receiver is, the longer it’ll last — and the more sources it’ll work with. Pricey bells and whistles aren’t all that necessary for amplifiers or receivers.
Finally, the speakers turn the energy from the source and amplifier/receiver into audio.
A sound system’s speakers almost always come in pairs. That’s because audio engineers record sound with two separate channels. They place some sounds to the left and others to the right of an optimal listening position.
The result is an enveloping audio experience that can sound like a live performance. With powerful speakers, you can even feel soundwaves in your body. If you’ve ever been to a big stadium show, you know what we mean.
Of course, you have a ton of choices when it comes to speakers. Their quality, quantity and placement in concert (pardon the pun) lead to that perfect listening experience. And getting the ideal speakers for your space is crucial to creating a premium home sound system.
Determine Your Sound Goals
You don’t have to be a die-hard audiophile to appreciate a well-designed premium home sound system.
You know that same warm-blanket feeling that accompanies listening to music through earbuds or headphones? You can replicate that broad, encompassing sound in your smart home’s audio system.
And luckily, you have hundreds (if not thousands) of home audio equipment options — no matter your needs or budget.
In other words, if you have the space, time and funds to go full-fledged studio-style for your smart home’s audio system, go for it. But if you want to just nestle a few high-quality speakers discreetly in your home, you can do that, too. Plus, there are practically countless ways to meet in the middle.
The audio source is generally per your preference, and the amplifier/receiver selection is pretty straightforward. The widest array of choices lies in speakers.
And the speakers? They’re what make the magic happen.
[Related: Home Movie Theater Ideas: Your Ultimate Guide]
Check Out Different Types of Speakers
If you pull up your internet browser and search for speakers, you’ll find a staggering list of results. The price points on some high-end brands might prompt hesitation. The low-end prices might make you think, “This surely can’t get me the sound I want.”
Don’t worry — like we said, you’ve got many choices and a lot of leeway. An AV installation company can certainly recommend models and help you wade through the lists. And AV consultants will make the most out of the equipment you can afford.
So let’s look at the primary speaker types. We’ll also note what they work best for in your premium home sound system.
[Related: What to Look for in AV Installation Companies]
This is a simple yet rock-solid speaker option. Portable, cordless and easy to use, wireless speakers are a standard choice — regardless of whether you’re listening solo in a small space or thumping playlists for a raucous house party. All you need is a steady, strong internet connection.
Two speaker types fall into the wireless category: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. A third type, hybrid, combines the two technologies. The fourth, bookshelf speakers, can be W-Fi, Bluetooth or hybrid.
In sum, Wi-Fi speakers work by connecting to your smart home network and playing audio from the sources in that network.
Luckily, Wi-Fi speakers are flexible — if you have a home audio system already in place, you can add them to it. Alternatively, you can start with Wi-Fi speakers and add more as you please (or as your funds allow).
[Related: Home AV Systems: Planning for Expansion]
These speakers are much like Wi-Fi speakers. However, instead of connecting directly to your smart home network, they pair with another device. This might be a smartphone, laptop, tablet or other Bluetooth-enabled gadget.
Then, you stream that sweet, sweet music.
But Bluetooth speakers come with one major downside. You can stream audio to only one speaker … and you experience audio best through a pair of speakers.
On the bright side, Bluetooth speakers are portable and usually chargeable, so you can take them to the beach, campground, patio or park. And you can find them in a huge range of sizes, volume levels and styles.
Do you want a palm-sized Bluetooth speaker shaped like a cutesy cartoon cat? You can find it.
What about one the size and shape of a speed bump that’s so loud it rattles the windowpanes? You can find that, too (and in any color).
Some wireless speakers have both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. That’s sensible — after all, the functions are compatible. In fact, hybrid speakers are quickly becoming an industry standard.
If you live in a home that you also use as a rental property (say, an Airbnb rental), hybrid speakers are a savvy choice for your premium home sound system.
When you’re home, connect to your smart home network. When you’re away, your guests can connect via Bluetooth. They have convenient, instant access, and your home network is secure.
[Related: Are Smart Home Devices Secure?]
As the name implies, bookshelf speakers sit on shelves. No, that shelf doesn’t have to be a bookshelf — or a shelf at all, actually.
The key idea is to keep speakers off the floor. This off-the-ground placement minimizes sound transmission in small areas. And obviously, bookshelf speakers save space.
You can also place bookshelf speakers on desks, tables, speaker stands and more because they’re compact and usually wireless. Like other wireless speakers, you can find them in hundreds of sizes, shapes and volume levels.
For example, do you want book-shaped bookshelf speakers? You can buy them.
These are the old-school variety of speakers. As if you hadn’t guessed by now, speakers can be wired if they can be wireless.
Wired speakers were your best bet for high-quality sound before lightning-fast Wi-Fi, Bluetooth capabilities and powerful wireless tech came along. Some “sophisticated” listeners still swear by wired speakers, but frankly … there’s not much difference nowadays.
If anything, wired speakers are rather bulky and frustrating — you know, because you have to hook up and deal with unsightly wires.
And if you’re stuck with wired speakers and want to convert them, you can make wired speakers wireless. It takes time and tenacity, but it’s doable. Ultimately, you’re better off (and definitely less frazzled) simply getting wireless speakers for a premium home sound system.
Overall, your audio will be just as powerful — if not more so — with wireless speakers. And your system will be much more manageable and expandable.
Consider Your Space and Needs
Before you decide on a specific type of premium home sound system, think about your space and what it requires. Then, you can nail down the goodies you really want.
Your Space: Small, Large or Something Entirely Different?
Small spaces work well with wireless bookshelf speakers placed in exact configurations.
An AV consultant can position speakers in the peak spots for any space, but you can also find quick setup guides. Although your speakers may not be in the optimum places, it’s a start.
Large spaces best suit floor-standing speakers, aka tower speakers. These speakers carry much more volume for expansive areas.
For whole-home audio, AV installation companies offer packages for convenience. AV technicians will place speakers discreetly throughout the house. That means every room — including the bathroom.
You might want a unique audio zone, like a basement getaway or an outdoor entertainment center. You can use multiple speaker types in your chosen space, but contacting an AV company is wise if you’re looking for a major audio overhaul. A premium home sound system may not reach its full potential without expert guidance.
If you need audio systems alongside visual entertainment, like a home theater system, you can set up your own Wi-Fi speakers, use floor-standing speakers or call that AV company to complete the project.
Again, if you’re thinking big with a big budget, you want to make sure your money goes where you need it most.
If you want audio for music only, essentially any speaker type works (we highly recommend going wireless). This choice also depends on how you want to enjoy your music. Do you want it in a small or large space, throughout a home, outdoors or as a portable perk?
[Related: 7 Upgrades for Transforming Your Outdoor Entertainment Center]
Your Needs: Audio Options
Then, consider what audio options you’d like and which will match your space, regardless of its size. A smart home should accommodate any features you prefer, but differently sized spaces need different speakers and audio systems.
You can purchase prepackaged or custom stereo systems, so ponder your space, your wants and your wallet. Then, you can select accordingly. Prepackaged stereo systems are convenient, but they may not include all the functions that you get with a custom system.
Like we noted earlier, you hear audio best through two speakers, so a premium home sound system should have at least two speakers.
A Few Options (Among Many)
If you’re short on space but still want fantastic sound, a soundbar is a must-have. A soundbar is one system (a “bar”) that includes both left and right channels. Most soundbars can produce audio in either stereo (two channels) or surround sound (three or more channels).
Speaking of surround sound, you’ve undoubtedly heard of surround-sound speakers. They project sound usually via six or eight channels, depending on which type you choose (5:1 or 7:1). As a result, you get much fuller audio — and they’re integral to a top-notch home theater.
In-ceiling speakers are, well, speakers embedded in your ceiling. They add an extra dimension — height — to your listening experience. They’re spectacular for throughout-the-house sound, but self-installation may be a pain.
Similarly, in-wall speakers add aural dimensionality but may be a serious hassle to install yourself.
Next, no premium home sound system is truly complete without a subwoofer. As opposed to height, subwoofers emphasize depth and bass. They add that “boom” to your beat drops, movie jump scares and climactic crescendos.
Finally, an amp — or amplifier — adds volume. Why would you need more volume? Well, why wouldn’t you? Just don’t get in trouble with the neighbors.
[Related: Design Considerations for Incorporating AV Into Your Home]
Create Your Premium Home Sound System With AV Smart Solutions
Bowie also once noted, “Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.” Let’s start hearing tomorrow’s footsteps today!
At AV Smart Solutions, we’re experts in residential AV systems. We’ll help you create your premium home sound system with high-performance audio, multi-room music, networking and more.
Plus, we’ll consider your budget, advise on equipment, take care of full installation and leave your home’s aesthetic untouched. In the end, all you have to do is listen and relax — or dance!
Give us a call at (425) 655-5052 or complete our online contact form. We’ll be back in touch in a snap.
Featured image via Pexels