As home entertainment technology becomes more sophisticated, demand for superior sound systems is growing. Global soundbar sale volume will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 18.3 percent between now and 2019, while the global Bluetooth speaker market will increase at a CAGR of 38.73 percent, TechNavio projects. Meanwhile, one in 10 Americans already owns a wireless multi-room audio product, and 44 percent of those who don't are interested in owning one, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
For audio enthusiasts, this expanding market represents an increasing availability of options for home audio optimization. For home owners, it also represents an opportunity to add resale value to a home, with real estate agents reporting that demand for smart homes is giving properties with built-in entertainment rooms a competitive edge in today's market. Here are some of the audio equipment options now available for music and movie lovers who want to give their home a superior sound environment.
Today's speaker options divide into surround sound and sound bar categories, both of which encompass multiple possible configurations. Surround sound represents an advance on stereo, which used to be the cutting edge in home sound experience. Where a stereo system has two speakers, a standard 5.1 channel surround sound setup adds a central speaker between two front speakers, along with two surround speakers positioned to the sides of the listener, plus a subwoofer dedicated to bass that sits near the central speaker. The ".1" represents the subwoofer. The surround speakers provide a lateral sense of sounds moving from left to right. Dish provides a glossary of surround sound terms.
The other main alternative to surround sound is soundbars. Whereas surround sound encircles the audience, a soundbar system projects sound from a central location by housing speakers, subwoofers, and amplifiers inside a bar or a cabinet. Some soundbars mimic the effect of surround sound effect by using additional extra internal speakers or external speakers. Soundbars housed in cabinets can double as TV stands.
Surround sound delivers higher quality sound than soundbars and works better in large rooms. Soundbars work best in rooms up to 13x12 feet. Top Ten Reviews evaluates today's best surround sound options, which range from about $230 to about $770.
Using Your TV as a Sound Source
Many smart TVs now include apps that let you play music from sources such as Pandora, Rhapsody and Spotify. This enables you to use your TV as a music sound source for your speaker system. Audio from television shows and movies also sounds better when played on your speakers instead of your TV's internal speakers. The best way to play your TV on your speaker systems is to connect your TV and speakers to an AV receiver. CNET gives an overview of today's best AV receiver options, which start from about $280.
Whole Home Audio
Today's technology also lets you deliver sound from your TV room to other parts of your home. Today's sound enthusiast has three basic options for multi-room audio: wired, wireless, or a hybrid system that combines both.
A wired system. This is easiest to install when building a new home, as it often requires going behind a wall or through a floor or ceiling to perform installation. Doing your own installation requires considerable know-how, and there are also building codes to take into account, so it's often best to hire a professional.
A wireless multi-room audio system. This is much easier to install, especially in an existing home. A hybrid setup can be useful if you want to expand on the capability of a wireless system without buying additional components.
Multi-room systems. These let you designate multiple audio zones in your home. Depending on your setup, you can control all the audio in your home from one location or you can allow each zone to have its own adjustable audio. Crutchfield estimates that a 3-room wireless system for an apartment might cost $1,750 for all the components, while a 6-room wireless system for a house might run $2,450 and a 6-room hybrid system might cost $5,500.
Delivering Music Outdoors
Whole-home audio systems give you the option of using your home's sound system to play music on your deck or patio or in your backyard or swimming pool. To do this, you would designate your outdoor area as one zone in your system and install appropriate speakers. Outdoor speakers with weatherproofing and waterproofing run from about $70 to $300. Some outdoor speakers are portable, while others are disguised to look like rocks or to fit inside swimming pool walls.