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Elements of a Whole-Home Audio System

With distributed audio, you can finally have a personal soundtrack. Learn how to assemble your own system. by EH Staff

Imagine music that follows you from room to room in your house, playing the soundtrack of your home life. Using an unobtrusive system of amplifiers, in-wall speakers, and control devices, you can enjoy your music anywhere in the home.

All this is possible with distributed audio, allowing you to play and control music from a centralized system. You can listen to the radio in the bedroom while someone else listens to the CD player in another part of the house.

Let's take a look at the devices that make a whole-home audio system sing:

Source Device

The whole-home audio system begins with the source that either sits in your home theater room or in a rack in your audio/video (A/V) closet. Traditionally, the source can be a CD player, a DVD player, a stereo tuner or your entire home theater stack. You can also use your computer as a multimedia server that stores your entire music collection.

A/V Receiver

You will need a receiver to amplify the signal of your source in order to power the speakers in multiple rooms. Typically, the receiver will be a part of your A/V system. A plethora of receivers are available to satisfy your needs.

If you want to have access to multiple sources (e.g. a CD player and the radio) in every room in the house, you need a receiver that supports multiple sources and zones.


Speakers come in many shapes, sizes and designs from free standing to cabinet speakers. Many people prefer inconspicuous in-wall and in-ceiling speakers that do not intrude on the decor of the room.

For example, the Bose 191 Virtually Invisible Speakers are designed for flush-mount wall and ceiling placement and will blend into any space.


Once you have audio piped into all the rooms in your home, you need a way to control the source. While some systems allow only volume control from the source, many distributed audio systems offer volume control in each room near the speakers they will control.

Control pads allow you to adjust the volume independently from other rooms in the house, so you can crank the music in the living room while someone enjoys soft music in the den.

If you are running more than one pair of speakers from the same amplifier speaker outputs, you will want an amplified volume controller with impedance matching to compensate for the impedance drop and loss of signal strength that occurs when you use multiple sets of speakers in parallel.

A volume controller with an integrated infrared (IR) receiver offers you full control of the source device through an IR remote. For a complete wireless solution, an RF remote control can control the source from anywhere in the house as long as there is a RF base station in each room.

For more on setting up your own distributed audio system, check out
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