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Home audio systems -what to consider when building a home?

by Glen Keoghan

Adding a music system for the home can mean many different things to many different people, for some it’s all about having the ability to listen to their favorite Sirius talk radio program in any room of the house, for others it’s a special listening room where they can shut out the world and indulge in a deep listening experience. While for many more it’s all about being able to add a bit of atmosphere while entertaining around the house and playing a favorite playlist of hit songs. Whatever your preference there are a few fundamentals you will want to get right so your user experience is a great one verses a complicated sequence of button pushes and frustration, which leads eventually to system abandonment.

So what things should you consider so you have the greatest chance of success?

What do you like listening to now and importantly how are you listening to it?

Are you using CD’s, the radio? or have you moved onto a few paid streaming services?

If so what streaming music service are you using Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora or Apple Music or even Podcasts or just Sirius/XM or good old fashioned AM/FM radio? Some people love being able to listen to an audio book from their favorite author. From our point of view the more we know about what and how you want to listen to the more we can help guide you to a solution that will tick all boxes while still being easy to use. For some clients a simple Sonos system is just perfect for others something more comprehensive is whats required.

Don’t worry if you are not using a streaming service yet we have solutions that don’t use streaming services. I have also written a blog on "Which streaming music service is right for me?" if you are considering dipping your toe in the world of music streaming service’s and you are not sure which service is right for you this blog will help guide you to the right streaming service.

How many members of the family are there going to be using the home audio system?

Do you all use the same music streaming service? This is important as sometimes not all members of the family are going to want to listen to “Dad’s music” or in my house even worse some of the rubbish my daughter listens to. So having the ability to listen to different things in different rooms is very important to peace and harmony at home. This is something we as designers need to know so we can provision enough sources so you have some options.

How do you want to control your music?

Most people tell us they want to control their music system from their phone or tablet. This works for a lot of people but sometimes this can be problematic when the music is on a bit loud and an important call comes in, adjusting the music is now a pain. For others having a wall mounted touch screen that’s always there always on is a life saver. For some a being able to control it off a PC is a must.

Now it goes without saying that the volume control on our music systems can be altered with the touch of a button and set to varying levels across multiple rooms simultaneously, with the same music played in all areas, or different music in every room. The choice is yours.

We take usability very seriously at Lightworks and ease of use is at the forefront of all our design thinking. So much so we would rather not take on a project if the client requirements are going to make it difficult to use. We have selected and whittled down our vendors product offerings so that we only offer the best solutions around that are easy to use.

Now an often over looked dependency of using your phone or tablet to control your music around your house is making sure you have a robust WiFi network and it’s especially important in outdoor entertaining areas and gardens. We have seen this a lot lately where this was just totally overlooked. It can be quite disruptive to get a solid WiFi signal to the areas that need it after the house is finished.

How much of a music quality enthusiast are you?

Is it mostly background audio while doing other things? Or do you like to really listen and occasionally ramp up the volume on that favorite song or a combo of both.

With the popular and fast rise of streaming music services over the past 5 years the cry from audio enthusiast was this convenience came at the expensive of quality as these streaming service providers compressed the music tracks down so it would not use lots of bandwidth and this was very true in the early days and with some free streaming providers this is still the case today but now there is quite a few providers who provide a paid service with high resolution audio streaming options it can now even be considered an option for the quality audio enthusiast. It’s important of us to understand this point so we can specify the correct source equipment.

How do you want your music to look?

This question often raises a few eyebrows but it’s very important question, by designing and installing a central music system for the home all the ugly boxes and cables can be hidden out of view – all the technology can be beautifully integrated with the interior design of your home, with music played through speakers which can be as much of a feature, or as discrete as you would like.

We think it’s important to think of your speakers as different from your audio hardware. Your speakers can be mixed and matched to suit the room and should be specific for the application. We would recommend you use a different speaker in your shower or master bathroom than we would use in your garage. You may want plastered in invisible speakers in the kitchen and lounge for aesthetic reasons and use entry level speakers elsewhere. The choice is up to you and you can mix and match speakers in the various rooms to balance aesthetics with your budget.

With a huge range of custom loudspeaker products available to us, Lightworks are highly experienced in designing and installing quality sound systems that blend seamlessly with your decor.

From custom paint-matched speakers, to luxurious real wood veneers, to high performance speakers mounted behind acoustic fabric, or even completely invisible ‘plaster-in’ speakers… we’ve got options to satisfy any design requirement. So the sound can be the feature not the speaker or ugly black boxes.

What about music in the garden or around pool and entertaining areas?

Gone are the days of bolting a couple of outdoor speakers on the side of the house and blasting all the music towards the neighbors. I mean you can still do this if you want, but like all things with technology they change and we now prefer to use speakers doted around the garden and concealed in the plants and foliage, they sound amazing and best of all they are aimed towards you and your house and yard and not your poor suffering neighbors.

Test-drive a music system.

I hope this has given you plenty of questions to consider and discuss with your significant others but there is one last and very important step I recommend. Would you buy a car without taking it for a test drive first? Not normally, why do it then with something as complex as an audio system?

My last and final recommendation is to make an appointment and visit an experience centre and actually use the system the company is recommending. Play a favorite track from your favorite steaming service or CD? Then get it to play in a few other rooms. Adjust the volume? Was it that easy? How many steps where there? What did it sound like? Was it that easy? Was it loud enough for you?

Because once it’s all installed and working in your house and you go to use it for the first time then it’s all too late.

We have a full working experience centre here in Miramar so please get in touch with us to book a time to visit us. You can test out a number of home audio systems and see what one is right for you and your family.

Give me a call on + 858 457 9100 or drop me an email

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