Green Did you know a TV, running 5 hrs a day, only uses $21.09 of electricity a year?
Video Gary Shapiro discusses the impact of government policies on the economy.
CEA Get the big picture with CEA's digital imaging benchmark

Plug-and-Play Wireless Audio Systems

The ins-and-outs of multi-room music systems.

Like the idea of hearing your digital music throughout your house, but not ready to make the leap into a fully customized multi-room audio system? Well then here is some great news: plug-and-play wireless systems let you play and control your music anywhere in your house without wires!

Wireless audio systems offer multi-room and multi-zone solutions that anyone can setup in minutes.

What Is A Multi-Room Music System?

Multi-room music means being able to listen to your music from speakers in various rooms throughout your home, all connected to the same source. With all of these systems, the source is your MP3s or digital music collection. A receiver unit in each room controls the power and sound for that room. Since all of the in-room "zone" players are connected wirelessly, the digital music can live in a central location, ready to be accessed by any and all of the zone players. You control the music, volume or power from anywhere in the house. You can turn on one room at a time, or turn on all rooms. The in-room receivers can operate in concert—for whole house listening-or individually to let users in each room listen to their own playlists.

Stay In Control

What makes these systems so great is their user interfaces. Like their more expensive custom-installed cousins, wireless multi-room systems let you control the music in any room, from any room using a wireless controller. Some look like remote controls, and others like keypads. Either way, you can queue up songs from your music library, adjust the volume, select other sources, see song title and album art, etc. With many systems you can even add additional keypads, which is almost a necessity for large or multi-level homes.

Connectivity and Compatibility

As far as connectivity, you'll need an existing wireless home network and a broadband Internet connection to fully enjoy these systems. Connecting the system to your home network enables you to access the MP3s stored on your PCs or network storage, although some systems offer built-in hard drives for ripping CDs directly. Compatibility is only an issue with the types of digital files (specifically, digital rights management) you have in your collection. If you have a large collection of music purchased from the iTunes store, for instance, read the system specs to make sure the one you're considering can play Apple's copy-protected AAC files.


There is a system to fit just about every need. Configure a system, or buy a bundled package with one or two room or "zone" players, plus a single controller. You can buy additional room receivers and controllers, adding dozens or more with ease. You can configure a system to include a built-in amplifier and speakers in each room, or buy only a receiver for each room that uses your existing stereo and speakers. You can also mix and match. The options are endless.

Bottom Line

Despite some differences, wireless multi-room music systems deliver the same great experience: they let you listen to your digital music in multiple rooms or throughout your home or apartment.