The best multi-room audio systems and standards: Wireless multiroom systems are becoming more and more popular. More and more consumers are choosing to connect speakers throughout the house and stream music wirelessly. In this article, we list the best wireless multi-room audio systems and standards of the moment.
Multiroom audio systems vs multiroom standards
Before we list the best multiroom audio systems for you, it is important to make a distinction between multiroom audio systems and multiroom standards. By audio systems we mean speakers or audio systems that are (often) of the same brand and that offer a multiroom solution within a closed ecosystem. These are systems that set up their own network and can communicate with each other. In addition, there are multiroom standards. These are so-called protocols / techniques that can be used to communicate between different audio systems and loudspeakers. A standard is not brand dependent, can be used by multiple systems and products and makes it possible to combine audio systems or speakers from different brands. The one does not rule out the other: there are various multiroom audio systems that also support multiroom standards, so that you can choose what you use.
The best multi-room standards
Because the standards for streaming and multi-room audio are increasingly being used and have also improved considerably in recent years, we start with the best standards at the moment. With these standards, which can be found on loudspeakers and systems of many brands, you can create a multi-room system yourself without being tied to one specific brand or product. Is your favorite multi-room audio system not in this article? Then there is a good chance that you can use one of these standards.
Apple AirPlay 2
Perhaps the most famous standard for streaming audio over WiFi is AirPlay, developed by Apple. All users of Apple devices can use this standard and we are now ready for AirPlay 2 with which a multiroom function has been added. So you can stream music from your Apple device to multiple rooms and / or speakers in the house that support AirPlay 2. In the past year, numerous audio systems and speakers have been launched that support the standard.
Read more about Apple Airplay 2
One of the main counterparts of AirPlay 2 is Chromecast, developed by Google. Basically, the two standards are comparable: speakers and audio systems can be controlled with a smartphone, computer, Nest speaker or Nest display. You can use any system or speaker that supports Chromecast, making you brand-independent. You don’t necessarily have to have an Android device for operation; an iPhone with the Google Home app (or an app that supports Chromecast) or a Nest speaker or display can also be used for control.
A somewhat less known standard that is emerging is DTS Play-Fi. This standard is being implemented more and more, especially by the real audio manufacturers. Philips has also started working with this platform since last year. Play-Fi allows you to stream audio to compatible home audio systems and speakers, and control is via the Play-Fi app developed by DTS, or a variant thereof developed by the respective manufacturer. Play-Fi is available on products from different brands and these products can therefore easily be used in one multi-room system.
Compared to the above multiroom standards, Roon is following its own path. The philosophy is different: it is (expensive) paying software that runs locally on a server and streams music in high quality to (multiple) compatible Roon Ready devices. There are now quite a few, especially in the high-end segment, and there is also built-in support for Chromecast and Airplay. Zone management and the apps are well designed, but where Roon excels in particular is combining music from Qobuz or Tidal with your own files in a seamless music library enriched with a lot of metadata. Because of its price and approach, Roon is more of a solution for convinced music lovers, but it also has extensive DSP and room correction functions.
The best multi-room audio systems
Now that we’ve covered all the important tips and facts, it’s time for an overview of the best multi-room audio systems available right now. We do not adhere to a specific order in this and we look at, among other things, the reviews we have made of the various systems in the past. We also include price developments and new product developments.
The best multi-room audio systems – Sonos
Sonos is the brand with the most fame and also the most users. The American manufacturer offers high-quality multiroom products, with a modern design and equipped with an extensive and well-functioning app. Sonos has been doing well in this area for years and we are still enthusiastic about the products that the brand is releasing. Last year even affordable IKEA speakers, called Symfonisk, were added. This year, Sonos has released a Dolby Atmos soundbar and an improved version of the Play Five. The Sonos ecosystem is well-stocked, easy to use, and there’s something for every budget. In addition, Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2 are supported, as are the main streaming services. Please note; Android users cannot use the TruePlay auto calibration feature. Chromecast is also not supported by Sonos.
- Works with almost any streaming service
- Multiroom via Sonos or AirPlay 2
- Easy installation and operation
- Powerful thing
- Stereo pair is worth it
- Trueplay requires iOS device
- Pair price is relatively high
- For critical listening, the step to stereo pair is a must
MusicCast is Yamaha’s platform. This allows you to stream your own files (hi-res too) and from streaming services via a very user-friendly app, an app that almost becomes a full remote with receivers. MusicCast offers stable multi-room function. In the MusicCast app you can connect, pair and control multiple compatible Yamaha devices, from wireless MusicCast speakers that compete with Sonos to even a wireless record player. Streaming physically connected sources to other zones is also very smooth. There is also MusicCast Surround, a function that is present on most Yamaha AV receivers from 2018. With this function you can use one or two MusicCast speakers as wireless rear channels in a 5.1 setup. Yamaha has dozens of compatible devices, which gives you as a consumer a lot of choice to equip your home with audio devices. You can forward sources connected to the receiver (such as a CD player) to other MusicCast speakers and devices. Via the MusicCast app you can play music through a number of services, including Qobuz, Tidal and Deezer. Finally, the Yamaha receiver is AirPlay 2 compatible and DLNA / UPnP compatible.
- Beautiful, fresh design
- Lots of DSP and audio settings
- MusicCast streaming is excellent
- Wireless speakers and sub possible
- Enough power for a solid cinema experience
- Display difficult to read from the side
- Interface reacts a bit sluggish
- Some features are yet to come
The best multi-room audio systems – HEOS
HEOS is the multi-room system from Sound United, which in turn is the parent company of Polk Audio, Marantz and Denon, among others. You can find HEOS on numerous receivers, Denon Home speakers (formerly HEOS speakers) that have been released in recent years. HEOS works more or less in the same way as Sonos and MusicCast, among others. The HEOS app itself tends to be austere side, especially when you compare it to that of Sonos. More streaming services would be welcome and the experience when looking for music could be a bit sexier. But it actually does its job well. It is also useful that you can also operate the physical inputs of your receiver from the HEOS app. Sharing audio that comes in via a physical input (such as from a CD player or record player) to other HEOS speakers is also very easy. HEOS supports Spotify Connect and some HEOS products offer support for Chromecast and / or AirPlay.
- Stylish design
- Mature sound
- Denon Home 350 is a beast
- Denon Home 150 worthy competitor to Sonos One and Harman Kardon Citation One
- HEOS app deserves a makeover
- Voice assistants not yet activated
- Denon Home 250 knows a little less to impress
Perhaps the least known multiroom system from this list is Bluesound. And actually Bluesound is in the gray area, as it is both a standard and an audio system. BluOS is the platform name of Bluesound, a brand with better wireless multiroom speakers and sound bars. The BluOS platform can also be found at other brands, mainly companies linked to Bluesound through the Lenbrook holding company, including NAD. Since this is a multiroom platform, you simply work via the Bluesound app. You use this app to play music from streaming services or to select your own files over the network. It is unusual that DLNA servers are not recognized; BluOS can handle SMB / AFP shares. It’s not really a problem, it just works slightly differently. You can combine a NAD receiver with Bluesound speakers, but you cannot use these as surround channels. BluOS supports all major streaming services, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect.
- Very good streaming service support
- Best amplifier in multi-room segment
- You can keep your own taste in speakers
- Lots of control options
- AirPlay 2 and Roon on board
- Total price is relatively high
- Requires own pair of speakers
The best multi-room audio systems – Harman Kardon Citation
A somewhat odd man out is Harman Kardon Citation. This platform is fully based on Google’s Chromecast. In terms of streaming and operation, the Google platform is resolutely chosen. This means that you can set up the speakers via Google Home and that you can stream audio via Chromecast. Streaming fanatics will be spoiled in any case, because the cast icon is available in the mobile apps (iOS and Android) of almost all music services. So you can play a song with a tap on a speaker from Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, YouTube Music, Play Music, SoundCloud and more. If you want to play your own music files, you can use an app such as Hi-Fi Cast, BubbleUPnP or mConnect Player. Internet radio? TuneIn has casting built in, as do countless other apps. In short, thanks to the Chromecast function you can actually play almost all music in a very easy way. Chromecast also works from iOS devices, but if you prefer a more Apple-focused approach, you can also stream via AirPlay with some Citation products.
- Beautiful design
- Rich and full sound
- Portable, wifi and bluetooth
- Sometimes still too much bass
- No equalizer