Wireless multi-room speakers with good connectivity can offer a lot of ease of use – especially in combination with streaming services such as Spotify, Google Music or Apple Music. We put together the best wireless multiroom audio systems and standards of this moment to find best multi-room audio systems and multi-room audio standards from 2019/2020.
Multiroom audio systems vs multiroom standards
Before we put the best multiroom audio systems for you underneath it is important to distinguish between multiroom audio systems and multiroom standards. By audio systems we mean speakers or audio systems that are (often) of the same brand and offer a multi-room solution within a closed ecosystem. These are systems that set up their own network and can communicate with each other. In addition, there are now also multi-room standards. These are so-called protocols that allow communication between different audio systems and speakers. A protocol is often 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 exclude the other: there are several multiroom audio systems that also support multiroom standards so that you have the choice what you use.
The best multiroom standards
Because the standards for multiroom audio are increasingly being used and have improved considerably in recent years, starting with a list of the best standards of the moment. By means of these standards, which can be found on speakers and systems from numerous brands, you can create a multiroom system yourself without being tied to one specific brand or product.
Apple AirPlay 2
Perhaps the most famous standard for the streaming audio via 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 recent months, numerous audio systems and speakers have been brought onto the market that support the standard, making the offer large. Read more about Apple Airplay 2 .
The counterpart 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, so that you are also brand independent. You also don’t necessarily have to have an Android device for operation; an iPhone with the Google Home app or a Nest speaker or display can also be used for operation. Read more about Google Chromecast .
A somewhat less well-known standard that is emerging is DTS Play-Fi. This standard can be found on a relatively small number of products, but is increasingly being implemented, especially by the real audio manufacturers. With Play-Fi you can also stream audio to compatible audio systems and speakers in the house, and the operation takes place through the Play-Fi app developed by DTS.
What should you pay attention to?
If you go for multiroom audio then you can pay attention to a number of things. Are you opting for a closed multi-room system or do you choose a commonly used standard as the basis? Fortunately, one does not exclude the other fortunately. Our advice is to choose a nice system that meets your needs (in terms of audio quality, budget and design) and then see if widely used standards are supported.
Do you want to use speech assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa? That is also a variable that can influence the choice. Not all multiroom audio systems and speakers come with a microphone that can use a speech assistant. First dive in here before you make a purchase.
Where is the music that you like listening to? Is this on your own NAS or do you use one or more specific streaming services? Not all multiroom audio systems support all streaming services and some multiroom audio systems do not give you (easy) access to local music. So find out carefully whether your favorite music can easily be played on the system that you have in mind.
And finally it is important to look at the ecosystem that you are already in. If you mainly use Apple devices, Airplay 2 may be a good choice, as an extra of a closed multi-room system or as a basis when you have speakers from different brands in mind. However, if you are an Android user, Airplay 2 is already not an option and you better opt for Chromecast if you want to go for a standard.
The best multi-room audio systems
for an overview of the best multi-room audio systems from 2019 / 2020. In this we do not follow a specific order and we look at, among other things, the reviews that we have recently made of the various systems. We also take price developments and new product developments with us.
Sonos (with IKEA)
Sonos is probably the brand with the best known and also the most users. The American manufacturer offers high-quality multi-room products, with a modern design and equipped with an extensive and well-functioning app. Sonos has scored well in this area for years and we are also still enthusiastic about the products that the brand brings out. This year even affordable IKEA speakers, called Symfonisk, were added. This allows you to expand your Sonos system for little money. The Sonos ecosystem is well-stocked, user-friendly and there is something for every budget. Spotify Connect and Airplay 2 are supported, as are the main streaming services. Please note; Android users cannot use the TruePlay auto-calibration function.
Bowers & Wilkins Formation
Does money really play a role and you go for the highest audio quality then the Formation multiroom system from Bowers & Wilkins is a serious option. High-quality materials, premium designs and above all high audio quality are the principles of this system. An important advantage of Formation is that the network that is set up for the speakers – and developed by Bowers & Wilkins itself – works very quickly and without delay. In addition, the small Formation Flex speakers can also be used as wireless rear speakers in a surround setup with the Formation Bar soundbar, and the Formation Audio makes it possible to connect “stupid” devices and audio systems. However, Formation does not offer music selection and operation via its own app. This is possible via Airplay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and Roon.
HEOS is the multiroom system of Sound United, which is again the parent company of Polk Audio, Marantz and Denon, among others. You can find HEOS on numerous receivers, HEOS speakers that have been released in recent years and recently also on Denon speakers (which will replace the HEOS speakers in the long term). HEOS works more or less in the same way as Sonos. HEOS products are operated with a specific app that allows you to play music and audio from different sources. Music sources can also come from smartphones, tablets, PCs, Macs and NAS devices. You also get access to the most popular music streaming services via the HEOS app. HEOS supports Spotify Connect and some HEOS products offer support for Chromecast and / or Airplay.
MusicCast is the platform of Yamaha. In terms of possibilities and user-friendliness, it is perhaps the most advanced. That is probably because MusicCast is really ingrained in the Yamaha products. It is not third-party software that was added afterwards. Due to the high degree of integration, things that are impossible elsewhere. For example, you can stream audio via Bluetooth to a MusicCast receiver and then forward it to a MusicCast speaker. Streaming from physically connected sources to other zones is also very smooth. There is also MusicCast Surround, a feature that is available on most Yamaha AV receivers from 2018. With this feature, you can use one or two MusicCast speakers as wireless rear channels in a 5.1 setup. It is also possible to connect a MusicCast subwoofer wirelessly. In short, it is extremely flexible. You control MusicCast via the MusicCast app and both Airplay 2 (select number of devices) and Spotify Connect are supported.
Perhaps the least known multiroom system from this list is Bluesound. And actually Bluesound is in the gray area, because it is both a standard and an audio system. BluOS is the platform name of Bluesound, a brand with better wireless multi-room speakers and sound bars. The BluOS platform can also be found at other brands, mainly companies that are linked to Bluesound through the Lenbrook holding, including NAD. Since this is a multi-room 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 is not really a problem, but 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.
You can read more about BluOS in our review of the NAD M10 amplifier .