Gone are the days when installing a multi-room music system meant trailing wires all over the house. Now, with these plug ‘n’ play systems, you can stream music seamlessly from one room to another, or even play different music in different parts of the house, all controlled from your smartphone or tablet…
1. Bose SoundTouch 10 The latest portable speaker from Bose sounds stunningly good. Start with one, add more – it’s compatible with other speakers from the Bose SoundTouch range. Set-up is straightforward and you control the sound through a smartphone app (a separate remote is also included). There are six preset buttons on each speaker which you can sync to a favourite playlist or even an individual track. Choose between white and black finishes.
2. Ruark Multi-room R2 Mk3 British audio company Ruark makes exquisitely built, impressive-sounding hi-fi products. The R2 delivers warm, powerful sound with wide stereo. One will easily fill a room, but of course, if you want to go multi-room, another R2 Mk3 can be simply added to the group and will play the same music simultaneously wherever it is. Set-up is done directly on each R2 and then it works with each machine controlled by its volume dial or from a separate app called Undok (Ruark’s own app follows soon). The system comes in soft white, soft black and rich walnut. There are also DAB and FM radio tuners built in.
3. Samsung R7 The speciality here is 360-degree audio. The curious egg-like shape of the R7 helps to disperse the sound in every direction – an effect that really works. The design also means it looks pretty spiffy. Set-up is done on an iPhone or Android smartphone which finds all your speakers and connects them via your broadband network, all done via an app. Here, we’ve listed one of the pricier models in the range because it’s the best and makes a good centrepiece to any system.
4. Sonos One speaker connects to your broadband router, then each speaker connects to the next, so bigger distances are covered. It’s sublimely easy to set up and audio quality is brilliant. You can start with just one speaker and add as you like with different size speakers available. Sonos has one amazing, unique extra: Trueplay. Place your speakers wherever you like and Trueplay will make them sound perfect – it plays a series of tones while you slowly walk round the room with an iPhone or iPad. The app listens to how every corner of your room sounds and adjusts the speaker output to compensate for reflective surfaces or curtains in the way, say. It sounds far-fetched, but it really works. The latest model, the Play:5, is an outstanding speaker and Apple Music arrives on the platform imminently.
5. Pure Jongo Pure, the company that makes all those excellent DAB radios, has created a highly affordable multi-room system with its Jongo speakers. The first speaker connects by wi-fi to your router and subsequent speakers connect by wi-fi though some services like Spotify are piped round by Bluetooth – both sound great. The speakers don’t quite challenge Sonos for audio quality, though there’s plenty of oomph and decent clarity. The Pure Connect app on your smartphone is how you control the speakers and this is good but not as versatile as Sonos, say.
6. Panasonic SC-ALL3 Panasonic uses Qualcomm AllPlay – a platform which helps speakers to work together regardless of brand – it works with any speakers providing they’re AllPlay-compatible. The SC-ALL3 has strong stereo that’s wide enough to be effective but you can also use two as a stereo pair for even better sound – the speakers work better stood on their ends in this scenario. There’s a bigger speaker called the SC-ALL8 and a small one, SC-ALL2, which works as an alarm and has a digital clock.
7. Naim Mu-so The Mu-so is a one-box speaker which is heftier than most and looks pretty stylish. The solid build, excellent components and details like the aluminium heat sink contribute to the tremendous audio which is loud and bassy, but with clear vocals and soaring melodies. It’s far from cheap but worth every penny. Add more Mu-so speakers or other Naim streaming players and stream music via Bluetooth or AirPlay, Apple’s wireless system.
8. Philips Izzy Philips has a long and excellent history in quality audio. This latest model is a small speaker that’s exceptionally easy to set up. It creates its own network rather than using your broadband, so there’s no pairing with a router and no password. Up to five speakers can be connected just by pressing the Group button. Play your music from your smartphone simply by pressing the Bluetooth button on the Izzy – no app required. This is easily the simplest multi-room system, and it sounds good, too.