Create a multi-room music system

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 12:11am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 12:11am

Are you making use of digital music? If the only place you listen to music is on your smartphone, the portability that the digital revolution brought is largely wasted.

Since music went digital it's been possible to create whole-house jukeboxes, but they've too often been expensive and complicated. Step forward multi-room systems from Bose and Sonos, which finally put the smartphone at the centre.

The concept behind both systems is identical; why should digital music go to waste? With music now primarily digital and stored on computers and smartphones, it's totally flexible - so why not stream it to every room in your home? And how about having everything controlled by a jukebox-style app on a smartphone or tablet?

That's the thinking behind the Bose SoundTouch and Sonos multi-room music systems, both of which are built around modular collections of Wi-fi-connected speakers. Buy one product and you've got a Wi-fi speaker, but get two and you've got multi-room.

Sonos has a more modern look than the Bose SoundTouch. Although all products from both brands can be used on their own, both the Bose SoundTouch and Sonos speakers come in various guises.

The Bose SoundTouch comes in three sizes - the SoundTouch 30 (HK$5,400, SoundTouch 20 (HK$3,000) and SoundTouch Portable (HK$3,000) - the latter of which is book-sized and has a rechargeable battery.

Each has a standard two-tone look that comprises a metallic body and a black fabric speaker grille; it's classic Bose, but seems rather conservative. The unique provision of a remote control will appeal mostly to older users.

Although the Play:5 (HK$3,100), Play:3 (HK$2,320) and Play:1 (HK$1,550) speakers from Sonos are all available in either black or ivory, each has a softer look than Bose attempts, with rounded corners and edges and, crucially, far fewer buttons on the exterior - and not a remote control in sight.

Both the Bose SoundTouch and Sonos speakers connect to the web using a home Wi-fi network, thereby linking with a computer to stream music, and to a smartphone; the latter is used to browse both a music collection and the hundreds of online radio stations available.

It's possible to play the same music in every room, or different music in different rooms, as well as cue-up a particular track for playing later - just like a jukebox. Bose wins on flexibility. While its SoundTouch products can be operated without using the free SoundTouch app, the Sonos concept is entirely dependent on the user having a smartphone with the free Sonos Controller app installed.

Though the physical controls for the Bose SoundTouch will help spread multi-room to homes that don't obsess over their smartphones, it's the all-in-one simplicity of the more affordable Sonos system that, to us, sounds the sweetest.