Streaming and Audio Systems
Today’s house-wide distributed audio systems can come in a variety of versions ranging from basic value oriented to high-end audiophile level. They can incorporate “wireless” shelf top speakers or in-ceiling hidden technology, but at the heart of almost every modern audio system is some form of music streaming. CAV designers can build a system for you that is very focused to your specific needs, centered around the streaming services that you want to use whether that be Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, or any of the dozens of others. Local music is important too, and that is why CAV usually builds in the ability for home audio systems to be able to easily connect to your Apple and Android devices as well as connecting to music libraries on your computer or network hard drive. Sonos, Control4, and Roon Audio are just a few of the system choices CAV utilizes in designing and installing streaming audio systems.
More than Background Music
If you are looking for an audio system that doesn’t sound like a shopping mall elevator, that’s a totally attainable goal. There has always been a stigma with house-wide audio systems that they will only ever be poor quality, sounding tinny and baseless. While that may have been true in days gone by, it is no longer. The quality range in in-wall and in-ceiling speaker systems is vast, including built-in speakers that perform at audiophile levels like those by Bowers & Wilkins on display at Custom Audio Video’s showroom.
Cost and System Size Will Always Be a Factor
Custom Audio Video often recommends not trying to put audio speakers in every room of the house, but rather to put speakers in rooms where they will be used and to put more emphasis in quality into areas where you, the homeowner, will spend your time. There’s no point in putting even low-cost speakers into a guest bathroom, and likewise if you spend your evening on the back porch watching the sun set, the audio quality in that space should be higher than those in a foyer that only get used during social events. CAV has many years of experience at tailoring each room’s performance to your needs and will do the extra design work needed to keep the overall budgets in line.
Gone Are the Days of Hi-FI
Or are they? Despite years of development of various forms of digital audio, surround sound, and an endless procession of electronics advancement, stereo remains one of the simplest and best ways to enjoy music. For rooms where you might want to relax and listen to music, consider asking your CAV designer for a dedicated two-channel stereo system. While floor standing speakers are not the optimum aesthetic, in certain rooms most people will find them acceptable and the auditory gain will far outweigh the visual impact. In a modern stereo system either classic media such as CDs and vinyl can be used, but also so can streaming audio sources and digital music libraries like iTunes and Roon Audio. Modern conveniences such as phone or tablet control and Apps to manage your music are a part of the new HI-FI system.
What is Hi-Res Music and Why Do We Care?
Back in the day, there was vinyl with all of its crackles and sizzles, and then came Compact Disc with its clean sound but limited spectrum of playback. To be honest, both of these mediums sounded pretty good, but then came the iPod and with it compressed audio, more commonly known as the Mp3, a format of music files that is great for storage and transmission but leaves out a perceptible amount of audio clarity and detail. In today’s world of streaming internet audio from Apple, Pandora and the like, compressed audio is the norm, but not everyone is happy with this. For those who spend the time and money to assemble an amazing audio system for their home, they last thing we want is a garbage-in-garbage-out situation, and streaming music service providers have sat up and taken notice of this. Companies like Deezer and Tidal directly market their music as having higher quality formats. Many companies bandy about the term “hi-res” or high resolution, but at the end of the day paying more for the higher quality version of the same music service often at best will get you back to an equivalent of CD quality audio. For many, this is fine, but it’s not what we at Custom Audio Video would call high resolution audio; being better than, not equal to, CD quality should be the minimum qualification.
So how does one get better than CD quality? Firstly, it requires an interest in a high-performance stereo system and second it requires downloading your music from specialty providers who have music at many times greater than the quality level of a CD. When CAV designers put a system like this together for someone it usually includes putting software on a computer specifically designed to pull music across the home network in high-resolution form and ensure that playback through the audio systems remains perfect as can be. Generally streaming services are to be avoided or at least included in the system as an extra listening source, not the main library. There may be a lot of moving parts in the background but a simple control app on a phone or tablet is all that’s needed to select songs, build playlists, and view song information and cover art.
Many people ask if it is worth it, to those we say you have to hear it to answer that question for yourself. Come into Custom Audio Video’s showroom to listen to high resolution audio for yourself on a system by Sony, Classe’, or Roon.