A multi-room entertainment system used to involve miles of wiring and a whole lot of hassle, but now we've got the wonder of wireless streaming it can be achieved with a minimum of fuss.
With the right kit, you can stream your tunes, your movie library, or even your latest gaming session to another room in your house.
Multi-room streaming offers greater flexibility and freedom, as you can change rooms and pick up on whatever you were doing, seamlessly. AKA, the dream of every tech lover.
The technology has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years, and there are entry-level solutions that are affordable for everyone. But it can be confusing, and a lot of devices don't play nicely together. That's why we've put together this guide to help you find the right system.
Being able to listen to music, podcasts, or radio as you move from room to room is great, and there are many different ways that you might achieve a multi-room audio system. Much depends on what you already have, and how much you're prepared to spend.
The current king of the home audio streaming crop is Sonos. You can buy various sizes of speaker, place them around your home, and stream music, or any other audio, to them wirelessly across your Wi-Fi network using your smartphone, tablet, or computer.
The quality is excellent, the set-up is a breeze, and you can sync your audio across multiple rooms, or choose to play different things in different rooms simultaneously.
It's compatible with all the major streaming services for music and radio, including Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, and TuneIn. It can also stream audio files from a server on your network, so you could access your existing collection.
While it's easy to set up a complete Sonos system throughout your home in less than an hour, the catch is the price tag.
The smallest Play:1 speaker costs £169, the Play:3 is £249, the Play:5 is £429, the Playbar (a sound bar for the TV) is £599, the Connect (to hook up a Hi-Fi system) is £279, and the Connect:Amp (an amplifier that can make an existing set of speakers wireless) is £399. It could prove eye-wateringly expensive to kit out the whole house with Sonos.
Luckily, there is another option to convert all your existing hardware into a multi-room system at a fraction of the price, and it's called Chromecast Audio.
This unassuming wee device costs £30, streams across your Wi-Fi network, and it can be plugged into any existing speaker system to imbue it with wireless streaming capabilities.
If you have a home theatre set-up in the living room, a Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen, and an old stereo in the bedroom, a Chromecast Audio for each one would give you a multi-room system.
You can cast from your smartphone, tablet, or computer, and it supports most of the major streaming services. If you use an app like Plex, you can also stream your music collection from your computer or network attached storage.
Currently, the Chromecast Audio doesn't support simultaneous synced playback in multiple rooms, but it is expected to in the near future.
There are lots of different options for multi-room video streaming, but they each have different pros and cons.
If you buy a new smart TV, there's a good chance that it will have Wi-Fi built-in, and support a number of different apps, like Netflix. But what if you're using older hardware, or you want to stream an existing movie collection from your computer?
Once again, Google's Chromecast 2 is an irresistibly simple and cheap solution. It costs £30 and can be plugged into any HDMI port to bring smart features to an older TV.
It hooks up to your Wi-Fi network, is quick to set up, and gives you the ability to stream from apps like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and YouTube.
You select content on your smartphone or tablet and it stream directly to the Chromecast, but with Android devices you can also easily mirror your screen.
They are even easier to set up and use than Chromecast, but they work in exactly the same way, using your Wi-Fi network. The big difference is that you can get the Amazon Prime video streaming service on the Fire TV devices.
Apple fans with iOS devices and iTunes collections will want to consider the Apple TV, which starts at an expensive £129, but it comes with a remote control, which can also be used for gaming, support for all the major video streaming services (including Amazon Prime), and universal voice search via Siri.
Another popular option for video streaming is Roku. There's a Streaming Stick and the fourth version of its set-top box is on the way. It offers support for a wide range of channels, has an easy to use interface, and comes with a remote control.
All of these options support Plex for streaming your existing movie collection from your PC.
If you want to stream games around the home, then you can probably find a way, but be warned, you're going to need a fast Wi-Fi network to stream the latest titles. Unfortunately, multi-room game streaming hasn't reached the same heights in terms of usability, functionality, or cost as audio and video have.
There are decent options though, such as the Sony offered PlayStation TV (£40). It allows you to play games from your PS4 on another screen, which could prove ideal if someone wants to watch something else in the living room and you don't want to stop playing.
If you have an Xbox One, then you can employ Game Streaming to run the game on your console, but play it on any Windows 10 PC in your home.
Gamers with a high-end PC rig looking to stream games onto a screen in another room can use Steam's In-Home Streaming service. You'll need a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine hooked up the TV in question, but it could be relatively low spec, because the game will actually run on your gaming PC in the other room.
Overall, there are loads of ways to get your stream on now - it's just a case of hunting down the right bits and you can, inexpensively, have the wireless palace you dreamed of.
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