Chances are, your home is the most important thing in your life. Whether it’s your first starter or ultimate dream-come-true masterpiece, your house sets the stage for the way your family lives and plays. That’s why you should consider personalizing your home by fine-tuning its ambiance to envelop your senses in every possible way. Blending high fidelity and architecture is one way to complement “your individual lifestyle.” Because it’s not just how your home looks, it’s also how it sounds that sets it apart and enables it to touch your family and friends is special ways.

By now you’ve most likely acquired a number of new digital audio products you enjoy; perhaps you’ve purchased a new car that came with XM® or Sirius® and you’re hooked. If you have digital cable or satellite TV, you’ve probably come to enjoy the audio programming as well as the video programming. Most everyone now owns an iPod® and downloads music from the web. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all these great new digital music sources available throughout your home at the touch of a button?

Your see, over the past decade, sound around the house or multi-room audio has become a necessity for contemporary living. Having sound around the house in the old days was a limited proposition. Typically it involved a boom box or mini stereo system in every room. But that just doesn’t cut it today for several reasons. First of all, the vast majority of boom boxes and mini systems look and sound terrible. Secondly, it simply takes up too much space to have five or six separate sound systems spread throughout the house. And lastly, the advent of digital music sources like satellite radio and iPod storage has family members wanting to enjoy their favorite radio stations or private music collection anywhere in the house, not just in one location. This is why multi-room audio is taking the country by storm. It enables everyone in the family to listen to whatever they wish, whenever they want and wherever they desire to listen.

To better understand the benefits of a multi-room sound system it’s important to understand what makes up such a system. This year, multi-room audio equipment manufactures have introduced of a number of innovative products that deliver on the promise of all of today’s popular sources anywhere in the house- simultaneously and with simple one button control. They are one part computer and two parts audio component and they are destined to become “must haves” in any personalized system. Only second to high-end kitchens, these systems are in huge demand from buyers of new or existing homes. They employ modularity and intelligent software that creates a seamless whole house musical experience for homeowners. What these systems do is remarkable. They let consumers choose from a varied pallet of sources, such as AM/FM radio, XM and Sirius, iPod, music servers or legacy audio device (CD, DVD, cable box, satellite receivers, etc.) – in combinations customized to each homeowner’s liking. Rather have XM than Sirius? Or maybe his and hers iPod music streams? It’s not a problem for these powerful systems, as the source components are designed as plug-in modules. Just load up your favorite sources and the software inside the box does the rest.

The advent of multi-zone receivers makes it possible to listen to anything, anywhere, even if someone else is using the sound system. That’s because multi-zone receivers have the capacity to provide great sound in a number of rooms or zones simultaneously. Unlike ordinary sound systems that are limited to playing one sound source at a time, the new world of multi-zone receivers makes it possible to listen to background music in the home office while the news is on in the master bath and the kids play music from their digital collections in their rooms, all at the same time. So everyone gets the exact music or program material they want, without hassle and without bothering anyone else. Multi-room audio, made possible by this new breed of electronics, delivers unique and personal sound for everyone in the family and for every entertaining occasion. Most multi-zone receivers come ready to power six separate listening zones. Some of the newer systems can be expanded to control as many as 30 zones!

Simple, intuitive user interfaces with one-button control and on-screen menus make all the difference. These new systems are controlled from a variety of wired or wireless user interfaces that not only provide control, but also display meta-data such as channel guides, station information – even the contents of an iPod. They make operating such a complex system child’s play. What makes these systems so powerful is the advanced networking technology that resides under the hood. Plug in any source in any combination and any user interface to any network port and the multi-zone receiver will auto-discover what you’ve connected, where you’ve connected it and automatically set your sources up for immediate use. If you’ve connected your iPod to the system, you can select it with a single button press and all of the artist, album, song and track data can be read directly from the user interface – including two-way handheld wireless remote controls. If an XM tuner is inserted in source slot number two, then XM channel guides and “now-playing” information show up on any user interface on source button number two and they are automatically labeled “XM”. Press the XM button and your favorite XM station starts to play. If XM realigns its channel line-up, preset stations will automatically be reprogrammed! It’s that easy.

With all of the modern advances, sound still comes from loudspeakers, but the loudspeakers used in today’s multi-room systems look and perform far better. Today, multi-room loudspeakers are built right into walls and ceilings. That’s because technologies have advanced to the point where the sound of in-wall or ceiling mount loudspeakers rival old-style bookshelf or floor-standing loudspeakers. So your house gets all that great sound and none of the ugly baggage associated with box–type loudspeakers. Outdoor sound is also growing in popularity. Millions of people are discovering that the outdoor spaces around their houses are just as important as the ones indoors. So, naturally, they want to personalize these areas with sound too. Well, here’s some good news, modern loudspeaker manufacturers have figured out how to provide stellar sound from loudspeakers in weatherproof cabinets that blend seamless with their architectural surroundings, yet provide living-room quality sound outdoors. All of this means that you can personalize every space, indoors or out, with terrific sound.

Best of all, there is no clutter. That’s because most of the components of multi-room audio systems are concealed. For the first time, all of your program material can be accessed and controlled from conveniently-located keypads or handheld remote controllers. No more shelves of components or clunky table radios. The elegant and intuitive user interfaces of sophisticated multi-room audio systems blend seamlessly with your décor and complement your lifestyle. Making them as much of a joy to operate, as they are to listen to.

Multi-room audio adds pleasure and value. Along with elevating the quality of home life, homeowners that invest in multi-room audio systems are likely to see enhanced home values. That’s because multi-room audio systems add to the panache and differentiate your home from others making it more attractive to potential buyers. Great sound around the house is an important touch point that lets everyone know how special and well thought out your home actually is. So, not only are you likely to get hours of living pleasure from your multi-room audio purchase, you are likely to recoup your investment. Now that’s what I call real value.

Frank Sterns is the president of Niles Audio Corporation, a 28-year-old company recognized as the First Name in Custom Installation®. Niles designs and manufactures custom-installed home audio/video products, including speakers, whole house audio systems, amplifiers, accessories and much more. More information about Niles and the company’s new whole-house audio system, IntelliControl ICS, is available by visiting or