A home audio system takes in-home entertainment up a notch by placing high-quality speakers around the house, connected to a stereo and usually a TV. Home audio systems probably reached cultural zeitgeist -- and highest visibility in a home -- in the '90s. But once speakers started getting small, wireless, and portable, the appeal of large, boxy wired speakers and even built-in system components dissipated.
Some hardcore enthusiasts still think it's worth it to pay for a whole-home audio system, but it's a matter of individual taste exactly where and what kind of equipment will be included. Here's a look at the pros and cons, what it will cost, and whether it's ultimately worth the investment.
Many home audio systems exist mainly to augment the home theater experience -- i.e., a couple nice speakers in the same room as the main TV. If you're selling a home with a fully equipped home theater, then audio should be a part of it. Teens will love it, as will anyone who enjoys an immersive sports viewing experience.
Music in any room at the click of a button -- or touch of a screen -- brings atmosphere to a home that most people don't even think about until it's present and elevating the mood.
Whole-home systems that include outdoor speakers are highly convenient and definitely bring a vibe to any outdoor activity – be it a cocktail hour or afternoon chores.
And because speakers are small and powerful these days, it isn't necessarily expensive to have a home audio system.
While hardcore home entertainment connoisseurs can and do spend $10,000 or more on acoustic treatments for a home theater, the vast majority of people spend no more than $2,000 for a whole-home audio system -- and the average is closer to $700, according to HomeAdvisor (NASDAQ: ANGI).
Home theaters aren't a common feature outside of luxury homes. Even less common is a surround sound listening space, be it a library or some sort of sound booth.
Beyond those environments, whole-home audio systems are really a collection of speakers and amplifiers placed around the house: integrated in the walls and ceiling, visible as old-school standing speakers, and mounted on shelves. They can create an experience, but whether it's enjoyable is really a matter of personal taste -- for example, one owner's choice to put integrated surround sound speakers with a subwoofer in a certain room may make the next prospective owner feel like they're in a nightclub. At that point, the home audio system becomes not so much a cool feature as one that needs to be modified.
Too much tech integration can be a bad thing
The biggest issue, however, is that at this point, home audio systems are oftentimes so closely integrated into smart home devices that you can't have one without using the other. Tech-friendly people's music libraries are often stored on the iTunes (NASDAQ: AAPL) cloud, or they stream from internet radio, or they access specific songs by requesting from Alexa (NASDAQ: AMZN).
People who are more hesitant about bringing tech into their lives, on the other hand, may have an issue with a home audio system controlled by a smartphone for the same reasons they have issues with a smart doorbell. They may not want their house to be that networked. Certainly, there have been many recent instances that show how vulnerable this new technology still is.
Things to consider in a home audio system include:
- In what rooms will it be?
- Wireless or wired?
- What is the source of the music?
- How is it controlled?
Because of how invasive certain aspects of home audio can be -- especially in conjunction with the tech that delivers the music lately -- and also because of how quickly electronics and tech systems change, we don't think this home improvement is worth it. This is not even because of the cost, which is relatively minimal, but because it may be off-putting to some buyers.