Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, your audio system is no longer confined to the one room in your house where your component system and speakers are located. Multi-room AV is far more versatile than a conventional hi-fi system, because it gives you the freedom of having an audio system that provides access to your music from any room you choose to install it in.
What can multi-room distributed audio do?
A multi-room audio system can either be stereo (as you'd get with a conventional hi-fi system), or a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system. Multi-room AV allows audio to be streamed through your house from an unlimited number of sources to a (potentially) unlimited number of zones. This means that using the same system, one person can listen to one song in their bedroom, while another person uses the same system to listen to a completely different song in the living room. Multi-room systems are often hidden using in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, so you don’t have any equipment protruding into your living space.
What kind of hardware is normally involved?
Multi-room distributed audio systems are typically based on a single hard disk media server that digitally stores your favourite songs, and then uses ethernet or a WiFi connection to transport that music to other rooms. This allows different members of your household to listen to their own favourite tracks using individual room-based keypads/touch panels, amplifiers and speakers. Music doesn't necessarily have to be stored in your home though - it's just as easy to use a music system that streams music directly from the internet.
Powerline-enabled multi-room audio allows you to use the existing mains wiring in a home. In the past this technology was considered to be unreliable, but it has now matured to a point where it's a very effective option. The advantage of this type of system is that it doesn't require any cutting into walls, and it also provides a more robust signal than wireless might.
If you think multi-room audio is something you're likely to want to install in your home at any stage, then installing smart wiring may be an excellent idea.