You've invested in brand new high-end speakers and the best-rated AV receiver on the market. You've installed a whole house audio system that makes it easy for you to pull up your favorite music in any room of your Lake Forest, IL home. Once you hit play, though, you're disappointed to find there's static coming through your state-of-the-art system.

It’s easy to blame your brand new equipment or the people that installed it. Often, though, it's not an entire revamp that you need, simply a change in music. When you upgrade your stereo system, you're going to get much crisper, powerful sound. But if you're listening to poor sources—say an overused CD player or MP3 file—the system is simply going to magnify their flaws. For this reason, it's critical that you connect the right source components when installing your whole house audio system. 

SEE MORE: Best Speaker Options for Your Whole House Audio

CD vs. Turntable

Physical music sources like CD players or turntables are the least popular when it comes to whole house music systems for a simple reason. You need to manually access your source component if you want to change the album, taking away from the benefit of having centralized access. That being said, we're not saying you have to throw away your CD or vinyl collections.

Both CD and vinyl offer better quality than MP3s—a type of compressed audio file. In a head-to-head comparison, though, vinyl offer the best overall sound and is the best option for any high-end systems. Vinyl records have not been compressed in any way; they come to you directly as the artist intended.

Digital Files

Digital libraries are often a better option for your whole house audio system since you can have more direct access to thousands of songs. How can you make sure your digital collection comes through well in your new system? The reason digital sounds worse than vinyl (or CDs) is that the files have been compressed to fit into your portable player. In recent years, there has been a rise in quality through the use of uncompressed audio files such as FLAC or ALAC. These files are compressed and can then be ‘expanded' when played to give a better duplicate of the original recording.

Streaming Services

How does streaming quality stack up to its digital and physical counterparts?

First, you need to understand the concept of high-resolution audio. When it comes HRA, files use pulse-code modulation to digitally translate analog signals. Many websites offer high-quality uncompressed audio files in the form of 24/192 PCM and DSD files.

When it comes to streaming, Hi-Res options like Tidal and Deezer offer audio quality of standard Red Book CDs at 16-bit/44.1 KHz. Meridian has also recently introduced MQA (Master Quality Authenticated), a new technology that lets you listen to master quality audio in small file formats from streaming services. Tidal rolled out their MQA offerings calling it “Masters” with dozens of classic albums as well as recent releases to further increase the quality of their streaming content. Other services like Deezer are expected to follow suit

Streaming offers a lot of great ways to listen to your favorite music. You can listen to services like Pandora, which use your preferences to introduce you to new music. Other on-demand options let you sample the latest releases before purchasing them. Streaming also offers a great way to socialize with fellow music lovers. A common way to do this is through sharing playlists on services like Spotify.

Want to explore music and content from around the world? TuneIn lets you listen to thousands of radio stations. You can also stream Sirius XM Satellite radio without having to purchase a separate antenna.

Deciding which source components make the most sense for your whole house audio comes down to your unique preferences. Do you care more about having instant access to thousands of songs or would you rather sit down with one quality vinyl recording? The best thing about a custom solution is that you can pick and choose what makes the most sense for you.

To find out how you can get easy, high-quality access to your favorite music, call us at 847-848-9200 or contact us online.