What's the optimal audio setup for a smart home? (Survey results)

Are you building a house or renovating an apartment?

Then you might be thinking about installing a smart system in your new home as well.

As anyone who went through this process knows, building a wired smart home can be quite demanding since there are many decisions the builder has to decide upon—what kind of HVAC system & security system to choose, how to plan the lighting, what control options to include etc. Usually the builder has no prior knowledge about this (most of us will go through this process only once in our lives) and there is no real data to be found to guide them through these decisions.

This is why we explored the various fields of smart homes (HVAC setup, lighting setup, security setup,...) that the homeowner needs to decide on when building their own smart home. And who knows better than the end users actually living with those setups?

We have therefore launched a campaign of surveys for our users, asking them what they are currently using and what their level of satisfaction is. Our first survey was aimed at the audio setup inside a typical smart home and here is the summary of the obtained results.

The user sample

We have received an adequate pool of answers (481 users) in order to gain insight. The participants were mostly KNX and Loxone smart home owners (more than 90 %), that have an existing music setup with which they’re reasonably satisfied with.

FIGURE 1: Type of smart home system

FIGURE 2: Level of satisfaction

More than 90% of the participating users were aged between 30 and 70, as expected.


The ideal audio setup

We were primarily interested in what kind of audio setup our users have installed in their homes. The first takeaway is that single zone audio setups are a thing of the past, as more than 90 % of the surveyed have more than 1 audio zone and a whooping 40 % have more than 5.

FIGURE 4: Number of audio zones

More than 70 % of contributing users have a classic central amp with passive speakers attached, approximately half of which pack a music server as well. Approximately half of the contributors will have a standalone active speaker as well - in most cases consisting of a multi-zone audio setup with a central amp in the main zone (living room) and active speakers in individual rooms.

Among active speakers the most popular brand is SONOS followed by Amazon, Apple and Google smart speakers, and Denon HEOS not far behind. A quarter of the users sample have a separate amp for high fidelity and movies.

FIGURE 5: Audio setup

FIGURE 6: Type of active smart speakers‌‌

What about audio control?

In terms of controlling the audio setup, most users today will just use their smartphone and when that is not at hand, voice control is the leading secondary audio control option. This didn’t come as a surprise since we’ve noticed the same trend among our customers, smarthome app control first, voice second.

Since the audio setup is as good as the music service running on it, we were also interested in what music services are being used. According to survey results, the most popular music service is Spotify (40%), followed by Apple Music (25%) and Amazon Music (11%). We weren’t really surprised to find Spotify leading by a substantial amount since it’s also the largest in market share and number of subscribers.

FIGURE 8: Primary music service

Interestingly enough, when people are not using their primary music service they mostly listen to internet radio. Youtube Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music are a quite popular secondary music service as well.

FIGURE 9: Secondary music service

Among the casting services the most used option is Apple’s AirPlay 2 with 66 %, followed by Bluetooth with 45 % and Spotify Connect with 37 %.

And what (besides listening to music and watching movies) are the audio setups being used for?

Everybody knows about timers, alarm clocks and reminders, but surprisingly the custom doorbell function is just as popular and also the functionality users want the most. Safety alerts (break-in, water leakage, ...) are a desired feature as well, which is something to consider when building a new smart home.

Takeaways and conclusion

To sum it up—according to our survey the best combination for the audio setup in a new modern smart home is:

a multi-zone audio setup with amp and passive speakers in the main zone (usually living room) and active speakers in other zones.

Sonos is the brand people are most satisfied with in this area. Spotify is the music service of choice with AirPlay 2 used as a casting service. Voice control for audio system control is a must here—any smart assistant (Siri, Alexa, Google Home) will do—by choosing a newer Sonos speaker you get compatibility with all of them.

So there you have it; the best combination of equipment & services for your soon to be audio setup has been revealed. Follow our channels as we’ll explore other areas of smart home functionality and let you know what are the optional choices for each of them.