5 Trends in Home Audio That Make Listening to Music at Home So Much Better Now

Home audio has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Here are some things to look out for for your home

Bang and olufsen modern speaker
(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

Home audio has come a long way in just a few short years. No doubt many readers will be old enough to remember a time when a HiFi provided all your home audio needs, with maybe a couple of radios dotted about the place for less high-fidelity sound when focused elsewhere.

It’s all changed now, with physical media in serious decline and some of the best Bluetooth speakers more affordable than ever. Here are some of the current trends in home audio to keep an ear on as you upgrade your own musical setup.

1. All the world’s music at your fingertips 

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

The most obvious change from the last decade is having (almost) all of the world’s music at your fingertips at any time, day or night. Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Tidal and Amazon Music Unlimited all mean you no longer have to buy albums — you can just stream them from anywhere with an internet connection.

It’s not a change that’s without problems — some musicians are unhappy that their tracks are treated as a ‘pick and mix’ rather than having their carefully planned albums listened to in full, and the rates paid to musicians is pretty risible — but you can’t argue with the convenience or value for the listener. And the services are intelligent too: once they’ve got a handle on the kind of music you’re into, they’re eerily good at surfacing other artists you’ll like.

The big decision is where you sit in the Spotify vs Apple Music debate.

2. A surprise vinyl revival

Victrola Eastwood 3-Speed Bluetooth Turntable

(Image credit: Victrola)

But for some — including me — ownership of favorite albums is all important, and while the compact disc’s (CD) decline seems irreversible, vinyl record sales have been steadily rising since reaching a low of under a million units in 2006. Indeed, US sales nearly tripled between 2019 and 2023, jumping from 16.8 million units to 49.6 million. 

While you may still have an old vinyl player knocking about, newer models are available with surprisingly 21st century features. Think Bluetooth audio if you want to listen directly to your wireless headphones or a speaker, and USB ports to digitize your favorite LPs to take on the go. At $149, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT is a great pick, but if you take your vinyl seriously, the $1,999 Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 turntable won’t let you down.

3. Bring the world of streaming to your Hi-Fi

If you have a dedicated Hi-Fi that sounds good, you might want to bring the limitless world of streaming audio to your existing setup. 

That’s surprisingly easily done. The maker of your equipment may have something modular to do just that (they’re usually called network players or network streamers), but if not you can just get a streaming box to add to your existing setup. 

I personally use the Wiim Pro, which can stream Spotify, Amazon Music and Tidal directly — or anything, including Apple Music, over AirPlay from your iPhone. Just connect it via the bundled RCA cables to your amp, and you’re away.

 4. Smart speakers to play tunes on demand 

Amazon Echo Studio smart speaker

(Image credit: Amazon)

But not everyone has or needs a fully-fledged Hi-Fi setup, and even the best smart speakers are surprisingly affordable. While their sound quality generally might not be good enough for purists, they’re getting better all the time and let you bring music to every room, with all the convenience of voice controls. Just say out loud the track or album you want to listen to and Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant will track it down from the streaming service of your choice, and start playing instantly. 

And, of course, that’s only scratching the surface of what smart speakers can do. As well as letting you know the weather forecast, warning you of traffic or cracking a few groan-worthy jokes, smart speakers can be the center of your smart home, letting you control the lights, locks and temperature with the power of your voice.

If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with an Echo Dot or Apple HomePod mini. If you want the best sound quality around, consider stumping up for a Sonos Era 300 or Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin

5. Spatial audio to put you at the center of it all

Although often more associated with home theater setups for movies and boxsets, spatial audio is also a big thing for music. If you’ve got the magic combination of a speaker with spatial audio and music recorded to take advantage, it can fill the room and make you feel like you’re sat at the center of an orchestra.

Dolby Atmos is the most common standard to look out for, and is supported by the likes of Amazon’s Echo Studio, Apple’s HomePod and the Sonos Era 300. Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music Unlimited all support spatial audio, but not all tracks are mastered that way, so don’t expect every song to sound different. But when you find one that is, prepare to be blown away.

These are the practical trends that are changing how we listen to music, but how we integrate speakers into the design of our home is changing too. Modern sculptural designs for speakers are becoming more popular, and though these designs don't always blend into the background (after all, you might just want guests to notice your fancy bit of kit), they definitely don't look like the bulky and basic speakers of old.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. He often writes for T3 and Tom's Guide. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.