High end: Get wired

The highest-quality whole-house sound travels through structured wires embedded in your walls. Wires run from your sound system, neatly tucked into a storage room or closet, through the ceiling into speakers mounted in rooms you select. This is the gold standard option for the music purist and should be installed by a sound specialist.

Structured wiring most easily is installed in new construction, and nearly half of all new homes built in and after 2008 have it. Retrofitting a house with structured wiring will cost $700 to $2,700 per room, depending on the control units you select. A pair of speakers for each room can cost from $100 to $2,000.

Mid-priced: Leverage existing wires

Leveraging existing wires is a less intrusive way to achieve whole-house sound because you aren’t cutting through walls to run new wire. Expect to sacrifice audio fidelity, but it’s minimal.

A source hub—a central device that iPods, CD players, and other source equipment plugs into—sends audio signals in a digital format over existing electrical wires. A receiver plugged into a wall outlet in each room converts digital back into analog music.

Costs run $500 to $1,000 per room including speakers; it takes a day or less to install.

Budget luxury: Go wireless

Installing a wireless system is the easiest, most affordable way to get whole-house sound—and the only one you can do yourself.

Music is distributed from your computer, through a router, and into a small player box (about the size of toaster) placed in each room you choose. If you want sound in five rooms, you’ll need five player boxes and five sets of speakers.

Wireless systems cost about $400 per room and can be set up in a couple hours.