Best multi-room speakers 2018: wireless music in every room via Wi-Fi

Get the best sound quality and maximum multi-room with AirPlay, Chromecast, Sonos, Spotify, DLNA and other exciting codecs

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The best multi-room speakers are the current big thing in audio, as the best ones are a sizeable cut above Bluetooth in all areas except convenience. That's not to say they're hard to setup, but nothing is simpler than Bluetooth. Also, playing music in every room of the house feels like the future we were promised.

Many tech reviewers, and normal people, were disappointed that the Apple HomePod wasn't multi-room capable at launch (which is funny because those in the know will be aware that it actually is. Just not from your mobile).

Here, we're dealing with premium, Wi-Fi-connected speakers, from £200/$200 to over £1,000/$1,000. I've spent the last few years trialling all the big hitters in my gracious home, and happily, have not yet been killed by my neighbours. 

What is the best multi-room speaker?

For pure quality, it's the Naim Mu-so. But wait, that's nearly a grand or '10,000 dimes', as you Americans put it. So my top recommendation is the Sonos 1. This is an outstanding speaker from the multi-room market leader. It has wide – and growing – compatibility with everything from Spotify to Tidal, with Apple AirPlay to come, and it also happens to incorporate Amazon Echo's Alexa to work as your digital PA. 

You can also easily pair two for proper stereo, like mama used to make, or to use as rear speakers in a surround setup with Sonos' Playbar soundbar or Playbase soundbase.

How to buy the best wireless speaker

Decide what type of streaming you want to employ. Apple fans may favour AirPlay. Google lovers may want Chromecast compatibility. 

Obviously if you're a subscriber to Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited or one of the myriad other subscription-based streaming services, you'll need compatibility with that – note that in many cases, these can be piggy-backed over Chromecast or AirPlay.

It's worth noting that until AirPlay 2 arrives, Apple's system is only a multi-room one from your computer and not from your mobile (apart from on the Sonos Play 5, Urbanears Baggen and Marshall's range of speakers, where a line in and clever tech means any source can be turned into a multi-room one, even a turntable.

I've helpfully indicated what each speaker is compatible with, to help you out, there. Some of them also support Bluetooth, because clearly there is consumer demand for big, expensive speakers that support the format.

You'll also want to consider what size of room you want to use it in. Again, I've noted what size of space I think each speaker is able to fill – small (offices, kitchens, bedrooms); medium (larger bedrooms, most front rooms) and large (more palatial or open-plan spaces, combined kitchen/lounge type spaces, Donald Trump's toilet and so forth). 

All of these also support multi-room audio, but you will, of course, need more than one speaker to achieve that. 

Finally, although these are meant to be wireless, in some houses that's just not going to work, and you may have to revert to powerline AV (or a very long cable) and a speaker with ethernet connectivity.  

The best wireless speakers, in order

1. Sonos One

The best multi-room speaker, now with Alexa

Specifications
Connectivity: Sonos app allows connectivity to Apple Music, Spotify Connect, Amazon, Tidal and a lot more, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Small to medium
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Amazing sound for size and price+Alexa built in+Attractive styling in white or black
Reasons to avoid
-Alexa implementation not perfect-Sonos app is a bit sprawling

Sonos has long dominated the multi-room market and despite market-leading status immediately making certain critics and consumers hate it, its speakers have always been somewhere between good and excellent.

They have also, perhaps, been a bit over-priced at times but that is not a criticism one can level at the Sonos One, which puts the DEAL into the phrase, "This is the best multi-room speaker you can get, deal with it."

Of course, you can pay more and get something that sounds even better, but pound for pound/dollar for dollar, you are getting a hell of a lot of speaker for your money. The Sonos One genuinely delivers the tedious old speaker marketing claim of "room-filling sound from a small box", but it's not just loud; it serves up genuinely high quality audio. 

The Sonos app is not the greatest thing ever invented, I'll grant you. It offers so many connectivity options that it's naturally quite unwieldy at times. However, a recent update has smoothed off some of the roughest edges, and it does offer support for just about every music service out there. You can do anything from the simple – sending the music on your phone to the speaker – to using all the streaming services you can think of, to pulling tunes from a NAS drive, and playing it on multiple Sonos speakers. You can also construct playlists on the fly that use multiple sources.

Arguably the real clincher in terms of VFM is the inclusion of Amazon's Alexa AI. The old Play 1, which this replaces, was excellent value, and that was slightly less sexy, didn't include Alexa and was the exact same price

Now, to be fair, the Alexa implementation is not perfect. The array of mics in the Sonos One is sometimes not sufficient to actually hear your instructions, even when there isn't music playing. There are other quirks like the way it cuts off every Sonos in your house to listen, when you speak to just one, er, One.

I can't say any of that bothers me greatly, to be honest. You can get Alexa to work, and to control multiple Sonoses ("Sonii"?); it's just you may have to shout at her a bit. 

If you think of the Sonos as a superb speaker that happens to have Alexa built in as an extra – rather than an Amazon Echo with much better sound quality – it's well worth the purchase. 

• At present, you can also get the so-called, Sonos Two – this is a pair of Sonos Ones, which can be used for multi-room, or easily paired to put out good, ol'-fashioned stereo – for £349, which again is quite the deal.  

2. Naim Mu-so

The best premium wireless speaker you can get

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, UPnP, Tidal, Bluetooth, USB, optical digital, analogue, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to very large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Monumental sound+Wide connectivity+Looks fantastic
Reasons to avoid
-Nearly a grand-No Chromecast

If, on the other hand, you have money to burn, you can't do better than the Naim Mu-so. Go multi-room with a few of them (or the smaller Mu-so Qb) and the cost mounts up pretty rapidly, but there's just not a better sounding or looking wireless speaker for (just) under a grand. 

It looks elegant yet industrial, and that's what its sonic performance is like. It can play nice, and hand over very sweet vocals and instrumental performances, or it can remove the iron fist from the velvet glove and give your kidneys a good old sub-bass punch.

Although the list of steaming services supported isn't as epic as on the Sonos or Denon, realistically the majority of users will be served by what's there – ie: Tidal, Spotify, Bluetooth and AirPlay. It's unfortunate that Chromecast isn't supported, but aparently the slightly older chipset used in the Mu-so (it's been around since 2014) just isn't up to it.

There are also digital, 3.5mm and USB inputs, the latter of which can be turned into a multi-room feed.

With superb sound, very solid multi-room via AirPlay or Naim's own app, plus easy internet radio, again via the Naim app, this is a near-perfect 21st century speaker.

3. Orbitsound Dock E30

Multi-room, Bluetooth, and a charger for your phone or tablet

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, UPnP, Tune In, Bluetooth, USB-C for charging, optical digital, 3.5mm, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great sound for its size+Attractive styling in white, bamboo or black
Reasons to avoid
-No Chromecast support

Available to pre-order now and shipping in March, this wireless-speaker-cum-dock is British designed, and slightly eccentric, but sounds excellent. 

First up, it really is a 'dock' in the old-fashioned sense – you can plug your mobile in via USB-C or charge via its built-in Qi pad, and there's even a groove in the top to stand your phone or tablet in.

Now, personally, I don't think anyone in 2018 really wants an updated iPod dock, but on the other hand, it's there if you need/want it, and the Dock E30 also offers superb sound for its price and size and, IMHO, looks very handsome in white and bamboo. You can also get in black, if you're boring.

Via Wi-Fi, using either Orbitsound's own app, or AirPlay or Spotify Connect, you get really excellent sound. Via Bluetooth it's not bad at all, either. 

Orbitsound's big 'thing' is Airsound, which is a form of stereo that doesn't have a sweet spot – ie: you get stereo sound, to a roughly similar extent, whether you're sat in front of the speaker, off axis, or even pottering about making dinner.

Slightly to my amazement, this does work really well, but even if you turn it off and use it as a mono speaker, the Dock E30's audio is excellent. It's not a million miles off either the Sonos Play 5 or a brace of Sonos Ones, and is cheaper than either of those options, at least at its pre-order price. 

The excellent thing about it is that the E30 sounds very good indeed straight out of the box, but you can also tinker to a tremendous extent with the treble and bass. There's definitely no lack of the latter, but if you want to really kick all kinds of ass, there's a compatible, wireless subwoofer available.

4. Sonos Play 5

The top of the Sonos multi-room tree

Specifications
Connectivity: Sonos proprietory. Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Tidal, TuneIn (and many more) via app only, analogue audio, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful, Space Odyssey styling+Wonderful, accurate sound
Reasons to avoid
-Have to do everything through Sonos' app

Trying to decide which you prefer out of the HEOS 7 and the Sonos Play 5 is a bit like deciding which of your children you love more.

The Sonos has a more 'accurate' and less aggressive sound than the HEOS 7, and looks way better, in my opinions, with a subtly curved, tactile white form that's far more interesting than it might appear at first glance. Although it is also rather hard to keep clean, I've found.

I think I narrowly prefer the more forward sound of the HEOS 7, but the Sonos speaker has so much to recommend it as a standalone or multi-room speaker – it fits seamlessly into Sonos' eco-system, and can be controlled via Alexa if you have a Sonos One or an Echo/Echo Dot with the Sonos skill. See the Sonos One review above for my thoughts on that. 

The Sonos app does a lot, and a recent upgrade has made it less irritating than it used to be, even if it's still not perfect.

5. Bluesound Pulse Mini

Very strong Sonos rival maybe slightly let down by looks and clonky home networking support

Specifications
Connectivity: Amazon Music, WiMP, Slacker Radio, Qobuz, HighResAudio, JUKE, Deezer, Murfie, HDTracks, Spotify, TIDAL, Napster, KKBox, TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, Calm Radio, Radio Paradise via app, 3.5mm/optical dual socket, Apt-X Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+It's like a high-res-audio-supporting Sonos Play 5!+Makes good use of lower resolution music too
Reasons to avoid
-Setting it up with a NAS or PC is, uh, not fun-Somewhat more utilitarian looks than Sonos

Designed to very precisely fill the niche that we call, "Just like Sonos, but with hi-res audio" the high-spec but not hideously pricey Pulse Mini from Bluesound will happily handle FLAC, MQA, WAV and AIFF with sample rates up to 192kHz and bit depths up to 24.

The Pulse Mini is usually about the same price as a Sonos Play 5 and sounds about as good as it with MP3 and the multitude of streaming services that Bluesound's app supports. It then begins to pull ahead when you use the higher-res formats that Sonos still does not support.

This makes it curious that Bluesound is great at streaming music from your mobile or the cloud – ie: predominantly lower-resolution music, for most people – and somewhat less good at pulling tunes from your laptop or NAS. You have index and re-index your NAS tunes at great length, and if you're a Mac owner you can't use  your iTunes library. I would say that's because of Apple's famously walled garden but even Sonos' MacOS app can pull music from the Mac that it's on.

The Pulse Mini is not a very good-looking thing, either, but on the other hand, hardly offensive. What's impressive is that while it is indeed quite 'mini', as advertised, the full-throated roar it puts out is anything but. 

6. Naim Mu-so Qb

Scaled down Mu-so still offers massive sound

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, UPnP, Tidal, Bluetooth, USB, optical digital, analogue, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Superb audio across all types of music+Compact, sexy, rock solid build+Wide set of connectivity options
Reasons to avoid
-No Chromecast support-Rather expensive

No, it's not quite as great as Naim's full-size Mu-so, but the Mu-so Qb is a few hundred bucks less, more conveniently proportioned and sounds almost as good – you naturally lose a bit of presence and volume, but not as much as you might think.

It has the same, very solid set of connectivity options, from Spotify and AirPlay to Bluetooth and Naim's own multi-room app. 

What really sets Naim's wireless speakers apart is that not only do they sound superb - whether turned up and really pumping it out, or serving up more winsome, acoustic, background fare - but they also deliver on the tech front.

Wireless connectivity is impeccably reliable, and there is also the nuclear option of ethernet if your house is one big Wi-Fi black spot. Bluetooth is very solid too, although you'd be nuts to pay this much, only to use the Qb as a Bluetooth speaker. Try one of these instead.

The range of music and streaming options is only missing one obvious big hitter (Chromecast), and the Mu-so Qb also works very well as an internet radio, as well as being able to stream from your own music servers.

That's via the Naim app, which seems to be widely hated online, but is fine in my book. It's not like you ever need to use said app anyway, if you're on iOS, iTunes, Spotify or Android (thanks to UPnP support).

The build quality is just fantastic, and although the look is decidedly boxy, the subtly curved grille at least softens it a bit, especially if you shell out for a coloured one. You may think it resembles a Borg cube wearing a burqa, but I like it.

Multi-room performance is also excellent. You can't multi-room AirPlay via Naim's system or anything attached via the analogue or optical inputs, but you can do so with Tidal, Spotify, internet radio and the USB input. 

You can, of course, use AirPlay in a multi-room fashion from iTunes on a PC or Mac, although not from your mobile. God, I hate explaining AirPlay multi-room, it's so confusing.

Those minor multi-room vagaries aside, the Mu-so Qb ticks just about every box, is a bit more affordable than its big brother, and gives arguably more bang for your buck. 

7. Denon HEOS 7 HS2

Pointy box, beautiful music: the Sonos rival nearly out-Sonoses Sonos

Specifications
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Pandora, Deezer, Napster, SoundCloud, Tidal, TuneIn, analogue audio, USB, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Huge sound+Vast range of streaming services+Easy multiroom+Excellent value
Reasons to avoid
-Toblerone looks-Slightly fiddly setup

The Beast to the Sonos Play 5's Beauty, Denon's HEOS 7 is a loud, thumping, pointy-shaped powerhouse.

To be fair, the white version of the 7 looks alright, but the black one that Denon sent us for review is not an attractive thing.

Never mind that though, because this is another exceptional audio box. The performance here is full and forceful. It's not like the HEOS 7 is incapable of rendering speech or quieter music - in fact it's very good - but arguably the Sonos Play 5 is a better option if that's your bag. 

If, however, you're after something that sounds thrilling and upfront, and rocks out with its docks out, this is for you.

Admittedly, the lack of AirPlay or Chromecast is an irritant, but for most users, Denon's own mobile app and/or Spotify Connect, will be just fine. You can also extract music from USB devices, NAS drives, and via Bluetooth.

Denon has a full range of HEOS  speakers that roughly mirrors that of Sonos. Multiroom setup is just a matter of dragging 'rooms' on Denon's app on top of each other, and works very well. 

The only thing the Heos 7 HS2 needs now is a bit of a price cut – the Sonos Play 5 is usually a bit cheaper than it, and has much wider brand recognition.

No, it's not quite as great as Naim's full-size Mu-so, but the Mu-so Qb is a few hundred bucks less, more conveniently proportioned and sounds almost as good – you naturally lose a bit of presence and volume, but not as much as you might think.

It has the same, very solid set of connectivity options, from Spotify and AirPlay to Bluetooth and Naim's own multi-room app. 

The Qb also supports multi-room, although if having matching speakers throughout your abode is your main goal, we'd recommend a Denon or Sonos over a Mu-so. Multi-room works well over AirPlay here but is a bit fiddly on Naim's own app.

What really sets Naim's wireless speakers apart is that not only do they sound superb - whether turned up and really pumping it out, or serving up more winsome, acoustic, background fare - but they also deliver on the tech front.

Wireless connectivity is impeccably reliable, and there is also the nuclear option of ethernet if your house is one big Wi-Fi black spot. Bluetooth is very solid too, although you'd be nuts to pay this much, only to use the Qb as a Bluetooth speaker. Try one of these instead.

The range of music and streaming options is only missing one obvious big hitter (Chromecast), and the Mu-so Qb also works as an internet radio, as well as being able to stream from your own music servers.

That's via the Naim app, which seems to be widely hated online, but is fine in my book. It's not like you ever need to use said app anyway, if you're on iOS, iTunes, Spotify or Android (thanks to UPnP support).

The build quality is just fantastic, and although the look is decidedly boxy, the subtly curved grille at least softens it a bit, especially if you shell out for a coloured one. You may think it resembles a Borg cube wearing a burqa, but I like it.

Multi-room performance is also excellent, although it is slightly more limited than Sonos or Denon's. You can't multi-room AirPlay via Naim's system or anything attached via the analogue or optical inputs, but you can do so with Tidal, Spotify, internet radio and the USB input. You can, of course, use AirPlay in a multi-room fashion from iTunes on a PC or Mac, although not from your mobile. 

A few minor multi-room vagaries aside, the Mu-so Qb ticks just about every box, is a bit more affordable than its big brother, and gives arguably more bang for your buck. 

8. Master & Dynamic MA770

Best ultra-premium wireless speaker

Specifications
Connectivity: Google Chromecast (enables Spotify, Tidal etc), Bluetooth, 3.5mm analogue, optical digital, Wi-Fi
Room size: Medium to very large
Multi-room: Yes via Chromecast
Reasons to buy
+Incredible sound+Incredible look
Reasons to avoid
-No AirPlay support, USB or phono connection

Expensive, made of concrete, and ready to rock, the MA770 is a piece of modern art that also happens to be the best sounding wireless speaker you can get for under £2,000/$2,000.

Its 1.5-inch titanium tweeter and brace of 4-inch Kevlar woofers are amplified by a 100W Class D amp with a discrete channel for each speaker, but the headline spec doesn't really give much indication of how impressive this is.

In short, this thing sounds fantastic. The unique, acoustic concrete construction allows remarkable weight (and volume, when required) with absolutely minimal vibration or distortion. At low volume it's very pleasing; at high volume, it crushes any other wireless speaker. And if you drop this monster on your foot, it'll crush that, too.

With rock, hip-hop and electronica, it can be truly epic, but the way it deals with stripped-back, voice-and-guitar or voice-and-piano tunes can send a shiver down the spine. 

The only other wireless speaker I can compare Master & Dynamic's MA770 to is Phantom's Devialet Gold, but this is 'cheap' compared to that. 

Connectivity is a tad stingy, considering the price. The MA770's main connection option is Google's Chromecast, making set up easy via the Google Home app. The only problem is that your only other options are Bluetooth or an optical digital or 3.5mm analogue input. 

Given the price and the fact this was designed by award-winning  architect David Adjaye, this seems tailor-made for the wealthier iPhone owner. So, it seems little short of incredible that M&D hasn't included AirPlay support – or, indeed, a proper phono input for an expensive turntable… But it hasn't, so Apple users will just have to use Spotify or Tidal via Google Home, or plug an Apple TV or AirPlay DAC into the optical digital input. And owners of expensive turntables will need a pre-amp and a dual phono to 3.5mm adaptor. 

I did find that disappointing but evidently not all that much, because i actually bought one of these, with my own money. And take it from me, that doesn't happen often. The MA770 is a unique slab of contemporary audio art. 

9. Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless

Audio airship with AirPlay sounds as good as it looks

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, analogue, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Via AirPlay on PC/Mac
Reasons to buy
+Great sound+Really quite beautiful
Reasons to avoid
-A bit pricey

The first truly wireless Bowers & Wilkins speaker (the others were docks) is great, sound-wise, and looks fantastic. It used to be plagued by connectivity issues, but a series of firmware updates seem to have fixed this, at least for me.

The fact that the Zeppelin Wireless only supports AirPlay and Spotify Connect obviously reduces the potential user base, but the styling and price do rather scream, "I am for Apple lovers". There's also Apt-X/AAC Bluetooth for more universal connectivity.

As you'd expect from long-standing British speaker wizards B&W, the sonic performance of this beautiful-looking speaker is hugely impressive, and personally, I could just sit and look at the white version of this all day. The black one is pretty fly, too.

10. Marshall Stanmore Multi Room

Best multi-room speaker for rockers

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Google Chromecast, Bluetooth, 2x phono, 3.5mm audio, Wi-Fi
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Big, powerful sound+Brilliant multi-room system
Reasons to avoid
-Not exactly subtle in terms of sound or styling

Marshall's mid-size Stanmore speaker (there's also the smaller Acton, which is quite neat and the larger Woburn, which is rather an imposing thing) is very similar indeed to the Urbanears Baggen on the inside (they come from the same factories), but very different on the outside.

If Baggen is multi-room for hipsters, Stanmore is multi-room for rockers, with Marshall deploying its usual bag of stylistic tricks (ie: it's black and looks like a miniaturised guitar amp), and meaty audio.

As such, the Stanmore is comparable to Denon's similarly forceful Heos 7 in terms of performance – and looks a lot better. I keep seeing these in 'edgy' boutique hotels. 

The other cool thing about the Marshall Stanmore is its pleasingly full range of connectivity options. It not only has both a 3.5mm line in and proper dual phono inputs, but also upports AirPlay, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Apt-X Bluetooth. 

There's also an excellent internet radio app, and a brilliant multi-room system. This lets you play anything – including anything introduced via the wired inputs and AirPlay from your mobile, which is normally strictly non-multi-room – across multiple Marshall speakers by either pressing a button or using the app.

A knob toggles between the connections, and also includes 6 presets, which can be set to web radio stations or Spotify playlists. 

The sound here is not quite as good as on similarly priced rivals, but there's still a lot to like. Please note that there is also a Marshall Stanmore Bluetooth speaker. It's also good but not, alas, multi-room capable.

11. Apple HomePod

Pound for pound, among the best speakers here

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Apple Music
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Via AirPlay on PC/Mac only
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic sound quality for the money+Easy setup, great looks as usual from Apple
Reasons to avoid
-No multi-room from mobile

What is Apple's notoriously non-multi-room-capable HomePod doing in a list of multi-room speakers? Well, it will soon be compatible with Apple's Chromecast-rivalling AirPlay 2, so you can chain them together throughout your abode or stereo pair two of them.

What's often been ignored in coverage to date is that you actually can already use a HomePod as part of a multi-room setup if you use iTunes on a Mac or PC as your music source of choice; just not your mobile. Admittedly, iTunes is not the most beloved of apps, but it is there as an option.

Once HomePod gets proper multi-room, it will be a very serious contender in this list. In terms of musical performance it's easily up there with the more expensive Sonos Play 5 and doesn't get disgraced even when compared to the Naim Mu-so Qb. 

Oh, and you can also yell at Siri in an effort to get it to do stuff for you, which you may or may not consider a plus.

12. Ruark R2 Mk 3

Best retro radio with streaming support

Specifications
Connectivity: Spotify Connect, DLNA, Bluetooth, analogue audio, FM/DAB radio, internet radio
Room size: Medium
Multi-room: Two can be paired
Reasons to buy
+Timelessly sexy design+Great sound+DAB/FM/internet Radio
Reasons to avoid
-Only Spotify Connect and DLNA supported, Wi-Fi-wise-Crappy remote and no app

Ruark's retro system is a jack of all trades and a master of several. 

You should think of it more as a really-great-sounding radio with streaming bolted on, rather than a Wi-Fi speaker like the others here. 

It's beautifully made, encased in a hand-crafted wooden cabinet with a crisp OLED front display and robust 'RotoDial' controls on top. These are intuitive for the radio, not so great for network audio. There is also a blister-button remote, but it is… not good. 

Still, it's easy enough to use Spotify Connect (or DLNA from your phone or PC), and braver users can even link two R2s together in the world's smallest multi-room system.

The main selling point of the R2 is its sound, which, like its look, has a retro – or, more accurately, timeless – quality. 

It's almost the diametric opposite of the Raumfeld, being competent in all areas but much happier with lighter sounds and – no surprise given Ruark's radio heritage – the human voice, both speaking and singing gaily. Tra-la!