Wireless Speakers vs. Bluetooth Speakers

If there’s one constant irritant to anybody who’s had to deal with a home theater setup, it has been the wiring. Sure, a good installer can keep things relatively cleaned up, but sooner or later, it will become a rat’s nest of copper and plastic that causes more problems than it solves. The solution to that problem is to go wireless.  We’ve unplugged our phones and our laptops, why not our speakers? There are a couple different ways to go, each with their pros and cons

Nice Sound, Harald

Bluetooth connectivity has been around for a number of years. Originally, it was used to connect headsets to cellphones without taking up an audio jack, but the technology has been applied to other devices in recent years. Several companies have realized you can use Bluetooth to connect an external speaker to an audio source, whether that’s your cellphone or a tuner. Companies like Sonos and Harman Kardon produce compact wireless speakers that can pump out the sound to fill a room nicely. However, there are some points to keep in mind if you go the Bluetooth route.

First, you are limited to only one speaker per audio source. So if somebody accidentally pairs their phone to your speakers, you’ll have to reconnect them. Second, while Bluetooth doesn’t require line of sight, its range is extremely short, usually not more than 30 feet or so, and walls or other dense objects in close proximity can block the signal. Finally, despite being able to transmit data wirelessly, powering the speaker remains a concern, so battery life is a major consideration. As a practical matter, Bluetooth works well for small, open environments like a studio apartment or loft.

Can’t Stop The Signal

By this point, the IEEE 802.11 wireless networking standard (better known as Wi-Fi) has become truly ubiquitous. Originally built for PCs and laptops, the technology has expanded radically over the last decade, becoming a convenient means of accessing the Internet at home or at your local coffee shop. Wireless speakers do have a number of advantages over Bluetooth speakers. The range is considerably greater, they can be set up to act independently so that each speaker is playing something different in each room of the house, and they have generally better sound quality because the audio stream doesn’t have to be compressed.

But there are specific challenges with Wi-Fi speakers. Sound quality can be diminished if you’ve got too much traffic going through your wireless router. Setting up devices requires at least a rudimentary understanding of how a network router works or the ability to navigate a manufacturer’s proprietary setup software. And, like Bluetooth speakers, you’ll have to consider battery life. If you have a large multi-room residence, Wi-Fi speakers will serve you well.

As always, you can count on Performance Audio to help evaluate your needs and install the best sound system possible.

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