15 Nov 0
The world is doing away with the cables. There are ways to transmit electricity wirelessly, although the technology for it still needs to become more efficient. We have mobile phones that allow us to be on the grid all the time without having to plug into a phone plug or modem. They are also mobile because their batteries only need to be recharged via cable every few days. In the world of audio, the major effort was to find a way to connect speakers and headphones with devices without using cables. There are two technologies that are used to do it – Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth is the technology that was used for audio signal transmission for the longer time. This has two consequences – there is a bigger array of devices which support it, as it is more established, and there’s a very large difference in quality between the earlier versions of the technology and the current ones. This has a peculiar consequence – it is very easy to find and pair devices using Bluetooth, but there’s plenty of chance that will not produce the best sound quality possible. In fact, sound quality has been a major concern with Bluetooth speakers, at least until aptX was developed. Now, we see a surge of quality speakers that use Bluetooth to connect to devices, such as the speakers manufactured by Schultz.
Wi-Fi is the latecomer on the wireless speaker market, which of course means that there are not as many sound devices which use it. Currently, the most popular Wi-Fi technology for wireless audio is Apple’s AirPlay, which has a major drawback in the fact that it can only be used with iOS devices. There are other brands producing quality Wi-Fi speakers as well, with Sonos being arguably most successful with their models.
The choice between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi revolves around two expectations consumers would have from a wireless sound system – sound quality and mobility. In case of Bluetooth, it’s important that both devices used in the sound system – the player and the speaker – have the latest aptX technology enabled in order to get the best sound possible from them. But both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers are prone to the regular faults in design which might lead to an inferior sound reproduction, just as it’s very possible that the manufacturer will go to great lengths to ensure the best possible sound quality.
Mobility is a whole different question, and it depends on two things – the strength and range of the wireless signal, and the power autonomy of the speakers. Traditionally, Wi-Fi has had a larger range than Bluetooth, which allowed its users to stream audio to multiple speakers in multiple rooms. Bluetooth, on the hand, usually has a shorter range, although it is very dependent on the Bluetooth chip used in the device. When it comes to power autonomy, Wi-Fi speakers are usually larger and more demanding in terms of power, so it’s very hard to find battery-powered versions of them. Battery powered Bluetooth speakers are very common, although they might come with a tradeoff in sound quality.