The meteoric rise of the wireless speaker has been as intriguing as it has been staggering. Even half a decade ago, nobody would have imagined a set of full blown speakers with six channels operating exclusively over wireless technology. Wireless speakers have come a long a way and achieved significant diversification and specialities which offer some very specific advantages to their users. However, before we tell you how to buy a pair of wireless speakers, it’s probably in order to help you ask the question ‘do you need them?’ Because most audiophiles I’ve come across are happier with a good old pair of wired speakers that can handle the pressure of amplitude and duration. Wireless technology is useful only to a very specific class of audiophiles – are you one of them? Let’s see.
Wireless speakers are the right choice for two kinds of people. Those who intend to listen to music while traveling, and those who want music across their entire house without handling the hassle of a plethora of ugly wiring. Let’s look at the specifics:
1. Portable Speakers
If you travel a lot, portable speakers might be a good choice if you have to move frequently (e.g. college student living in a dorm) or frequently travel with a partner or friend. They are also the go-to option for speakers in a workplace (or another similar environment) where makeshift audio gear is a necessity. However, realise that if you usually travel alone and find yourself in trains or hotel rooms more often than in your bedroom, there is also the option of investing a similar sum of money on high-end headphones that will deliver you way better sound quality and listening experience.
2. Multi-Room Speakers
Playing your music to cover multiple rooms in your house is easier with wireless speakers. Naturally, not every manner of wireless speaker will be suitable for such a purpose, and while there aren’t as many option available as are for wired speakers, there have been some pretty decent models out lately.
Types of Wireless Technology
The most extensive and reasonable classification of wireless speakers stems from the kind of technologies they support. Depending on which of the two general genres of wireless speakers discussed above you want to use, this could be either good or great. Let’s take a look at a few:
1. Bluetooth and NFC
Both dated technologies for wireless speakers in spite of great advances in Bluetooth technology. Reason – 1: Bluetooth has a maximum range of 50 feet, and your wireless device (phone/tablet/laptop) has to literally touch the speakers for NFC to work. Reason – 2: Neither can transmit CD/DVD Qualiity music, so most of the tracks you listen to over Bluetooth will be lossy. The major benefit of Bluetooth is, however, that it is the most widely available connection in the world right now.
This would’ve made us drop to our knees if not for a single thorn in the bed of roses that it is. Wi-Fi is common, accessible, and often cheap. It transfers data at vast rates and is a brilliant choice for streaming music of even the highest quality over the 100+ metres that it ranges. The problem is that there is no generic Wi-Fi protocol that you can purchase. The speakers you buy will have to support wireless protocols of individual mobile device manufacturers, which brings heart-breakingly brings up their cost. For example, if you own Apple products, you’re good to go if you have a pair of speakers that support Airplay, Apple’s algorithm for streaming music over Wi-Fi. On the other hand, Android users end up opting for DLNA, which, while supported by almost any device, is lousy slow.
Given the above information, let’s look at how you should evaluate the specifics of a pair of wireless speakers that ought to have your name written on them.
Qualities to Look for in Wireless Speakers
1. Battery Life
This comes before sound quality even for an audiophile. Speakers that have a peak usage battery life of three hours might be a pain to have spent a lot of money on. Check in advance. If you’re planning to buy multi-room speakers, there are options that are AC powered while still receiving music wirelessly. These are a better bet than battery-powered speakers for obvious reasons.
2. Sound Quality
Sound quality varies with the output voltage, impedance, and frequency range. Wireless speakers struggle playing lows, so more money equals better bass. Realise, however, that your mobile devices might not have sufficient power to generate reasonably loud volume form speakers with high impedance (70 ohms). Find a trade-off between sound quality and volume.
Ideally, you’re looking at speakers that can handle all transmission and compression algorithms from every known provider of such technology. However, this can severely limit your options while adding massively to your costs. If you pledge allegiance to a brand, you may be able to get your hands on smart speakers such as Amazon Echo (you can talk to Alexa, the OS, who plays your music and relays your sports updates).
It’s possible that most of you reading this blog are looking for wireless speakers that are portable. Portability is often a trade-off between sound quality and price. If you are an audiophile to whom sound quality surmounts all other requirements, understand the limitations of portable wireless speakers when making a purchase, and consider opting for stationary wireless speakers to equip a room or a house instead.
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