Wireless speakers have made gigantic leaps in audio quality over the last few years. These systems are now capable of producing sound just as rich and immersive as any of their wired counterparts. With the added benefit of being wire-free, it’s no wonder why these devices have become so popular.
To enjoy your wireless speakers, however, you first have to connect them with the audio source. Whether you want to do that through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is up to you. But you should know that there is a difference between these two wireless connection options. In this blog, we are going to explain how they differ and if Wi-Fi or Bluetooth speakers are better.
Wireless speakers have become a not-so-quiet juggernaut in the audio industry. They make up a massive chunk of the home audio market today. Most wireless speakers offer both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity as a standard feature these days. Although both of these connection methods allow you to stream audio to your speakers, they work in different ways.
Bluetooth technology works by creating a direct connection between two devices. In this case, it would be your wireless speaker and whatever you choose to stream audio from. With a Bluetooth connection, you have the ability to control the sounds being played and the volume. The fact that there is such a short list of actions you can do kind of highlights the limitations of Bluetooth.
The limited bandwidth Bluetooth offers is only capable of streaming MP3 files or other highly compressed music. The audio source also needs to be within close proximity to the speaker. Usually, you only have a distance of up to 20-30 feet at maximum. Finally, Bluetooth audio latency is 50 milliseconds (ms) slower compared to the average latency of Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi is a much more flexible option in comparison. Unlike Bluetooth, Wi-Fi is multi-channeled. This means that multiple devices can be used on a Wi-Fi signal, allowing you to play music throughout your home.
Another benefit of Wi-Fi is signal strength. As mentioned earlier, your wireless speaker can only be, at most, 30 feet away from the audio source with a Bluetooth connection. This is actually a generous measurement because you’re likely to notice interruptions after 15 feet. Whereas with Wi-Fi, you can take your speakers as far as your Wi-Fi stretches.
However, the biggest benefit Wi-Fi offers over Bluetooth is bandwidth. Bandwidth determines how much information can be streamed over at once. If you imagine bandwidth as a pipe, Bluetooth would be a thin pipe and Wi-Fi would be a pipe 10 times the size.
When it comes to purchasing speakers, there is one thing that reigns above all else—sound quality. Since Wi-Fi offers higher bandwidth, it allows for more information to be passed to the speaker, which enables wireless speakers to have a higher bit rate.
Bit rate refers to the number of bits used per second to represent a continuous medium such as audio or video after source coding. The lower the bit rate is, the greater the loss in detail and dynamic range is. Simply put, the higher the bit rate is, the better your music is going to sound.
When 24 bit audio is playing through your speakers, it’s considered uncompressed. These music files have the detail and dynamic range they were meant to have. A good example are Summit’s Wi-Fi speakers which offer:
- Uncompressed audio: 24 bit audio that’s up to 96 kHz
- Ultra-low fixed latency: Audio delay is a negligible 2.6 ms
- Multi-channel: Offers eight channels of 24 bit high resolution audio
A Bluetooth speaker, however, is unable to play uncompressed music. If you don’t have a sharp ear, you may not be able to tell much of a difference. But if you do, the sound quality won’t live up to expectations.
WiSA is an international trade association comprised of leading audio, CE and manufacturing brands who collectively define world-wide standards for wireless, High-Resolution, multichannel audio.
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