July 14, 2021
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:
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.
The WiSA Association and its members take wireless audio seriously. We work with over 60 manufacturers worldwide to provide WiSA Certified products that bring high quality, robust sound you deserve. Contact us to learn more about this topic and our partners.