Wireless technology in general has undergone tremendous changes in the past few decades. The most fundamental change has been the transition from analog to digital. Many radio stations are converting to the digital format. The same goes for TV stations although in the United States, terrestrial television is not as dominant as in Europe. As a result, digital standards for terrestrial television are more advanced in Europe than in America. Radio stations also have started convert from analog to digital although most people still prefer using FM stereo’s versus the new satellite radios. However, aside from radio receivers and television sets, the digital revolution has also transformed the operation of other consumer products such as cordless telephones and wireless speakers. In this post I will look at some of the changes in the technology as it is being used for manufacturing wireless speakers.
Similar to radio, traditional wireless speakers were all based on technology that is quite similar to classic FM radio. Only in the last decade have different standards emerged which set themselves apart from that technology. Initially, wireless speakers which are based on digital transmission have been more expensive to manufacturer and thus they advance has been hampered. However, with the introduction of Bluetooth and in particular Bluetooth audio profiles, the number of wireless speakers which utilize digital audio transmission technology has literally exploded. Bluetooth is just one technology that has dominated the speaker market in the last few years. This technology is based on the classic Bluetooth standard but adds another level on top which encodes the audio in the format which has been standardized. This standard dictates which audio compression technology is being utilized and also how the data is formatted onto the data stream. That is crucial because devices which are able to stream to Bluetooth speakers are manufactured by a number of different vendors.
In contrast, many wireless speakers come with transmitters which are manufactured by the same company as speakers. Therefore, transmission protocols being used for digital wireless speakers are different between different vendors. While not having a standardized transmission format seems to be a disadvantage, those technologies do have important attributes which makes them favorable over standardized technologies. One of these attributes is the fact that they can accommodate uncompressed audio. That means the audio fidelity of speakers using such technology is usually higher than of speakers using Bluetooth. That might explain why the bulk of the Bluetooth speakers are sold at less than $100. In contrast, high-and wireless speakers usually do not use Bluetooth but instead either a proprietary format or another format such as airplay or Wi-Fi.
Aside from not having to compress audio, proprietary wireless protocols also usually have more range and are able to stream from one transmitting device to multiple receivers. Bluetooth has a limitation of only being able to stream from one location to another location which means that it is quite complicated to set up multiple speakers and stream from one device.