Running long speaker wires has always been a major drag when setting up home theater systems. Not surprisingly, wireless surround sound systems have become popular lately as the sound quality has improved over previous models. There are several technologies which are utilized for making the wireless option possible. I will take a look at some of these options and highlight some of the pros and cons of each technology.
First of all, I’m going to highlight powerline adapters. What is attractive about these adapters is that they utilize the power line in order to transmit audio. Technically, you couldn’t call these adapters wireless surround sound – see here for more info – because they are not wireless but instead utilize the power line. However, they certainly eliminate speaker cables. Note however that you will need a special audio adapter in order to transmit audio via the power line. A powerline adapter by itself is simply able to transmit a network signal. You will need a component which can convert the audio into data and then format the data into a suitable format that can be transmitted via a network connection.
The big advantage of powerline adapters is that there is no wireless signal which means that you other wireless devices will not be affected. Another advantage is that the power line signal can usually propagate throughout your entire home and thus has much better range then wireless systems. Also, it is usually stopped by power meters and thus your signal is not going to interfere with your neighbor.
The big drawback of powerline adapters is that because of power fluctuations caused by other devices which are connected to power, they usually are disruptions in the signal which makes it necessary to introduce a fair amount of buffering when transmitting audio data. As a result, there is quite some latency which can affect the sink between the audio and video. While powerline adapters therefore are quite attractive for sending audio throughout your home, they are less ideal for home theater systems where low latency is important.
Wireless systems usually offer less latency and are much more suitable for use in home theater systems. However, they do tend to interfere with other wireless devices. Another option are infrared transmitters. These systems are great for home theater systems because they are contained within a single room. Also, the infrared signal does not escape the room and will not interfere with other devices which might be located in other adjacent rooms.