How do wireless speakers work?
Magic? Harry Potter wand tricks? Goblins?
There really is no simple answer to this question. Wireless speakers can work with a variety of technologies, including radio frequency (RF), Bluetooth, and today even Wi-Fi.
However, the basic process remains the same. A wireless transmitter connects to an audio system such as an iPod, a computer, a Blu-Ray player, a television, etc. This transmitter sends a signal to the speakers, which, in turn, convert it into sound. The signal can be transmitted through several different technologies, which we will discuss below.
Radio frequency, or RF, is the most widely used technology in wireless speakers. Speakers use a particular unused band of the radio spectrum to transmit data wirelessly. A cordless phone works on the same principle.
RF is a fairly efficient, flexible, and affordable technology. It has a good range, extending over 100 feet on certain models (and over 300 feet on some outdoor speakers). There is considerable data loss that can cause degradation of the audio signal, resulting in poor quality playback. Conflicting signals from other wireless devices in the home, such as wireless routers and cordless phones, can cause interference and lead to data loss and disruption. Still, RF, despite its popularity, may be phased out over the next few years as new technologies take its place.
If you bought a new mobile phone in the last 2 years, you are definitely familiar with Bluetooth. As the wireless data transfer standard used in virtually all cell phones, Bluetooth is ubiquitous these days. Through this technology, two Bluetooth-enabled devices can be connected wirelessly in seconds. Once a connection is established, data can be transferred wirelessly at speeds of up to 3MB / second.
Technologically, Bluetooth also works on the radio spectrum. However, instead of using a single band, Bluetooth cuts the data and spreads it over 79 different bands, improving speed and reducing data loss. These bands range from 2400 MHz to 2483.5 MHz.
Bluetooth has a shorter range than pure RF signals. On the plus side, since the entire 2400-2483.5 MHz spectrum (79 bands, along with the spare guard bands) is allocated for Bluetooth use, there is no interference from other wireless devices.
A key problem with Bluetooth is that it is not available on all devices. Older phones, most audio and video players, televisions, and desktop computers are not equipped with native Bluetooth. To use a pair of Bluetooth wireless speakers with these devices, you will have to invest in a Bluetooth transmitter. However, if you primarily use a Bluetooth-enabled device, such as an iPhone or iPod Touch, to listen to your music, you will find that Bluetooth wireless speakers are a competent RF competitor.
Only a select few speakers use Wi-Fi to transmit data, such as the Sonos Play series of speakers. This is the same simple Wi-Fi used in your home. It’s fast and efficient and works great with Wi-Fi-enabled digital devices like computers and mobile phones.
However, most audio players, televisions, etc. they are not Wi-Fi enabled. This means that a Wi-Fi wireless speaker can only play audio from your computer or mobile phone. Obviously, this limits their functionality and is the only reason Wi-Fi wireless speakers have not been accepted by the mainstream.