There are a variety of different types of wireless speakers on the market. Many manufacturers imply proprietary wireless protocols. However, there are also some well-established standards. I’m going to take a look at two of these standards and compare performance of these two.
In this post, I’m going to focus on to well-established standards for comparison. In particular, I’m going to focus on Bluetooth as well as AirPlay wireless speakers. Bluetooth speakers are probably well known since there are now thousands of different models available. They utilize Bluetooth wireless transmission. This technology enables transmission of data at a limited rate between a portable device or computer and a peripheral device. The transmission is bilateral which means both the transmitter and the receiver send and receive data. The data rate is limited to about 2 Mb per second. However, in real environments under realistic conditions, the effective throughput is more like 1 Mb per second.
Due to this limited data rate, Bluetooth speakers usually cannot transmit audio uncompressed. That, however, is not a big issue because most portable players store music in compressed formats. However, there’s also a standard which builds on top of Bluetooth which features low latency and less compression. The standard is superior in terms of audio quality to the more popular sub-band coding standard. However, it is not supported by all players. For streaming of real-time audio, and low latency codec is crucial. However, for streaming casual music as well as compressed track such as MP3s, the sub-band coding works pretty well.
One characteristic of Bluetooth speakers is the fact that they are usually limited in their wireless range. Typically, the speakers work for up to 30 feet from the transmitting device. However, there are also some strong the transmitters which allow operation of up to 100 feet.
AirPlay speakers use a format which was developed by Apple. This format builds on top of the popular Wi-Fi standard. However, the streaming device needs to install an application. Apple cell phones, however, support native streaming and AirPlay. The audio fidelity of AirPlay is higher than Bluetooth because no or limited compression is used. Wi-Fi by definition is capable of streaming more data than Bluetooth. Unfortunately, wireless speakers supporting AirPlay are still fairly limited and quite expensive. In contrast, Bluetooth speakers are widely available and have dropped in prices tremendously. So ultimately you will have to decide whether you a portable speaker or a higher-and speaker and also you will have to take a look at your budget when deciding between the two types of wireless speakers.