Wireless Speakers - Finding a Wireless Stereo Speaker System for PC and TV
What to Look for When Buying Wireless Speakers
I’m currently trying to find a pair of high end wireless speakers that I can use with my MP3 player and my computer system. Why wireless? Because I don’t want to buy 2 sets of speakers, I want the flexibility to move around. I want something small and portable I can use with the computer during the day while I work, but at the same time have the flexibility to move to another rooms should the urge strike me. I’m not convinced the same wireless system would be good for TV… too much hassle connecting and disconnecting. I’m also getting kind of tired of the birds nest of wiring I already have behind my home network. You would think that some computer genius would create a computer that could connect everything through a single type of connector and a standardized cable size. Don’t get me started on USB… yikes!
Back in the day… the day when money wasn’t exactly flowing, but my adolescent need to listen to music all day I took a job selling audio equipment. At the time I had a lot to learn about speakers. Until you have listened to high end stereo in a dedicated sound room on something as simple as a pair of KEF Q Series you can’t fully appreciate what is actually encoded on the compact disc. Once you’ve spent some time with real speakers from any high end manufacturer you become a bit spoiled. From that point on simple computer speakers are about as pleasant to the ear as grinding your nails across a chalkboard. The problem of course is it’s not cheap to set up a high end audio system and it’s even harder to deal with the size, weight, heat and acoustic requirements of such a system.
Anyway, I want what everybody wants – well balanced sound from a reasonably priced small, portable wireless speaker system with built in amplification. I’ve been to Best Buy, Frys, Costco, all the regular retail outlets and what I’ve heard so far… well it isn’t up to par. So I thought I’d go back to the day and do a little searching by brand… well known and respected brands.
Factors to Consider in Your Selection of Wireless Stereo Speakers
Sound – no matter how great a speaker system looks on paper it doesn’t mean anything until you have heard them with your own ears. And it’s really tough to get an accurate demonstration of a speaker system in some place like Best Buy with all the ambient noise and poor cabling. You almost have to trust the professional reviewers at magazines like Stereophile, Sound and Vision, or other well known publication and trust they know what they are talking about. You can also read reviews online at sites like Amazon at your own risk.
Amplification – just because they are wireless doesn’t mean they will have their own power source. For my purposes I want both self amplification and wireless, but you may not. If your stereo system is near by and you have a remote control or you don’t plan on using your wireless speakers with your computer maybe having the source amplification in another room is a good choice? If not then you’ll need self amplified speakers. This brings us to your next important decision.
Range – Where
will you place your speakers? How far
from the amplification source or music source will your speakers be
placed. How far apart will you place the
satellites. Will you want to add
additional speakers to your configuration later on as would be the case with
home theater systems? CD Quality audio
transmission is achieved by broadcasting at 2.4GHz radio frequency. Frequencies are regulated by the government
to make sure certain types of broadcasts do not interfere with other
broadcasts. For example your wireless
phone doesn’t interfere with your home stereo speakers. Range is also important because the power of
broadcasting will be limited by the government regulations as well. Bluetooth also uses the 2.4GHz radio frequency bandwidth spectrum.
KEF uses something they call AAFHSS (Advanced Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) with error correction to ensure that the audio signal remains interference free from devices such as wireless LAN routers, digital cordless telephones, mobile phones and microwave ovens. Yep that’s what they say. I believe them because I’m a big fan of KEF equipment. KEF also employs preemptive frequency hopping so if interference does arrive the speakers can jump automatically to an interference free channel. I’m not sure you will find these kind of technologies in no name or low end brands.
Compatibility – Lets say you buy brand X satellite receivers (satellite meaning small self standing speakers… not broadcasting TV from space) and decide later on to add a wireless subwoofer. Will the subwoofer be compatible with the satellite speakers? This is often the case if you buy the same brand, but not always. However not every brand will be compatible with each other so if you anticipate building your system up at a later date be sure to know about compatibility before hand.
Dimensions – Size, Weight, Design. Have you ever had annoying cheap computer speakers that are so light weight that the slightest bump or disturbance sends the careening off the edge of your desk? How about speakers that are so boxy and unattractive that it’s hard to find a spot for them or they are so ugly you want to hide them? Size matters! Or at least in this case it matters.
Frequency Response – We are talking paper specifications again. The human ear can hear from 20Hz to 20kHz but that doesn’t mean you can. And that doesn’t mean the quality of the sound as it transitions from speaker cone to speaker cone will be smooth and consistent. Sure you want low response to hear that base… but you want your base to be clear and distortion free. And on the high end you want the same smooth clean sound. This is a function of design, amplification source, and well design. This is why you really need to listen to speakers in a sound room free of distraction. You need to know they are properly configured and you need to listen with the type of music you like to listen to.
Don’t be Fooled by the term Wireless – You will still encounter some wires, and some companies that promote their product as wireless when in fact only part of the system (Perhaps just the subwoofer) is wireless.
So what am I going to buy? I still don’t know I have more research to do. But I know for sure I won’t be buying the same old Creative Labs, Logitech, Bose designed for computer stuff. I expect I’ll end up spending somewhere between $500 and $1,000 for a pair of quality amplified bookshelf speakers. And I expect even then there will be some tradeoffs. Oh well, the price to pay for enjoying music while you work!
Typical Wireless Stereo Speakers
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