Recently more and more wireless wireless surround sound transmitter devices have appeared which promise to deliver the ultimate freedom of sending music throughout the house. We will take a look at the most popular technologies for wireless audio and give some tips for choosing the best wireless audio product.
Getting audio from your living room to your bedroom can be quite a problem especially in houses which are not wired for audio. There are several technologies solving this problem. These include infrared wireless, RF wireless, wireless LAN (WLAN) and powerline.
Infrared wireless audio products are restricted to line-of-sight applications, i.e. only work within a single room since the signal is sent as infrared light which cannot go through walls. This technology is often found in wireless speaker kit products.
RF wireless products broadcast the music as RF waves – either by utilizing FM transmission or digital transmission – and can as a result without problems transmit through walls. FM transmitters are the cheapest option. They provide good range but the audio signal is prone to audio distortion and hiss and is extremely susceptible to interference from other wireless transmitters.
Digital wireless audio transmitter devices, such as products from Amphony, make use of a digital protocol. The audio is first converted to digital data before being broadcast. This conversion and transmission in the digital domain will make sure that the original audio quality is preserved. However, this is only the case of the data is sent uncompressed. Some wireless audio transmitters will apply some type of audio compression. Such products include Bluetooth audio transmitters. Audio compression will degrade the quality of the audio to some extent.
WLAN products are practical for broadcasting audio from a PC. However, wireless LAN was never designed for real-time audio streaming. As a result, products utilizing WLAN will introduce some amount of delay to the signal. WLAN receivers ordinarily require purchasing a separate LAN card to be plugged into each receiver.
Powerline products utilize the power mains as a medium to send the audio. These products normally provide excellent range. However, they face problems if there are a number of separate mains circuits in the house. In this case the signal will have difficulty crossing between these circuits. Another problem confronting powerline products are strong power surges and spikes. Such surges can bring about dropouts in the audio due to errors in the transmission. To safeguard against these errors, powerline products normally build a delay of several seconds into the transmission.
Here are some tips for selecting a wireless audio system: If you plan to stream audio into several rooms of your home, be certain to select a system that permits streaming to multiple receivers at the same time. That way you don’t have to buy a separate transmitter for every receiver that you are streaming to. Products with some sort of error correction will be more resistant against radio interference from other wireless transmitters. Choose a digital RF transmitter to preserve the original audio quality, preferably one with an audio latency of less than 10 ms in case of video or other time-sensitive applications.
Pick a transmitter that has all the audio inputs you need, such as speaker inputs, line-level RCA inputs etc. Make sure that you can purchase separate receivers later on as you expand your system. Verify that you can get receivers with speaker outputs for connecting regular loudspeakers as well as receivers with line-level RCA outputs. Choose a transmitter that can regulate the audio volume of the input stage. This will give you the versatility to connect the transmitter to any kind of equipment with different signal levels. Otherwise the audio may get clipped inside the transmitter converter stage or the dynamic range is not fully used.
Make sure that the system offers amplified receivers with a digital amplifier to ensure high power efficiency. This will help keep the receiver cool during operation. In addition, make sure the amplifier provides low audio distortion. This is crucial for good sound quality. Verify that the amplified receiver is able to drive speakers with the desired Ohm rating and that it is small and easily mountable for easy installation. Devices which operate in the 5.8 GHz frequency band will have less problems with wireless interference than products using the crowded 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz frequency band.
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