Suggestions For Choosing The Best Wireless Audio Transmitter Device For Whole-House Audio Streaming

Published: 21st June 2010
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An increasing number of wireless audio transmitter products claim the ultimate freedom in streaming audio all over the home. We will look at the most widespread technologies for wireless audio and give some suggestions for selecting the best wireless audio product.

If your home is not wired for audio then you face quite a problem when you want to get your music from your living room to your bed room. Frequently the audio source cannot be moved. Running speaker wires between rooms will be expensive and as a result many people are searching for other options. There are a number of technologies solving this problem. These include infrared wireless, RF wireless, wireless LAN (WLAN) and powerline.

Infrared is limited to line of sight since the audio signal is broadcast as lightwaves and therefore products using this technology, such as infrared wireless surround sound products, are restricted to a single room.

RF wireless products will broadcast the signal as RF waves. These waves can easily go through walls. RF wireless audio devices either make use of FM transmission or digital audio transmission. The least expensive choice is FM transmission. Products utilizing FM transmission, however, have a series of drawbacks. These include degradation of the audio quality due to static or hiss and audio distortion. In addition, FM transmitter products are also rather prone to interference from other wireless transmitters.

Digital wireless audio transmitter devices, such as products from Amphony, use a digital protocol. The audio is first converted to digital data before being transmitted. This conversion and transmission in the digital domain will ensure that the original audio quality is maintained. 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.

Wireless LAN (WLAN) products are useful when streaming from a PC but will add some amount of latency or delay to the signal since wireless LAN was not originally designed for real-time audio streaming. Also, a number of products require to buy separate wireless LAN modules that are plugged into every audio receiver.

Powerline products use the power mains as a medium to send the audio. These products usually provide excellent range. However, they face problems if there are several separate mains circuits in the home. In this situation the signal will have trouble crossing between these circuits. Another problem facing powerline products are strong power surges and spikes. Such surges can cause dropouts in the audio due to errors in the transmission. To safeguard against these errors, powerline products typically build a delay of several seconds into the transmission.

Now we'll give you some guidelines for shopping for a wireless system: Pick a system that supports numerous wireless receivers if you plan to stream audio to a number of rooms so that you don't have to buy a separate transmitter for every receiver. Some products have some sort of error correction built in which will help guard against dropouts in case of strong wireless interference. Select 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 of the audio inputs you need, e.g. speaker inputs, RCA inputs etc. Get a wireless system where you can purchase additional receivers later on. You should confirm that you can get receivers for all the different applications you have. Such receivers may include amplified receivers for passive speakers or line-level receivers for active speakers. Pick a transmitter that can regulate the audio volume of the input stage. This will give you the versatility to connect the transmitter to any type of equipment with different signal levels. Otherwise the audio may get clipped inside the transmitter converter stage or the dynamic range is not fully utilized.

Ensure that the amplified wireless receivers have built-in digital amplifiers with low distortion figures. This will keep the receiver cool due to high amplifier power efficiency and offer optimum sound quality. Make sure the receivers can drive speakers with your preferred Ohm rating. Choosing a product where the wireless receivers have a small footprint and easy mounting options will help during the installation. Products utilizing the less crowded 5.8 GHz frequency band will generally have less problems with wireless interference than 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz devices.

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