Can Wireless Speakers Sound as Good as Wired?
The age long battle rages on...
Can wireless speaker sound as good as wired?
The simple answer is that it depends. Modern wireless speakers today are almost as good as wired speakers and can hold their ground when it comes to audio quality. But wired speakers still have their use when needed. While that might be a bit confusing it actually depends on a number of things to make an accurate judgement
For example, it depends on the speakers and the amplifiers inside
Ever since features like Bluetooth and WiFi became commonplace, most manufacturers have been adapting and making their products better to free us all from the stress of wires and in ceiling speakers
But the simple truth is that wired speakers still dominate
Most audiophiles I have spoken to still claim that wired speakers offer a higher audio quality and produce better sounds than most wireless speakers
In this article I will be breaking it down and talk about the sound quality between wired and wireless speakers and the pros and cons of each.
Let’s compare the sound quality between Wired and Wireless speakers
Ever since wireless speakers came into the market a few years ago, it’s been maintained that wired speakers offer superior sound quality
The reasoning for this is quite simple
It was agreed that it is much easier and less stressful to transmit greater amounts of electrical and sound data down a physical wire than through wireless signal.
It was thought that more data equals higher fidelity and so for a long time, nobody really paid any attention to wireless speakers
But that was a very long time ago my friend… and while you can still argue that most wired speakers deliver better sound quality than their wireless counterparts, it will be very foolish to ignore the fact that wireless speakers are stepping up their game.
The truth is that the difference in sound quality between wired and wireless is very small these days and most people, especially hard core audiophiles are beginning to take notice.
There are a couple of things which have made these possible though
First we have the awesome technology of transmitting sound through WiFi which means more data can be handled which in turn improves the audio quality
Also there is the matter of Bluetooth and the standards which have steadily been increasing higher and higher.
For example, the latest protocol which I think is the Bluetooth 4.1 can handle an insane amount of data which all adds more depth and quality to the sound produced.
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Finally the design of most recent speakers have improved and will continue to do so going forward.
Things like enhanced driver technology, better power management and the like ensure that wireless speakers are matching their counterparts equally.
To really compare them and get better insights a little test was done by our friend over here.
They lined up their HDP6 wired bookshelf speakers against the HD6 wireless speakers
A few things to note about this test was that they controlled as much as possible, used the same sound source throughout, positioned them in the same place and used the same tracks for the test
The speakers had similar construction, roughly the same size, made from the same material and both have the same frequency response.
After running the tests, the following results were gathered
While there were subtle differences in sound, there was no distinct winner or loser among both speakers.
One speaker, which was the HD6 wireless pair, had a little bit more low end presence while the wired bookshelf speakers had a touch more detail to the sound.
In conclusion, in both cases the sound quality delivered was exceptional with little difference.
Pros and cons of Wired Speakers
The biggest advantage of wired speakers today actually has nothing to do with sound quality
Now i know that may be a bit controversial because most die hard audiophiles swear by the sound quality of wired speakers
The biggest advantage is all about control
Put simply, wired speakers offer you a level of control over the finer aspects of your sound than most wireless speakers do.
Every digital sound system - by which we mean one where the source is digital file, streaming audio or a CD, rather than, say, vinyl records – needs two things between the source and the output device.
It needs a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), to convert digital 1s and 0s into an analogue signal that we can actually hear, and it needs an amplifier, to boost that analogue signal to acceptable levels.
sounds tricky, but it really isn’t: even your phone has a DAC and amp inside it, which is why you’re able to plug a pair of headphones in and start listening immediately.
These two components have a huge impact on the sound you will eventually hear, and in a set of wireless speakers, you don’t get any control over them at all.
They are housed within the speaker itself – they have to be.
But with a set of wired speakers, that’s not the case at all. With a set of wired speakers, you have full control over these.
While it does mean, of course, that you will need to buy a separate amp and DAC (although there are plenty of solutions that contain both in a single box), you also get to control the ones you buy.
You may decide to go for a tube amp, to fatten up the bass on your soul and hip-hop collection, or you might opt for a solid-state amp if you want clean, digital clarity to make sure that the guitars in your rock tracks bite hard.
You get to choose. With wireless speakers, that choice has been made for you.
Again wired speakers are very easy to use. Basically all you need to do is to connect them to an amplifier with a length of wire and you are good to go.
While we have looked at the advantages, these does not mean they do not have disadvantages.
The main one is that you have to stress and deal with wires. You all know how annoying cables crossing each other can be and also the potential hazard of tripping and falling.
The next disadvantage is that you need to do a bit of calculation before you buy to ensure that your speakers and amplifier have the same power output
Wireless Speakers Pros and Cons
The major advantage is that obviously there are no annoying wires to deal with
All you need to do is plug in your speaker, connecting it to a wall outlet (or not, if it’s battery driven), then hook it up to your sound source via WiFi or Bluetooth, and you’re away.
For me personally, this is absolutely the best reason to own a wireless speaker. It is so unbelievably easy.
The other advantage is that a wireless system can be incredibly versatile.
You can have a single speaker, or multiple speakers dotted around the house, all talking to each other.
You can, with clever software innovations like PlayFi, get speakers from different manufacturers talking to each other – something that is possible with wired speakers, where you could use two different sets of speakers on a single system, but not advised due to sound mismatching issues.
Of course, the main disadvantage is as we alluded to above: you get zero control over the amplification and conversion.
Once you commit to a wireless speaker, it can be very difficult – though not impossible – to connect external equipment to it.
This is by design. Admittedly, many manufacturers (like SONOS and Paradigm) have comprehensive sound tweaking apps available, which largely dispel this disadvantage.
That being said, the quality of external amps is generally far greater than the ones used in wireless speakers.
Wherever you come down on the sound quality debate, we think you’d have trouble arguing against this
Also here is an article I wrote on the best speaker for apartments.