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A Glance At Some Of The Trendiest Wireless Gadgets

By Brian Fuller

Latest-generation wireless audio products such as iPods, iPhones and wireless surround sound products promise to cut the cord while delivering crystal-clear audio. We will look at some of the most recent products to find out which applications they work for.

These products fall into 2 categories. The first type of products already has wireless built in. Second-category products, such as some streaming audio products, have optional wireless capability. Typically they have a slot to add a wireless LAN card. Newer cell phones and MP3 players already come with support for wireless. iPhones and touch-screen iPods, for example, have Bluetooth and WiFi.

Bluetooth is a fairly low-cost solution but has some drawbacks which are often overlooked.

1) Limited operating range

The range of Bluetooth devices is typically only 30 ft. This excludes Bluetooth from multi-room applications.

2) Low data rate – audio compression

Bluetooth will apply audio compression since it does not reliably offer a high-enough data rate for uncompressed audio. Audio compression will degrade the audio quality to some extent. High-quality audio transmission typically does not tolerate this type of degradation. Therefore Bluetooth is normally not used in high-end audio products.

3) Signal latency

Due to audio compression, Bluetooth will introduce a signal delay of at least 10 ms which will cause the audio to be slightly out of sync in case of video and real-time applications. This is again less of a problem for MP3 players.

4) No multiple headphone support

Bluetooth is fairly limited in terms of supporting streaming to multiple headphones. Streaming to multiple headphones is useful for several people wanting to listen to the same transmitter. This is less of a problem for MP3 player applications.

WiFi is another widely used wireless protocol that is also suitable for audio streaming. WiFi does support uncompressed audio but will have problems transmitting to a large number of wireless receivers simultaneously. Due to the fairly high power consumption it is rarely used in wireless headphones though. WiFi is convenient for streaming audio from a PC however since almost all PCs have WiFi access.

Home wireless speaker products and wireless amplifiers normally use proprietary protocols. These protocols are specially designed for real-time audio applications. However, entry-level wireless speakers and headphones still use FM transmission. FM transmission suffers from fairly high audio distortion and hiss / static.

More advanced wireless protocols are based on digital formats which eliminate audio degradation and incorporate advanced features such as error correction to cope with interference from competing wireless devices.

Latest-generation wireless amplifiers employ uncompressed audio transmission. New protocols also allow streaming to an unlimited number of receivers. This allows whole-house audio distribution. Some of these protocols support low-latency audio transmission which ensures that the audio of all speakers will be in sync in a multi-channel application. Typically newer generation wireless audio transmitters will operate at 2.4 GHz. Some transmitters, such as Amphony’s line of products, operate at the less crowded 5.8 GHz frequency band.

Wireless amplifiers offer different levels of audio quality, output power and standby power. Wireless Class-D amplifiers normally have standby power of 5 Watts or less and a power efficiency of greater than 80% but sometimes high audio distortion. Picking a low-distortion amplifier is key. Good-quality wireless amplifiers have audio distortion of less than 0.05%.

You can find additional information regarding wireless audio products from Amphony’s website.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Fuller, Brian "A Glance At Some Of The Trendiest Wireless Gadgets." A Glance At Some Of The Trendiest Wireless Gadgets. 2 Jul. 2010. 31 Oct 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Fuller, B (2010, July 2). A Glance At Some Of The Trendiest Wireless Gadgets. Retrieved October 31, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Fuller, Brian "A Glance At Some Of The Trendiest Wireless Gadgets"

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