Before we get in-depth into wireless speaker transmitters, let us first understand how wireless speakers actually work:
Every wireless speaker system works on any of the following three systems:
1. Radio Frequency (RF)
3. Infrared (IR)
Of these three technologies, RF has been around the longest and is the most widely used. In this system, a wireless speaker transmitter is plugged into the TV/computer/audio device. This transmitter sends out a radio signal at a fixed frequency to the speakers, which in turn, produce sound. This is the same principle on which cordless phones work. While this technology is quite reliable with a strong range, it is prone to disturbance from electrical fields and conflicting frequencies from cordless phones, radios, etc.
Bluetooth is the latest technology. It works by establishing a remote connection between two Bluetooth enabled devices, which can then be used to transfer data. If you have a Bluetooth enabled phone, you’ve probably already used this technology to send and receive data. Fast, reliable, and safe from disturbances, Bluetooth is slowly making inroads into the home audio market, though its uptake is hampered by issues of range and compatibility (older audio devices do not support Bluetooth, especially the non-iPodTouch music players).
Infrared is probably the least common technology. It works on the same principle as your TV remote by using a particular spectrum of light to send and receive data. If you’ve noticed, you can’t use your TV remote unless it is pointing directly at the TV. Similarly, wireless speakers working on IR need to be directly in sight of the wireless speaker transmitter to work. This obviously limits their portability, and hence, this technology hasn’t quite caught on.
Wireless Speaker Transmitters
Most wireless speaker transmitters work on RF. A universal wireless receiver/transmitter plugs into your existing speaker setup (wired) and essentially turns it into a wireless system. It effectively eliminates complex speaker wiring (which, as anyone will tell you, can turn into a labyrinth of cables very, very quickly), and is ideal if you want to set up a home theater system without the hassle, or install a set of outdoor speakers without running a series of wires through your house.
A wireless speaker transmitter typically has a range in excess of 100 feet, with at least 2 audio channels and 6-8 wireless channels to eliminate disturbances (if one RF channel creates disturbances, you can simply switch to another channel). Make sure to check out the total power available with the transmitter. If you buy a low powered transmitter to work with a high-end, high-wattage speaker system, the performance will suffer a great deal. Another key spec is the audio latency. Basically, this is the amount of latency or waiting period between a signal being transmitted by the device and it’s rendering by the speakers. Since the signal is being transmitted wirelessly, the latency period is always much more than a regular wired system. The lower the latency, the better.
Sony, Samsung, JBL, etc. all make wireless speaker receivers that work seamlessly with different speaker setups. Here are some recommended wireless speaker transmitter models:
1. Samsung SWA-5000 Wireless Receiver
This elegant wireless speaker transmitter sells for $99 and features 2 audio channels, 6 wireless channels, and total power of 133~167W x 2. The audio latency is a healthy 18ms. A great looking device that will look right at home with your high-end speaker system and LCD TV.
2. Rocketfish RF-RBAUX Wireless Transmitter
Featuring Rocketfish’s proprietary ‘Rocketboost’ technology, this wireless transmitter may well be mistaken for a modem or router instead. While it may not have the sleek design of the Samsung SWA-5000, it is nonetheless, a great performer and works with pretty much any speaker system. The Rocketfish RF-RBAUX has a solid range and will work perfectly well in a large house. Now you can have music playing wirelessly in every room of your house!
Other recommendations: Sony ALTEC-ALT-A33PC Wireless Delivery System. Works like a charm. Included receiver can store and free up your music for delivery in another room.