Thursday, October 13, 2011

Are Wireless Speakers Suitable For Outdoor Installations?

If you plan on distributing music throughout your home you will be faced with several challenges. You probably do not want to start drilling holes into your walls to add speaker cabling. I will look at wireless speakers as an alternative to wired speakers for whole-house audio distribution.

Regardless of whether you add music at work or home, there are many benefits which music offers. Music can offer relaxation at home. It can also help improve the atmosphere at work. If you do not have a house prewired for audio then you will face a major challenge. Installing the wiring to all of your rooms can be a major hassle.

For outdoor applications, you should pick a waterproof speaker which ideally also is protected against extended exposure to the sun. Outdoor speakers have additional elements which are exposed to the rain. These include the wiring as well as the connection elements and amplifier. Use the same care in protecting these elements against rain.

Mini amplifiers which are distributed with each speaker are an interesting alternative worth investigating. These amps are located close to each speaker. Thus long speaker cable runs are eliminated along with the issue of hum feeding into the speaker cords. Also, individual amps allow changing the volume of each speaker on the spot.

Wireless speakers eliminate long speaker cable runs. Instead, music is sent via a wireless signal to each speaker. The amplifier is already integrated into the speaker itself. The transmitter base connects to the audio source and sends the music wireless to one or several speakers. Ideally the speakers can be paired with the transmitter which allows setting up distinct audio zones in your home or outdoors.

Wireless speakers come in two varieties. 900 MHz type speakers use FM type transmission and are fairly prone to noise and interference. In contrast, wireless speakers which use digital transmission offer crystal-clear transmission and superior reliability. Be sure to look at the operating range of the transmitter closely when you pick wireless speakers. The range needs to be large enough to cover the entire area where you want to set up speakers. Also, keep in mind that the range will also be affected by walls and obstacles. Thus the actual range may vary from the range which the manufacturer specifies. To ensure reliable operation, the wireless protocol should be robust against radio interference from other wireless devices that may be in the area by using an error-correction protocol.

When you set up wireless speakers outdoors the integrated amplifier should have reasonably high wattage. This is because there typically is a lot of background noise coming from traffic, wind and other sources. Also, sound dissipates freely and thus achieving the same sound pressure level outdoors is more challenging outdoors than indoors. If you set up speakers outdoors then you should pick speakers in a waterproof enclosure. This will ensure that the speaker can endure the elements. Some wireless protocols such as Bluetooth compress the wireless signal. Compression is done in order to reduce the data rate and thus bandwidth. This is because Bluetooth and some other protocols do not support uncompressed HiFi audio. Audio compression will reduce the audio fidelity. Typically the more the audio is compressed the lower the audio quality. Also, compression will introduce some latency during the transmission. Low latency is critical for video applications to keep the audio in sync with the video.

When you pick speakers, it is best to give them a listening test. The audio of the speakers depends on the surroundings. Therefore it is best to compare several models side by side in an environment which resembles the location where you plan to set up the speakers. Following the above guidelines, you should be able to pick and install suitable speakers.

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