What Is Wireless Audio?
Products like Sonos provide network devices and amplifiers for speakers in each room.
No wires, great sound in multiple rooms and absolute control from the palm of your hand. That's the promise of wireless home audio — a once high-priced technology now available to the 99 percent. Companies are finding better and cheaper ways to integrate wireless audio into your existing tech life with items like Apple's AirPlay technology popping up in more speaker docks and receivers.
What do I need for wireless audio?
General setups consist of one wireless receiver box (such as a $349 Sonos Connect) per room, a controller (often just an app on your smartphone or tablet), a home Wi-Fi network, storage for audio files (computer, phone or tablet) and speakers in each room.
How does it sound?
That depends on the quality of the source and speakers, but Wi-Fi-based wireless audio sounds identical to a wired connection. Network hiccups/congestion can interrupt audio: i.e., downloading a movie at the same time you're trying to stream music files. But otherwise, you should be fine.
[SEE ALSO: Best Affordable Stereo Speakers: GoldenEar Aon 2]
How much does wireless audio cost?
For a two-room system, you can get started for about $360.
Apple's AirPlay is an economical tech and is becoming a standard on a lot of speaker docks. You can send audio from a Mac or Windows computer or iOS mobile device to multiple speakers simultaneously. AirPlay speakers start at about $180 (for example, the iHome iW2), so you can hook up two rooms for $360, assuming you already have a computer and/or iOS device.
[SEE ALSO: What Is Apple AirPlay?]
Sonos offers more capabilities. It starts at $700 for a pair of Sonos Connect units if you already have powered speakers or a home stereo system. Sonos also offers the Connect Amp ($499), which has a built-in amplifier for non-powered speakers. You can use your iOS or Android device or computer as the controller so you don’t have to shell out for Sonos’s $349 wireless controller. You get extensive control over each room and you can add up to 32 rooms.
One Connect unit has to be hooked up to your router. Or you can get a $49 Bridge that connects the router to the Sonos wireless system. (Sonos sends audio over its own wireless network and only plugs into your regular Wi-Fi network to pull audio from your PC, smartphone, tablet or the Internet.) One big advantage is that Sonos lets you access many major free and premium music services like Spotify and Pandora.
[SEE ALSO: What's New With Spotify?]
Some System Options
- Sonos Connect ($349 per room) — the standard in wireless multiroom audio, — pulls music from PCs, Macs, networked drives, mobile devices and major free and subscription online music services such as Spotify.
- iHome iW2 ($180 per room) - a solid budget AirPlay speaker and dock.
- Denon Cocoon Home ($599 per room) - high-end AirPlay speaker/dock with impressive sound.