Although there is a large selection portable and compact wireless active Bluetooth and WiFi loudspeakers, designed for personal listening to music, there is everything more consumers, asking about the availability of wireless speakers, designed specifically for home theater .
Use of long, unsightly speaker wires required to connect speakers for settings surround sound can be quite annoying. As a result, consumers are attracted to increasingly mainstream home theater options that advertise wireless speakers as a solution to this problem. However, don’t fall for the term «wireless». These speakers may not be as wireless as you’d expect.
What a loudspeaker needs to create sound
A loudspeaker needs two types of signals to work.
- First, the speakers must have access to the music or film. This is provided in the form of electrical impulses (sound signal).
- Secondly, in order for the speaker to receive electrical sound impulses and convert these impulses into real sound that you can hear, the speaker must be physically connected to an amplifier that can be powered by a battery (most applicable for portable devices). device) or alternating current.
For a complete understanding of how loudspeakers work, how to safely keep them clean as well as the different types used for listening to music and movies, see Woofers, Tweeters, Crossovers: Understanding Loudspeaker Technology .
Wireless Home Theater Requirements
In a traditional loudspeaker setup, the audio signals and power needed to operate the loudspeaker are carried through the loudspeaker wire connections from the amplifier.
However, in a wireless speaker setup, a transmitter is required to send the required audio signals, and a wireless receiver must be used to receive the transmitted audio signals.
The transmitter must be physically connected to exits preamplifier on the receiver, or a complete home theater system may include a built-in or plug-in wireless transmitter.
The transmitter sends the music/movie sound track information to a speaker or auxiliary amplifier that has a built-in wireless receiver.
However, another connection is needed to complete the process — power. Since power cannot be transmitted wirelessly, in order to create an audio signal that is transmitted wirelessly so that you can actually hear it, additional power is required to operate the speaker.
This means that the speaker still needs to be physically connected to the power supply and amplifier. The amplifier may be built right into the speaker cabinet or, in some cases, the speakers may be physically connected via speaker wire to an external amplifier that is powered by batteries or connected to AC power.
The battery option severely limits the wireless speaker’s ability to deliver enough power for an extended period of time.
When Wireless Isn’t Truly Wireless
One way to use so-called wireless speakers in some systems «Home theater in a box» where the wireless surround speakers have a separate amplifier module for the surround speakers.
This means that the main receiver unit has a built-in amplifier that physically connects to the left, center and right front speakers, but has a transmitter that sends the surround sound signals to another amplifier module that is located at the back of the room. ,
The surround speakers are then wired to a second amplifier module at the back of the room. You haven’t eliminated any wires, you’ve just moved where they go. Of course, the second amplifier still needs to be plugged into an AC outlet, which means another «cable».
When setting up a wireless speaker, you may have eliminated the long wires that usually come from a signal source such as stereo or home theater receiver but you still need to connect the so-called wireless speaker to its own power supply or a second amplifier module. This can limit speaker placement, as distance from an accessible AC outlet becomes a major issue. You may still need a fairly long power cord if there is no convenient power outlet nearby.
An example of a system home theater in a box which includes wireless surround speakers (as well as a built-in Blu-ray disc player), is Samsung HT-J5500W, which was originally released in 2015 but is still available.
Other examples of «home theater in a box» systems (excluding the built-in Blu-ray Disc player) that provide an option for wireless surround speakers are Bose Lifestyle 600 and 650 .
There are also systems like Vizio SB4451-CO , SB46514-F6 and Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro, which are supplied with soundbar for front channels and wireless subwoofer for low frequencies and receiving surround sound signals. The subwoofer sends surround sound signals to the two surround speakers through the wired connections of the physical speakers.
Sonos option for wireless surround speakers
Several a more practical option for wireless surround speakers is the solution offered by Sonos with Playbar, Playbase or Beam Systems. These products have built-in amplifiers and speakers for left, center and right channels, which are placed on the soundbar or soundbase.
Besides, Sonos offers the option which allows users to add an optional wireless subwoofer and is also expandable to a full 5.1 surround sound system by syncing with two independently amplified Sonos Play:1, PLAY:3 or Sonos One wireless speakers. These speakers can double as wireless speakers for Playbar, Playbase or Beam, or act as independent wireless speakers for music streaming.
DTS Play-Fi, Denon HEOS and Yamaha MusicCast Wireless Surround Speaker Solutions
As with Sonos, DTS PlayFi provides licensed companies with the ability to use wireless surround speakers in a soundbar system using compatible wireless speakers. Controlled via compatible smartphones. One soundbar that supports Play-Fi wireless surround sound is Polk Audio SB-1 Plus .
Denon has added a wireless surround sound system to its HEOS wireless multi-room audio system . HEOS AVR is one of Denon’s standalone home theater receivers that can be used with either wired or wireless speakers surround sound .
Following instructions DTS and Denon, Yamaha has added wireless surround and wireless subwoofer capability to its wireless multi-room audio system MusicCast . MusicCast Wireless Surround available on select Yamaha home theater receivers.
Sonos, Play-Fi, Heos and MusicCast are closed systems. This means that their wireless speakers cannot be mixed across platforms.
Wireless speaker technology is gaining popularity in a growing number active subwoofers . Wireless subwoofers make a lot of sense, as they are self-powered already with a built-in amplifier and the necessary AC connection. Adding a wireless receiver to a subwoofer does not require a major upgrade.
Because subwoofers are sometimes located far from a home theater receiver, including a wireless transmitter to send signals to the subwoofer, which is either built-in or can be connected to a home theater receiver or preamplifier, and having a wireless receiver placed inside the subwoofer is a very practical idea.
The home theater receiver sends low frequency pulses through the wireless transmitter to the wireless subwoofer. The subwoofer’s built-in amplifier provides the power you need to hear the sound.
This is becoming very popular in soundbar systems where there are only two components: the main soundbar and a separate subwoofer.
While the location of the wireless subwoofer eliminates the need for the long cable typically required and allows for more flexibility in placing the subwoofer in a room, the soundbar and subwoofer still need to be plugged into an AC outlet or power strip. However, it’s much more convenient to find an outlet for one speaker (a powered subwoofer) than the two, five, or seven speakers that make up a typical home theater system setup.
One example of a wireless subwoofer is Klipsch R-10SWI .
While wireless technology is widely used for Internet connectivity and audio/video streaming in the home theater environment, the elusiveness of quality products and transmission standards makes it difficult to introduce wireless speaker technology that is applicable for serious home theater use.
To satisfy this need, was established in 2011 Association of Wireless Speakers and Audio Devices (WiSA) to develop and coordinate standards, design, sales training and promotion for wireless home audio products such as speakers, A/V receivers and source devices.
With the support of several keynote speakers (Bang & Olufsen, Polk, Klipsch), audio components (Pioneer, Sharp), and chip manufacturers (Silicon Image, Summit Semiconductor), this trade group aims to standardize interoperable wireless audio standards. with uncompressed audio, Hi-Res Audio and surround sound formats, and the development and marketing of audio and acoustic products that are interoperable between different manufacturers. This makes it easier for consumers to purchase and use wireless components and speakers that are suitable for home theater applications.
As a result of WiSA’s efforts, several options for the Home Theater Wireless Speaker product have been made available to consumers with more on the go.
Here are some examples.