Tips For Picking the Best Wireless Audio Transmitter Product For Whole-House Audio Streaming

An increasing number of wireless audio transmitter products promise the ultimate freedom in streaming music all over the house. We will take a look at different products and technologies to find out in how far these products are useful for whole-house audio applications and what to look out for when buying a wireless system.

Running music in your house can be a daunting task. Many homes are not wired for multi-room audio and getting the music from your living room to your bedroom can be quite a challenge. Products which solve this problem are usually based on the following technologies: infrared wireless, RF wireless, wireless LAN or powerline.

Infrared wireless audio products are limited to line-of-sight applications, i.e. only operate within a single room since the signal is sent as infrared light which cannot penetrate walls. This technology is often found in wireless speaker kit products.

RF wireless audio products send the audio signal via radio waves. These radio wave signals can easily go through walls. The signal is sent either by using FM transmission or digital transmission. FM transmitters are the least expensive option. They offer good range but the audio signal is prone to audio distortion and noise and is very susceptible to interference from other wireless transmitters.

Digital wireless audio transmitter products utilize a digital protocol. The audio is first converted to digital data before being transmitted. This method ensures that the audio quality is fully preserved. Some transmitters use some form of audio compression, such as Bluetooth transmitters, which will degrade the audio to some degree. Transmitters which send the audio data uncompressed will achieve the highest fidelity.

Products using wireless LAN are useful when streaming audio from a PC. Their drawback is that they typically have some fairly high latency, i.e. the signal will be delayed by some amount since wireless LAN was not specifically designed for real-time audio streaming. Also, some products require to purchase separate wireless LAN modules that are plugged into each audio receiver.

Powerline products send the audio via the power mains and offer great range. They run into problems in houses where there are separate mains circuits in terms of being able to cross over into another circuit. Also, these products build in a delay of several seconds to safeguard against transmission errors during power surges and spikes which prevents their use in applications where the audio from wireless speakers has to be in sync with other non-wireless speakers or video.

Here are some tips for picking a wireless audio system: If you plan to stream audio into several rooms of your house, be sure to select a system that allows streaming to multiple receivers at the same time. That way you don’t have to buy a separate transmitter for each receiver that you are streaming to. Some products have some form of error correction built in which will help guard against dropouts in case of strong wireless interference. Pick a digital RF audio transmitter to ensure that the audio quality is preserved. Make sure the audio latency is less than 10 ms if you have a real-time application such as video.

Select a transmitter that has all of the audio inputs you need, e.g. speaker inputs, RCA inputs etc. Choose a system where you can add receivers later on which offer all of the required outputs, e.g. amplified speaker outputs, RCA outputs etc. If you go with a digital audio transmitter, choose one with an input audio level control knob to prevent the audio signal from clipping inside the transmitter audio converter. This will ensure optimum dynamic range regardless of the signal level of your equipment.

Check that the amplified wireless receivers have built-in digital amplifiers with low distortion figures. This will keep the receiver cool due to high amplifier power efficiency and provide optimum sound quality. Make sure the receivers can drive speakers with your desired Ohm rating. Picking a product where the wireless receivers have a small footprint and easy mounting options will help during the installation. Products which operate in the 5.8 GHz frequency band will have less problems with wireless interference than products using the crowded 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz frequency band.

Designing a Whole House Audio System

FOUR CRITICAL QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU START YOUR SYSTEM DESIGN.

1. What, exactly, is whole house audio?

Whole house audio is, you guessed it, audio for your whole house! And while that may seem like a “no brainer” answer, when it comes to planning and implementing whole house audio it is anything but a “no-brainer”.

There are more than a few variables to consider when planning your whole house audio system. This guide will provide you with a useful overview of the things you need to consider and outlines the process; however, it is no substitute for an experienced (and FREE!) system designer. But with this whole house audio guide and a system designers to assist you, you’ll be rewarded with premium sound exactly where, when and how you like it. Soon you’ll close your eyes and be unable to discern if you’re in your surround sound living room, orchestra level at Lincoln Center… or your kitchen!

Whole House Audio Systems? Multi Room Audio? Multi Zone Audio? Multi Source Audio? Multi Control? What’s the difference?

Whole house audio systems are frequently and synonymously referred to as multi room audio or multi zone audio. These terms are used interchangeably and while whole house audio usually includes one or more “primary zones” like a home theater or surround sound living room; it is, by definition, a multi zone system that includes “secondary zones” like hallways, bedrooms and other spaces that aren’t a priority for the very best sound experience.

Multi source home audios systems can comprise any number of rooms or “zones” but these zones will have more than one source of audio input. You may find yourself tying in multiple audio sources to this whole house audio system; TV, DVDs, iPods, Stereos, In-house intercoms, even door bell to your home may be input considerations.

Multi Control refers how you control input for your sources and zones. Controlling zones independently for volume becomes a priority when dealing with multiple zones whole house audio distribution. (Do you really want to have to leave the room to control the volume for that room?). Similarly, multi controls are virtually a requirement for multi room, multi source home audio environments (Do you really want to leave the room to forward the song on the CD player?)

As for controls themselves, there is an assortment of options, largely dependent on the controls that are available from the manufacturers of the systems you’re buying. They can either be wall mounted, wired keypad controls, IR (infra-red), or Wireless (radio signal). Each has their own benefits.

2. Why Should I have a System Integrator (System Designer) involved in the whole house audio? Can’t I do this myself?

Whole house audio is confusing. But it doesn’t have to be. A good system designer will make achieving your home audio goals an easy prospect. The number of variable to take into account for a well engineered whole house audio experience is mind numbing. What rooms to include in what zones? How many independent controls are needed and where? What are your “input” sources? TV? Stereo? The doorbell? What is the furniture arrangement in these rooms? Do you want speakers discreetly embedded in the walls? Are the floors tiled? Is the ceiling vaulted?

These are just a few of the question’s you won’t know to ask if you haven’t designed or installed whole house audio before. Save yourself a nightmare, and work with a free experience CEDIA certified system integrator who can take the hassle out of putting together an amazing home audio experience.

3. What are your goals? It’s all about you!

There are a tremendous number of variables in designing whole house audio, but all of them are subject to your goals. Ultimately, it all comes down to a simple question: what kind of home audio experience do you desire?

An important key concept in designing the perfect whole house audio solution is understanding your goals and lifestyle needs. Sure, budget plays a big role, but don’t start there. Dream big! There is always room to scale back based on your priorities. (Maybe the master bedroom closet doesn’t need multi-speaker surround sound?)

4. What kind of music lover are you? Lifestyles & Preferences.

How and where you enjoy your music and even the type of music plays a role in the design of a new system. Knowing your entertainment preferences will help you define the needs your whole house audio will fulfill.

Entertainers. Entertainers may find themselves open to a lot of options depending upon how and where they entertain in their home. Do you entertain in multiple areas around the house? Dinner parties tend to prioritize one room, whereas larger parties may sprawl from living rooms to game rooms and outdoor areas. These systems are usually focused on one source of audio covering multiple zones.

Backgrounders. A side from entertaining, another benefit of whole house audio is the ability to continuously pipe music (or any audio source) throughout the house. Home owners who value background music for their everyday life, may not favor multiple primary zones- with full surround sound speakers- but prefer quality audio strategically placed contiguously throughout the house to provide continuous quality sound from room to room.

Home Theater Buffs. The big game? Movie fanatic? Nothing has brought premium audio into demand more than the rise of home theaters. Whether it’s a dedicated home theater room complete with reclining chairs, cup holders and a popcorn machine or living rooms transformed by over-sized plasma screens; the demand for home theaters has set new standard for premium sound systems. This new expectation for great sound has homeowners asking themselves: why can’t i have this quality sound throughout the whole house?

If entertaining in smaller groups around the TV in one room sounds like all the “whole house audio” you need, then you may find whole house audio isn’t the solution after all. Home video junkies can build a premium surround sound systems for that “primary zone” without adding additional zone. (You will still do well to consult a free system integrator for this task!)

But as is frequently the case, once people experience the amazing difference a premium surround sound system makes in the living room they find a reason to extend that quality to additional rooms of the house. Sports fans may extend the living room audio to other areas so they don’t miss a second of the big game. Movie buffs on the other hand, may enjoy their movies in their master bedrooms as well as the living room and choose to invest more than one “primary zone” multi-speaker surround sound as part of their whole house audio design.

Audiophiles. These users are prone to multiple “primary zones” valuing the best quality sound in a variety of rooms. Beyond great listening in the family room, they’ll want superior sound in game rooms, outdoor living spaces, home gyms or master bedrooms. (Or, budget willing, all of these areas!) For someone who loves music and cooking, premium surround sound in the kitchen may be as important as the living room. If you entertain a lot in the game room, then you may ante up and invest in a sub-woofer and additional speakers.

Audio Books – What’s Hot for 2006?

2006 is already here and many ask me what we should expect of the emerging interesting market of Audio Books. Audio books have been here for over 20 years and they have become so popular in the last couple of years but yet I claim that the audio books revolution has just begun.

Find out the hot trends in the audio books market for 2006:

1. Less audio books on CD and cassettes and more downloadable audio books – MP3 audio books and other formats of digital audio books will become cheaper and more reachable, While audio books on CD and books on tape are much less convenient and user friendly. The amount of podcast listeners who download audio books from the internet to listen on their mobile devices such as iPod will rise significantly.

2. Audio book rental services will become the most common method of listening to audio books – Similar to the DVD market, most audio book listeners will prefer renting audio books instead of buying them. This trend will be the strongest for downloadable audio books but also true for audio books on CD and books on tape.

3. Free audio books – More online audio book services will offer low cost and free audio books by free trials and special sales.

4. Audio books will invade Europe – While the audio book market in the United kingdom is developed and have reached a turnover of 124$ million in 2004, The market in Germany is constantly rising and have already reached a turnover of 120$ million in 2005. The audio book market in the whole continent is expected to rise in about 20% during 2006.

Sony has also recognized the emerging market of digital audio books and has recently announced of a new audio book mobile player. The new product will let the users store and listen to digital audio books and is predicted to gain the same popularity as the “iPod”.

Audio books will be a part of everyone’s life. Join the audio book revolution!