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.