Wireless Surround Sound – Does It Untie Your Speakers?

An increasing number of vendors has started to offer wireless speakers for home theater systems or a separate wireless surround sound kit. Multi-channel audio is still a relatively new phenomenon. As such in older homes which are not pre-wired for rear speakers, not to mention 7.1 speakers, a wireless option seems like the logical conclusion. But how reliable are these wireless surround sound kits and do they really eliminate the dreaded cable clutter?


Looking at available wireless surround sound kits, you will notice that most of them, such as the products from Rocketfish or LG will connect two speakers to a wireless receiver unit. As a result, such systems, while eliminating the speaker cable from the front of the room to the rear, do not really eliminate speaker cable but only reduce it. As such products with separate wireless receivers for each speakers, such as the wireless surround sound product from Amphony, offer a much cleaner solution since each receiver can be attached directly to the speaker of choice.


The big question is: do these wireless systems have any impact on audio quality? When choosing a wireless surround sound kit, one should prefer a system where the audio is transmitted digitally. This will ensure that the signal does not pick up noise during the transmission. Another consideration is the quality of the audio amplifier inside the wireless receiver. A good-quality amplifier will have minimum audio distortion and high efficiency. Also, picking a small-size wireless receiver will help hide it from view.


In a home theater setting, the sound from all surround speakers should be in sync with the video and each other. Some wireless surround sound kits, such as the product from Rocketfish, will introduce a noticeable delay. As such you should look at how much of a delay or latency the wireless will introduce to the signal travelling to the wireless speakers. The product from Amphony introduces a delay of a little less than 1 ms which should be low enough for pretty much any application.


One of the main issues with wireless devices of any sort is interference from other devices. As more and more consumer devices go wireless, the available frequency space becomes more and more limited. Especially the 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz bands are exceptionally crowded, due to WiFi hot spots, cell phones with Bluetooth etc. Picking a system that avoids these frequency bands may be the logical choice, such as systems working at 5.8 GHz.


While wireless speakers and wireless surround sound kits are suited for use in a home theater setting, their use is not limited to that application. In particular setting up speakers in another room often poses a challenge in terms of running speaker wires or using speakers outdoors. Just imagine being able to set up a speaker in your backyard in minutes. The possibilities are endless.

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