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WIFI audio: what's more than Bluetooth?

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More and more wireless speaker manufacturers are turning to WIFI solutions for music streaming, while the standard has long remained Bluetooth. At tsfVintageRadios, the vast majority of our radios, record-players and turntables also have a WIFI connection. I will summarize in this article the main advantages of this mode of audio broadcasting controlled by a phone or a tablet.

  1. WIFI and Bluetooth: a common point
  2. Bluetooth: limited range and speed, busy phone
  3. WIFI: three-way conversation
  4. Audio over WIFI: the advantages
  5. Supported music platforms
  6. Multiroom !
  7. WIFI versions

WIFI and Bluetooth: a common point

Regardless of the technology you use, your phone will talk to the wireless speaker using 2.4 gigahertz radio waves. These waves are the same type as light waves, but their frequency (the speed at which the electric field oscillates) is much too low to trigger a reaction in the cells of our retina.

Bluetooth: limited range and speed, busy phone

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When you connect to a speaker via Bluetooth, the phone establishes a direct connection with it. This is an advantage for a roaming solution, if you want to be able to use your speaker without access to a WIFI network, at the beach for example. It is less so for the devices in our collection: who would have the crazy idea of taking a several kilograms 65-year-old radio in excellent condition on a picnic?

However, this direct link implies that the two connected devices, each equipped with a small antenna, must remain close to each other to be able to exchange data. The range of a Bluetooth connection is therefore rather limited, about ten meters, or even less if the environment is cluttered with obstacles (walls, radiators ...). Everyone can see this by noticing the degradation of sound quality when moving the phone away from the wireless speaker.

The direct link also means that the phone is responsible for transmitting the data to the Bluetooth speaker. It is therefore up to the phone to read or download the music file, then encode it and send it.

In fact, your phone is under a lot of stress when you use it to play music:

  • With the number of operations it performs every second and the energy it uses for transmission, the battery will run down quickly
  • If it is not powerful, it will have to transmit a less detailed sound. This will result in a loss of sound quality even if the loudspeaker is equipped with a good amp and quality speakers.

Finally, the data rate (number of zeros and ones transmitted per second) of a Bluetooth transmission is limited. Although it has been approaching the speed necessary to obtain CD quality in recent years, it is still well below that of a WIFI connection.

WIFI: three-way conversation

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To establish a WIFI connection between them, two devices must be on the same local network. The smartphone and the wireless speaker must have been configured beforehand to recognize the router and provide it with the right password. There is therefore no direct connection: the router is the intermediary for all exchanges between the two devices. In other words, by opting for WIFI, we give up having a mobile device.

Audio over WIFI: the advantages

Now that the phone and the wireless speaker have access to the box, we can imagine other ways to listen to music. To stream an album from a music platform such as Spotify or Deezer, the smartphone can tell the router to send the music to the wireless speaker.

The router can then download the streaming music from Spotify and feed the wireless speaker directly: the phone is no longer in the loop! As a result, the major drawbacks of a Bluetooth transfer disappear:

On one hand, the phone no longer downloads or transmits music: its battery does not run down! It only serves as a remote control and therefore only intervenes briefly to give orders. More or less volume, play a song, change the artist ...

Moreover, no more range problems. As long as your WIFI speaker remains connected to the box, the music continues, even if you turn it off or leave the house.

The same goes for the connection speed: your box is able to send much more information per second than your phone, allowing you to use music platforms offering very high quality.

This is also an opportunity to highlight another advantage that WIFI audio has over Bluetooth. During a Bluetooth listening session, all the sounds from the phone are transmitted to the speaker. Your music is decorated with the beeps of SMS notifications, new WhatsApp conversations or likes of your latest Instagram post. If these noises interfere with the music, the worst thing is to receive a call! The music gives way to a ringtone and your choices are reduced to cutting off the Bluetooth connection and the music, or worse, having everyone listen to your conversation.

If you have digested how WIFI audio works, you have already understood that all these nuisances disappear. As your phone has given the order to the box to play a certain song on the speaker, the music is independent of your use of the phone. You can receive calls without ruining the sound environment!

Supported music platforms

The vast majority of our devices have in addition to Bluetooth a WIFI connection compatible with Airplay, SpotifyConnect, and DLNA and supporting iTunes, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Napster, Qobuz, Amazon Music, Pandora.

The dedicated application also allows you to listen to any radio or web radio station via WIFI.

Multiroom !

Last but not least, WIFI streaming opens the possibility of synchronous wireless broadcasting on several devices (multiroom). Place them wherever you want, connect them to your home network, and enjoy your synchronized music throughout the house!

This technology is the subject of another article: Multiroom - An explanation in pictures.

WIFI versions

We have recently made the choice to change the WIFI system. From now on :

  • our record players can play vinyl records in multiroom, a world first for vintage devices!
  • we provide WIFI adapters that allow you to convert your old audio devices and Hi-Fi systems into WIFI speakers compatible with the new versions of our radios and record players. Any audio device you have at home is suitable: it just needs to have an auxiliary plug. A practical and economical way to modernize your installation!

Check the Frequently Asked Questions for more details. Please contact us to help you in your choice.

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