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Bluetooth, AirPlay and Play-Fi audio streaming

wifi techno

One of the latest trends in home theater is to transmit audio to your home theater receiver from your iOS or Android device. You can do it through an application and Wi-Fi connection (AirPlay or Play-Fi) or via Bluetooth. But it’s not that simple. There are a lot of ways to take your audio from your phone or tablet to your speakers. I will try to review the main ways in which this is achieved here, but in the end you must understand their needs and the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Wi-Fi audio streaming
There are many ways to use your home wireless network to stream audio. You can choose one of the proprietary formats or you can simply connect your laptop or PC to a network and use the DLNA services to extract the audio from your library. When we talk about Wi-Fi transmission, we usually refer to proprietary formats. There are many, but here are some of the leaders:

Apple AirPlay
Apple AirPlay is a Wi-Fi streaming protocol that allows you to easily route music from your iOS device to a compatible surround sound receiver or an active speaker. What makes AirPlay attractive is that, like wireless technology, AirPlay works through the existing wireless network in your home. You have connected your device to the home network and when you turn on AirPlay, your iOS device allows you to send your music or video to any compatible device on the network. If you have several Airplay devices in your home, you can transmit them individually or all at once.

Play-Fi, owned by DTS, is a new transmission format that runs on compatible devices and is specifically aimed at the Android device market. Like AirPlay, and unlike patented systems like Sonos, Play-Fi connects devices to your existing WiFi network. The only current problem with Play-Fi is that, being a new technology, there are only a few devices that currently support it. Play-Fi has not yet established an association with many streaming media providers, so Pandora and Spotify are the main music providers for compatible applications. On the contrary, AirPlay works in almost all the main applications of media providers, which provides almost unlimited sources of music.

With current Play-Fi technology, file support is limited to 44.1 kHz (CD) of 16-bit quality at this time, but high-resolution audio support up to 24-bit resolution is in progress. .

Exclusive mesh networks
There is a series of proprietary mesh networks that are mounted on your existing WiFi network to connect devices. One of the most popular is Sonos, which has a variety of speakers and access points with and without power that can be networked inside a house to listen to music. They even have a sound bar and the possibility (with its latest update) to reuse existing Sonos speakers to use them as surround channels.

Proprietary mesh networks almost always have limits and costs. They are limited to one manufacturer and your product selection is likely to grow very slowly. Proprietary systems tend to be very expensive because they are designed to be an ecosystem in themselves, with special control software and unique features that are not available in other systems. Denon HEOS speakers are similar to this type of system, except that, unlike Sonos, they are mounted on your existing WiFi network.

Bluetooth audio streaming
Bluetooth wireless technology is a standard designed for short distances (use the band from 2.40 to 2.48 GHz a) up to 30 feet.

You might think that Bluetooth audio streaming is a unique “designation”. That’s not. There are a variety of versions and profiles, but we can help you clarify the most common profile used for audio transmission. The latest version of Bluetooth is almost always the best, since it requires the lowest configuration, which gives you more flexibility and offers the best audio quality.

Advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP)
You will see much of the A2DP designation when you see speakers and Bluetooth devices for audio streaming. A2DP simply refers to Bluetooth designed for the unidirectional transfer of stereo audio. What really matters for interaction, configuration and function the user is the version. There have been seven, but the last one is V.4. Bluetooth V.4 is also called “Bluetooth Smart” and was launched since 2010. It includes standard Bluetooth and Bluetooth low-energy protocols and high-speed Bluetooth. based on WiFi. There were two major problems with Bluetooth that prevented it from actually being adopted as a wireless audio standard in the past. On the one hand, it was originally designed to replace Ethernet cables and USB connection devices on a desktop. This means that long-range connectivity was not inherent in the design. With a limit of 30 feet, Bluetooth audio is naturally limited in how it can work in a whole house setting. Another related problem was connectivity. Bluetooth allows a myriad of pairing methods, from checking the access code to the almost automatic device pairing. It is always nonsense about the system used by a particular device and the ease or difficulty of the connection. In the last two years, most new Bluetooth devices have used better and more convenient discovery methods. High quality Bluetooth high quality Xpt-XLe second big problem with Bluetooth is the sound quality. The Bluetooth audio is lower than the lossless transmission via WiFi. To combat this, manufacturer-specific layers have been added to enable features that are not available by default in standard Bluetooth. Of these, Apt-X seems to be the best, offering almost lossless quality, but optimizing the transmission to suit the bandwidth requirements of the format. Apt-X apparently has redirected Bluetooth to a transmission method. viable, especially for portable devices and connected PCs. Bluetooth vs “the other” Transmission formats To return to our original theme, the problem is what makes sense for audio transmission. If you observe the audio quality, media transmission without loss of high resolution is the solution. The Bluetooth Apt-X fits well here, but requires a little more proximity to your host AV system. AirPlay also allows 44.1 kHz lossless stereo transmission and can be an excellent way to send and receive media streaming on your existing wireless network. You probably want to avoid, if the quality is your goal, it is the standard Bluetooth transmission. The stock of Bluetooth is a medium with many losses and there is a big difference between that and a file without loss. The difference is more than a little remarkable. Unfortunately, your other options will be a little more exclusive, with AirPlay at the helm and Play-Fi starting from the shelter and looking optimistic. Of course, proprietary music streaming systems are also an option, but they are generally expensive and offer a limited range of hardware that is compatible with the networked audio transmission system.

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