How great would it be if you could carry your speaker just about anywhere and set it up instantly? How about controlling your playlist from your smartphone from anywhere in your room? These are a few features that make wireless speakers so desirable today. If you are planning to purchase wireless speakers, here are the features you should look out for.
Which wireless mode to choose
Connectivity of modern speakers comes from various wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC). Among these, the first two are the most popular.
Wi-Fi-enabled speakers are highly productive in terms of sound quality and coverage. In a given Wi-Fi network, you can set up multiple speakers and run the same or different audio files across all of these, simultaneously.
Moreover, with advanced protocols of Wi-Fi (called 802.11ac standard), data transmission has become faster with a much lower chance of interference by other electronic equipment. It provides a high range of coverage (as far as the Wi-Fi network can cover).
Additionally, you can stream various online audio services (SoundCloud, Spotify, etc) directly through these systems. However, if you would like to set up your Wi-Fi speaker system somewhere else, you will have to re-configure the speakers with the new Wi-Fi connection in the area, which can be somewhat time taking. Wi-Fi speakers are comparatively costlier as well.
Bluetooth speakers have come a long way in terms of audio quality and performance. With the introduction of AptX technology (Qualcomm-owned audio-quality-enhancement algorithm) on top of Bluetooth’s Advanced Audio Distribution Protocol (A2DP), Bluetooth speakers have broken the jinx of low-quality audio transmission. These are very easy to set up, and Bluetooth’s ubiquity allows you to carry and play these anywhere, anytime.
While these are more budget-friendly, multiple speakers cannot be connected simultaneously using a single smartphone. Moreover, these have a limited coverage range of 10 metres (33-feet), which may be obstructed by walls.
In short, Wi-Fi speakers are the more desired solution for home audio systems for a multi-room setup. Whereas, Bluetooth speakers are a more economical option and a better companion for frequent movers.
Latest technologies to look out for
Wireless speaker brands are adding a gamut of interesting features for better user satisfaction.
Manoj Kumar Pansari, chief executive officer, Astrum Holdings Ltd, says, “For a mid-range, home-use speaker, look for good sound clarity, sleek and aesthetic design, in-built microphone and dual pairing. If outdoor use is intended, check for good bass and higher root mean square (RMS) power for louder output. More interesting additions may include a digital clock and FM radio. Higher battery life, USB support and water resistance are also important.”
Sharan Maini, director – business development, JVC India, talks about some of the advanced technologies. He says, “The build of the speakers is being made sturdier to make these damage-resistant when being carried around. A popular feature is the integration of one-touch keys for controlling the various aspects of sound, like bass and treble. Smart equaliser settings are also available in many speakers for auto-setting sound parameters.”
Maini shares another interesting fact, “Integration of voice assistants is another significant trend in the speakers, where users just need to speak out commands to control these. JVC will launch a new Bluetooth speaker in a month’s time with Amazon Alexa integrated. It is planned to be priced at INR 4999.”
If you are purchasing from retail, it is recommended to give the product a test run to verify the sound quality. Keeping all these features in mind, we explore some of the latest and innovative products in the market. We will restrict our choices to a budget of INR 15,000.
Astrum ST250 Bluetooth clock speaker. Astrum Holdings offers ST250 Bluetooth speaker that creates an output audio of 10W. It equalises bass, trebles and mids with a frequency response between 60Hz and 18kHz. This Bluetooth speaker can hold an expanded memory through SD cards or TF flash cards up to 32GB.
The speaker has a touch-based control with a sleek and stylish design. The USP of this indoor speaker is the presence of an integrated digital clock, location temperature display and FM radio. LED backlights enable easy interaction with a nice aesthetic touch. ST250 is priced at INR 3999.
Logitech Ultimate Ears WonderBoom. Logitech offers a powerful portable speaker unit in the form of WonderBoom. Its unique round appearance has a 360-degree output setup paired with uniquely-designed large power buttons on the front. The 10.2-centimetre long speaker with a diameter of 9.4 centimetres comes with an auto-set equaliser balance (bass, treble and mid), supporting a range of 80Hz to 20kHz frequency. The battery, on full charge, can run the speaker for up to 10 hours, and is rechargeable through a microUSB port.
WonderBoom brings with it a number of fascinating features. Its Bluetooth module allows connectivity up to an extended range of 33 metres and can support up to two Bluetooth source devices (smartphones/tablets/computers), simultaneously.
Even more interestingly, two separate speaker units can be played conjointly by pressing a button on top of the speaker till these get connected to each other.
Finally, the rugged speaker is completely waterproof, with a safeguard for microUSB cable as well. This makes it compatible for use in pool parties and/or around water bodies. A unit of WonderBoom costs INR 7995.
JVC XS-XN511A. Victor Company of Japan (JVC) offers a new Bluetooth-enabled 5.1 home audio system. The speaker system brings a strong 135-watt maximum power output capacity with a 16.5cm (6.5-inch) sub-woofer and front-firing woofer setup. Integrated digital amplifier with a smart equaliser control allows you to set the perfect blend of sound output with impactful bass in a surround sound ambience.
Apart from Bluetooth, the speaker setup also supports a USB port, microSD slot as well as the classic auxilliary input. It has in-built FM radio, too. The complete home audio system adds a stylish look with LED edges. It is priced at INR 11,999, and is available on online sites like Flipkart and Amazon, or in retail outlets like Croma.
JBL Playlist. JBL’s Wi-Fi speaker, Playlist, comes with in-built Google Chromecast that can be set up and played with Google Home application. So, that is the app you need to install. The 24-bit 96kHz audio quality provides a decently-balanced and clearly-audible sound output.
Google Home app allows you to control multiple speakers under the same Wi-Fi network. Moreover, phone notifications and activities do not interrupt the audio. Apart from Wi-Fi, the speaker also supports Bluetooth connectivity and a 3.5 millimetres wire jack.
You can stream other online audio services using Google Home app. JBL Playlist is priced at INR 13,999, and can be bought from JBL website or online shopping sites.
Bose SoundTouch 10. Bose SoundTouch 10 is a popular market choice. This Wi-Fi-enabled speaker supports Bluetooth and auxilliary cables, giving you an array of control options. It can be set up using Bose’s SoundTouch mobile application, which lets you configure speaker settings and playlists as desired.
On top of the speaker, there are control buttons (power, connectivity, etc) and buttons to preset favourite tracks. The front comes with a small LED screen to display present settings. It is priced a little above INR 15,000, and is available on Bose’s website as well as other online stores.