Think about how many songs are in your digital music collection and how many Internet radio stations you stream. With all the time you put into your audio life, wouldn’t you like to hear the music as the artist intended—at very high quality—but also enjoy the modern lifestyle convenience and flexibility offered by wireless speakers?
With Bluetooth, we’ve all been sacrificing quality in the name of convenience up to now, but watch what happens in consumer electronics over the next several months. Wi-Fi audio streaming in the home is coming of age. Here’s why.
Demystifying Wi-Fi for audio
Bluetooth has been linked for a long time to audio (think headphones, speakers, in-car audio). The reason is that Bluetooth includes both a pipe for moving bits and a protocol for streaming audio through that pipe. Bluetooth was born ready to move audio, but the down side is that it’s a narrow pipe that limits sound quality, especially for the home.
On the other hand, most consumers associate Wi-Fi with connecting their laptop or tablet to the Internet. Wi-Fi is a much fatter pipe though. So, if you could stream audio over Wi-Fi-enabled speakers throughout your home, instead of through that Bluetooth speaker on your kitchen counter, your music would get its groove back. In fact, if audio over Bluetooth and earbuds is all you’ve ever listened to, audio over Wi-Fi will show you how much groove your music really has.
Coming to a store near you: Speakers and accessories that support Wi-Fi
The kind of high-resolution, connected-home audio I’m describing, including speakers sharing content with other speakers, is possible only over Wi-Fi with an audio streaming protocol.
A few important things are falling into place for Wi-Fi audio to come of age:
- Ubiquity – While Bluetooth is the most common, Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly more popular for audio streaming in the home.
- Ease of pairing – Configuring a Wi-Fi speaker to work with your home router can now be done in seconds—with just a few easy steps.
- Quality – High-resolution audio content is becoming more prevalent, including digital downloads and streaming music services.
- Commercial products – The Qualcomm AllPlay smart media solution, which leverages the AllPlay audio streaming protocol, allows any speaker or audio accessory manufacturer to offer their customers high-resolution Wi-Fi audio. The AllPlay solution also supports DLNA and AirPlay.
So keep your eye on retail. This week, Hitachi started selling its AllPlay-powered Hitachi Wi-Fi speakers at Walmart for less than $200. And Fon has introduced the Gramofon, a router/range extender and music streamer that recently added AllPlay to create a multi-room audio experience with many music services made available by AllPlay.
Hitachi and Fon join Panasonic, and Monster, whose AllPlay-enabled SoundStage™ wireless speakers also are now commercially available, in providing consumers with audio products that enable them to fill their homes with music from a wide variety of sources and gives them the flexibility to fill every room with a different tune or sync their entire abode with the same song welling up from wireless speakers throughout the home. Thanks to AllPlay, Monster and Hitachi speakers also offer the unique ability to bridge Bluetooth with Wi-Fi for whole-home streaming, a feature that eases consumers into the world of Wi-Fi audio.
With support from major streaming music services such as Spotify, Napster, Rhapsody and more than 15 others around the globe (most of which incorporate the AllPlay Click SDK into their apps so their subscribers/listeners can discover and stream to one or more AllPlay speakers without leaving their apps), AllPlay continues to set the bar for what a whole-home audio platform should deliver. Manufacturers get a turnkey, cost effective, easy-to-integrate turnkey solution, and consumers get the choice to pick the audio equipment and music services that suit their desires and lifestyles.
And if you come across a music streaming service that has not yet incorporated AllPlay, the good news is that you can still use the new Bluetooth-to-Wi-Fi re-streaming in AllPlay to enjoy your favorite music service throughout your home. You simply use Bluetooth to stream to AllPlay-enabled speakers such as the Monster Soundstage S3, and it will re-stream over Wi-Fi to the rest of your AllPlay-enabled speakers around your house.
High-quality wireless audio is about to go mainstream. Fill your house with the sound of music.