Compare Wireless Speaker Connections via Bluetooth vs WiFi vs Airplay
Edited by Frank Fazio, Doug Collins
At this point, I think everyone has heard of Bluetooth as it appears on many of the devices we use every day, from laptops to cell phones. This connection technology is pretty much universal and is the most desired because of its availability. Having said that, the one major drawback is that it has a limited transmission range. Most manufacturers claim that Bluetooth can range out to 30ft, but in real world environments, you're looking at more around the 15ft range. Bluetooth can also be limited by walls and older hardware can be affected by things like microwave ovens, baby monitors and cordless phones.
Unlike Bluetooth, WiFi wireless speakers have a far longer range and in some cases can reach out to 100+ feet. This makes WiFi a more likely choice if you want your wireless speakers to be placed around the house. As for sound quality, WiFi audio transmissions are digital which means the audio signal does not degrade as it travels from the router to the speaker. This makes WiFi sound cleaner. As for the downside, there can be difficulty during setup as connecting the speaker to your WiFi deals with entering security passwords and other configurations.
Apple decided that they needed to make a proprietary standard that would be used with iPhones and iPads, which they called Airplay. This connection technology is designed to send CD quality music over your existing home WiFi without any compression. If you are running iTunes, you can send the music to multiple Airplay wireless speakers at the same time. The major downside to Airplay is that it is not compatible with any other competing OS such as Android.