If you are setting up a new speaker system for your home (our guide here), you may have come across wireless speaker setups like the Edifier R1700BT (from Amazon) and have asked yourself if they need batteries to operate. These wireless systems, have become more and more popular, especially for outdoor use, but before you purchase a new setup, there are some things about wireless speakers you should know.
Some wireless speakers do need batteries. Others transmit the audio signal wirelessly but still need to be plugged into an outlet. Most speakers will need to be either plugged in, recharged, or in some cases, have their batteries replaced, and while they’re great, know the limitations before buying.
When it comes to products that require batteries, either rechargeable or replaceable, you should keep in mind how often they will need this maintenance as well. Overall wireless speakers can make a great addition to your home audio setup, but to discover more about how they work, we should understand what the term “wireless” means in the speaker world.
What “Wireless” Means in Terms of Speakers
You may already have a small Bluetooth speaker that you use when you are at the beach or having fun outside (our guide on how to keep them safe while outdoors), but when it comes to speaker systems that you might use in your house, there is a big difference. For the most part, wireless means that the audio signal is being transmitted without the need for additional cords or wires. Sourcing power for the device is a different story.
Most wireless speakers you see on the market today can transmit this signal in one of two different ways.
- IR – This type of system uses infrared light, much like the way your TV remote communicates with the TV, to transmit audio data without the need for wires.
- Radio – Broadcasting signals use a higher frequency than IR and can be more stable to use.
Each type has its benefits and downsides. If you are using an IR system, for instance, you will need to make sure your speakers are within the line of sight of your transmitter. This can be difficult if you are using multiple speakers in different locations or rooms. Radio signals can come from different frequency bands. These are:
- 902 to 908 Megahertz
- 2.4 to 2.483 Gigahertz
- 5.725 – 5.875 GHz
If these sound familiar, that is because a vast selection of electronic devices uses these frequency bands to transmit data. Other popular technologies that use these bands include microwave ovens, Wi-Fi networks, and Bluetooth systems.
Due to how popular these bands are, you can run into frequency interference. This is when too many signals are on a single band, causing data to be corrupted, and leading to choppy or degraded audio. Even if you’re using an IR system, you can have interference problems if you’re using remote controls. This is what speaker manufacturers mean when they say wireless. They mean wireless audio and not wireless power necessarily.
Speaker Power Sources
One issue you may run into when setting up a wireless speaker system is where to plug them in. While the audio may be transmitted over the air, your power will not be. This means that each wireless speaker will need to have access to an outlet. This can get difficult when you are setting up a surround sound system with multiple speakers to deal with. If you really want the wireless experience, you will need to get battery-powered speakers. But these come with their own issues.
- They will need periodic recharging. Because of the nature of the device, being so power-hungry, this may happen more often than you would like.
- Often, portable or battery-powered speakers will not have the power needed to entirely broadcast the audio signal. This results in less than stellar audio quality.
While you may find battery-powered speakers that need replacing, these are more than likely going to be in older style boomboxes. Most systems today will use a lithium-ion battery for its better power quality and longer life. The bottom line is, most wireless speakers will still need to have access to an outlet for power.
So in this sense, they aren’t truly wireless. There will always be one wire to deal with unless you have portable speakers, but those come with their own issues. Some argue that the audio quality is lacking for both options due to the aforementioned power problem and the interference issue. But if you are an audiophile, then quality is a must. Fortunately, you’re in luck if you’re wondering if you can have the best of both worlds, wired speakers with a wireless look.
How to Achieve a Wireless Look
With a little planning and a bit more setup, you can hide your wires from sight. This means that while your speakers will have a wire running from the amplifier, it will be hidden. There are even systems, like the Sonos Architectural (on Amazon) that are completely hidden from view and blend in with the ceiling of a room.
This can be an excellent option if you want surround sound or high-quality audio but don’t want to compromise the look and feel of a room. If you just want to hide your cables, there are a couple of things that you can do if you’re willing to make a small purchase. These are just a few options to consider. You can always get more creative with your solutions:
- You can use ghost wire (on Amazon), which hides the wire flat against a wall.
- Cable concealers (link to Amazon) are another great option but do stick out a bit, so they are not totally concealed.
- If you have carpet, you can always run the line underneath, which would hide the wires completely.
All in all, wireless speakers can make a great addition to your home audio setup. Most speakers will not be fully wireless and will need access to an outlet for power. Even fully portable systems will need to be charged from time to time. If you are looking for the best audio quality, wired speakers can’t be beaten. But if you still want a wireless look, there are options for you to explore.