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Wireless vs Wired Surround Sound Speakers

As more electronics are capable of linking to the internet, people searching for surround sound speakers are finding it difficult to pick between wireless and wired surround sound speakers. Although they serve the same purpose, there are pros and cons that significantly differentiate these approaches.

What’s the difference between wireless and wired surround sound speakers?

Wireless surround sound speakers are marketed for a sophisticated, fashionable look, while wired surround speakers are marketed for high-quality performance features. The main difference between the two is the lack of extensive wiring that a wireless approach allows.

The right choice for you depends on your budget, your style, and the location of the speakers. There are lots of different options for each type available in stores and online. Before comparing brands and products, it’s best to know the in’s and out’s of each option.

Wireless Surround Speaker Setup

When using a wireless surround speaker setup, you are using an audio signal wirelessly and eliminating the need for interconnecting cords. Most wireless surround speaker setups are not completely wireless by any means.

Each speaker still needs to connect to an outlet to get power. Instead of needing long, interconnecting signal wires between your speakers and receiver, your speakers utilize a built-in wireless receiver to get their signal from the transmitter.

Wireless surround speaker setups always need a transmitter and a receiver, and speakers specifically marketed as wireless will have these components built-in. Each speaker will always need a power source, but they will be shorter and easier to hide. A wireless signal is also a necessity of any wireless surround speaker setup, and all types of speakers, including subwoofers, can be wireless.

Choosing a Wireless Surround Speaker System

When looking for a wireless surround speaker system, you’ll often find that speakers need to be within the same brand or line to be compatible with one another, so there is less flexibility in the variety of speakers that you have. This is due to the fact that each brand is set up with its own unique technology, making them only compatible with one another.

There are some reasonably priced units that offer wireless surround sound without breaking the bank, like the Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System (on Amazon). And on the high end,d there are really clever options like the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 (also on Amazon) which bundle a soundbar with wireless speakers. You can read our full review of this unit here.

Wired Surround Speaker Setup

Home theater speaker system

A wired surround speaker setup is straightforward as long as you ensure that you have the right cables to connect the components to one another. You also need to make sure your speakers are compatible to work with one another and produce a great sound.

Your basic wired surround speaker setup includes an AV receiver and matching speakers. There are many different configurations that you can make, and your components will all be wired together. The AV receiver sends the audio signal from the player, and the receiver decodes and sends it back to the speakers.

Choosing a Wired Surround Speaker System

For wired surround setups, it’s possible to mix and match brands and products, as long as you know that they can work well together, but there are many packaged systems that are high-quality and make the decision simple and easy for you.

Make sure to consult the manufacturer when mixing and matching different components to ensure they will all work together optimally as a whole.

Speaker Configurations

Speaker systems can be configured in many different ways. You can add a subwoofer or two and speakers of all shapes and sizes. It is a great idea to have a subwoofer, but you will need to make sure that you have a subwoofer channel to connect to it.

When browsing through speakers and other sound system components, you’ll often see numbers 2.0, 2.1, 5.1, 7.1 and beyond within the product name or description, which represent the number of speakers and type of speakers included in the package. You can check out our full post on surround sound speaker channels to get better acquainted with some of the terminology here.


Pros and Cons of Wireless Surround Speakers

Sonos One SL as Surround Speaker 1 - Smaller

Wireless surround sound speakers are marketed as a no-hassle, stylish, and high-quality speaker solution. They’re best for those looking for a sleek look, but they can provide a great quality sound.

Pros

Wireless surround speakers are neater, more flexible, and safer. They have advanced technology features, making them a great buy for both ease of use and quality.

Neater

Wireless surround sound speakers function without using as many wires attached to the central unit, since they work through wireless radio waves. This eliminates the need to run several wires from the surround amplifier to each satellite speaker. 

For spaces that are small or are main living areas, it’s important to keep wires out of eyesight and out of the way. Wireless surround speakers won’t hinder the look and feel of your room with bulky wires everywhere — they will only enhance the sound.

More Flexible

Wireless surround sound speakers are convenient and can be moved easily around the house to your preferred locations with no concerns about cords, wires, and cables getting in the way.

They can be used in multiple rooms to bring a large-area, multi-room sound, and they are very flexible for a room change or a layout change.

Safer

With wireless surround speakers, you don’t need to worry about an adult, a child, or pet running into any hazards as a result of your speaker wires. No more worrying about tripping over wires or potentially eating the wires during a child’s curiosity peak.

Better Technology

Wireless surround speakers are a relatively new product, so they include the latest technology. Using a wireless transmission, the digital signals are beamed from the surround transmitter to the receivers in each surround speaker.

Wireless surround speakers will remain a staple in the coming years as technology continues to evolve, and the quality will only improve.

Cons

While wireless surround speakers are a great choice for many people, they do have a few downfalls. You may find some with older technology, which can hinder their effectiveness. Some sets are only partially wireless, and they can be on the expensive side.

Older Technology

Some wireless surround speakers use a state-of-the-art infrared system for transmission of digital signals. You’ll also find that some inexpensive wireless surround speakers utilize older technology that often interferes with other wireless signals, including microwaves, Wi-Fi equipment, and cordless phones. 

This interference affects the quality of the wireless surround sound speaker. Unfortunately, when it comes to wireless surround speakers, a cheaper price means old technology and lower sound quality.

More Expensive

The cost of quality wireless surround speakers is generally higher than that of wired surround speakers, due to the addition of the latest technology. This brings many awesome features and integrations, but the prices may be too high for people looking for a low-cost speaker solution.

Not Fully Wireless

Some wireless surround speakers are not completely wireless. Some included satellite speakers require a cable or cord, even though the wireless speaker receives communication wirelessly.

In other words, wireless surround sound speakers might still need several cords to function properly, making them not fully wireless.


Pros and Cons of Wired Surround Sound Speakers

Speakers set

Wired surround sound speakers are loved by AV enthusiasts, and many think of them as the best performance option for surround sound speakers. If you can effectively hide the wires, these might be the best option for you.

Pros

Wired surround speakers provide a high-quality, dependable sound. There are many great budget-friendly options.

High-Quality Sound

Wired surround sound speakers offer an overall higher quality sound when compared to wireless surround speakers. They’re typically larger, which often means more power and more technology.

In other cases, manufacturers have simply honed in on what makes these type of surround speakers sound great, which produces the highest-quality listening experience possible.

Dependable

Wired sound speakers are straightforward and simple. They simply rely on cords to work and function properly. As long as you care for them appropriately, they will last for ages.

On the contrary, as technology changes, the newest technology may not even be compatible with a wireless speaker that is a few years old — resulting in the need to buy new.

Budget-Friendly

Wired surround sound speakers are less expensive when compared to wireless surround speakers. While wired surround speakers do have a good amount of technology, there are less expensive technology integrations included, which means that they can be sold at a cheaper price.

Wired surround speakers tend to be black and white in design with a focus on sound quality, not style or flexibility. If that is your cup of tea, they are a great choice for you.

Easy-To-Use

With wired speakers, using them is easy and straightforward. All you need to do is to connect your surround speakers to the amplifier or receiver with a short cable speaker wire. There is no pairing or wireless connection setup needed, which can be a hassle.

Cons

While they are dependable and easy to use, wired speakers can also be an eyesore and are less flexible, which can annoy some buyers.

Bulky

The wires connecting the surround sound speakers to the amplifier or receiver can interfere with the flow of your home, which is one of the reasons why we have an article on why you don’t always need one. It doesn’t look attractive when wires and cables are laying around to be seen. Plus, it can be hard to hide bulky wires when there are a number of them.

Additionally, wired speakers are often larger than wireless speakers, which can create a crowded, cluttered feel in a room. An extensive wired surround speaker system may not be the best option for many spaces, such as small rooms.

Location Limitations

Due to the need to be wired to one another, wired surround speakers are limited in terms of location. Once they are installed, you won’t want to move them. Unlike wireless surround speakers, it can be a hassle to set everything up again if you change layouts or locations.


Final Thoughts

There are many things to consider when buying wireless or wired surround sound speakers – beyond good performance and speaker design. It’s important to choose the right fit for your space, budget, and overall quality requirements. And while wireless surround sound speakers reduce the wiring necessary to function, there are still some wires involved. 

Some of the wireless surround speakers may produce a less stellar surround sound, which is due to outside interference. No matter what, it’s important to take the whole picture into consideration before purchasing to end up happy with your purchase for a long time to come.

Tom In NJ

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

If I am getting ready to sell my home, should I just yank out the wired surround sound speaker wires in my walls, or should I leave the wires available for the next person to decide? My wife says wired speakers are obsolete and wants the wires out of the corners of the tv/family room; I know better; but how can I explain that even “wireless” surround sound speakers need WIRES aka power cords at the very least if they are going to run as part of a tv system or an entertainment system