A new trend is the appearance of an increasing number of home theater systems with wireless speakers or a separate wireless surround sound channel audio still is a fairly new phenomenon, older homes are not prewired for surround sound, especially with the most recent trend of 7.1 surround systems.
As such a wireless option appears to seem like the logical choice. But are these wireless surround sound kits reliable enough for real-world applications and do they get rid of the dreaded cable clutter?
Looking at some of the available options for wireless surround sound kits, you’ll notice that most of these systems, such as the products from LG or Rocketfish, will connect two speakers to a wireless receiver unit. Thus while these systems eliminate the speaker cable from the front of the room to the back, there still is a significant amount of speaker cable to run.
A better choice would be a product, such as the wireless surround sound kit from Amphony, which offers separate wireless receivers for each speaker, thus offering a much cleaner installation.
When using a wireless option, probably the most important consideration is whether or not the audio quality is affected, i.e. does the audio pick up any noise or distortion during the transmission. A good rule of thumb when picking a wireless system is to use a system where the audio is transmitted in a digital format which will avoid noise common to analog systems. Further, the amplifier inside the wireless receiver unit should be of good quality and introduce minimal distortion. Finally, the size of the wireless unit is worth considering as this unit should be hidden from view.
In a home theater setting, the sound from all surround speakers should be in sync with the video and each other. Some wireless surround sound kits, such as the product from Rocketfish, will introduce a noticeable delay. As such you should look at how much of a delay or latency the wireless will introduce to the signal travelling to the wireless speakers. The product from Amphony introduces a delay of a little less than 1 ms which should be low enough for pretty much any application.
But how well do these wireless kits work in a real-world scenario? One of the biggest concerns should be interference from other wireless devices. In the US, wireless devices are restricted to a limited number of frequency bands. Especially the 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz frequency band are increasingly crowded by WiFi, Bluetooth and an array of other devices making interference more of a concern. Picking a system working at an alternate frequency band such as the 5.8 GHz band would naturally reduce the impact from competing devices.
Aside from using a wireless surround sound kit in a home theater environment, another useful application for wireless systems is streaming audio between different rooms of the home where wiring would be difficult to install or for outdoor applications. Just imagine being able to set up your speakers in your backyard in a matter of minutes. The possibilities are endless.