(Un)Wired for sound
The home stereo is now a wireless designer product, writes Catherine Nikas-Boulos
Q I am trading in my old home stereo system for a new model. My friends are telling me I should get a Bluetooth compatible stereo. What does this even mean?
A Big bulky stereos were a status symbol of the past. The bigger they were, the better. The advent of services such as Bluetooth, a short-range technology that allows you to connect with everything from the TV and computer to your mobile phone and speaker has made the living room cabinet virtually obsolete, with favourite shows now streamed via the internet direct to the TV at your convenience and eliminating the need for DVDs.
The home stereo is now wireless and portable, with your choice of music or podcast streamed from your phone removing the need for ugly wires sticking out from the cabinet.
Simple set up
While it might sound like a complicated exercise, connecting your smart phone/tablet to a Bluetooth-enabled speaker is relatively simple.
Bang & Olufsen Australia and New Zealand sales manager Karen Powell (pictured) says there is still a small group of people who don’t appreciate how simple it is to set up wireless connectivity, or don’t trust the quality of sound that can be produced from a small speaker.
“There will always be the early adopters who will lead the way and it has been the younger people who have embraced it and have an appreciation of using it — but that is definitely changing,” Karen says.
“Not only do wires look horrible but now we have speakers that allow us to travel and exercise without being restricted and physically connected to a device. That has now moved on to home products. Prior to streaming, you would have to play a cassette or CD if you were a true audiophile.”
Now we have so many options, with consumers logging on to the internet to stream a podcast or asking Alexa (Amazon), Siri (Apple) or Google Home to play their favourite song.
“The device or the smart phone is now our ‘everything’. You can save recipes and shopping lists on it, ask it, ‘What appointments d do I have on tomorrow?’ ” says Kar Karen. “It’s a central hub for everyt everything in our lives but technology has moved so fast, you can understand why some people have been left behind.”
Save your energy
The benefit of Bluetooth is that it has low energy consumption, and the signal from a smart device to a wireless stereo system can reach from nine metres to an impressive 100m, depending on which model you choose.
It can also penetrate walls and connect devices in different rooms, although the more objects it has to pass through, the less overall range it will have.
“At one point in time, if you talked about the idea of replacing the traditional wires on a music device with a Bluetooth-enabled product, you would still pick the wired one (because the technology was still developing). Now, the wireless products have superseded it,” says Karen.
“With products such as Spotify Premium, media files are not compressed so the music being transferred from the phone to the speaker is intact. All that information is now delivered as it was always meant to be.
“Nothing has been lost in the process.”
Look for the logo
If you’re serious about the quality of the podcast or music through a Bluetoothenabled speaker, look for a product that carries the globally recognised Bluetooth logo.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) owns the Bluetooth trademark. In order for a company to use the trademark it must be a member of the Bluetooth SIG and the goods offered must have completed the Bluetooth qualification process.
Bluetooth, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, has forever changed the way we listen to music. The company reports that 1.2 billion Bluetooth-enabled audio devices will be produced this year alone.
“When you see that on the packaging you know that the speaker is compatible,” Karen says. “It tells you that the wireless product will link to an app and stay connected without disruption.”
Karen says consumers are now embracing both compact and mega wireless speakers, which takes us full circle back to the days when stereos were part of the furniture in the living room.
“Craftsmanship matters to the consumer, they are definitely design conscious,” she says.
They are not only looking for a wireless speaker that can deliver music the way the artist intended, but something that looks like a piece of designer furniture.
Karen says Bang & Olufsen has wireless speakers that can now be arranged on the wall in the colour of your choice to create an artwork of sorts.
More bang-olufsen.com/en; bluetooth.com; synergyaudio.com
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay 9 speaker has been crafted to look like a piece of designer furniture.
The wall-mounted BeoSound Shape (left) from Bang & Olufsen can be customised to suit your living room design.
The ELAC Discovery Z3 from Synergy Audio Visual lets you enjoy music without wires.