(Un)Wired for sound

The home stereo is now a wire­less de­signer prod­uct, writes Cather­ine Nikas-Bou­los

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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.

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