What is the state of wireless technology w/Home Theater ?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Kirk Gunn, Apr 9, 2004.

  1. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    With 802.11g pushing 54MBps, any new HT applications coming down the pike ?

    I'd like to connect an output from an upstairs receiver to the basement HT (both are Denons w/multi-room capability), but of course I don't have any cabling between them...

    Any comments/suggestions ?
    Thanks
     
  2. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    It mostly depends on how high (or not) your expectations are for audio reproduction.

    The problem is not so much the wireless transmission as it is the other details. For instance, it’s one thing to do a cordless phone, which requires little in the way of high fidelity reproduction. But if you want the kind of specifications generally expected in home audio - like ruler flat frequency response, low distortion ratings, high signal-to-noise ratio - that’s another matter. It’s probably no accident that you see little if anything in the way of meaningful specs for wireless speakers.

    If you can live with dinky plastic speakers that don’t sonically match your fronts, that have only 50 watts of power at best and highly questionable specs, you should be able to find a wireless system to meet your needs.

    If not, you will have to look to adapting pro audio wireless equipment, which is the best-developed market of hardware for wireless transmission of audio signals. Decent-quality wireless guitar or mic rigs run between $100-300, and you’d need as many of them as channels you want to transmit. And even then you ‘re rolling the dice on how sonically accurate they are. You don’t see meaningful hi-fi audio specs like frequency response, S/N ratios or THD ratings there, either.

    The other problem is that once the signal gets to the remote location it has to be amplified. You’ve probably noticed that most decent home theater receivers have about 100 watts per channel. Good amplification is not small or lightweight or cheap.

    I can easily see where, if a manufacture took one of their good-quality bookshelf speakers and adapted it to a wireless application, that it would add considerable weight and expense to each speaker. For instance, the cheapest 100-watt plate amps available for subs weight about 10 lbs, and go for around $100 each. And that’s not even including any transmitting or receiving electronics. Add another $150-200 for high-quality (read immune to interference) transmitting and receiving electronics and what to you have? A $500+ premium for a pair of good-quality wireless speakers.

    This is why you won’t find any high-quality wireless speakers on the market. Generally the people who want them are after a cheap cost-cutting measure. Why would they pay such a premium? It would be cheaper to just hire a professional to run the wires you need.

    The only breakthrough for home audio wireless I can see in the near future is the inclusion of digital amplifiers. These are just now beginning to make a stir in the HT receiver market. They’re small, light and powerful, and reasonably priced, so they’d be ideal for a wireless application. Right now there are only a handful of digital amps on the market, so I expect it will be a few years before they move into wireless applications.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  3. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the insight Wayne, great comments on the new digital amps. Definitely agree on the wireless speaker application since it's passing an amplified signal. I was hoping there were new wireless developments in outputting/receiving program sources via wireless. (i.e. CD-out signal from one receiver being transferred wirelessly to CD-In on the other receiver). Wouldn't that bandwidth be less than an amplified signal to a speaker ?

    Also investigating the NetGear MP101. Definitely not expecting SACD/DVD-A quality from it, but I'm satisfied with MP3's over 192k as background music so I'm not too picky for this application. Skeptical on how it would do with broadband internet radio....
     

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