When buying a speaker, be it for public or personal use, there are some questions that you have to ask yourself as well as some factors that you have to consider before buying one.
Most people prefer a wireless speaker for the simple reason, which is that they are easier to move around than the wired ones.
There are wireless speakers, and today, we will only be discussing Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers, and the question, does a Bluetooth speaker need a Wi-Fi connection for it to work and vice versa.
We will also take a more in-depth look at the ranges, how each technology works, the limits of both technologies, and which one is better for a particular purpose, a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi speaker.
Table of Contents
Understanding a Bluetooth speaker and how it works
Bluetooth is a technology that enables you to connect two devices and does not need any Wi-Fi connection or any internet connection for it to work. For Bluetooth to work, you only need the devices to be Bluetooth enabled and be in an acceptable range.
This range differs from device to device depending on the Bluetooth version that is installed. If two devices have different versions installed then the range is determined by the older version.
Once you have paired the devices, they can communicate, meaning they can exchange data.
Bluetooth works by sending and receiving radio waves in a band of over 79 frequencies, all of which rely or center on 2.4GHz. It is worth noting that these frequencies exclude television, radio, and mobile phones, as they have their own reserved frequencies.
The main difference, between a Bluetooth speaker and a speaker with Wi-Fi, is that Wi-Fi can connect more devices. Unlike Bluetooth, Wi-Fi allows more connections concurrently. Bluetooth devices detect and connect automatically as they all communicate on different distinctly allocated channels of the 79 available.
If two Bluetooth devices want to communicate, they randomly pick a channel avaliable on the network. If the channel has already been taken, they switch to another one. This action is commonly called the Frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS). To minimize any form of interference, the devices continuously shift frequency. This happens over a thousand times per second. Two or more connected Bluetooth devices form a small computer network called a Piconet and one or more piconets can also join to form a scatternet.
Properties and Advantages of Bluetooth speakers
Bluetooth speakers come in different sizes and shapes. Depending on the speaker’s size it could be lighter and easier to carry around. These speakers do not need cables to be connected.
- Durable and Waterproof
Since these speakers are built to be moved around, they are built to withstand wear and tear and other conditions, such as dusty and rainy weather.
- Built-in Rechargeable Battery
These kinds of speakers have a battery that can easily be recharged providing hours of music to entertain you.
- Energy Efficiency
It is more energy-efficient than a Wi-Fi speaker as it only needs a battery or a single power connection. Unlike a Wi-Fi speaker, which requires power for the speaker, the router, and the other connected devices, for example, laptops and other electronics.
- Ease of Connection
Bluetooth speakers are way easier to connect compared to a Wi-Fi speaker as you only need to pair the speaker to another device and go ahead and enjoy your music. Hence the reason Bluetooth is used in headphones and earbuds for sound.
Limitations of Bluetooth Speakers
- Distance and physical barriers
The range of a Bluetooth connection is very limited to about 40 feet for Bluetooth 4.2. Walls in a house can cause interference with the Bluetooth connection as well. This in return can cause dropouts in the entertaining experience when using headphones, speakers etc.
The later versions of Bluetooth have solved most of the earlier versions’ defects, however, the range is still an issue, although improved.
- Energy consumption
Bluetooth not only uses a lot of power but also drains the battery power of the device that it is paired to. This is caused by continually scanning for signals, even when already paired. However, energy consumption is reduced in later versions.
- Slow data transfer and poor security
Bluetooth 4.2 enabled devices only send and receive data at 1 Mbps and Bluetooth 5.0 onwards send/receive data at 2 Mbps, which is a lot less than the speeds of Wi-Fi and USB enabled devices.
A Bluetooth device’s security can be weaker compared to Wi-Fi.
It was possible on earlier versions of Bluetooth for others to gain access to your device through the connection, however, security has somewhat improved since then.
Wi-Fi speakers and how they work
Wi-Fi speakers require a stable internet connection, be it on your home network or a public network, for them to work.
When you buy a Wi-Fi speaker, you would also need a router connected to the internet that can share the signal with other devices around its range, including the Wi-Fi speaker. The speaker might not need to be connected to the internet signal, but it co-exists with the Wi-Fi connection.
Such a setup allows you to connect more than one Wi-Fi speaker.
As long as there’s a good internet connection, the Wi-Fi speaker can work uninterrupted anywhere in the Wi-Fi range. Physical barriers, for example, walls and alike in a home do not affect the functioning of the Wi-Fi speaker.
It is also worth mentioning that Wi-Fi can act like Bluetooth, whereby it can connect two devices in a short-range using Wi-Fi Direct. It almost functions in a similar way as Bluetooth. Wi-Fi Direct functionality is installed on most Android, iOS, laptops, smartphones, and other consumer electronics.
You only need to configure the settings and you wouldn’t need Bluetooth anymore for effective data transfer.
Properties and Advantages of Wi-Fi Speakers
- Connecting more than one speaker
Wi-Fi speakers allow for connections of more than one speaker and other consumer electronics, like mobile phones and laptops. Hence you can operate and manipulate these devices anywhere within range of a Wi-Fi internet connection.
- High-resolution audio transmission
Wi-Fi speakers have high-resolution audio transmission, which is not possible with Bluetooth speakers. Thus, the audio files’ sound quality is way better than a Bluetooth speaker. If you’re streaming movies on the TV then these could be a great edition for sound.
- High connection range
Wi-Fi speakers have a higher range of connections than Bluetooth speakers, and they mainly rely on the strength of the Wi-Fi signal and not the range of the signal.
- High data transfer speed
Wi-Fi speakers can transfer data at insane speeds depending on the signal strength of the Wi-Fi. Perfect for streaming with sound.
Limitations of Wi-Fi speakers
- Limited portability
Not all Wi-Fi speakers are portable as they need a Wi-Fi connection to work.
Wi-Fi speakers are more expensive than Bluetooth speakers. That is because they have more features and properties compared to those of the Bluetooth speakers.
Wi-Fi speakers can also be a target for attackers. Through your Wi-Fi connection, an attacker can gain control of your speakers and use them as he or she pleases.
Can a speaker have both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Functionalities?
Earlier, this was not possible, but with the advance in technology, more and more companies have been designing and developing speakers that can function with both a Wi-Fi and a Bluetooth connection.
These latest speakers have the best of both, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers. You can connect more than one of the same speakers while also having a direct connection between a device and the speaker.
Although they are quite expensive, these speakers are worth the money for the added features they have. A cool addition to the home
How can Bluetooth interfere with Wi-Fi?
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can both work together on the same frequency, but one at the expense of the other, if you haven’t configured your Wi-Fi settings or router settings well to avoid the interference.
Bluetooth is made to work on the 2.4 GHz frequency, and so are some Wi-Fi routers, although they work on different channels, hence the interference.
When you connect through Bluetooth to another device and use the same device on a Wi-Fi internet connection, the strength of the internet connection often tends to drop. To avoid this problem, you can change your router’s Wi-Fi channel to minimize or avoid interference entirely.
The Verdict of What’s Best
Bluetooth speakers do not need an Internet connection like Wi-Fi speakers do to work. Also, Wi-Fi speakers are more superior to the Bluetooth ones in many forms, for example, data transfer and range. However, all of these speakers have advantages in some situations and disadvantages in others.
If you are looking for a simple working device to device connection, that’s waterproof and durable, then the Bluetooth device is your go-to option.
But if you want to sync your home as a single system including the speakers, higher quality of audio resolution, and higher range, you have to dig deeper into your pocket for Wi-Fi speakers.
Then, there is the other option of the speaker, with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionalities. These provide you with a wide range of features and properties that will make your audio system standout. These speakers bring the best of both worlds together, including the portability and the high range to improve your listening experience.
These kinds of speakers come of course at an added expense.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers as Wireless Speakers
Wireless speakers have both advantages and drawbacks.
Their benefits include the fact that they are easy to install compared to the wired ones, and they give you the freedom to put them anywhere you like as there are no wires to interfere with.
Their cons are that with wireless speakers, there can be an audio delay and interference in sound.
The most significant drawback is that they tend to consume more power and have to be recharged, unlike the wired ones.
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