Bluetooth VS WiFi Audio Streaming

Everyone loves to be able to play and control their music wirelessly.

For a long time now Bluetooth has been the go-to technology for wireless music, but it’s not the only option. Connecting to your speaker via wifi has been around for a while now, but only recently, thanks to products like Sonos and Chromecast, has it become more readily available to consumers.

Both of these technologies has its individual advantages and disadvantages, and as with most things, it comes down to what you value as important. Let's talk about both and see what stands out for you.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth was originally conceived to replace short link data cables back in 95’ and was later adapted to handle stereo audio. Pretty much everything electronic that has an ability to communicate has built-in Bluetooth and if it doesn’t, it’s super cheap and easy to add an external module.

Pros

  • Availability - As stated above, it's in almost everything.
  • Cheap - It’s pretty inexpensive to buy or make a wireless speaker using Bluetooth. Or if you want to add wireless to an existing system, external Bluetooth modules are also inexpensive.

Cons

  • Sound Quality - Though Bluetooth has come a long way in the past few years, your audio still has to be compressed for it to be transmitted correctly. Bluetooth 4.0 was a big step to make the quality better. Now, will you actually hear the difference? I don’t know. Everyone is different. Some people can, some people can’t.
  • Range - Companies claim a range of 30ft, but you're probably looking at more like 15ft. And although you don’t need to have line of sight, walls rapidly cut into the dependability of the signal.
  • Dependability - Pretty much everything that's wireless comes with some dependable issues and sometimes your audio will drop out or crackle for seemingly no reason. Also, I don’t like having to go into the settings of my phone every time I want to listen to music, I wish it was a little easier to connect. At least on my phone.

WiFi

WiFi uses the same basic idea as Bluetooth, except instead of connected straight from your audio source, like your phone, to your speaker, you’re using your home WiFi router to transmit the audio signal from your audio source to your speakers. WiFi is almost as common as Bluetooth on connected devices, but not quite as common as Bluetooth with speakers.

Pros

  • Range - This is a big one. With WiFi, you don’t have to worry about losing your audio signal as long as you have a wifi signal. So, if your WiFi is set up to cover your whole house, you can keep your phone in your pocket and never have to worry about loosing signal.
  • Sound Quality - Wifi has a much larger bandwidth than Bluetooth giving it the ability to stream lossless audio. This means all the information that leaves the audio source will be received by your audio amp. Now, will you really need this? Maybe, maybe not. Some people only stream from their phones while others may take their listening a bit more seriously.
  • Zones - Through the use of software and multiple receivers, WiFi gives you the ability to set up different audio zones that are all controlled with one device. You can listen to the same music in all your zones with separate volume, or you can listen to different music in different zones. This is really nice if you have multiple speakers setups throughout your home.

Cons

  • Price - WiFi is still expensive. Prices have come down a lot, but because it’s not as standard as Bluetooth, so it costs more.
  • Setup - Setup can be a huge hassle with wifi systems, especially with cheaper systems. Although most nicer systems utilize an app and WPS to connect to your wifi. Which is literally just pushing a button at the right time to connect. Super easy.

So which is best for you? Well, that depends on your needs. Do you want just one, smaller system, and aren’t worried about leaving the room while listening? Maybe Bluetooth is right for you. Or maybe you have a few systems and you want to be able to listen on all of them and sound quality is super important to you. Then maybe WiFi is what you’re looking for.

The bottom line is, both these technologies offer wireless music playback, and both have their advantages. It really depends on the kind of system you’re planning on buying or building.
But you should definitely be building it. Because building it is way more fun than just buying it.

Good luck!