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Bluetooth vs. AirPlay: Which Is Better?

Bluetooth and AirPlay are competing wireless audio technologies that each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Which one do you prefer?


Bluetooth vs. AirPlay: Which Is Better?
Sinclair Audio's WBT50 speakers are among a growing number of speakers using Bluetooth as its wireless audio transmission technology.
Jason Knott · February 5, 2013

Is Bluetooth vs. AirPlay the audio version of DVD vs. Blu-ray or plasma vs. LCD?  Some think so.

These two competing wireless technologies for transmitting audio in a single-room application are both gaining steam in the market with no signs of slowing down. It doesn’t appear as though one technology has a decided edge over the other either. In a recent CE Pro webinar on wireless technologies, a poll of the readers was split about 50/50.

From an overly simplistic view, here are several pros and cons for each technology.

Bluetooth

  • Is more common. It works with more devices including both Android and Apple devices.
  • Requires direct range for transmission. Reviewers say 20 feet is a good distance, even though some tout as much as 33 feet.
  • Is improving its reputation. When people initially think “Bluetooth” they think of telephone earpieces. But its reputation for poor quality is going away. The new aptX codec has a lot to do with that. Besides, can your clients really hear the difference in the audio compression?
  • Is more portable because it works without a Wi-Fi network in place.
  • Is less expensive primarily because the speaker manufacturer is not required to pay the per-product Apple licensing fee.
AirPlay
  • Does an excellent job of tracking metadata for an improved user experience.
  • Works over Wi-Fi networks, which are ubiquitous in many households today. It also means it has a much broader distribution range in the home than Bluetooth.
  • Uses high-quality audio compression with AAC files.
  • Only works with Apple iDevices and computers.
  • Allows you to set volume levels for individual speakers via iTunes.
  • Is more expensive speakers because the speaker manufacturers is required to pay the aforementioned per-product Apple licensing fee. One audio review website estimates AirPlay licensing adds $100 to the price of a speaker.

Which one do you use and why?



  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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