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An end to cable spaghetti: wireless surround sound

By Simon Blohm
Translation by Siobhán Hayes
06.06.2008, 07:50

The spread of home cinema systems in German living rooms continues to increase, especially because these systems have been becoming more and more affordable of late. Inexpensive 5.1 systems from unknown brands are available for less than one hundred Euro. However, expectations of the sound technology should not be too high for these systems.

For some time, more and more models have been on offer with wireless speakers and these are indeed an interesting alternative for certain people. The interested customer can get both 5.1 and 7.1 systems with wireless speakers.

However, usually it is only the back speakers which are really wireless and the others are connected as normal to the subwoofer or receiver with a normal speaker cable.

For whom is a wireless system suitable?

Wireless systems represent a good alternative for people with large living rooms, where otherwise, large spaces would have to be bridged with a cable. Cumbersome and ugly connections and the outlay connected with installing them can thus be avoided.

Of course, it is also possible to use wireless systems in small living rooms or living rooms which are well-filled with furniture. However, cabled systems remain the better choice in these cases, especially as the sound quality is better.

If the television is freestanding in the room, surround sound systems with wireless transmission are an aesthetically pleasing alternative. (Picture: Sony)

How good are wireless systems?

In comparison to cabled systems, wireless systems are definitely poorer in terms of sound quality. The wireless transmission quickly causes slight noise and in addition, not all sound variants are transmitted without errors.

Wireless speakers do not provide such a full-bodied sound as compared with normal speakers. In addition, there can sometimes be disruptions – depending on the transmission system used – if cordless telephones or mobile phones are used in the vicinity. Less often, the use of WLAN can cause disruptions to the sound.

Is a wireless system completely wireless?

Unfortunately, only a very small number of systems are actually completely wireless: the speakers of course need to be supplied with power somehow and this generally happens by means of a power connection which leads from the speaker to the socket.

However, it is considerably easier to hide such a cable and in normal cases, the cable does not have to be unusually long, since sockets are generally in more than sufficient supply.

With many systems, only the two back speakers are designed for wireless usage – for all others, cables, are still needed, which is advantageous for the overall sound quality. At the moment, it is still not possible to have home cinema completely without cable spaghetti.

HiFi systems are rarely completely wireless as in this picture. However, manufacturers such as Sony offer systems where the back speakers can be provided with sound wirelessly. (Picture: Sony)

If no socked is located near the back speakers, a power cable still has to be laid despite the wireless system. However, there are now some systems available which do not use any external power connection and run on batteries.

These of course need to be recharged regularly. Current High-end systems should serve a period of use of about two weeks for normal usage before they need to be plugged in once more to charge.

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