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Aug112017

Podcast #804: Wired vs Wireless Home Audio

We recently read an interview with some home installers discussing wired vs wireless solutions for home audio. We have always said that nothing beats physical wires for reliability and speed. However, times have changed and and wireless has come a long way. So what do these experts think about the subject today? Note - these are the views of an A/V Installer and dealer.

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Wired vs Wireless Home Audio

We recently read an interview with some home installers discussing wired vs wireless solutions for home audio. We have always said that nothing beats physical wires for reliability and speed. However, times have changed and and wireless has come a long way. So what do these experts think about the subject today? Note - these are the views of an A/V Installer and dealer.

What is the benefit of a hardwired installation?

Reliability, speed and cost. Less service calls factor into the mix as well.

Our take - Reliability is less likely to be an issue today. There are more channels, when you include 5GHz networks. Plus there are new mesh routers out there from Google, eero Pro, and NETGEAR Orbi that provide better coverage of you home. Speed is also less of an issue with these routers. All of them support 802.11ac which gets you close to wired. And since we are specifically talking about audio, it's far less of an issue since even the highest quality audio uses less than a megabit per second of data. As far as cost goes, if you have a home under construction or are doing major renovations, a hardwired solution may be cheaper. However, if you in a home is not under construction, it will cost much more to open up walls.  

When would wired be better than wireless?

When the home is under construction or major renovation. In environments that swamped with wireless networks.

Our take - If your home is under construction then by all means wire every room! Don’t forget the garage and even the bathrooms. Run wire everywhere you can think of. A thousand feet of Cat 6 cable is less than $150. You will need cover plates and connectors plus labor but even with all of that you won’t spend more than about $500 for an extremely reliable network.

Most of the interview dealt with wiring for data, however, since we are talking about audio we should consider speaker wire as part of the solution. If the walls in the home are open you can run speaker wire to a central point and connect it to a multichannel amp or other audio system.

When would wireless be better than wired?

If you can’t easily get behind the walls or if you live in a rental.

Our take - Agree

What are the pitfalls of wireless whole house audio systems?

RF interference that result in weak signals in some rooms.

Our take - The lower frequency (2.4 Ghz) radio is great for longer distances but has to compete for fewer channels while the higher frequency (5 Ghz) radio has less interference but doesn’t travel through walls as well as the lower frequency. This was the main reason for us to go with hardwired in our recommendations. But with the new mesh network wireless systems it's no longer an issue. For about $300 you can fully cover a 4,500 square foot house.

What system is used in the majority of your installs?

Wireless

Our take - Wired is dead! ;-)

Which do you prefer?

Wired for reliability and to preserve wireless network bandwidth for applications that require a wireless connection.

Our take - Like us, these guys have been in the game for a while and at the time, wired was really the way to go for the exact reason as they state. However, with 802.11ac there is plenty of room for streaming audio, video, as well as typical computer network traffic.

What do the HT Guys think today?

Braden can tell you first hand that his entire home has seen an improvement when he switched to his Google mesh network wifi network. Ara likes it because when we record in Braden’s garage the signal actually makes it his computer. It looks like we have to modify our recommendations and start including wifi as a viable option.

 

 

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Reader Comments (2)

Hey guys - Just started listening to the show and love it!

I have a friend who has a house that was pre-wired with audio/speakers in most rooms. They had been using a traditional receiver as the main source for their audio. I would like to 'update' them to a system they can control remotely (like Sonos) but using the existing hard wired system. Any recommendations for an option? I have been out of the AV game for a while so I am not as in tune with what are the new standards. Budget is $300 ish.

Regards,
Ross W. (Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas)

August 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterR_Dub

Hi Ross,

We're glad you found us! In that price range I would go with a Chromecast Audio connected to powered speakers. That way your friend can upgrade the speakers when finances allow.

Ara

August 17, 2017 | Registered CommenterHT Guys

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