HomeTechnologyNewsWhich has better audio quality?

Which has better audio quality?

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Hannah Stryker / Instructional Geek

Wi-Fi is better for music, as these connections have a much higher bandwidth than Bluetooth, meaning your music isn’t additionally compressed, resulting in higher-quality audio. Bluetooth may still sound good and is very useful, but for lossless or hi-res audio, Wi-Fi is your only option.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are two ways to wirelessly stream music from your devices to the speakers, but which is the best option for you? While one definitely has higher quality audio than the other, as you’ll see, both are still worth your time.

How Bluetooth and Wi-Fi differ for music streaming

While both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are types of wireless communication, they work very differently. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses.

Bluetooth connections are direct, which means that, for example, your phone is transmitting data directly to a Bluetooth speaker or wireless headset. This introduces several restrictions, as this connection only has limited bandwidth.

Bluetooth’s limited bandwidth means that audio streams must be compressed to transmit over the connection. This means that no matter how high the quality of your audio source is, the connection will degrade it.

Wi-Fi, on the other hand, does not use these direct connections. Instead, your phone or other devices talk to a router that then sends signals to other devices. This generates speeds close to wired Ethernet speeds, which means there’s no reason to compress music files.

As it stands now, if you’re looking for pure audio quality, Wi-Fi is the best option.

Bluetooth for music: pros and cons

While Bluetooth doesn’t offer the same level of audio quality, it still has a lot going for it, especially with wireless headphones, where it still reigns supreme. That being said, it does have its pros and cons.

Bluetooth can’t transmit that much data

As we mentioned earlier, Bluetooth is limited to a certain amount of bandwidth. Especially when using the default SBC codec, this means that your audio streams are relatively compressed. This is also true with Apple’s AAC codec.

There are higher quality codecs like LDAC available, and Bluetooth LE Audio looks promising. Even so, Bluetooth doesn’t support high-resolution or lossless audio well.

Bluetooth is fine for most streaming services

Bluetooth may not offer the best audio quality, but the good news is that in many cases this doesn’t matter much. If you’re listening to most of your music through Spotify, a higher-bandwidth connection won’t offer any sort of upgrade anyway (since Spotify doesn’t have the best audio quality).

Some streaming services like Tidal, Deezer, Apple Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited offer lossless audio, high-resolution audio, or both. With these, you may notice a slight improvement in sound quality over Wi-Fi, but even that is debatable.

Bluetooth is easier to use

Pairing a Bluetooth speaker or headset is a simple and straightforward process. Wi-Fi, on the other hand, requires a router and logging into your Wi-Fi network on each device.

Bluetooth also allows you to take your music anywhere, since all you need is a phone and a speaker. If you’re looking for ease of use and portability, Bluetooth wins.

Wi-Fi for music: pros and cons

While Wi-Fi offers the highest bandwidth and the best overall audio quality, it’s not automatically the best option for everyone. This is especially true if you’re looking for smaller speakers.

WiFi is less portable

Compared to the last point about Bluetooth above, Wi-Fi is more complex to set up and less portable. If you’re setting up a home stereo system, this won’t matter much. That being said, you often won’t be able to take a Wi-Fi speaker with you everywhere.

Still, there are some speakers like the Sonos Roam that offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in one speaker. These allow you to choose which connection to use depending on the situation.

Wi-Fi is best for CD quality and high-resolution audio

If you have a collection of high-resolution lossless audio files, or are using a streaming service that offers high-resolution audio, Wi-Fi is a much better option. The only codecs used here are the ones your files or streaming services use, without additional compression.

This is useful enough for pop music, but if you listen to more dynamic music like classical or jazz, you’ll hear more detail with lossless audio over Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is better for multiroom audio

As mentioned above, Bluetooth works ad-hoc, communicating directly from one device to another. There are Bluetooth speakers that let you pair multiple speakers together, but they’re still not enough for a proper multiroom setup.

Since Wi-Fi allows the router to handle, well, route the signals, Wi-Fi is much easier to use for multi-room audio. Connect your various speakers in different rooms, register them to your network, then start playing music and fill your home with sound.

Is Wi-Fi always better than Bluetooth for music?

Looking strictly at the data, yes, Wi-Fi offers much higher quality audio than Bluetooth, including lossless and hi-res audio. That being said, Wi-Fi is not the best option in all cases. For example, if you’re looking for portability, Bluetooth wins.

Audio quality may be the most important factor in a home stereo, for example, but always consider how and where you’ll use a product before choosing between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If you can, go for both and get the best of both worlds.


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