The chatter this summer centers on wireless music, fueled in no small part by the exciting Sonos Play:3 home speaker, which streams music from a computer or phone wirelessly.
There are a few competing standards for wireless music streaming, including DLNA, Apple’s AirPlay and Bluetooth.
DLNA, which stands for Digital Living Network Alliance, is supported by a consortium of manufacturers that has quietly turned the standard into a leader in wireless music streaming.
Many Android smartphones support DLNA, allowing music to be sent from the phone through a wireless home network to a speaker system that supports it.
DLNA is also supported by the PlayStation 3 and several Blu-ray and DVD players, so you may have a wireless music set-up already and not even realize it.
Apple’s AirPlay standard also allows music to be streamed wirelessly to speakers on a home network. The iTunes jukebox program acts as command central and can be used to switch between speakers, selecting just one or a combination.
A few AirPlay-enabled speakers are on the market now, with several more planned for this fall.
Here’s a closer look.
The $299 Play:3 is the first low-cost speaker from Sonos, which previously catered to high-end consumers.
The Play:3 taps into a home network using an Ethernet port on the back, allowing users to stream music to the speaker from a computer on the same network. Customers can also buy a $50 adapter called the Bridge so the speaker can be placed anywhere in the house without having to be near an Ethernet port.
The speakers also work well with streaming music services such as Spotify or Pandora. If customers buy more than one, the speakers can be linked to play the same music in each room.
An app for Android, iPhone or iPad is available to control the speaker.
Sennheiser RS 160
These premium over-the-ear headphones use another wireless standard called Kleer. The perk of Kleer is that it provides streaming of uncompressed music (Bluetooth audio is often compressed before transmission).
The headphones come with a puck-like transmitter that hooks up to a stereo or computer. Audio is sent from the transmitter to the headphones, which can be as far as 60 feet away.
These headphones retail for just shy of $260, but are available for as low as $160 if you do some searching online from outlets like Best Buy or Amazon.com.
Cue Acoustics PS1
These forthcoming speakers will be pricey at $2,500, but they’ll also be incredibly beautiful and almost completely wireless. The only cord here is the power cord.
The PS1 connects using DLNA, so music can be streamed to them from any device that supports that standard, such as an Android smartphone or tablet.
These speakers stand shy of 2 feet tall, but promise big sound.
The PS1 speakers will be available in September.
Apple AirPort Express Base Station
This wireless router also doubles as a handy bridge to stream music wirelessly to a set of speakers.
The AirPort Express ($99) has a standard audio jack on the bottom that can be hooked up to almost any speaker system. Then, in iTunes, music can be switched from the computer’s speakers to the speakers hooked up to the base station several rooms away.
You can also tell iTunes to use a combination of networked speakers, setting the volume of each from the computer.
The AirPort Express also has a USB port on the bottom that can be hooked up to a printer for wireless printing from any networked computer.
JayBird Freedom Bluetooth headphones
These headphones are designed for the active set. They pair to a smartphone (or MP3 player with an extra adapter) using Bluetooth, and are certified to be sweatproof, JayBird says.
They’re bound together with a cord that conveniently wraps around the back of the neck as you exercise. The earphones also come with several earbud sizes for a snug fit.
The headphones cost $99 and include a microphone so users can take phone calls when the phones are paired with a smartphone.
By Mark W. Smith