Wireless speakers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and with different technologies. When I think about wireless speakers, convenient Bluetooth speakers pop up in my head. For true blue audiophiles, it may be wireless surround sound systems that cost hundreds of times more and make cable management a breeze. This begs the question. While they all have wireless technology, do they need power?
Yes, irrespective of the technology under the shell, all wireless speakers or speaker systems require power in some form or another. It needs to pull juice either from a battery or directly from the wall socket.
What are the different types of wireless speakers?
There are several types of technology that enable wireless speakers and all have their advantages or disadvantages. Understanding them helps you to realize how they are powered and how they can come in use for different situations:
Before WiFi and Bluetooth became mainstream and battery technology wasn’t as advanced, portable wireless speakers weren’t a thing. To get some decent audio, I had to turn to my home stereo system and hook it up to wireless RF speakers.
Most homes lack the pre-wiring necessary for a clean home stereo system. That’s why I had to do a lot of cable management when I had wired speakers hooked up to my stereo system. It involved grueling hours of cable management, channel cuts, and drilling walls to achieve a clean-looking setup.
RF and IR speakers and subwoofers were a breath of fresh air. They used radio transmission or infrared technology to receive the audio signals from the amplifier. Unlike RF speakers, IR speakers were very limited since they couldn’t penetrate walls, making a multi-room setup impossible, and also had to be in direct line of sight with the transmitter to receive the signal.
Since the advent of Bluetooth technology and the emergence of reliable lithium-ion batteries, portable speakers have become a convenient companion to my phone. I could “pair” and connect the speakers to my phone, computer, laptop, or tablet with the press of a button and get an immediate boost to volume and clarity. While Bluetooth range is short, it allows me to make my dorm room parties more lively and lets me pack a decent audio playback device on my camping trips.
WiFi speakers mitigated the range anxiety you get with Bluetooth. I can connect WiFi speakers to my phone, computer, or home theatre system and it can still communicate with the source over TCP/IP with hundreds of feet of distance in between.
There’s also WiFi mesh speakers from Apple, Google, and Sonos that lets you connect the speakers to your home’s WiFi network and play audio in synchronization throughout the home.
Do wireless speakers need power?
Irrespective of the type of wireless speaker you own, all of them need power. With wired speakers, you have a mess of wires. One of them connects to a socket for power while others connect to the audio source via a single audio jack or several jacks dedicated to different channels.
With wireless systems, the power source may be a set of inbuilt or replaceable batteries or a single short wire that connects to the socket for power. Wireless speakers with batteries aren’t spared from wires either. You need to connect them to a socket or connect them to your computer or power bank via a USB cable to charge them up.
When you think of it in this way, wireless speakers aren’t wireless at all, especially when they don’t have batteries and are connected to an AC power source while playing music.
Whatever the case, after extensive research and my own experience, I would say they are the better solution. Even if you need to hook up a wireless speaker to the socket, the power cord doesn’t need to be too long and can be easily managed or hidden.
Moreover, the portable wireless speakers allow you to take your music anywhere you want. Since you can charge those speakers from power banks and other such sources, they are also more reliable and don’t leave you with your silent thoughts when the power lines are affected by a storm.
The advantages shine through when you have a wireless surround sound system.
How are wireless surround sound systems powered?
There are several options available for surround sound speakers. Whether you buy them individually or in a group, they need some form of power.
Wired surround sound systems need to be hooked up to the audio source and power source. Even if they are passive speakers that get both power and audio from the amplifier, you have to figure out their power ratings to get the right level of loudness. You need to nail the power settings so that you don’t wake up your neighbors on your first attempt like me or blow up the speakers. You also need to figure out how to place your speakers correctly so that you get the true multi-channel output without running out of wires.
That’s why most people including me have already switched to a wireless surround sound setup or giving it a hard thought. You don’t have to worry about the wattage and voltage ratings since all wireless speakers are active speakers with in-built amplifiers. I didn’t need to waste hours hunting down the right receiver to get the most out of my wireless surround speakers.
Even when you have to endure the paradox of powering your wireless speakers via a power cord running to the socket, they are a much better option. They feature shorter wires even when compared to passive speakers that need less cable management and can allow bi-amping to provide more power to each channel.
You can also go truly wireless by buying speakers that run on disposable or rechargeable batteries. However, you need to maintain sufficient stock of disposable batteries or return the speakers to the charger after every use. You don’t want an annoying low battery signal when you want to watch your favorite Netflix show or play that new hit single by ‘The Weekend’.
How much power do your wireless speakers need?
With wireless speakers, you don’t need to worry about the wattage, amps, and voltage ratings on your speakers. Wireless speakers with their internal speakers have all that figured out for you. When I need to change the loudness or other settings, I can do it from an app on my phone, or by changing the dials on my receiver.
You don’t need to worry about expandability either. The power delivery of your amplifier is used to decide the total number of speakers you can hook up to your system. On the other hand, wireless speakers from the likes of Sonos, Polk, and Damson use WiFi mesh technology to expand your surround sound system the way you want.
How long do wireless speakers need to be charged?
The charging time for battery-powered wireless speakers depends on the speaker’s acoustic output and battery capacity of the speaker. For instance, the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ I carry with me at all times has a 24 watt-hour or around 4800 mAh battery capacity and gets charged within 4 hours.
It may be different for you depending on your speaker’s battery capacity and the charging adapter provided with it. If you recharge your speaker from a power bank, it may charge very slowly, especially if the power bank doesn’t support fast charging.
Whether you have a portable Bluetooth speaker, a smart home speaker system from Apple, Google, or Amazon, or a HiFi wireless surround sound system from Damson, all of them will require some form of power source. Some may need to be plugged into a power socket while others need to be charged and can play music without being plugged in.
I would suggest opting for a decent Bluetooth speaker if you travel a lot and need a good source of music at all times. Otherwise, you’re better off with a HiFi wireless speaker system that stays plugged into a nearby socket. You don’t want to add returning the speakers to a charger as a daily chore