Apple AirPlay or bluetooth for audio streaming? it depends…

This year speaker docks and sound systems for Apple devices have been all about wireless streaming, and specifically whether to go with the new Apple AirPlay speakers or to go with the more affordable bluetooth audio streaming. But which one is best? It really depends what you are after.

Airplay or bluetooth for audio streaming

Apple AirPlay streaming is about much more than just streaming audio, as with AirPlay you can stream video, photos, games etc. to compatible devices such as an Apple Tv 2 box. AirPlay technology relies on your Wi-Fi connection for streaming so the quality of audio that can be streamed is higher than what is currently with most bluetooth solutions. It is also a more expensive technology for audio brands to implement in their sound systems, which is why so many AirPlay enabled systems are sitting at the higher end of the all-in-one speaker market.

Bluetooth is a popular streaming technology that is used in a lot of more budget friendly speaker solutions, and you can easily get a decent portable bluetooth speaker for under £100. Bluetooth based technologies such as Apt X helps improve the streaming quality, but is not as commonly used yet, but growing in popularity.

The thing is, if you play most of your music from your smartphone or iOS / iPod device, and are on a budget when it comes to audio solutions, then you are likely to experience little difference in audio performance between a decent AirPlay speaker and a good bluetooth speaker, and you might want to go with the latter. However if you have most of your digital music as high quality audio files, and a bit of extra money to put into your home audio system, then you are more likely to get better performance and more out of an AirPlay system.

Some of the key factors on my list to consider before choosing an audio streaming system are:

  • What is my budget? Below £300 or above is often an area where the trade offs lie
  • Am i looking for a multi-room system or a system that i can build on?
  • Do i need to be able to stream from other devices than iOS devices? Airplay is Apple only (some exceptions)
  • Are my digital music files in high quality (at least 320kbs)?

If you are really into your music and consider yourself a bit of an audiophile, then you are more likely to lean towards the Airplay streaming solutions. However if you are on a budget then you might get better value for money from some of the bluetooth enabled systems out there. You might also want to add the Sonos wireless audio solutions to your shortlist for checking out.

You can take a look at some of the best Airplay speakers and bluetooth speakers here.


Filed in: Lead Story, wireless speakers

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