How Do Bluetooth Speakers Work?

Bluetooth connectivity has become more prevalent in today’s society with an evolution of wireless technology. Through speakers and headphones, we are able to easily listen to music on the move. However, you may be curious as to how these Bluetooth speakers actually work?

In this article, we deep dive into Bluetooth speaker functionality as well as different examples of each within the marketplace. Will this format factor be here to stay or will there be a new one in the horizon?

bluetooth speakers

Bluetooth Speakers: What Are They?

To put it simply, a Bluetooth speaker is a wireless speaker that uses Bluetooth technology to play audio from your device that supports Bluetooth. Most modern gadgets nowadays support Bluetooth connections, such as smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets, and even audio peripherals such as headphones.

Sonos Five (From Sonos)

See our recommendations for the best high-end wireless speakers.

How Does Bluetooth Work?

Bluetooth technology, just like other forms of wireless technology, uses radio waves in order for it to work. Take for example how cellphones and smartphones worked: communication between each device is achieved by connecting to available radio towers in its vicinity via radio waves. That allows those devices to connect and talk to each other to establish calls and texts.

Meanwhile, Bluetooth technology also uses radio waves for connection, but a weaker radio signal compared to those of other gadgets that communicate wirelessly. Due to that fact, most Bluetooth connections range only up to 10 meters; anything more than that will disconnect a Bluetooth connection between devices.

From Exforsys

However, that range only applies to consumer products as industry-grade Bluetooth technology allows connection ranges up to 100 meters. However, most industry-grade Bluetooth technology is very bulky and unwieldy, which will not fit within the pockets of many consumers.

Thanks to its wireless capabilities, you can use Bluetooth technology on your devices that support it for wireless connection and communication.

Bluetooth Ceiling Speakers: A Variation?

Not to be confused with a regular Bluetooth speaker, a Bluetooth ceiling speaker (also called either Bluetooth in-ceiling or in-wall speakers) is a Bluetooth speaker permanently attached (or embedded) into a wall or ceiling, hence its name.

Sonos In-Ceiling Speakers (From Sonos)

It basically works as a regular Bluetooth speaker – minus the portability. This kind of Bluetooth speaker is intended for home audio system setups that forgo the wires for Bluetooth connectivity instead. Most of them are placed in a static position (i.e. being placed over the wall or being hung from the ceiling), but there are some models that on their own specialized speaker cases as big as a home theater speaker unit.

As seen from the Sonos ceiling speakers above, most Bluetooth ceiling speakers are similar in design and shape to car speaker units, minus the wiring. The only wiring that will be needed for this kind of Bluetooth speaker is the power wiring, as it will be using the house’s electrical wiring as its power source through dedicated ports during installation.

Although Bluetooth ceiling speakers offer better audio quality and better volume when it comes to audio playback, many people still prefer portable Bluetooth speakers. Even though basic models cannot match the quality nor output of large speaker units (regardless of being wired or wireless), many portable Bluetooth speakers have improved their audio quality and output over the years.

Bluetooth Speaker Vs. Wi-Fi Speakers

Now, when it comes to properly knowing what Bluetooth speakers are, it is important that you would not confuse it with another type of wireless speaker, namely Wi-Fi speakers. It is true that both speakers are wireless when it comes to their connections to the device that you are using as the audio source, but they differ in their connectivity.

As mentioned earlier, Bluetooth speakers use the same radio waves (albeit lower) as phones and car speaker systems do for connectivity and audio transferring. It also uses the protocols that those other devices use when using Bluetooth technology. The sound (audio source) is then transmitted wirelessly through available airwaves to the corresponding receiver (i.e. the Bluetooth speaker).

The differences between Bluetooth and Wi-fi - Dignited
From Dignited

The synchronization of two Bluetooth-enabled devices is quite fast and easy. Once you have activated the host device’s (i.e. your main audio source such as your smartphone) Bluetooth, it will then easily connect with a different device with its Bluetooth establishing a connection to the host device.

The connection of Bluetooth devices happens between a special short-range network called a piconet, where two or more devices can connect at the same time with the host device (as long as the host device supports multiple connections at the same time). In a piconet network, the host device will act as the main control center (also called the Master), while devices connected to it via Bluetooth are called discoverable devices (also called the Slave).

Piconets and Scatternets | Upgrading and Repairing Networks (5th Edition)
From Flylib=

Thanks to that Master-Slave relationship between devices, it can also allow the transmission of data between connected devices over Bluetooth, which a Bluetooth speaker does. It transfers the audio source’s data in real-time and plays it back through its speakers, enabling wireless playback.

On the other hand, Wi-Fi speakers (also called Smart Speakers) need a “bridge” to establish a connection between the speaker unit and the audio source. That bridge would be your home or office’s Wi-Fi network. Thanks to modern gadgets today, a Wi-Fi connection can be established by most computers and laptops easily, while smartphones can be used as a Wi-Fi Hotspot in order for Wi-Fi speakers to connect to.

The only advantage that a Wi-Fi speaker has over Bluetooth speakers is that the former provides a better overall audio listening experience over the latter. However, the past few years have shown that improvements of Bluetooth speakers have significantly closed that gap with Wi-Fi speakers, whereas many newer Bluetooth speaker models sound close or even better than most Wi-Fi speakers in the market today.

Without a bridge, the Wi-Fi speaker won’t work as intended. It also makes connecting one device to another quite difficult, unlike with Bluetooth speakers. Additionally, Wi-Fi speakers need to be plugged into a power socket all the time during usage, unlike Bluetooth speakers that have their own power source thanks to their internal batteries, making Wi-Fi speakers static and nonmobile.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Bluetooth Speaker?

There are several benefits a user can achieve when using a Bluetooth speaker for their audio listening needs.

Convenience

The first noticeable benefit it offers is convenience, as it can be simply used without any deep technological knowledge. It is just as simple as turning on the Bluetooth connection of your audio source, then turning on the Bluetooth speaker.

If it’s the first time you are using your Bluetooth speaker, just simply make your audio source (for example your smartphone) search any nearby Bluetooth devices. Once it does, it will automatically find your Bluetooth speaker and establish a connection between themselves (the Master-Slave function), and once done you are good to go and use the Bluetooth speaker.

However, if it isn’t the first time connecting, the Bluetooth speaker will simply use the previously saved established connection previously made, making the connection between the two devices much faster than before. Do take note that as long as the host device or the Bluetooth speakers doesn’t connect to other devices other than themselves, their previously established connection will stay saved until overwritten by a different connection.

Size and Portability

The second benefit of using a Bluetooth speaker is its size and portability. Many Bluetooth speakers (such as the Sony example) are small, compact devices that you can bring mostly anywhere to use.

Thanks to its internal batteries that can be recharged by your smartphone’s charger (or computer with the right cable), you can basically bring a Bluetooth speaker anywhere. You can even charge most Bluetooth speakers with a portable power bank these days, so power won’t be an overall issue.

Bose Smart Speaker (From Bose)

Less Hassle With Fewer Cables

The third benefit of having a Bluetooth speaker over wired speakers is that you avoid the mess of fixing up wires that may clutter up in your home or office. Having many wires to manage can be confusing and dangerous as well, as the chance of tripping over a wire is most likely if you haven’t fixed your wired speakers. 

That would be impossible with Bluetooth speakers, as it doesn’t need wires for playback usage. It will only need a wired cable for charging, and most charging cables that most Bluetooth speakers come with are pretty short, meant for tabletop use with a smartphone’s charger instead.

Compatibility

The fourth benefit of Bluetooth speakers is that they are compatible with most gadgets and electronic products in the market today. As long as it has Bluetooth connection functionality, it will work with Bluetooth speakers.

And speaking of wired speakers, some Bluetooth speakers will include a 3.5 mm audio jack port that can be used with older audio sources that only supports a 3.5mm audio jack connection, therefore making it compatible with older devices acting as a powered external speaker instead.

Range

Lastly, the final benefit of using a Bluetooth speaker is its range. Although many have a short range of 10 meters, that help protect connected devices from interference from other devices and radio wave connections. Having a long-range connection means that it will be vulnerable to interference from other devices that use radio waves for connection.

Downsides of a Bluetooth Speaker

Any gadget or device will have its own sets of advantages and disadvantages, which is a golden rule in the tech market. A Bluetooth speaker isn’t exempt from that golden rule and has its own downsides as well that a user should be aware of, in order to avoid having a bad experience using a Bluetooth speaker.

Security Issues

The first noticeable con of using a Bluetooth speaker over wired speakers is its security. Remember that anyone can use Bluetooth connectivity devices on their gadgets such as their own smartphones. That means hackers can easily hijack your Bluetooth connection, potentially stealing valuable data from the host device (Master) if it has a storage option within it (i.e. smartphones, laptops, etc.).

To avoid that from happening, make sure to only connect to a secured Bluetooth connection and a device that you own or know (i.e. your friend’s device, etc.). Although the Bluetooth speaker itself doesn’t pose a security risk, the connection that it makes with the host device does.

The host device can hide its Bluetooth presence on its settings in order to keep out outside connection attempts (except the connection made with the Bluetooth speakers) away from being able to enter the host device’s connection.

Range

The second notable con of a Bluetooth speaker is its range… Wait, didn’t we mention that it is also an advantage? Yes, we have, but the range of a speaker is also its disadvantage when it comes to its connectivity range.

Previously, we have mentioned that the short range of a Bluetooth connection prevents it from being interfered with by other radio wave connections. Now, we are referring to the actual length range that a Bluetooth connection can offer, and that is only a mere 10 meters for most (which is the average size of a small bedroom). That means that many Bluetooth speakers cannot be far away from its audio source and vice-versa.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to its inherited design of being small and compact enough to be portable, you can demand the music and sounds you want on the go, anytime you want, and anywhere you go. Going out on a vacation trip with a rather long boring ride? Bring your Bluetooth speaker, along with your smartphone loaded with your favorite tracks and a trusty power bank, and you’re good to go; having a Bluetooth speaker is great for travel.

However, users can also opt for a high-end wireless Bluetooth speaker in the home which possesses both the convenience of smaller offerings but also the higher quality sound as wired counterparts.

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