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Sunday, October 02, 2005

To the Patio and Beyond: Speakers Without Wires

FALL is in the air!

Actually, fall isn't all. Along with the usual stuff (love, excitement, politics), the air is increasingly filled with wireless signals. The radio spectrum bursts with invisible waves from cellphones, cordless phones, computer networks, satellite dishes, radios and so on. There's so much wireless traffic in the air these days, it's a wonder you can even breathe.

But electronics companies haven't finished going wireless just yet. They're still looking for other wires to eliminate, like the ones that connect to your stereo to your speakers.

As it turns out, four companies - Sony, RCA, Advent and Acoustic Research - make at least five different wireless speaker kits. (All right, Advent and Acoustic Research are only brand names marketed by RCA, whose parent, Thomson Electronics, inherited these product lines from Recoton, which went bankrupt this year - don't worry, none of this will be on the final exam. The point is that in fact, these speaker sets actually come from only two companies, not four. But play along, will you?)

If you've used a cordless phone, you get the concept. Into a small base station, you plug a sound source: a music player, a stereo, your TV, your computer or whatever. The base station transmits the music wirelessly to the speakers, which, because they can run either on batteries or from an electrical outlet, you can park anywhere.

Suddenly you've got music at your patio parties without having to hire an electrician. Now you can work in places that ordinarily lack a music system, like the garage, the bathroom or the sock drawer. Wireless speakers also come in handy any time you want to put them on, say, a bookshelf, without having to trail wires across the room to the CD player or computer; dorm rooms, bedrooms and home libraries come to mind.

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