Options for Streaming Sound

Whether you want to stream audio for your computer to your wireless speakers or from a tablet to an HDTV, you basically have two options today: Bluetooth or Wi-Fi®. (Wires and cables can also be used, but these technically don't "stream" media.) Which method you choose often depends on what is built into the devices in your home and whether or not you have a Wi-Fi router. Of course, if you have wired speakers or a wired sound system, you can usually add wireless adapters to these so you can access them from your wireless media components.

Bluetooth

Most of the devices you have in your home that could be used for streaming audio already have Bluetooth built in. This includes computers, tablets, smartphones and Smart TVs. While many people associate Bluetooth as a wireless technology used for keyboards and mice, you can also use it for streaming audio. In fact, most wireless headsets and many wireless computer speakers use only Bluetooth for audio. Bluetooth generally has a range of about 30 feet, although this can be more or less depending on the device being used.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is the most common technology today for streaming audio from one device to another in a home. Unlike Bluetooth, which can connect one device directly with another, Wi-Fi devices require a router or Wi-Fi access point to connect them. If you already have a Wi-Fi router in your home, all you need to do is ensure that the device you are streaming from is connected to the same network as the device you are streaming to. For example, if your computer or tablet is connected to the same network as your TV, in most cases you can stream audio immediately, provided they are compatible. Since most Wi-Fi devices today use DLNA, no configuration or setup is usually required.

DLNA

Although the Digital Living Network Alliance, or DLNA, certification has been around since 2003, it is only with the recent predominance of Wi-Fi in home networks that it has really taken off. DLNA streams audio as well as video and photos across a Wi-Fi network without requiring additional software to be installed. The main advantage of DLNA-certified devices—and there are more than 9,000 different DLNA devices made by 200 manufacturers today—is that it is universal, and each DLNA device will work with DLNA devices made by other manufacturers.

Connecting DLNA Devices

Once the device streaming your audio, like your tablet or smartphone, is connected to the same device containing your speakers, like your sound system or TV, connecting the two with DLNA is just a matter of scanning for other DLNA devices on the same Wi-Fi network. If you don't see the other device, make sure the software on the device is up to date. If your smartphone or tablet doesn't support DLNA, check the device's app store for any of the many third-party apps that can make it DLNA-accessible.

Which Technology to Use

In most cases, the choice to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth will initially depend on which technologies your devices support. When your devices support both technologies, Wi-Fi will usually give you better range. Bluetooth is limited to 30 feet, whereas most Wi-Fi routers have a much broader range of about 150 feet, especially if the router is between your streaming device and your speakers.

If you plan to stream from multiple devices in your home to the same wireless speaker system, Wi-Fi will be easier to switch from one device to another, since Bluetooth requires you to pair with each device and then pair them again if you switch to another device. If you have a busy Wi-Fi network, with other family members surfing the Web or downloading files, Bluetooth may be preferred since the channel between your streaming device and your speakers is dedicated only to your audio.

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