Speakers Add Flexibility
Too Hi-Fi, but Convenient
By Jim Bray
Wireless speakers have come a long way, baby.
About a decade ago, I tried a pair that used infrared light to transmit
the sound, and I wasnt impressed. They had a bad hum to them and
you had to place them within line of sight of the transmitter or they
Ive been playing with a pair of new RCAs, however, that have
fixed those problems for the most part, and that even sound reasonably
good, all things considered.
RCAs $230 WSP200 wireless speakers use 900 Megahertz radio frequency
(RF) signals, which makes them practical for use at home or cottage. This
is basically the same type of technology found in todays cordless
RF signals pass through walls and floors, and this system has a range
of up to 150 feet, so you can take them right out of the room in which
the transmitter resides and put them almost anywhere.
Almost anywhere. While these speakers have cut the wire connecting them
to the amplifier, they do require a convenient AC outlet for each speaker
and the wires for the speakers AC adapters are only
about six feet long, so that can limit their placement.
I also found the speakers didnt like working with extension cords,
though they seemed happy with power bars. Go figure.
Still, its one heck of a lot more flexible than those old style
The transmitter unit looks like a little black saddle horn, and comes
with yet another AC adapter and a pair of patch cords you plug into your
home stereo or whatever other audio source you want to use. The patch
cords that came with my sample unit were only three feet long, despite
the box saying they were six feet, which meant I needed to have a handy
perch nearby for the transmitter.
Fortunately, this wasnt a particularly big deal, since the transmitters
footprint is only about three inches wide by four inches deep
and if other copies of the speakers come with the real six foot
cord potential placement problems will probably disappear.
A switch on the side of the transmitter lets you turn the system on and
off and choose from three channels with which to transmit the sound to
the speakers. This latter point gives you some flexibility in finding
a clear channel to minimize interference from other RF devices.
A corresponding knob on each speaker lets you tune it to the same channel.
Theres also a knob that turns on the speaker and controls its volume,
and another one that adjusts the tone.
The speakers amplifiers only put out 8 watts of power, which is
about boombox territory, but thats all you really need.
Likewise, the signal to noise ratio is a minimum of 55 decibels,
and total harmonic distortion is rated at two per cent. Frequency response
is 50 15,000 hertz, and the channel separation is listed as a paltry
25 decibels. These specifications are nothing to write home about in a
home stereo system, but these speakers arent meant to replace your
Were obviously talking convenience here, not high fidelity, and
as long as you have the aforementioned AC outlets handy, the system offers
convenience in spades.
I hooked the transmitter into the tape out jacks of my main
stereo, which is located in the home theater we used to call a family
room, and from there I could use the speakers in any other room of the
house or even out on the deck in our back yard much to my neighbors
chagrin, Im sure.
Putting the speakers outside is where I discovered their disdain for
extension cords. I only have two electrical outlets on my deck and theyre
right beside each other; if I wanted any kind of reasonable stereo separation
I had to get the speakers farther apart than the AC adapters cords
It worked out okay in the end, thanks to a power bar and an outlet in
I had hoped to use these speakers for the rear channels of my Dolby Digital
system but I dont think theyre up to that particular job.
Theyre more than adequate as portable speakers, however
the task for which they were designed as long as you dont
mind that extreme portability coming with a $230 price tag.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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