Wireless speakers have created a new world of supporting technologies and terminology. Here are some of the most useful ones to know.
NFC is near field communication, a feature in several phones and mobile devices (but it is not compatible with iPhones) that allows them to send information to another device by tapping on an NFC reader. It’s the same technology that is used for contactless credit cards and key fobs. Several Bluetooth speakers have NFC readers that make it easier for them to recognise, and connect to NFC enabled devices. So a NFC enabled phone can be set up to play audio through Bluetooth speakers with a single tap.
This is Apple’s system to ‘push’ audio and video content over Wifi networks, as well as its metadata. One of its advantages is that it stabilises the volume of tracks, and allows multiple users who are streaming music over a network to each control the output volume. It’s a proprietary protocol for Apple products, and originally only iTunes and iOS products could stream using Airplay, but now Android phones exist that are compatible with Airplay, and third party apps can create compatible streams. The receiver technology for Airplay is embedded into many stereo systems and speaker docks, and any computer can be turned into an Airplay receiver with open source versions of the Airplay protocol.
DNLA, or Digital Network Living Alliance, is an organisation and open protocol for transmitting music, pictures and other files between devices over Wifi that was originally Android users’ answer to Airplay. However, it is awkward and slow, and these days, has few advantages over a Bluetooth or networked multiroom setup for playing music.
Multiroom systems that work through an app on your phone, over Wifi, can link your phone, computer and other devices to multiple speakers across your home network. The systems make it possible to stream audio from services like Spotify, or CD-quality audio, across the network without latency. They also allow users to control speakers individually over the network with the app, so one person could listen to a podcast in the kitchen, while someone else is streaming an album in the bedroom.
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