Are you prepped to have a Bluetooth home theater? When the wireless “Z” technologies (Z-Wave and Zigbee) made an impact on the home audio market several years back, the only networking protocol that remained completely ubiquitous was WiFi (802.11x). Now, Bluetooth seems to be in the mix, and more and more home theaters are utilizing Bluetooth for a variety of streaming functions. Bluetooth wasn’t always a great solution for streaming audio, however. In fact, it started as a protocol for wireless headsets, keyboards, and mice…so you can imagine that what we have today (we’re currently up to Bluetooth v4.0 as of this writing) is a far cry from those limited introductory chipsets.
Each day it seems like a new device comes to market with some sort of Bluetooth feature. First it was the ability it stream stereo music, then it was the option of paring without using codes. Lastly, we seem to be seeing a lot of “lossless” streaming technology in the form of Apt-X and other similar systems. Bluetooth seems to be here to stay.
With the coming of the smartphone, Bluetooth is now in the hands of seemingly everyone over the age of 14—and streaming music is a big deal. Small Bluetooth speakers can be had for under $30, and it would appear that connecting those same music sources to your home theater would be a no-brainer.
What’s Next for Bluetooth Home Theaters?
The next big thing for Bluetooth is something called “mesh networking”, and it’s going to solve a huge and pervasive issue with current editions of Bluetooth. Right now, Bluetooth has an effective range of 30+ feet, but that can be far less if you are outside or in a location that may impede line of site to the receiver. With mesh networking, Bluetooth bounces and hops from one device to another (in a local network) until the entire area is filled with wireless Bluetooth connectivity.
Bluetooth, as it stands now, is a platform that it fairly universal and backwards-compatible. New devices and older devices all work, and interoperability issues are minimal. It’s true, however, that newer versions (v4.0 and future, for example) offer advantages like instant, automatic connectivity and better consistency—but overall, Bluetooth has been far more consistent, easy to implement, and care-free than either Zigby or Z-Wave systems. It also is a more simplistic solution, requiring less setup and far less customization in order to function correctly.
With a Bluetooth Mesh network, Bluetooth may just be taking the next leap—for your Bluetooth home theater and for your whole home. Instant connectivity, ubiquitous support, hit-quality audio streaming, and extended range. This is the future Bluetooth is promising. If it works out that these aspirations become a reality, home theater and whole home audio connectivity and playback will change for the better—and Bluetooth will lead it all.