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The Future Of Marine Audio: Wi-Fi vs Bluetooth

When it first arrived on the scene, Bluetooth was a revolutionary technology. Wireless audio could finally flourish – no more need for CDs and USBs in order to play the audio you want.

However, it’s well known that Bluetooth has its limitations. By the nature of its design, it compresses audio files, reducing the sound quality of any audio you’re trying to play. This has done the job until now, but as technology advances around audio streaming, Bluetooth is proving that it perhaps isn’t the future.

Thankfully, there’s another way. Streaming audio through Wi-Fi doesn’t rely on compressing files, meaning that the audio quality is preserved. Now, high-quality services like Apple Music or Spotify Premium can be used to their full potential, and the audio experience can be maximized without having to compromise on quality.

But there's one issue.. Marine audio still loves Bluetooth

The marine audio industry still has an enduring love affair with Bluetooth devices, despite the rapid changes in technology.

Bluetooth was developed in the late 1980's, but it wasn’t until 1999 that the technology made its way onto the first cellphones and later into marine and car audio. Depending on how old you are, you might have had a friend or boss with a Sony Ericsson flip phone that they spent far too long trying to connect to a clunky wireless headset so they could drive hands-free.

Since those early days, Bluetooth certainly has come a long way. Bluetooth 2.0 (circa 2005) sent data at up to 721 kbps (kilobits per second), while Bluetooth 4.0 offers speeds up to 25 Mbps per second, an increase of about 35 times the amount of data that can go through at one time.

That’s a great leap in technology, but it can only go so far. The problem is that Bluetooth relies on a narrow and relatively slow bandwidth through which it can send a signal. So, if you have an older Bluetooth version device but want to stream high quality audio, well, the Bluetooth simply can’t keep up.

That’s where Wi-Fi comes in.

Wi-Fi vs Bluetooth

Think of the difference between old-school internet and fiber. They operate on the same principle – send information down the line as fast as you can – but one is capable of doing it an order of magnitude faster than the other. That’s where Wi-Fi audio comes in.

The signal that Wi-Fi sends is called ‘lossless codec’, meaning the audio signal doesn’t lose any of its original quality during streaming. What comes through your speakers is a high-quality audio signal. The same can’t be said for Bluetooth, since this technology has a lower bandwidth than Wi-Fi. Simply put, Bluetooth can’t stream as much data through – so it has to compress the audio signal, resulting in reduced sound quality.

To be more technical, if the latest Bluetooth 4.0 can transfer data up to 25 Mbps, the latest Wi-Fi can transfer data up to 250 Mbps – that is 10 times the bandwidth, and 350 times that of early Bluetooth tech!

Wi-Fi also has a greater range than Bluetooth, with Bluetooth having a range of 30 meters in comparison to Wi-Fi that can reach beyond 100 meters. So, your audio will less likely to cut out, giving you a more consistent, reliable listening experience.

We think our industry can do better

Here at Fusion, we're passionate about innovating. We have a proud history of leading the way in the marine audio industry, and don’t planning on stopping anytime soon.

Our Apollo Series sound systems are designed to be fully compatible with Apple AirPlay 2 and UPnP, meaning that audio is streamed via the much higher bandwidth of Wi-Fi, preserving the original quality of the audio. The result? An audio experience the way it is designed to sound – above and beyond what most of the industry has accepted as the norm.

Apple AirPlay 2 and Apollo Series – a match made in heaven

At Fusion, we’ve taken a step into the future by incorporating Wi-Fi and Apple AirPlay 2 for the Apollo Series – a world first for marine audio entertainment systems.

Apple AirPlay 2 allows you to stream music through Wi-Fi directly from your phone to your sound system. Not only does this preserve the original audio quality, but it also has the ability to stream one audio source to multiple Apollo Series stereos when connected to the same network. This is a match made in heaven, as you will be able to play the same audio source synchronized across your entire vessel and enjoy premium quality in each zone onboard to get the party started.

As we’ve seen, streaming via Wi-Fi gives you an uncompressed audio signal and better range than Bluetooth – giving you a true premium audio experience with consistent, high-quality music onboard.

Apple AirPlay 2 and Apollo Series – the future of marine audio is here.