A better-sounding $5 alternative to Bluetooth or AirPlay streaming

Why buy a new Bluetooth or AirPlay speaker if you already have a decent set of speakers?

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

My preferred and better-sounding alternative to wireless audio streaming is a simple plug-and-play solution: it's a wire. There are no hassles with pairing, synching, dropouts, or glitches, and a skinny wire can get the job done with the best possible fidelity. The wire is also "backwards" compatible with any portable device with a headphone jack, and any iPod speaker, hi-fi system, sound bar, or computer speaker you already own! Sit on your couch with your phone or tablet and play your tunes, with a wire running to the speakers.

Sure, if you never sit in one spot, streaming audio options are perfectly fine, but the sound quality losses might be significant for some audiophiles. Most Bluetooth speakers sound pretty awful; wired speakers sound better and are cheaper to buy.

Monoprice sells a 25-foot long stereo cable with 3.5mm plugs for $2.14 (shipping adds another $3 to the price). Want to hook up your device to a bona-fide hi-fi system? You might need a cable with RCA connectors, and Monoprice's 25 foot, 3.5mm to RCA cable runs $6.79. Amazon pricing for similar cables is about the same.

My goal here is not to convince anyone that a wire is a more convenient option than streaming, just that a wire is a cheaper and better-sounding alternative that might be useful to some people. If you place a high priority on sound quality, invest a couple of bucks in a wire and run it between your phone and hi-fi, TV, sound bar, iPod speaker, or Bluetooth speaker and judge the difference for yourself.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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