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Aperion's Zona Wireless Surround Speaker System cuts the cord (almost)

Aperion has announced the Zona Wirless Surround Speaker System, which accomplishes wireless rear speakers differently than competitors: by using powered surround speakers.

Aperion Zona Wireless Surround speakers Aperion

The popularity of surround-sound audio has always been hampered by the amount of wiring you need to set it up, even if you're using so-called wireless rear speakers. Today at CEDIA 2010, Aperion announced its new solution to the problem, the Zona Wireless Surround Speaker System, which consists of two powered speakers and a wireless transmitter and is expected to ship on October 25 for $500.

Most wireless surround-speaker solutions use a wireless receiver placed in the back of the room, and speaker wire still needs to be connected to both of the surround speakers from the wireless receiver. Aperion takes a different approach, opting instead to use powered speakers that require no speaker wire and a wireless transmitter that stays by your AV receiver.

The first catch here (and there's always a catch with "wireless" audio) is that each of the speakers will need to be powered, so you'll still have a power cable running from each speaker to an outlet. That's a fair tradeoff to us, as it's often more convenient to find nearby power outlets than run speaker wire across a living room.

The second catch is that Aperion's system works only with the speakers included with the system. In other words, if you already have surround speakers, you won't be able to use them with the Zona system. Most other wireless rear speaker packages can be used with existing speakers.

A diagram of how Aperion's Zona system works.
Aperion's Zona Wireless Surround Speaker System relies on your AV receiver's surround pre-outs, but many new receiver lack this connection. Aperion

The final, less obvious catch is that the Zona Wireless Surround Speaker System relies on using your AV receiver's surround pre-outs. That's not a problem for many older AV receivers, but in our recent reviews of new AV receivers, we've found that many manufacturers are ditching pre-outs on midrange models. In fact, the only midrange model we've seen this year with surround pre-outs is the Yamaha RX-V667. If you've got a large budget, it's not hard to find a receiver with pre-outs, but for enthusiasts on a budget, your options will be limited with the Zona system.

In addition to providing wireless rear speaker functionality, the Zona Wireless Surround Speaker System can also be used as a wireless PC audio solution. If you connect the wireless transmitter to a PC's USB port, it will stream the computer audio directly to the speakers. If PC streaming is all you're interested in, Aperion also offers the cheaper Home Audio Link USB dongle, which works with any speakers you already have.

Though we like Aperion's approach to wireless surround sound, buyers will need to use some careful planning to make sure it works with their gear and home theater layout.