Airplay vs. Bluetooth, Vs. AptX – Which is the Best Sound Quality Wireless Format?
Tech has come a long way when you can play your favorite music on your sound system from your phone without having to get up from the comfort of your bed or sofa. Nowadays, you can just call out to Alexa to play some tunes or stream your music from your mobile phone to your wireless speakers. It’s not a problem nowadays for the casual listener with all the devices out there. But for those with good ears, who appreciate good sound quality and want to get the most out of their collection of high-resolution files, they care and need to get to know the difference between the main three streaming technologies, Bluetooth, Bluetooth AptX and Airplay before purchasing the best wireless speakers or gadgets their money can buy. Depending on your budget, the wireless speakers you buy may support just one or a combination of these technologies, so it’s good to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Let’s start with the simplest, tried and true Bluetooth, which is now everywhere. Bluetooth was initially designed to wirelessly transmit data between devices over short distances, but found its way as an important method to transmit audio signals. Thanks to Bluetooth, we can now wirelessly take or make calls without having to reach for our mobile phones. Since audio is being transmitted anyway, this led to Bluetooth’s use in streaming music wirelessly to speakers. The problem with Bluetooth, however, is that it’s underequipped to handle streaming music. We hardly care if the person in the other line has a good singing voice as long as he/she gets the message across but it’s different with music. With Bluetooth, your already compressed music files such as MP3s (one of the worst formats) or your Spotify/Apple Music stream gets further compressed to fit a data stream that allows for other data to pass through in case of notifications and calls. The resulting sound can sometimes feel a bit dull and flat unlike for vs. when you’re listening to the same music directly jacked into your source –there is also the need to be within wireless range. So Bluetooth is ok, but isn’t exactly the best option unless you’re on a really tight budget and can do with the tons of cheap wireless speakers out there.
AptX (AKA – Bluetooth for those who care about music sound quality)
So what is the difference between Bluetooth AptX and plain Bluetooth? Bluetooth was an idea and that idea has been refined to the now audio-centric Bluetooth AptX. This technology is now available on many Android phones and tablets. However, because of Apple’s ongoing struggle to think different, it’s a standard they chose not to adopt in favor of their own standard which is Airplay. If you favor Android over iOS, then the best wireless speakers or devices for you are the ones that support the Bluetooth AptX format. AptX can handle music resolutions of up to 24-bit/96kHz which is actually better than CD quality music which is 16-bit/44.1kHz.
Airplay vs. Bluetooth, Vs. AptX
Now if you’re one of the millions of Apple fans out there your choice of streaming technologies become limited to Bluetooth and Airplay. Bluetooth when you’re on the road, and then Airplay at home, which works over your Wi-Fi network. If you have a good router and Wi-Fi setup, you will be able to stream music from all over the house and don’t have to worry about wireless range. Bluetooth AptX and Airplay are fairly equal in sound quality when handling CD quality music. If you mostly use Apple devices, then the best wireless speakers should support the Airplay format. If you use a premium Android phone, your choices widen as there are wireless speakers out there that can support Bluetooth AptX and Airplay for people who like the best of both worlds. If you are an existing Apple user you may also want to check out our article on “How to use Airplay the right way to stream your music”
To Sum it up
- For hardcore audiophiles, the Airplay vs. Bluetooth AptX battle is moot compared to being hardwired unless something better comes along
- Apple and IOS Diehards will find Airplay most convenient
- Android users should go opt for AptX if available
- Unless you’re spending bigger bucks on a wireless speaker or device don’t rule out good speakers with only Bluetooth – many won’t notice the difference (Example, the B&O S3 a fantastic Bluetooth Only speaker)