Are there any good wireless speakers?
November 25, 2013
I'd like to have music available in several rooms in my house but I really don't want to install wired speakers in multiple rooms. Is there some wireless sounds system that works well?
Kens' house came wired for sound in most of the rooms, and the wiring connects up to an antiquated system of wall plates that allows you to change volume and sound source, but nothing else. In a modern world, you should be able to change the content easily without having to trudge back to the audio source. In addition, adding wired speakers to an existing home is difficult and expensive, normally because it involves invasive work on inside walls. We suggest you avoid this if at all possible!
If you're just sitting in one place or if you want a portable speaker you can move from room to room, and if you're interested in playing music you have stored on a portable device, almost any Bluetooth speaker will do. There are a ton of battery-powered Bluetooth speakers available, and each of these uses the short-range (up to 30 feet) Bluetooth standard to connect to almost any portable device. If you're interested in this sort of arrangement, you might find this article useful in making a shopping choice: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-bluetooth-speaker/.
If, on the other hand, you would like a whole-home audio system that you can control from a handheld device (or a computer), we highly recommend the Sonos system (http://www.sonos.com). It isn't cheap, but it doesn't sound cheap, either. Sonos speakers use their own wireless mesh network to communicate, and only one of the Sonos devices in your home needs to connect to a network in order to retrieve music from the Web and be controlled by your devices.
Ken got turned onto these speakers a few years back and has three Sonos devices in his home. The nice part is that not only are the speakers small, somewhat portable, and easy to set up, they sound great. In addition, you can control all aspects of the sound system from a phone, tablet or computer using the Sonos software. You can easily have different music in three different rooms, or group all three rooms together so that the same music is playing in all three simultaneously. You can stop and start any room's music from your device or computer, and you can stream music from a large number of sources, including online radio stations (most radio stations stream their content online, including our local stations), Spotify, Pandora, Sirius/XM satellite radio and more.
If you have local MP3 files (or any other type of digitized music), the Sonos software can find it and play it, as well. All in all, we're very pleased with the Sonos system and highly recommend it.
Sonos isn't the only option — Bose and other companies make comparable systems using slightly different technology. We haven't tried them, However, that doesn't mean they're not great, but we can vouch for the Sonos system.
Save battery power on my phone
I try not to be that guy that stands around all day looking at his phone every 10 seconds, but sometimes it happens, and my phone runs out of juice by 2 p.m. What can I do to preserve battery power when I know I'm going to be out and about all day?
One option, of course, is to travel with an external battery, either as a separate device or as a battery case for your phone — that's a topic for a different tip, however. The first step to increasing battery power shouldn't be throwing money at it, but instead, trying to find ways to optimize the battery you've got.
Basically, preserving battery power boils down to turning off everything you can; the screen and each individual radio in your device consume battery power. Reducing the screen brightness can help a great deal, as will turning off WiFi and/or Bluetooth when you're not using them. Location services (in other words, using the GPS) can consume a lot of battery power, as well, so turn off these services for any application that doesn't absolutely require them.
Another thing to consider is your use of applications that receive data while in the background. This feature is new for iOS 7 (assuming you're an Apple user), but it allows applications like your calendar to wake up and retrieve data even when you're not using your phone. You can control this feature on an app-by-app basis, so take the time to configure the settings for each app if you want to maximize your battery life.
In addition, your phone constantly attempts to connect to the cellular network. If you're in a rural area with low coverage yet have your phone set to use LTE or even 4G, it's possible that it will expend a lot of energy attempting to connect to the selected high-speed network. If you know you won't be in a covered area all day, turn off the high-speed setting for your phone's cellular radio. This can also save you a lot of battery life.
You can find many articles about preserving your device's battery life online, but we found simple, helpful articles for both iOS and Android users. You might start by trying the things described in these articles. For iOS users, try this link: http://www.wikihow.com/Save-Battery-Power-on-an-iPhone. For Android users, try this link: http://www.wikihow.com/Save-Battery-Power-on-an-Android.
Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken's tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21 a.m. and 5:38 p.m. Find full write-ups, including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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