Bluetooth, Airplay, Chromecast, Airplay 2 – Ahhhhhhhh!

I am often asked what the best wireless music streaming solution is best for them and and why there are so many options. I hope this breaks it down a bit for you.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is by far the most popular wireless music streaming method these days, but all technologies have their limitations. Bluetooth is a wireless connection from a device directly to a receiver. It’s typically a one to one pairing meaning you are sending the music to one receiver, not multiple. The range from device to receiver is typically only about 30 feet as well. In the case of the new VSSL A.1, Bluetooth is a great feature for those times a friend is visiting and wants to play something off their device. There is no need to connect to a WiFi router or download any software.

Airplay

Apple Airplay is the first of the WiFi streaming options. Airplay only works on Apple devices such as a Mac computer, iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. Unlike Bluetooth, Airplay tells the receiver what to play through the WiFi router. Say for instance you are at port and want to stream Pandora Radio. You would select the station you want to listen to, then select the Airplay icon on your Apple mobile device. Your device is telling the receiver to go get that specific channel over the internet. The device (iPhone, iPad, etc) is acting only as a controller and not sending the data from the phone in this case. Now, when you have stored music on your iTunes app, it will send the data directly from your phone.

A major advantage of using Airplay or any WiFi streaming option is distance and expandability. With Airplay you can stream from your device anywhere in the local WiFi zone. So, when your receiver is connected to the WiFi router and your phone is connected to the same router, you can stream music. There are ways to get the music to play to multiple zones as well, but in the case of VSSL, you have to set up those zones in the VSSL set-up app.  

Chromecast

Chromecast is very similar to Airplay, but for the Android market because Apple and Google don’t get along. It works the same way in regards to streaming over the same WiFi router but has better streaming capabilities. With Chromecast, you can stream to multiple zones “on the fly.” If we take the same Pandora Radio example, you can start playing music on the aft deck and group in the salon or any other zones at any time.

Airplay 2

The much anticipated Airplay 2 has been released. So if Chromecast can stream to multiple speakers “on the fly” and Airplay can’t guess what Airplay 2 can do. You got it, group audio zones together “on the fly.” Again, Airplay 2 only works with Apple devices but you will be able to group your zones much easier without the need for another app.

Third-Party Apps

In 2002, the home audio world had a major upgrade when four men in Santa Barbara, CA started a company called Sonos. Sonos integrated streaming music services like Pandora Radio and iHeartRadio into an easy to use, multi-room solution. The simple software interface allowed any homeowner to have music in any room of their choice.  

Although Sonos is an amazing technology, it’s not always the best for the yachting industry. Sonos, and other streaming software like Heos, rely on a stable internet connection. The streaming music solutions mentioned above do not necessarily need an internet connection. If you have music downloaded on your device or a NAS hard drive, you can stream all of your media wirelessly, without an internet connection.

Conclusion

So, which wireless music streaming solution is right for you? Sonos and Heos are amazing solutions for home use. Its intuitive software along with wide product range allows music to be in any room you desire. But, when you hop on board with limited at best internet service, Airplay and Chromecast become very appealing. As Airplay 2 becomes more available, the added benefit of grouping zones together on the fly will give third-party apps a run for their money.  

I believe the biggest benefit of Airplay, Chromecast, and Bluetooth is simplicity. If you have a VSSL multi-zone amplifier or Marantz WiFi receiver installed, there is no need to learn a new app. If you rent out your house or charter your boat, anyone connected to the WiFi network will be able to stream music with ease.

Additional Links:

Learn more about Apple Airplay: Apple Airplay

Learn more about Google Cast Audio: Google Chromecast

Product Streaming Options

 BluetoothChromecastAirplayAirplay 2
VSSL A.3 & A.6Checkbox SmallCheckbox SmallNot Yet, but expect a firmware update soon
VSSL A.1Checkbox SmallCheckbox SmallCheckbox Small
Fusion ApolloCheckbox SmallCheckbox SmallNot Yet, but expect a firmware update soon
Marantz ReceiversCheckbox SmallCheckbox SmallCheckbox Small