ZVOX Blog

You can’t have your cake and Bluetooth, too…

Posted by Doug Webber , Monday, June 24, 2013
At least a couple times per week, we have customers ask why our current ZVOX systems do not have built-in Bluetooth compatibility. And some of those customers freely admit that they don’t even know what Bluetooth is or how it works; they just heard or read that they needed it.

Bluetooth isn’t really a new technology; it’s been around since 1994 and was created by Ericsson as a wireless alternative to those then bulky RS-232 data cables. In 1998, the original group of promoter companies—Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Toshiba and IBM—came together to form the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). No single company owns the technology; they all just work together to further the Bluetooth technology in our now connected world.

In case you don’t know how it works, Bluetooth allows two devices to be ‘paired’ to each other to exchange information wirelessly within a moderate distance. In the case of using Bluetooth for audio, you would turn on the Bluetooth on your iPod or smart phone, it would then search for other compatible Bluetooth devices nearby and then make it’s ‘digital handshake’ with the Bluetooth compatible speaker and then be paired. You could then play your MP3s or stream music from your Internet music applications from the iPod/smart phone right to the speaker without any wires.

I know. It sounds pretty cool, huh? It’s like a magic wand was waved and everyone who abhors wires of any kind finally got their wish! Unfortunately, that long-awaited wish comes at a price, or two…

The first price you pay is in the fidelity department. Bluetooth doesn’t sound great; it sounds OK or average to most people. Don’t believe me? I did a quick Google search simply typing in “Bluetooth sounds” into the search field just to see what Google would fill based on other user’s inquiries. Below is a screenshot of what was returned:




‘Muffled’, ‘static’, ‘tinny’ and ‘far away’ are not adjectives that describe high fidelity at all. Oddly enough, ‘good’, ‘decent’ or ‘not bad’ were not given as user search returns. Don’t get me wrong; Bluetooth doesn’t sound horrible. It sounds OK when it’s working properly and the actual quality you get is going to vary depending on the Bluetooth device. Some Bluetooth devices just have better sound quality than others.

A wired connection is always going to give you the highest fidelity and your ears can instantly tell which connection sounds better.

So if you are willing to sacrifice sound quality in favor of wireless convenience, then Bluetooth audio might be for you. But maybe not after you read the second price you must pay…

The second price you pay is that Bluetooth is not a perfect transfer medium for music or movie soundtracks. That sentence has nothing to do with the quality of audio you receive via Bluetooth; it has to do with the inherent quirks of Bluetooth technology.

The CEO of ZVOX Audio, Tom Hannaher, recently described how when a fire engine would drive by his house, he would lose his Bluetooth connection between his iPhone and the Bluetooth receiver he has connected to his ZVOX system. 30-45 seconds later, the connection was re-established and he could hear his music again.

Personally, I find that unacceptable for music or listening to movie soundtracks. Would you be happy if you were watching a movie and then a police car drove by and you suddenly lost audio for 30-seconds because your Bluetooth connection was lost due to some outside interference? Me neither. It would drive me up the wall. Unfortunately, that’s just how Bluetooth is currently for audio: imperfect.

I performed another Google search and typed in ”why does Bluetooth” to see what the previous user typed inquires would be and got back the following:



The fact that Bluetooth can disconnect by itself, for whatever reason, is the deal breaker for me concerning audio. As a customer, when I want to listen to music or watch a movie, I want to do so with no interruptions to the audio at all. If the Bluetooth connection were bulletproof between the devices, then I would fully endorse it as a convenient way to get OK sounding audio to your speaker wirelessly.

Most customers that aren’t aware of Bluetooth’s inherent quirks would just assume that the Bluetooth receiver in their speaker was broken and then return it thinking it was defective. I know I would do the same if no one had first informed me that these issues may occur with Bluetooth devices.

We at ZVOX Audio have been waiting for Bluetooth technology to get better. Will we ever have Bluetooth in future products? I don’t know. Maybe. I just hope the technology improves to the point where we don’t have customers asking us why they lose their Bluetooth connection to their ZVOX system when a fire engine drives by their house. 

Just remember: a wired connection would never give you that problem and would sound superior compared to Bluetooth.   









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