That might sound like a bold statement, but it’s true: we will always have better sound quality compared to the majority of current wireless speakers. Why? Because the biggest reason sound quality suffers in wireless speakers isn’t due to the speaker size, but the fact that audio is transferred wirelessly. If you don’t do it right, you can lose a lot of audio fidelity along the way.
It's All About File Transfer
When traditional Bluetooth speakers transfer audio between devices, they use a single, specific radio wave bandwidth that is very narrow in order to make transmission quick and simple. However, this also means that when it comes to something as complex as audio, Bluetooth forces your audio to be compressed into a smaller size in order to send it over to your speaker. By doing this, you lose audio quality in order for Bluetooth to be able to actually send your audio from your phone to your speaker. No matter how many new “better quality” Bluetooth standards come up over time, Bluetooth will always, inherently, have to compress your audio files in order to work.
In contrast, Wi-Fi audio transmission does not need to compress your audio. Instead, your phone sends bits of your audio across multiple radio waves in a much broader Wi-Fi spectrum that can then be received and decoded by your speakers (in this case, Dio Nodes). This is what is called a “lossless codec” – very technical sounding, but it basically means you do not lose any audio quality in order to wirelessly send over your music. What this really means is that Dio Node sounds just as good as if it were physically wired directly into an analog port of a wired receiver, and why our small Node sounds incredibly better than the larger Bluetooth speakers you might see on Amazon!
The Myth of the Mono Speaker
Because Bluetooth’s wireless transfer protocols cause such degradation on audio quality, people have gotten accustomed to looking at other factors of a speaker for better audio quality, such as speaker size, “mono” vs “stereo” output, rated power, signal-to-noise ratio, and many other technical details. However, if you ask the experts that build and study audio (and I have), you’ll learn that those factors are actually not very meaningful if you can ensure the audio itself transfers to the speaker without any loss. One notion that I would particularly like to dispel today is what I call the Myth of the Mono Speaker.
The Dio Node features a single full-range mono driver, which I’ve gotten some skepticism for from hardcore audiophiles. What exactly is a mono speaker? Essentially, there are two ways that audio can be played back: in mono, which means both left and right ear audio streams get relayed through one single speaker driver to hear all your audio from one place, or in stereo, meaning that the audio is split to sound like half of it is coming from your left and half from your right. Think earphones – notice how there is always one marked “L” and one marked “R” for specific ears? Stereo helps you feel like the sound is truly immersive, but with one caveat: the left has to be on your left, and right has to be on your right, otherwise those footsteps in that movie will sound like they’re coming from in front of you instead of from behind. Since Dio Node is meant to allow you to play your audio everywhere while going about your household life, it’s unreasonable to expect you to set up specific speakers to always be on your left or right. That is why I’ve chosen to go with mono speakers. And I’m not alone: every mainstream Bluetooth speaker out there plays in mono, including the UE Boom, JBL Flip, and Sony SRS-XB20 – all of which, I might add, are more expensive than Dio Nodes!
The reason mono speakers have come under such scrutiny is because, historically, speakers that have played in “mono” have done so because it was cheaper (one driver instead of two) and aimed at a budget market, though that often resulted in lower sound quality. This led to a perception that mono = worse quality. What’s more, stereo speakers have almost always historically been wired and therefore have not suffered from the wireless Bluetooth audio loss described above. This has created the perception that stereo = great quality. However, with “lossless audio” through Wi-Fi, a single mono speaker can sound just as good as a pair of wired stereo speakers placed next to each other.
Have you ever noticed how Bluetooth headphones just don’t seem to sound as good as your wired headphones? While both play in stereo, it’s the wireless audio degradation that really drives the sound quality. While stereo playback is a benefit when you can guarantee sound coming to your ears from specific directions, only earphones can offer that guarantee. For an ears-free solution to listening, Dio’s mono speakers are the way to go!