Bluetooth Stereo Amp for Real Speakers

The sales of bluetooth speakers that sound great is permeating the market. Yeah like a 4" by 2" speaker is going to give you anything but background music. If you want to enjoy music you should really invest a small amount of money and purchase a decent pair of bookshelf speakers and a bluetooth stereo amp. Even then the compromises are everywhere. First the files or streaming audio you're listening too are compromised, then bluetooth does a number on them and off to a dinky little speaker that you think sounds great.

The $260 setup that will blow away your $300 pill, Jambox or other tiny speaker
 First start with a  Grace Digital GDI-BTAR512 100-Watt Digital Integrated Stereo Amplifier  with a pair of Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Bookshelf Loudspeakers. Though not portable this combination will let you hear things in your favorite tunes you've likely never heard.

But What about My Beats Headphones, aren't they better?
Don't get me started on Beats headphones. Don't. That issue aside, listening to sound coming out of a nicely balanced pair of speakers sounds dramatically different than what you'll hear in a headphone.

Neither of the two components listed above are audiophile quality but guys, I'm not talking to you at the moment. But the Pioneer speakers I've had tested and I can tell you they are a small miracle for the price.So go ahead and splurge, Kick back, pop open a beer or a nice chardonnay and actually listen to some music.

Why Bluetooth Speakers Suck

...for serious listening. I had to add that caveat because not all bluetooth speakers suck, and it depends on why you're listening. If you're tooling around the house or cooking a Christmas turkey, then there are quite a few bluetooth speakers that will fit the bill of supplying decent music reproduction even for a closet audiophile. What bluetooth speakers do suck at is producing audio that can be tolerated for more than a few minutes if your intent it to simply listen to the music.

Why? There are very few, some would argue no, bluetooth speakers that can accurately produce sound worth sitting down to listen too if listening is your primary intent. The primary reason is bass response. With most small speakers having a maximum size of 2.5-3 inches there is NO way you'll get even a remotely decent bass response. This is simply a matter of physics. A speaker that small cannot move enough air to create satisfying bass. Some companies, looking at you Bose, trick your ears into thinking you're getting really decent (debatable) bass from their tiny speakers but in fact you're only hearing one low frequency note. Every low note is the same. Not literally because they will still push the higher end of that note to make you think you're hearing the entire pitch but you're brain is really doing all the heavy lifting to make you "think" you're hearing different low notes. Now there is nothing wrong with this, if you're cooking the aforementioned turkey.

Are there any good small speakers?
There are several decent sounding bluetooth speakers you can pick up for casual listening. But if you want to get the complete sound the artist intended you to hear there is no escaping getting at least a pair of 2 or 3-way bookshelf speakers or a pair of small tower speakers. If you don't have the space there are some reasonably priced in-ceiling speakers that could do in a pinch. So go get your turkey speaker, (ah, that didn't come out right) and pick up a pair of bookshelf speakers for when you really want to hear your favorite song.

 Click to see some good bluetooth speakers
Click to learn more about 2 and 3-way Speakers.

Subwoofers and In-ceiling speakers

Summer is often a time when folks decide to install architectural speakers in their homes. In-Ceiling Speakers & In-Wall Speakers can give you the same sanctification of quality sound as bookshelf speaker without taking up space. People often ask if they need to install a subwoofer with their installed speakers.

As with many things in the audio world the answer is a resounding, maybe. It all depends on a few things:

  • What type of music are you listening too?
  • Is this a home theater setup?
  • Is this background music or are you sitting and listening?
  • How much do you like heavy bass in your listening?
Straight forward questions you likely know the answer too off the top of your head.
  • If this is a home theater setup, yes, get a subwoofers
  • If you're only using the speakers for background music, you likely don't need the sub
  • Depending on the type of music you listen too it might not require deep bass to be satisfying
  • And of course if you really like lots of bass, you already know the answer 
  • Do you have room to put another box on the floor? (only you know this answer)
 Also don't worry so much about the 5.5 inch or 6 inch in-ceiling speakers being too small to deliver any reasonable bass. Properly installed speakers will deliver an amazing amount of bass for their size. This is due to the fact that they are installed in the structure of the home and can use it to help carry the bass in a similar way that bookshelf speakers do with their enclosure.

Proper installation is the key here however. Also consider closed back speakers for more accurate sound.

You can in most cases add the subwoofer later depending on the location of your amp. In either case if you purchase high quality speakers, you're sure to get years of enjoyment out of them.

Replacing a Subwoofer Amp

On most occasions when your subwoofer blows it is the speaker that needs to be replaced. Sometimes when your subwoofer blows it's not the speaker but the amp. But from time to time it will be the amp. On most home theater subwoofers the amp is a one-piece device that is screwed on to the back of the subwoofer. You can find replacement amps from lots of places including parts express.

Is it hard to replace a subwoofer amp?
Replacing the amp is not difficult and requires only a screwdriver and some common sense. Here is the common sense part.
  • Unplug the subwoofer from the power outlet.
  • Don't touch any part of the inside of the amp, the capacitors may still have a charge in them.
  • Don't try to Fix the amp unless you're a qualified repair person, which you're most likely not
  • Don't even attempt this unless you are at least moderately handy.
Ordering your replacement amp
  • When you order your replacement amp be sure that the size of the faceplate matches the one on your current unit
  • If possible make sure that it also matches the screw holes on the back of your unit. Remember subs do a lot of shaking and you don't want this thing falling out.
When installing your new amp Follow the Instructions. Really, read them before taking the unit out of the box. Go have lunch and then read them again. Then you're ready to try this.

Disclaimer: If you get hurt doing this in any way, you're on your own. I don't recommend messing with an amp replacement I'm just letting you know you can if you really really want to.

That said, here are some amps to consider.

Dayton Audio SA240-B 240W Subwoofer Amplifier with BoostDayton Audio SA240-B 240W Subwoofer Amplifier with Boost

Bash 300W Digital Subwoofer AmplifierBash 300W Digital Subwoofer Amplifier

Bash 500W Digital Subwoofer AmplifierBash 500W Digital Subwoofer Amplifier
100 Watt Subwoofer Amplifier Module100 Watt Subwoofer Amplifier Module

Want to purchase a new subwoofer instead? Click here

Finding the Best Speaker Reviews?

Since more and more loudspeakers are being purchased sight unseen these days, it seems a logical question to ask where do I find the best speaker reviews. One would assume that the copy on a speaker companies web site would be biased toward their own brand, D'oh, but what about review sites?

Audioholics, one of my favorite audio sites and forums online posted a great article today about Double
Blind Listening Tests where neither the person running the test nor the listener knows what they are listening too in order to cancel out any bias. "A Double Blind Test (DBT) is one in which neither the participants nor the experimenters know who is receiving a particular treatment."

The article suggests that if you're a consumer purchasing a pair of speaker in a showroom, that a double blind or at least blind listening test would be the way to go. I would agree with this. Of course the caveat here is that no matter how good the room you experience the speakers in, the speakers will sound different in your home. 

Back to where to find the best speaker reviews.

Although review sites like Audioholics have trained listeners, near perfect listening rooms (though still not YOUR room) and reference electronics to drive the speakers, they still have one inherent problem: 

The reviewers don't have your ears, musical preferences or taste in what resonates with your body. 

Your age, physical condition, listening habits, habitat, specific musical taste and listening history will make your best sounding speaker be different than everyone else. 

Does that mean you can't rely on a review, professional or not to help you choose your next speaker? Of course not. Just don't treat it like a magic bullet. Follow the time honored tradition of bringing a CD of your favorite music to the store and sit and listen to as many speakers as you can, in your price range. Why your price range? For the same reason bed sales people tell you which beds to lay on first, if you start with the ones you can't afford you might end up never being happy with your purchase. 

So final advice on buying speakers
  • User your favorite music to audition speakers.
  • Find articles on how to listen.
  • Take your time.
  • Make sure you have a return policy in case they don't sound good in your home.
  • And yes, Read reviews. If nothing else they will make you a more educated consumer.
Read the full article on double blind testing here.

How to fix Your Squeezebox Radio from loosing its Connection

Update: 2014

Over the two plus years we've had our Squeezebox Radio, it's worked quite well. No connection problems or any other issues for that matter. Recently however over the past several months it starting playing one or two songs then it goes silent. Just stops dead. I needed to hit a new station button to get it working again.

How we Fixed the Squeezebox Connection Problem
Short story, we updated the software to the UE Smart Radio which is the exact same hardware with different, simpler software. Now there are a lot of folks who did not like the new software update. We found it quite easy to use and really not lacking anything. To update you need to log on to and select update. The unit now plays flawlessly and the new remote software for Android and iOS work pretty well.
Don't buy a Logitech UE Radio (read on to see why)

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