In the zone
Very good sound; uncompressed wireless streaming; can be mounted.
Youll need to hide the large power bricks; range shorter than advertised.
The performance of the Aperion Audio Zona speakers is good enough for us to grant the company poetic license in labeling these speakers “wireless.” They’d need to be battery-powered in order to be entirely free from wires, an impractical solution because those batteries would need to be humongous to power the 20-watt Class D amplifier in each cabinet.
As it stands, each speaker requires a hefty power brick plugged into a power outlet to function (the electrical cables are quite long—17.5 feet—to reach distant outlets). The wireless element comes in the form of a small puck with a USB cable and a 1/8-inch stereo input. Plug the puck into your PC’s USB port, and it becomes a USB audio device that takes the computer’s PCM audio output and streams it to wireless receivers built into the speakers. The PC powers the puck’s wireless transmitter. The Zona is also a great solution for folks who’d like to deploy surround-sound speakers, but can’t stomach the idea of stringing speaker cable to the back of the room. In this scenario, you’ll connect your A/V receiver’s analog pre-amp surround channels to the puck’s audio input, and plug its USB cable into the provided AC adapter. Aperion provides all the cables you’ll need.
Each 15-pound cabinet houses a 20-watt Class D amp driving a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter and a 4.5-inch woven-fiberglass woofer.
The wireless transmitter and receivers operate on the 2.4GHz frequency band, but we didn’t encounter any interference issues even though we have one wireless router and two Wi-Fi access points operating in the house we tested them in (and one of the APs was less than six feet away from the Zona’s transmitter). According to Aperion, the system sends an uncompressed bit stream with 16-bit resolution at a sampling rate of 48kHz. That’s more than adequate for tracks ripped from CD, but you will lose some fidelity when streaming 24-bit FLAC files or Blu-ray movie soundtracks. We also detected a very small amount of background hiss in the absence of any other audio signal, but only when we put our ear directly against the speaker’s grill. If those shortcomings bother you, stick with a wired solution.
Aperion claims the system is capable of 100-foot range, but they’re probably not factoring in any walls obstructing the signal path. In our experience, we were able to stream audio from the HTPC in our room-within-a-room home theater to any other room in our 2,700-square-foot house, but we encountered audible dropouts at the fringes when we blocked a speaker with our body. Perhaps more importantly, we didn’t detect any audible lag when we set up the speakers as surround channels within our home theater.
Listening to Cara Dillon’s rendition of the Irish folk song “The Parting Glass,” from the Bowers & Wilkins’ release Live at the Grand Opera House (encoded in 24-bit FLAC at a 48kHz sampling rate), it was easy to forget that the music was streaming over the airwaves. The speakers delivered a solid performance with crisp highs and a fat bottom end; and while the loss in fidelity from down-sampling was noticeable, it wasn’t particularly irksome. Given the choice, we’ll always take the no-compromises wired solution. But if that’s not an option for you, Aperion Audio offers an excellent alternative in the Zona Wireless Speaker System.