Wireless does not degrade the signal, but the answer to your second question is more complicated as it depends on which components you are talking about. DACs vary widely in how well or poorly they implement USB, and wireless servers also are not all the same.
That's good to know about Wi-Fi in general. Of course the components will be a factor - I just wasn't in the know on wireless fidelity. The whole "direct path" objective with wires - now, all this...air, in between the components. Too weird!!
Some interesting comments on wi-fi from Ayre's Charles Hansen in this Positive Feedback feature, in his answer to question 6:
Strange food for thought!
Wi-Fi doesn't degrade the signal, just make sure you have a strong wifi signal. The dropouts would be very annoying.
Wi-Fi connections are not directly involved in the Digital to analog conversion process and therefore do not affect the sound.
A Wifi connection is just a means of feeding the bits to another device or devices that provide the clock and DAC needed to perform the actual conversion to analog sound.
You can get dropouts though if the Wifi signal is too weak or obstructed because this will prevent the bits from being fed into the conversion process fast enough to keep the sound going.
As already mentioned, the drop outs can be very annoying, and hard to pinpoint the cause. If you are using a Mac, Leopard doesn't support airtunes any more either. I use a usb from my Macbook to a Bel Canto Dac3. Because the dac is 30 ft from the computer I have to use a powered usb cable which works great. Bel Canto said this is much better then a 30ft toslink cable. I tried both and agree. So it wouldn't hurt to ask the manufacturer of your dac. I know Bel Canto has a new USB link product which is supposed to sound better, but it is 500 bucks and I haven't heard any feedback yet. Drop outs really suck.
if you live in a HighRise, how do you tell all your neighbors to unplug there WIFIs. I dont think you can notice WIFI disturbance I think the AC is a bigger issue.
Thank you for your responses.
According to Ayre's Charles Hansen (nice link Ablang) Wi-Fi sure as @#$! does degrade the signal and your entire audio system via the RFI it generates in ALL lines. I wish I hadn't read that...wow, the whole low-level microwave constantly left on in your home scenario is depressing.
"According to Ayre's Charles Hansen (nice link Ablang) Wi-Fi sure as @#$! does degrade the signal and your entire audio system via the RFI it generates in ALL lines. I wish I hadn't read that...wow, the whole low-level microwave constantly left on in your home scenario is depressing."
Wow, that sure just opened up a huge can of worms!
WiFi is everywhere as are cell phone and microwave frequencies. They really can't be avoided (unless you're remotely isolated enough which is a possibility). I respect Charles Hansen and his opinions but this one is reaching a bit IMO.
For me the problem with computer audio is that one standard has not presented itself as the best and as Charles mentioned you have to deal with isolating noise from the computer as well. There are a lot of good options out there between USB (BTW - Ayre licenses Wavelength technology), firewire, ethernet, and wireless. For me, wireless and computer noise won't affect me as I've addressed the noise on the line issue (either from WiFi or switching power supplies). What I'm more interested in is which format sounds will offer the best results.
Since this stuff is developing and evolving at a rapid pace, looks like I'll be spinning CDs and LPs for a while longer.
Sometimes its important to just look past the technical mumbo jumbo and trust your own ears. If it sounds good, it sounds good. My wireless squeezebox, for example, provides excellent sound. It seems that sometimes we let technical papers or opinions of others convince us that what we hear in our own systems can't really be as good as we think it is.
"..and trust your own ears. If it sounds good, it sounds good."
There is no loss of fidelity sending signal over wireless. The only potential issue is whether the connection operates fast enough to get the bits to the destination fast enough to be available when needed. If it doesn't, you will get dropouts.
Ethernet is the best transport medium, either WiFi or wired, for audio data.
This is a system-thing, not a device or protocol thing. Some systems may be sensitive to RFI, but for other reasons. In particular, ground-loops provide very nice loop antennas to pick up RFI. HF currents in these ground loops can be audible. Get rid of the ground-loop antenna and you will likely have no noise from RFI. To assume that RF affects all audio systems is erroneous.
My system has no ground-loops, so RFI has absolutely no effect, and my personal system is one of the most resolving systems on the planet.