When we ran our first blog on wireless speakers a few weeks ago, we had many questions and comments about the technology. Is it making a comeback? Is it just a fad? What can we expect from the performance? We decided to continue the conversation with Jim Venable, president of WiSA LLC, to get a few more details on wireless speaker technology and how it can affect your business.
CEDIA: How has the wireless speaker technology changed and evolved over the past years?
Jim Venable, WiSA: Wireless speaker technology has, historically, been driven in the 2.4Ghz bandwidth. However, with the recent explosion of the smartphone market, which primarily uses 2.4Ghz for WiFi connection and the growth of more devices sharing that same space (think home security, microwave ovens, baby monitors, etc.) the quality and reliability of wireless speakers has fallen tremendously.
This is particularly true with home theater products. There have been attempts to provide wireless surround sound systems, but many have failed due to poor user experience.
Interference, dropouts, synchronization issues, and noise artifacts were the primary reasons for most of the speaker brands to shy away from entering the wireless market. As a result, perception started to grow with consumers that getting HD audio wirelessly was impossible.
CEDIA: What can we expect on the performance now? Is it really that big of a difference?
JV: The big change happening now is wireless speaker technology has evolved and moved to higher frequencies. This allows for the transmission of uncompressed HD audio that will deliver near-cinema quality 24bit, 96Khz samples with no interference. This is a big difference from what was available in the past. In fact, the new wireless speaker technology is even better than wired speakers because each speaker has its own amplifier. Because of this the speakers can be matched exactly to the other speaker components contained within the speaker cabinet. High definition wireless speakers that are WiSA certified will use digital signal processing (DSP) technology, which allows audio engineers to create a great sounding speaker in less time and for less money.
The biggest challenge for HD wireless speaker manufacturers is to overcome the notion in the consumer’s mind that one can truly have the HD audio experience they want which matches the HD video quality they have come to expect with wireless speakers.
CEDIA: What are the consumers looking for in wireless speakers and how can our industry react to help give them what they want?
JV: Consumers are looking for several things but first they, by and large, want to match the quality of the audio with the quality of the video in their home theater or living room. Next is flexibility; having the ability to rearrange a room or move furniture around without having to call a home technology professional to re-run wire is important.
Additionally, consumers want the system to be scalable; having the ability to add speakers like rears or surrounds when it makes sense for them to do so. Some consumers are choosy about the brand and type of speakers they want for their home entertainment. Having the freedom to mix and match speakers and components from different manufacturers is a huge advantage for compatible wireless speakers.
Finally, consumers want peace of mind. They want their speakers to be reliable, interference-free, and easy to use. Their experience with wireless speakers in the past wasn’t very good and for them to make the leap again, they will need to have confidence that when the system gets installed it will work and work well beyond when the installer leaves. The WiSA Association has delivered the industry’s first interoperability test specification that enables CE devices to wirelessly transmit HD audio to speakers. Consumers can request a WiSA certified product from their custom installer.
This is part one of a two part series on wireless speakers. In our next installment we will get a little more technical on what all home tech professionals need to know about the next generation of wireless speakers.
If you are looking to expand your knowledge even more, join CEDIA for our free Emerging Trends webinar series this month as we cover wireless speaker technology in more detail.
Wireless Audio Solutions Part 2: Tech Specs and Best Practices
Free! This webinar is a part of the Emerging Trends Series
Thursday, April 18
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (EST)