Simple to setup wireless multiroom music systems are few, but highly desired. A new line of wireless speakers is launching from Core Brands, the company that brought us Elan, Niles, Proficient, SpeakerCraft, Xantech and Panamax. The new Korus products use SKAA technology from Eleven Engineering to get music from your smartphone or tablet to speaker all around your house.
Korus comprises two wireless speakers, the V400 ($299) and larger V600 ($399). The products employ 2.4 GHz SKAA technology, which is billed as a much better alternative to Bluetooth because of its quality of service (QoS), low latency and multizone capabilities.
The new speakers incorporate dual side-firing tweeters that “spread the aural love and provide excellent channel separation for a wide soundstage.” The V600 includes a 100-watt amplifier. The V400 has a 60-watt amp. The V600 takes six “D” batteries (not included) for roughly 90 hours of continuous playback. The V400 has no battery option; it must be plugged in for power.
Why SKAA Beats Bluetooth for Wireless Audio
“With Bluetooth there’s a lag,” says with Brett Fault, VP for Nortek Technology Solutions Group (which comprises the Core Brands, Linear/2Gig and ProAV ). “It’s not designed to maintain perfect synchronization between the source material and what you hear.” In particular, he notes that any perceptible lag between audio and video (from games and shows) is disconcerting.
SKAA has a latency of only 40ms (milliseconds) as opposed to 120ms typical for Bluetooth, Korus claims. Latency can be especially problematic in multizone situations in which any lag between speakers can create an echo effect and drive a person crazy. Of course, despite its latency issues, Bluetooth doesn’t struggle with multizone echoes because … it doesn’t do multizone. “You can only have one speaker and one source device at a time [with Bluetooth],” Fault says. Furthermore, Bluetooth is “clumsy to pair, unpair and share,” he says.
In the Korus/SKAA ecosystem, “You can expand from one speaker to four speakers working simultaneously,” according to Fault. Each person in the house (well, four of them at least) can have their own wireless speaker, but when party time comes, they can all be grouped together. The four-speaker maximum is a limitation of SKAA, says Fault, “but research validates that four speakers is the sweet spot. On average, users buy 2.8 speakers per home.”
SKAA also beats Bluetooth in distance. Fault says that 65 feet would be the “typical range” of Korus—less if there are many obstacles, more (200+ feet) if there is line-of-site. Bluetooth, he says, is usually rated at around 30 feet. Finally, you get better audio quality from SKAA compared to Bluetooth, with up to 480Kbps-quality compared to Bluetooth’s 201Kbps. SKAA is better than WiFi as well, according to Fault, because of its almost instantaneous connection rate and point-to-point communications.
“We obviously wanted a mobile/portable device,” Fault says. “We wanted a solution that didn’t require a network.
The Downside of SKAA
Here’s one thing that complicates Korus vis-à-vis Bluetooth solutions: You need to plug a SKAA dongle – Korus calls them Batons—into the source to communicate with the speakers. Korus provides USB, Lightning and 30-pin Batons. Presumably you’ll have to carry the three-pack along wherever you take the speaker to accommodate any digital audio source.
Anyone can enjoy using your Korus wireless home speakers to share their music. Just pass your Baton audio transmitter to your friends or family and let them plug in and play DJ. You can also let them connect directly into the 3.5mm audio in port.
That could be onerous and these little things are bound to get lost or broken. Pretty sure your friends will walk off with the gizmo still plugged into their smart phone. And, each one costs $50 when purchased separately (or get all three for $50 when purchased with the “premium” speaker package). Each Korus speaker remembers up to 10 Batons, or $500 worth of dongles.
The products will ship this fall.
• ‘LiveStage’ Acoustic Signature
• Side firing tweeters for extra-wide soundstage
• Low distortion, deep bass response
• Integrated handle for easy portability
• Plug in or use anywhere with up to 90 hours2 of continuous audio playback on 6 “D” batteries (V400 no battery option)
• 100 watt amplifier (V400 60W)
• Wireless range up to 65 ft indoors
• 3.5 mm audio-in port for a wired connection to your devices
• Frequency response: 80Hz - 20kHz (V400 125Hz - 20kHz)
• Dimensions (length width height): 17in x 9in x 7in | 44cm x 23cm x 18cm (V400 11in x 6in x 5.5in | 28cm x 16cm x 14cm)
• Weight:11 lbs / 5 kg (V400 - Weight: 4.4lbs/2kg)
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Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.