January 16, 2012
| by Lisa Montgomery
There are many benefits of using wireless surround-sound speakers. Free of cable, they are easy to install, are portable and cause no damage to the walls, ceiling or floor. Their only problem: they can sound terrible compared to their wired-in counterparts. A new organization, the Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association, hopes to change all by advocating a new technology that would transmit interference-free, uncompressed high-definition audio signals to wireless surround-sound speakers the 5GHz Unlicensed National Information frequency band. This is a portion of the spectrum that is largely unused, and therefore less crowded, compared to popular bands that carry Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals. This frequency band would preclude many of the interference issues and signal loss often experienced with today’s wireless speaker solutions.
The specification, which is open to manufacturers of wireless speakers, DTVs, Blu-ray players and other devices, will enable products to deliver 16- or 24-bit audio and up to 96 kHz sampling rate in configurations ranging from 2-channel stereo to 7.1 surround sound. Consumers will be able to buy WiSA-enabled products, set up a system in less than 30 minutes and have the assurance that the devices will interoperate with each other and provide the highest standard in wireless HD surround-sound audio, says WiSA president Jim Venable.
At the Consumer Electronics Show this week Aperion Audio demonstrated the first available WiSA-certified product, a 5.1 and 7.1 wireless speaker system. High-def signals traveled from a TV to transmitter box, which wirelessly transmitted the appropriate audio channel to each speaker. An interesting feature, enabled by a button on a remote control, enabled a user to “aim” the surround sound at different listening areas. This technology, called MyZone, is being developed by Summit Semiconductor.
In addition to Aperion Audio, other manufacturers that have signed letters of intent to join the WiSA Association as Advisory Board members include DEI Holdings (parent company of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology), Hansong Electronics, Klipsch, Meiloon Industrial, Pioneer, Sharp, Silicon Image and Summit Semiconductor.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.