Hearing is Believing: WiSA Association at High End Society Munich
I must confess. Until six months ago I had never heard of High End Society. It doesn’t get much press in the US. But after forming the WiSA Association, I discovered that it is a very popular European event focused on upper-end audio products including speakers, turn tables, and a myriad of other expensive audio toys for those who don’t mind spending tens of thousands of dollars on them. I certainly saw some exotic and very unusual looking speakers. I kept wondering who in their right mind would actually buy them. The same for the $12K turntable on a four foot high chrome pedestal that had all sorts of counter balances to dampen vibration. But, this was a perfect event to showcase wireless speaker technology and the value of the WiSA Association.
We knew that we might be busy because attendees consider wireless speakers a novelty that no serious audiophile would even consider, but a curiosity nonetheless. We were right. It was pretty much non-stop from 10am to 6 pm for four days straight; losing count of the number of demos we performed. There were several times where it was standing room only in our demo room and we had to ask people to either wait or come back. Most people who attended our 7.1 surround sound demo were absolutely stunned at the high quality of the audio output. Some even looked all over the speakers to make sure we were on the up-and-up and not hiding wires.
When asked what price they thought the demo system sells for, their responses were 3 to 4 times the actual retail price. In thinking about their responses, I just wonder if they based their response on the quality of the audio and not necessarily because it was wireless.
The other theme heard in meetings we held with speaker manufacturers was that wireless solutions were inevitable if a quality technology was available. Several agreed that the underlying technology of the WiSA Association may be just that what the industry is looking for.
I heard several comments about how wireless technology will help solve the “wiring problem” in European homes. Apparently, lots of homes have concrete walls and pulling speaker wires is very difficult if not impossible.
In speaking about the value proposition of the WiSA Association (certifying the interoperability and compliance of the wireless link between devices), there was unanimous agreement that such an effort was necessary to provide assurance to the consumer that their purchase would work when they got it home and turned it on; given the rather dismal reputation that wireless speakers have had in the past.
Do you think wireless surround sound could ever match the quality of wired systems? Is a standards association the right approach to ensure the quality of the wireless link and interoperability between devices?