The WiSA™ Association Allows Interoperability Between Different Manufacturers of Wireless Speakers and Playback Sources
According to Wikipedia, Eli Whitney visited the United Stage Congress in 1801 with ten guns he had built using “interchangeable parts”. Each gun contained the same exact materials and mechanisms, all the same size and caliber. Eli Whitney (and his team of helpers) disassembled the ten guns in front of Congress, placed the parts in a big pile, then proceed to rebuild the guns. Congress was captivated with the interchangeable parts, and ordered a standard for all United States equipment.
Similarly, WiSA™, the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association, is setting a new standard for high-performance wireless speakers. According to a December 2011 press release, “The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA™) Association was launched … to advance the adoption of wirelessly transmitted high-definition (HD) surround-sound audio in the home theater environment by establishing the industry’s first interoperability specification and certification testing programs for manufacturers of high-performance wireless speakers, DTVs, Blu-ray Disc players, and other consumer electronics (CE) devices. Aperion Audio, DEI Holdings, Inc. (parent company to Polk® Audio and Definitive Technology), Hansong Electronics Co., Klipsch® Group, Inc., Meiloon Industrial Co., Pioneer Corporation, SHARP Corporation, Silicon Image and Summit Semiconductor signed Letters of Intent to join the WiSA Association as Advisory Board members to promote interoperability of interference-free, wireless surround-sound audio across a wide range of consumer electronics devices. ”
But let’s get back to the standards, and the benefits of interoperability. All WiSA-compliant wireless speakers and components are interoperable, meaning you can mix and match components from different manufacturers to create a semi-custom home theater surround sound system. Just look for the WiSA logo on the box, or on the the speakers. When you see the WiSA logo, you know it will work with other WiSA compliant products, because they have been tested and certified.
WiSA certified systems also provide a scalable solution to home theater. Let’s say you recently purchased a “big screen” TV that is super thin, but the speakers were also super thin, and not loud enough, so you also bought a WiSA-compliant sound bar. Later, when you are ready to upgrade to a larger 5.1 surround sound system, your Left-Center-Right (LCR) sound bar can stay and become your mono Center channel. Just and simply add the additional surround speakers. With WiSA interoperable technology, you can progressively upgrade all the way from 2.0 to 7.4 Surround Sound. (In case you were wondering, 7.4 Surround Sound is Left Front, Right Front, Center, Left Side, Right Side, Left Rear, Right Rear, and 4 Subwoofers, one in each corner of the room. That would need at least 11 speaker wires without WiSA.)
Each time you add a WiSA-certified speaker, you can easily reconfigure the entire system using the handheld remote. Some WiSA certified speakers are outfitted with an ultrasonic transducer; the center channel speakers actually have two ultrasonic transducers. During the initial setup, the center channel basically “pings” the other speakers in the room using ultrasonic tones and triangulates their locations. The transmitter then automatically sets the initial delays and volume levels in the system. The WiSA compliant system will automatically detect the new speakers and reconfigure itself, based on their locations in the room.
Now, here comes the fun part. After all of the speakers have been located and configured, the end user can adjust the “sweet spot” by hitting the MyZone button on the handheld remote, which also has an ultrasonic transducer built into it. The base unit center speaker triangulates the location of the remote control, and sets the delays and volume levels so that they are optimized for that particular seating location. You can also move the sweet spot around the room using an app on your smart phone, see screenshot below. Please note that this is a preliminary future screenshot, and no apps are available yet for download. Stay tuned (pun intended).
Traditionally, wireless audio has had a bad reputation, because most wireless audio technology uses the 2.4 GHz spectrum commonly occupied by other consumer electronics. The result is dropouts and poor audio quality due to the “reduce to fit into 16-bit” compression algorithms needed to compete in such hostile wireless environments.
Conversely, WiSA™ uses spread spectrum technology from Summit Semiconductor in the 5 GHz Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) frequency band. This avoids interference by other consumer wireless devices. The result is audiophile-quality, 24-bit surround sound, without compression. The audio track stays in it’sits native sampling rate, from media to amplifier, up to 96KHz. Each WiSA-compliant speaker has built in amplifier, with digital equalization curves that can be customized by the speaker manufacturer.
WiSA certified speakers and sources use a spread spectrum technology, that uses a look-ahead algorithm to determine the next open frequency band if any interference is encountered. In theory, it will jump to the open frequency without dropping the audio that is playing. Then, it will automatically begin to look for another open frequency in case the new one doesn’t work out. I wish I could give you a money back guarantee if you did experience interference, but that is up to the manufacturers.
In summary, WiSA certification ensures:
- 24-bit uncompressed audio – HD Audio quality, perceptibly 50% better than CDs
- Sample rate that matches the content: 32, 44.1, 48, and 96k samples/sec
- Rapid error detection and recovery – smooth, uninterrupted sound
- 5 ms fixed latency – perfect lip synch and game response
- Under 160ns speaker-to-speaker delay – theatre quality surround experience
- Amplifiers and speakers matched and balanced as a unit – same quality sound in all directions
Learn more about WiSA at CEDIA in September 2012 and CES in January 2013.