You may not know what WiSA is, but if LG, Sharp, Klipsch, and other prominent tech companies have anything to say about it, you soon will. WiSA is an organization responsible for developing a wireless audio standard, and it’s hell bent on the proliferation of high-end wireless audio systems. In short, WiSA wants to cut the cords in your home theater system for good.
Before we get into the latest from the organization, it’s important to know a little bit of background on its standard. As we said after our first meeting with WiSA at CES 2013, the idea is simple: make a standard technology certification for audio companies that will bring to consumers reliable wireless hi-fi stereo and surround sound systems.
WiSA-certified speakers are all self-powered and require no receiver, amp, or wires of any kind aside from power cables. The speakers also have a special chipset that can receive an audio wireless signal from a transmission device such as a WiSA-certified Blu-ray player or media streamer.
By now you may be thinking: “Isn’t wireless audio everywhere?” Since Sonos first hit the scene almost a decade ago, multi-room wireless speakers have grown from a spark to a blazing inferno, sweeping across the audio landscape. However, WiSA-certified gear is different than other Wi-Fi based speaker systems for several key reasons.
First of all, WiSA supports up to eight channels of high-fidelity sound, as opposed to the two stereo channels other wireless systems support. That means you can set-up an entire 5.1 sound system, and still incorporate two more speakers elsewhere in a home. The system also uses a separate band from most Wi-Fi based speaker systems which is much less saturated than traditional 5.0 or 5.8 GHz frequency ranges. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the standard has virtually zero audible latency. As WiSA president Thomas Lee told us, that’s important if you don’t want to turn your favorite movie into a bad Kung-Fu flick.
We at DT have been excited about WiSA for a long time now, and that’s actually part of our concern. It has taken a lot longer than expected for certified systems to roll out to the public. However, that is changing. Sharp rekeased a new WiSA-certified Blu-ray player in October, and Klipsch just took our Top Tech of CES 2015 award in the home audio category for its new Reference Premiere Wireless Home Theater system, one of the first of its kind from a U.S. audio company.
Another good sign is the fact that LG Innotek has joined Summit Wireless in producing the transmission chips for these systems, meaning there is now a multi-billion dollar company behind the protocol.
Bang & Olfusen has its own, uber high-end WiSA-certified system, but its price is prohibitive to most. However, today at the WiSA suite at the Venetian, we got to hear a new WiSA-certified 5.1 home theater system from a California-based company called Enclave that wasn’t too shabby at all. It appears that the wireless home theater ball may finally be rolling.
We hope the momentum will continue because this technology is impressive, and speaker wires aren’t. We expect to be getting some WiSA-certified systems in for review soon, so stay with us to find out how the standard works when it comes off the shelves and into the home.
[Updated 1/12/15: This post originally stated that Enclave was an audio company based in China, when in fact it is based in the United States.