Up close and personal with WiSA, the future of your wireless home theater

Sharp Wireless BluerayAs you’ve probably noticed, it’s a wireless world out there. But one technology that has been slow on the uptake for wireless capability is hi-fi audio. Consumers have been burned time and time again on wireless technology, with some companies abandoning going wireless altogether as their customers return their interference prone wireless speakers at an alarming rate. That’s where WiSA comes in.

Far away from the manic bustle of the Las Vegas Convention Center in a suite at the Venetian hotel, we got a chance to sit down with PR Rep Linda Ferguson and WiSA President Jim Venable to learn more about the surround sound speaker standard, which turned one year old this year. After closer inspection, we think WiSA is one of the most exciting technology developments in sound in a long time.

What is Wisa?

The idea behind WiSA is simple: Make a standard technology certification for sound companies that will allow consumers to easily connect wireless hi-fi surround sound. WiSA aims to be as intuitive and easy to set up as an iPhone, and to deliver immaculate sound from whichever company the consumer prefers. Inside the suite and test room was a completely wireless speaker system from Klipsh, connected to a wireless HDMI Blue-ray from sharp transmitting – and that’s it. No receiver, amp, or wires of any kind besides power cables. Also in the room was one of Sharp’s massive 80-inch HDTV’s. After watching the video clip, and speaking with Jim, we are convinced that WiSA is the wireless audio solution of the future. And with major companies like Sharp, Pioneer, Klipsche, and Aperion (to name a few), it’s off to a very promising start.

The specs and the setup

The driving force behind WiSA is the Summit Wireless chip and module, which will be standard in all WiSA compliant devices. With WiSA 1.0, the chip provides sound at a 96KHz sample rate, at 24 bits to 2.1, 5.1, 7.1 and beyond at up to 30 feet. Summit is on the advisory board for WiSA, along with Silicon Image — you know, the people who invented a little thing called HDMI. The companies have helped develop WiSA on a broad, 24 channel wireless band that is far removed from Wi-Fi, Airplay, and DLNA transmissions to help provide a traffic free space. The open bandwidth harbors the signal from the interference problems consumers have experienced with previous wireless sound systems: If one of the channels has interference, the system automatically and (we’re told) seamlessly moves to the next channel.

WiSA App

But aside from the incredibly clean, unhindered sound transmission we heard from the WiSA system at the Venetian, perhaps what makes WiSA most enticing is its simplicity. Venable says the hardest thing about setting a WiSA system up is pulling the speakers out of the box. We’re not quite convinced it’s that simple, but it looks pretty close. The system is set-up by two different methods: The first, onboard the more expensive WiSA compliant products, works by having the speakers chirp at each other at a pitch well above the frequency that humans can hear. With this method, wherever you go with your remote control, the system understands and adjusts all the speakers for volume and delay, making any place in your living room the hotspot for surround sound.

The second, and less expensive method, is a simple app available on your iPad and iPhone (with an Android app in the works) that allows you to touch-adjust a virtual display that corresponds to wherever your speakers are in the room in real time. We saw this method in action, and it was really impressive to see how quickly and easily the speakers adjusted volume and delay, depending on their orientation in the virtual room on the iPad.

The future of Wisa

The only real downside we can see about WiSA speakers is the inevitable fact that they must be plugged into wall outlets. Since wireless is what makes the system special, we wondered if the organization has considered the possibility of incorporating wireless power if and when it becomes available. Venable sees that as a real possibility in the future that WiSA already has in its sites. As far as other new directions for WiSA 2.0, Jim envisions even more companies jumping on board, as well as obtaining higher bit and sample rates.

Either way, we love where WiSA is going. Standardization for any technology, when handled correctly, keeps the playing field level, invites more innovation, and lets the consumer stay in the driver seat for which products he or she choses, depending on personal preference. The bottom line is, WiSA speaker technology is easy to use and actually sounds good. What else is there to say?

Computing

Decades-old Apple IIe computer found in dad’s attic, and it still works

A New York law professor went viral last weekend after he discovered an old Apple IIe computer sitting in his dad's attic. In a series of tweets, he showed that the vintage machine still works perfectly fine after 30 years.
Movies & TV

Marvel’s streaming Loki series gets a plot summary and a showrunner

A Rick & Morty writer will oversee Marvel's Loki series for Disney Plus. Tom Hiddleston is expected to reprise his role for the show, while the series' premise offers a few hints as to how Loki might return from the dead.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Amazon HQ, Guy Kawasaki, and when to buy a streaming stick

On Thursday's episode of Digital Trends Live, we discussed trending headlines like the latest news surrounding Amazon's new HQ plans to the Mars rover Opportunity. We also sat down with author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki to talk about his…
Deals

Take a gander at the best deals on 4K TVs for February 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best movies you’ll find on Hulu right now (February 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Home Theater

They were robbed! From Crowe to Pacino, 10 times Oscar voters got it wrong

With the 91st Oscars rapidly approaching, now is a fine time to look back at several Oscar-worthy performances that were completely ignored by the Academy, as well as others that were nominated and astoundingly denied the little naked…
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: Yesterday, Tolkien, Triple Frontier, and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's trailers for Yesterday, Tolkien, Aladdin, Frozen 2, and Triple Frontier.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: Deadpool 2, The Umbrella Academy, and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Deadpool 2, The Umbrella Academy, Lorena, and more.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (February 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.