When we talk about “wireless” most people will immediately think of Bluetooth or WiFi. Despite the fact that real audiophiles swore by wired speakers for years, many will still be familiar with WiSA. After a promising announcement at the CES fair in 2013, things have been quiet for a relatively long time. After a few large companies have embraced the technology in recent years, it is becoming increasingly known. In this articles we will answer the question “What is WiSA” and tell you all about why this is an absolute must for your home theater setup.
What Is WiSA?
WiSA, or “Wireless Speaker and Audio”, is a wireless technology for speakers. It was developed by the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association, based in Sunnyvale, California. The purpose of this technology is to massively simplify home theater sound by omitting the speaker cables. Even the A/V receiver, the device that has long been the center of a home theater setup, can be replaced with WiSA.
WiSA works from one point to another, i.e. from a transmitter to a receiver. Although it is part of WiFI, it doesn’t look like a WiFi connection as we know it. It is more like Bluetooth, which is also designed to take the place between two devices. The big difference is that with WiSA the transmitter can be a streamer/preamp, game console or other source. The receiver is always a speaker.
Wireless And HiFi, Is That Possible?
In the past there have been attempts to make the link between audio systems and speakers wireless. However, these have never surpassed the quality of speaker cables. Audio enthusiasts will be a lot more impressed with WiSA’s specifications. It enables up to eight channels of uncompressed 24-bit, 96kHz audio. This makes the technology perfect for your high-res audio streaming platform such as Tidal or Qobuz.
With multichannel sound you naturally immediately think of films, where the synchronization between image and sound is extremely important. Fortunately, this has been thought of. According to the WiSA group, the latency is close to zero, ranging from 2.6 to 5.2 ms. Even in a 7.1 surround sound setup with multiple WiSA speakers, the delay in synchronization would not be more than a millionth of a second.
Stay Away From WiFi
A major problem with wireless technologies is that the many connections and devices pollute the radio transmission spectrum. Original WiFi frequencies, around 2.4GHz, are extremely busy. This is partly because Bluetooth devices and other wireless technologies also operate around this frequency. Nowadays may new WiFi connections offer an alternative around 5 and 5.9GHz.
WiSA has handled this cleverly by avoiding these overcrowded frequencies. By using a relatively unused part of the radio spectrum (Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure, ranging from 5.2 to 5.8GHz). This part or the frequency range is partly licensed, partly used sporadically for military systems, so the DFC rules apply to these frequencies. This means that the consumer is allowed to use this, provided they regularly check that no radar activity is detected. If so, the device should leave the channel immediately and stay away for 30 minutes. WiSA is designed to be used within one room, so the signals are not so strong that they pass through walls. The chance that your home theater setup will detect radar activity is therefore very small.
Why You Need WiSA At Home
The big advantage of WiSA is of course the fact that you are finally free of those messy speaker cables. Earlier this year, the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association announced support for Dolby Atmos height channels. Laying cables can be a major challenge in such surround setups. WiSA easily turns your living room into a real home cinema.
In addition, WiSA speakers may offer a big advantage in terms of sound performance. These speakers are so-called “powered speakers”, which are equipped with a built-in amplifier. With wired speaker systems, you have to find a well-matching amplifier for your speakers yourself, which can be quite a challenge. With powered speakers, the amplifier is selected by the manufacturer to be a perfect match. This allows them, in theory, to surpass many combinations between speakers and amplifier
What Do I Need To Use WiSA?
Another advantage is that you can start small and expand your setup more and more. To use this technology you need a WiSA Ready source device with a WiSA transmitter or a WiSA Certified source device. Besides that you need at least one WiSA Speaker to play your audio. In another article we explain everything about WiSA Ready and Certified. The WiSA Association now has more than 60 member brands, which means that the range of WiSA Ready and Certified products is growing rapidly.
Do I Have To Buy Everything New?
Not quite! Any device that supports the output of audio via a USB-port and receives firmware or driver updates can be linked to your WiSA system by means of a WiSA transmitter. Think of a laptop, game console or newer TV. “With the proper user interface elements, retrofitting existing products is a pretty simple and straightforward process.” Said Tony Ostrom, President of WiSA.
This would mean that a device like the Microsoft Xbox One, which does not have built-in support for USB audio, will not work with a WiSA transmitter. According to Ostrom, the Axiim Link WiSA USB Transmitter is “Xbox Certified” and is therefore able to send the sound from the console wirelessly to your WiSA speakers. This could theoretically meaqn that there will be WiSA support for consoles like the Sony PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro in the future, even though they don’t officially support USB audio. For now, these devices will have to be connected via a WiSA Ready or Certified source device, such as a TV or A/V receiver.
Make A Good Choice
In traditional wired systems, the quality of your sound is determined by the combination of your source media and playback device (for example, an Blu-ray player), amplifier and EQ device (for example, an A/V receiver) and the speakers. As mentioned before, in a WiSA system the amplification is performed at the speaker level.
In theory, this can mean that you can achieve much better performance when the amplifier and speaker connect well. However, this also means that the choice of your speakers becomes even more important, as it determines both sound quality and overall loudness. We recommend that you listen carefully in advance to the quality of the speakers when purchasing new ones.
What Future Will WiSA Bring Us?
It should be clear that this technology is an interesting development in the HiFi market. The idea that your TV is connected to your speakers within a fraction of a second, without using cables, is very attractive. After a somewhat difficult start, more and more companies large and small are starting to offer products that can be used with this wireless technology. In our eyes this is good news, who wouldn’t want to get rid of those annoying speaker cables?