Sharp Eyes Wireless Audio with WiSA
At HTSA dealer conference, Sharp talked less about 4K Ultra HD and more about 7.1 wireless audio and the WiSA standard. "Nobody" at HTSA said no to the technology, says Tony Favia.
But at the recent HTSA conference in San Antonio, the TV maker instead promoted wireless audio based on the newish standard Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA). To prove just how serious Sharp is about WiSA, the company brought in a large team of execs from Japan—something usually unheard of for an HTSA conference.
Sharp was the first name brand to embrace WiSA, with prototype products shown at CEDIA 2012. Then and now the company has refused to talk about specific product road maps but it’s evangelizing the technology and will be ready to launch at the right time.
“We quickly and efficiently want to be part of it [WiSA] when it is ready for the market,” says Tony Favia, senior product marketing manager, Home Entertainment Group.
Sharp has shied away from high-performance audio since it launched the Optonica brand of hi-fi components in 1976. The brand enjoyed a few short years of prominence but then faded away.
RELATED VIDEOS: Breaking Down WiSA Standards and Reference Designs
The company has been looking for an excuse to get back in the game, and WiSA is it.
“This is really good technology,” Favia says. “It inspired us to get back into audio.”
He notes that Sharp has been marketing soundbars for quite some time, “but this is a new business model.”
WiSA, based on technology from Summit Semiconductor, was formed in late 2011 to create a new paradigm in wireless surround sound, which heretofore has been quite expensive and, well, not so good.
Supporting 7.1 surround, WiSA utilizes the 5 GHz Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) frequency band – a relatively uncrowded space used mostly by government for radars. Using that space frees WiSA from interference by other wireless technologies like 802.11a.
Show me the Product!
To date, only Aperion has shipped WiSA-compliant products. Board members Polk and Klipsch have given no indication that they will actually create WiSA products although Klipsch had some product in the WiSA sound room at CEDIA. Another board member, Pioneer showed some prototype WiSA speakers at CEDIA 2012 but also has been mum on any product plans.
And then there’s Sharp, also a WiSA board member, that is promoting the technology without promising any particular product.
At CEDIA 2012, Sharp and Pioneer demonstrated a “WiSA wireless Hi-Fi audio system” featuring a Sharp Blu-ray player with a WiSA-compliant transmitter module, and a Pioneer two-channel wireless speaker/amplifier setup with a WiSA-compliant receiver and DAC.
For its part, WiSA at CEDIA showed reference designs for compliant audio hubs (production ready), soundbars and amplifiers.
Who knows when we’ll be seeing name-brand WiSA products, but it’s clear Sharp will be ready and the company is making sure integrators embrace the technology long before product launches.
At HTSA, Favia said, “People here are learning about it for the first time. Nobody has said, ‘No way’ and they are excited about the support.”
WiSA demonstrates audio hub and iPad app
Sharp and Pioneer 2.1 WiSA demo at CEDIA 2012 (shown above: WiSA’s Audio Hub)
WiSA reference designs include audio hubs (production ready), soundbars and amplifiers.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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