Sharp Bets Big on WiSA Wireless Audio: $5k Hi-Res Audio Player Aimed at A/V Pros
Sharp Electronics urges custom integrators and manufacturers to tap WiSA-enabled wireless-audio ecosystem; preps 7.1-channel high resolution audio (HRA) ‘universal player’ for June shipment.
Julie Jacobson · April 23, 2014
WiSA, the Wireless Speaker and Audio “standard” created by Summit Semiconductor and backed by HDMI developer Silicon Image, has been around for nearly three years. But it’s been a tough road to get manufacturers to develop products around the high-fidelity 7.1-channel audio technology.
Big names such as Klipsch, Pioneer and Polk joined WiSA as advisory board members back in 2011, but never expressed real interest in promoting the technology nor building products around it.
But Sharp Electronics, the other big-name advisory board member, is going to town with the technology, betting big that WiSA will breathe new life into the company’s audio business.
And because of the high-fidelity nature of WiSA, Sharp thinks the custom channel – including dealers and manufacturers—is the right channel to bring the technology to market.
Why? Because A/V pros have the tools, including the supporting products and the expertise, to bring out the best in WiSA.
Azione dealers were awed at the fidelity of the 24 bit/96 kHz high-resolution audio (HRA) delivered over spread-spectrum 5 GHz wireless.
“One of the big goals is to verify that wireless is not necessarily not hifi,” says Sharp product developer Mark Knox. “If I do it [demo] with Krell audio and Monitor Platinum 200s, it’s more convincing.”
A Demo Ripe for Custom
And who else can and would do such a demo if not a specialty A/V shop?
Knox says both dealers and consumers alike will be “surprised by the sound stage” produced through a high-quality WiSA demo.
They’re apt to say, “Wow, the drums are a mile back but the cymbals are in my face,” explains Knox. “That’s a tough nut to crack over WiFi.”
To jump-start the WiSA category, Sharp decided to start with a product it calls a Universal Player ($4,999), featuring a Blu-ray/SACD player and 7.1-channel receiver. Three HDMI inputs and two USB ports enable the device to deliver both audio and video from connected set-top boxes, computers and other sources.
If you happen to connect the player to those new wireless Bang & Olufsen speakers – the first and only shipping product to achieve WiSA certification – then you can take Sharp’s player stream away.
Otherwise, you’ll need to fork out $999 for VR-WR100U Wireless Bridges to WiSA-enable the rest of the ecosystem.
The price points alone are another reason that WiSA today is a custom play.
Of course, WiSA will fail if manufacturers don’t get on the bandwagon. That’s why Sharp is “going manufacturer to manufacturer to push WiSA,” Knox says. “We can do ‘crowdlistening’—get this out to these guys that have the best ears in the business.”
Sharp first started to get dealer feedback on WiSA at an HTSA dealer network conference last year, using Azione this year to fully demonstrate the technology and its own products.
The Universal Player, by the way, also delivers wireless 1080p video—via WiHD 60 Ghz technology created by Sibeam, now owned by Silicon Image – to WiHD-enabled TVs.
WiSA to Set Standard for Wireless Audio (2011)
Breaking Down WiSA Standards, Reference Designs (2013)
Sharp Eyes Wireless Audio with WiSA (2013)
Bang & Olufsen First to Market with WiSA-Certified Products (2013)
Sharp WiSA-certified Universal Player Streams Uncompressed Audio, Video Wirelessly (2014)
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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 email@example.com
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