What manufacturer/brands are members of the WiSA Association? Do any have product on the market?
There are a wide range of brands and manufacturers that are part of the Association ecosystem membership. The Association has some of the most well-known speaker brands in the industry as its members. They include Klipsch, Definitive Technology, Polk, Paradigm, Martin Logan, Anthem, DALI, Nyne, Amber and our newest member as of this writing: Gibson Guitar Company.
Another branch of our ecosystem is the CE manufacturers. These include Sharp, Pioneer and ONKYO. All of whom are premiere leaders in the industry.
Now that we have both sides of the wireless transmitter and receiver market, we felt strongly about having members who actually build the components, drivers, amplifiers, housings and complete systems on behalf of their customers. We are proud to have ODM manufacturer members GGEC, Meiloon, and Hansong who represent about 90% of the worlds A/V equipment and electronics production.
And finally, we needed companies that are pioneer in wireless technology to provide the wireless modules and chips that are used in the WiSA-compliant products. Our technology providers are Summit Semiconductor and Silicon Image.
We are anticipating somewhere between 15 to 20 products rolled out by the end of the year.
What makes WiSA-certified speakers different from Bluetooth or WiFi speakers?
WiSA-certified speakers operate in a frequency spectrum that is much different than that of Bluetooth or WiFi. These products operate between 5.2Ghz and 5.7Ghz in a zone known as Dynamic Frequency Selection or DFS. This is a special area that lends itself very well for audio but not so much for regular computer data. So the chance that frequency range will get as congested as with the regular WiFi band popular today is very low.
Can you tell us a bit about the technology behind the standard?
The technology is architected in such a way that WiSA-compliant systems are able to transmit and receive 24bit, up to 96Khz audio that is uncompressed. The audio signal has about 24 channels to choose from within that range of frequencies to insure interference-free operation. Other technologies like Bluetooth and WiFi operate in very crowded frequencies that don't lend themselves well for transmitting and receiving HD audio because of the interference and the use of compression algorithms which introduce latency.
Besides certification, what does the Association actually do?
In addition to managing the certification process for its members, the Association is also responsible for working with the membership to develop the Compliance Test Specification or CTS as well as the Interoperability Requirements Document or IRD; both of which are necessary for a Brand or CE manufacturer to have in order to develop products that will meet the compliance standard.
The association also makes sure that any product that claims to be WiSA compliant has actually been through testing and is certified.
Through its Technical Advisory Committee, the Association works to address other industry challenges that affect the quality and reliability of transmitting and receiving high-definition audio. The TAC then works with other standards organizations like IEEE and CEA to recommend changes or enhancements to their respective specifications.
And finally, the Association works with its membership to promote the compliance standard to the industry as well as the consumer so that the consumer can have confidence that when they see a product with the WiSA logo, they can be assured that when then get it home, plug it in, and turn it on, it will work.
How are the components speakers tested and certified?
Before the manufacturer releases a product to production, it will be submitted to the WiSA Authorized Test Center for compliance testing. The ATC will then run the product through a series of tests as described in the CTS. Remember, because the Member has access to the CTS during product development, it knows exactly how the products will be tested and the results the ATC will be expecting.
What can we expect from WiSA in 2013 and 2014?
2013 and 2014 will be very exciting for the Association. We expect to see around 15 to 20 products rolled out by the end of 2013; with many more entering the market in 2014. There will be updates to the CTS and IRD and a major consumer awareness initiative well underway. We are also anticipating a surge in membership toward the end of this year and accelerating into 2014 as word of the standard spreads throughout the market.
What does a consumer need to buy or upgrade to start using WiSA certified speakers?
There are a couple of ways a consumer can go. Let’s assume that the consumer already has a DTV but wants to expand into a full wireless 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system. There are essentially two types of devices they need; a transmitter device and receiver device. The transmitter device would be something like a WiSA-compliant Blue-ray player, set top box, or some sort of WiSA-compliant wireless hub that plugs into the HDMI port of the DTV. This part of the technology will send the audio signal to the wireless speakers. Of course, the consumer would need the receiver devices which are the speakers. The cool part is that the consumer can pick and choose which brand of product to buy. In other words: mix and match. For instance, if the consumer likes a particular brand of sub-woofer and a different brand for the center and tower front speakers and perhaps yet another brand of rear and surround speakers, as long as they have the WiSA logo on them, they will all work together to bring the rich audio experience they are expecting.
Ok, now let’s say that the consumer only wants to start out with a 2.1 system or soundbar and eventually grow into a full 7.4 system. That’s not an issue either with WiSA-compliant products. All the components can be purchased at different times giving the consumer great flexibility in building up their home theater system. Interoperability is the hallmark of the Association’s charter.
Another scenario is where the consumer has their favorite set of wired speakers that they love and don’t want to get rid of. Some point down the road an accessory manufacturer will, as an example, sell a piggy-back devices that attache to existing speakers turning them into wireless speakers that then can be repositioned, relocated to another room or house without needing to re-run speaker wires.
How do consumers know they are going to work with other WiSA speakers? Is there some kind of guarantee?
That’s what the WiSA logo program is all about. Over the decades, the consumer has become accustomed to compliance standards bodies and understanding what their logo means on the products they purchase. They are very familiar with Blue-ray, Bluetooth, WiFi, UL, CE, USB etc.; all are standards bodies that require a manufacturer to adhere to a specification and pass compliance testing before the manufacturer can display their logo. WiSA is the same.
But to be clear, as with most standards bodies, the Association does not vouch for the quality of the hardware. There are no demands on the manufacturer to meet any certain requirement for the quality of materials used in the making of their product. The manufacturer is in full control of and has the responsibility for that. As long as the product meets the specification on the wireless link between transmitter and receiver devices they are considered WiSA-compliant. This allows the manufacturer to produce a wide range of products that meet different price points and audio fidelity.
About Jim Venable, President of WiSA
Jim Venable, President of the Wireless Speaker & Audio Association. Established in 2011, the WiSA Association is an CE industry group dedicated to ensuring quality wireless connectivity by fostering interoperability certification testing between CE devices and high-performance wireless speakers. Jim has over 25 years of experience in bringing breakthrough technologies to market. His understanding of mobile, PC, and CE markets is derived from executive experience at Silicon Image in his leadership role with the IP Licensing group and from senior management positions he has held at Motorola, Mentor Graphics, Hitachi, AMD and Sharp. Prior to heading the Wireless Speaker & Audio Association, Venable helped drive the adoption of the Serial Port Memory Technology (SPMT) standard as the president of SPMT Consortium. Venable holds a degree in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University.