October 8, 2020
WiSA — wireless speaker and audio — offers the promise of changing and simplifying home theater setups by getting rid of speaker wires and even the A/V receiver. WiSA, which has support from 60+ manufacturers of home theater gear, including LG, TCL, Toshiba, Klipsch, and Bang & Olufsen, is a hardware and software specification for high resolution digital audio. As such, it can send audio wirelessly from a sound source to up to eight powered speakers within the same room, using 24-bit 48kHz or 96kHz signals.
Digital Trends reports that WiSA can support 3D audio formats including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and allows the user to place speakers wherever he likes as long as there is access to a wall outlet. It is not, however, a “multiroom, whole-home music system” such as those made by Sonos, Denon, Yamaha and others, but rather “strictly for passing audio wirelessly within a single home theater setup.” It is also not compatible with non-WiSA Wi-Fi or Bluetooth speakers, although some are WiSA Certified, such as Harman Kardon’s Citation series.
The biggest advantage of WiSA is “that it frees consumers from having to install or even think about speaker cables in a single room … the same convenience offered by home theater soundbars, but with the separate speakers of an authentic surround-sound system.” WiSA’s wireless signal path also reduces latency to just five milliseconds. The user can also mix and match WiSA-compatible speakers from different manufacturers, for ultimate flexibility.
To adopt WiSA, the user can purchase a WiSA-ready TV or WiSA-ready devices, “like 2019 and 2020 LG TVs, [which] have the required software to let you control a WiSA set of speakers but … do not have a WiSA transmitter built-in.” Six TV manufacturers — Toshiba, Fengmi, LG Electronics, Foxconn, TCL and Bang & Olufsen — have signed on to WiSA.
For existing TVs that are not WiSA-ready, that capability can be added via “an HDMI or optical port-connected WiSA transmitters like Axiim’s Q UHD Wireless Media Center or the upcoming $180 WiSA SoundSend, which will be available in November 2020” as well as WiSA-certified speakers. Some companies are also shipping “all-in-one WiSA home theater systems.”
With a WiSA Ready source device with a WiSA transmitter or WiSA Certified source device, the user doesn’t need an A/V receiver, although an A/V receiver that is WiSA Ready or Certified can be used if desired. Two such devices are on the market from Scandinavian company Primare. The benefits would be lots of inputs to plug-in any source device, ability to mix and match WiSA and wired speakers, and all of the fine-grain control over the system a receiver offers.
In theory, any existing device “that supports the output of audio via a USB port and can receive firmware or driver updates” can be made to work with a WiSA transmitter via “proper user interface elements.” Microsoft’s Xbox One, for example, has no built-in support for audio over USB but can be made to work with the Xbox-certified Axiim Link WiSA USB Transmitter. Potentially, there could be “future WiSA support for consoles like Sony’s PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro even though they don’t officially support USB audio either.”