New Frontiers In Wireless
Often I find myself explaining why I remain optimistic and enthusiastic about what we do at audioXpress and the audio industry overall, particularly to those who insist that the "good old, golden days" are behind us and/or that "nothing is as it used to be." At the beginning of the year when I returned from CES full of energy and inspiration, I repeatedly heard the same statements, "...but, there were hardly any audio companies left at CES!"
And that's the reason why I explain—and strongly recommend — not to limit one's perspectives. That's why I need to get out there, and follow the many professionals in the audio industry who are thriving and living the "golden days" while others are just starting. Yes, nothing stays the same. Things evolve and in a world of technology, that's precisely what you would expect.
The audio industry is currently as vibrant as it ever was, and in some application segments bigger than it ever was, attracting and employing more people than ever, and evolving with some of the best technology we have ever had.
That's part of our mission, to share the multitude of perspectives that make audio technology always exciting and vibrant. We cannot restrict ourselves to one single — often misrepresented—perspective. It's not always obvious. Sometimes things are not in plain sight. The most important takeaway from CES regarding home entertainment has to do with wireless. At CES 2023, Xperi, in cooperation with Philips and LG, promoted the (re)launch of DTS Play-Fi supporting whole-home audio streaming and Dolby Atmos wirelessly over standard Wi-Fi. And LG was basically promoting an "everything wireless" future, showcasing the world's first consumer TV with Zero Connect technology — a wireless solution capable of real-time video and audio transmission at up to 4K 120Hz.
Yes, it's unfortunate that we needed to attend another show — ISE 2023 in Barcelona—to actually see two halls with half the area of the LVCC full of audio companies showcasing quality audio. It was at ISE that I saw finally a working demo of a Dolby Atmos system using the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association (WiSA) technology. And it wasn't even from WiSA Technologies but in a very small booth from Hansong and Platin Audio, demonstrating the Platin Monaco 5.1.2 speaker system, which is a WiSA HT Certified, Dolby Atmos enabled, shipping product. The best thing in the world? No, but great to see the realization of the promise of WiSA supporting Dolby Atmos and also great to see that in Europe there is an increasing number of great companies, led by Bang & Olufsen, enthusiastically embracing WiSA technology, while in the US WiSA Technologies struggles to stay afloat in the stock market even though the company is riding the wave of the future of audio.
Future of audio? Yes, I truly believe this is the last frontier to reconnect hi-fidelity and home audio with the consumer's evolving lifestyle. It's obvious and right in front of everyone.
Bluetooth speakers, Smart speakers are everywhere. And yet, neither is even close to be the future. The latest generations of TVs and soundbars are all now streaming audio wirelessly but users don't know how to configure 10% of the features.
We need to evolve "smart" technologies that deliver on the promise of higher-quality, high-resolution, low latency, immersive, simpler-than-cables audio.
Later this month, I'm meeting with some companies that are now working on what we can do with Wi-Fi 7 for better home audio, while others are dreaming about upcoming 6G cellular networks streaming spatial audio directly to our home speakers. Yes, for real!
At CES 2023, I also had the chance to spend some time with MQA and Bob Stuart and hear for myself the latest SCL6 scalable codec, created specifically for high-quality wireless audio and efficiently scaling from below 200kbps to 20Mbps connectivity. A technology that is ready to be deployed and break the compromises of wireless personal audio, taking off where Bluetooth stalled.
And finally, it was at CES this year that we gained the insight needed to write this issue's Market Update on True Wireless Earbuds evolving to Hearables. An updated perspective on the many reasons why working in audio technologies has never been more exciting… and a market worth $14 billion USD in 2023.