Rob Sutherland, Managing Director of CEDIA member company, Inspired Dwellings.
1. Wireless multi-room audio and Google casting has really raised consumer expectation about distributing sound and vision around the house, but how far away is the wireless home cinema? Or is it simply not possible to get premium AV performance wirelessly?
Manufacturers such as Sonos already offer a decent wireless 5.1 surround sound speaker set up, ideal for a media room. However, wireless video and higher end wireless audio i.e. HDMI or bigger audio systems such as Atmos or 7.1 are less commo,n due to wireless bandwidth limitations. Thus we may not see a wireless home cinema in the near future, especially not one which delivers a premium experience.
2. What are the pros, cons and impracticalities of wireless AV?
Wireless AV is practical, as it enables consumers to renovate their property without having to tear down their walls and ceilings. It avoids the costs which come with the labour intensity required for wiring a space with AV cables. Despite these benefits, with some wireless AV products, the wireless element is sometimes not actually integrated into the product i.e. the speaker or TV, and consequently, additional black boxes are required to transmit and receive the signal.
Furthermore, wired AV systems are more reliable in delivering good performance and configurability. Although cabling is not completely immune to interference, potential downtime is reduced compared to wireless systems which are often subject to interference from 3rd party devices and even coverage blind spots which will not allow wireless signals to come through the walls, floors or ceiling.
Although a wireless network can work, it has limited bandwidth and thus is not strong enough to stream movies or watch 4K content as this uses large amounts of bandwidth.
3. Can we ever expect all our home entertainment sources to be wireless?
At some point this will be possible, especially as there is an increasing demand for wireless solutions and thus manufacturers will continue to meet these demands. However, issues with interference coverage, particularly with UK, building construction needs to be taken into account and someone will need to solve how to get power to the units within the room to make it a true wireless solution.
4. There are wireless HDMI senders? Why haven’t they taken off?
Wireless HDMI senders have their limitations, such as reliability and interference issues. As with the Zyxel WHD6215, it is not strong enough to send audio and video over distances of more than 10 metres. Further, there is the general issue of a latency, where there is a delay in the time it takes for your equipment to process information i.e. the audio and video data.
5. Would we need a futuristic breakthrough in wireless technology to rival what a good interconnect can deliver (feel free to Blue Sky think here).
Systems like ZigBee that work for data would need to be expanded to deal with greater bandwidth and to avoid latency issues, particularly with larger audio and video networks. The amount of data throughput in any future wireless system would need to not only handle a few streams of audio, but also simultaneous UHD and audio streams.
As we touched on earlier, at the moment items are ever truly wireless, as they need to have a power supply, therefore, they need a cable. For a truly wireless solution, this would need to be something that is solved.
6. Is Ethernet actually the future of AV signal distribution?
With the development of more video on demand services, Ethernet is likely to be the way that video is distributed in the future, however compression matters would need to be addressed.
7. Has the use of Wi-Fi and wireless technologies changed the way many listen to audio in the home, but are there times when wired is best? If so, why?
The way we listen to music in the home has changed considerably over the past decade. Today, new technology brings us online music streaming services such as Spotify, Dezer, Pandora, Tidal, and Rhapsody, which offer an alternative way to source and organise music. The ease of online streaming services, where music can be instantly sourced explains why streaming could continue to dominate the way we listen to audio. However, there is still the issue of a poor connection affecting the delivery of the audio; whether that is when listening to music alone, or listening to audio accompanying a film. Thus, wired is better for high-end listening.