January 13

Is wireless audio finally ready for music makers in 2023?

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Bluetooth LE Audio is it good enough for you studio?

Are you ready for wireless audio?

It's 2023 and after MIDI went wireless with the introduction of WIDI, you might want to know if you can take your audio production into the wireless world.

When looking at wireless audio for music production, there are two factors that take priority to make it suitable for you. 

First of all, there is latency. As music makers, real-time performance tracking is vital. When monitoring, you just want to keep latency as low as possible without compromising sound quality.

Secondly, audio quality is paramount. You don't want to downgrade your monitor speakers and audio interface just because you want to ditch the cables.

Can you work completely wire-free in your studio? 

Today, you have access to a few solutions that all work in the crowded 2.4 GHz range. With limited bandwidth and high latency, valid solutions for real-time performance monitoring are simply not available.

Even the latest Bluetooth LE Audio still uses compression with far too high latency for people like you.

That is about to change. With iWA technology as developed by CME, you can now benefit from ultra-low latency and HD audio specifically designed for demanding creators who have an absolute need for high-precision audio playback.

Roland’s 50th Anniversary Concept Piano with 2.4GHz wireless audio

Earlier this year, at CES 2023 in Las Vegas, industry giant Roland introduced their concept piano. Besides the excellent wooden design, another interesting feature was the drone speakers.

You can debate whether drone propellers are quiet enough for use in the studio, but the interesting part is the wireless side, which seems to be more realistic to accomplish.

Takahiro Muria provides more details via the official Roland website:

"The biggest challenge for us is latency," Murai explains. "Normal Bluetooth is 200ms, which is unusable for musical performance." To reduce latency, we decided to use an internally developed dedicated communication platform. "This technology was originally made for wireless headphones," adds Murai, "but it was diverted to this project."

In other words, current Bluetooth technology is certainly mature enough for transmitting MIDI, but for wireless audio you run into all sorts of problems. At the same time, the known Roland wireless audio systems operate in the 2.4 GHz range too….

The limitations of audio via Bluetooth

Bluetooth technology is evolving at lightning speed. Classic Bluetooth audio has been implemented in many devices and provides an excellent way to listen to your Spotify playlist on your portable speaker or earbuds.

As Murai mentions, latency is a big problem, which is why Bluetooth technology has not landed in the music production field. There are several reasons for this. First, latency makes it almost unusable. Not for playback and certainly not for recording.

As a solution to the limited bandwidth of Bluetooth Classic Audio, there are codecs. Codecs are actually compression technologies. For audio, there are several. Such as the standard SBC, AAC and the more advanced Aptx.

The problem is that compressing and decompressing takes time (latency) and degrades audio quality. It simply leads to lossy formats, whereas in the studio you want lossless audio with close to zero latency in stereo.

LE Audio: The Future of Bluetooth Audio

Classic Bluetooth audio simply cannot deliver. This is why the recently introduced Bluetooth LE Audio technology is so interesting. This is a real step forward. The question remains whether it is sufficient for your production environment.

Over the next 5 years, many manufacturers are expected to release dual-mode Bluetooth products. You can then think of headphones and speakers that implement both LE Audio and Classic Audio solutions.

The LC3 codec

There are some relevant caveats to Bluetooth LE Audio. First, Bluetooth LE Audio still operates in the same frequency range. So, that crowded 2.4 GHz radio frequency may still be prone to interference and dropouts, due to the high demand of digital audio data.

In addition, LE Audio's upgrade also includes the LC3 codec. This codec was specially designed by the inventors of another well-known lossy format that literally changed the way you consume audio: MP3. 

Although LC3 offers many improvements, it is still a codec. While it can do great things for consumer products like headphones and speakers, any compression introduces an unwanted degradation of sound quality and simply adds delay.

And you don't want that....

Introducing iWA

At CME, we are working on another technology called iWA. It stands for instant wireless audio and does not operate in the 2.4GHz range. It also does not need lossy codecs.

Ultimately, this is what differentiates the consumer (Bluetooth) from you as a prosumer (iWA) when it comes to wireless audio.

True lossless audio: up to 24-bit / 48 kHz in stereo

iWA uses higher wireless frequency technology to ensure sufficient transmission bandwidth that is 10x greater than Bluetooth. This not only ensures sound quality, but also prevents delay due to the compression algorithm. The effect can be compared to the difference between a 5G and a 4G mobile phone.

Moreover, iWA implements ultra-fast wireless transmission protocols to ensure the stability of high-quality audio transmission. If a bit error occurs in the wireless signal, our solution can automatically correct it in the blink of an eye.

Imperceptible latency performance: < 3ms 

This is a completely different game compared to Bluetooth LE Audio ( > 50 ms) and certainly to Classic Audio ( > 100 ms). Currently, there is simply no professional wireless audio solution available that can deliver the latency performance that iWA does.

This is why iWA is the best solution for real-time monitoring. Of course, it frees you from the cables in your studio. You can easily connect your monitor system and headphones. But imagine what it can do when playing an instrument. For example, your electronic drum kit.

Suddenly, those cables are no longer needed. And because iWA delivers stereo, it sure is interesting for all those keyboardists and synth lovers too.

Continuous playing time: 24+ hours

As a musician, you're always working hard. Hours of practice. Studio sessions until late at night. And travelling from show to show without having access to everything you have at home.

With iWA, you have a continuous playing time of 24 hours. This means you can play for a whole day until you need to recharge. Of course, no one does that. So, if you convert that to other people's working days, you can go on for three 8-hour days.

Accessible prices: affordability

Although you work hard and have taken years to master the skill of making music, money does not always come easy for the majority of musicians. At CME, our primary focus is to deliver innovation. Having said that, it is vital that it is also available to as many people as possible. That's why CME products are always kept affordable.

To answer the initial question of this blog: Yes, 2023 is the year of wireless audio. With Bluetooth LE Audio, you can take a huge step forward as a consumer. 

At the same time, as musicians, creators and prosumers, you can finally bring wireless audio into your music creation process with the upcoming iWA technology...

Project iWA

Project iWA launched in late 2022 and at the time of writing this blog, close to 5,000 people have already registered. Feedback from all those participants has already led to a change in the development roadmap.

The first goal is to deliver a TX/RX solution. This will allow you to keep your precious monitor loudspeakers and headphones, the ones you have carefully chosen and cherish....

Be the first to know and join project iWA!

Goal 1 reached on 4th of July 2022
Goal 2 reached on 25th of December 2022
Goal 3 reached on 1st of May 2023
Phase 4 announced on 1st of May 2023

Goal 1 reached on 4th of July 2022
Goal 2 reached on 25th of December 2022
Goal 3 reached on 1st of May 2023
Phase 4 announced on 1st of May 2023


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iWA, wireless audio


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  1. Will there be an option to halve the latency by running in mono? Sometimes the total latency of other parts of the audio chain will be high so anything you can do to shave a part of the latency helps keep you below the threshold of perceiving latency.

    3ms is great though!

    1. It could be a possible feature. The less data you will send, the lower the latency. We are currently testing iWA to iWA transmission at below 3ms. So, maybe, we come to a point, that you will not notice the difference between stereo and mono πŸ˜‰

    2. From my understanding, stereo and mono can be switched via software and the less data is send the lower the latency.

  2. Can’t wait for the release date unveil. I have a couple, ambitious projects and this will be the missing puzzle piece.

  3. You look like you will do something great, and you need a few years, and in the end may be you can only use it in the moon because you don't have a proper license or not encrypted communications so artists can safely make their music.

    I think this whole project is a smoke curtain… I cannot even edit my post right after I posted it while it is still awaiting moderation.

    Though I hope it is not, so I can buy that device from you, as well as my Xkey keyboard.

    1. Because you are new to the blog, it will restrict your posts until they have been manually approved. That is quite normal for avoiding spam and keep the interaction on our website between actual people.

      Licensing is not a real issue at this stage, because we use a nano-sec pulse technology that focusses at near-field scenarios. I saw your other post on this matter too. If this is your biggest concern, you can let it go for now πŸ˜‰

      Sorry to hear you experience this as a smoke curtain. I understand why you think that way, but as you already own a CME device, you should know we are about delivering excellence.

      The main reasons to keep information limited is that we want our story to be easy to understand for our readers, so they can participate as musicians, without having to be engineers.

      At the same time we do not want to give away too much information to competitors and copycats across the globe. Certainly not at this stage of development πŸ˜‰

      Between those two points, as the writer of the articles, I try to find a balance. All your feedback really helps me to improve that part. Thanks

      1. I'm sorry, I've been too harsh.

        1) I hope there's not a wall at the end of the tunnel

        2) I wish leaders don't drive blind expecting no wall

        3) I wish workers don't let the leader drive blind if they can see the wall

        4) I wish somebody tries to ensure there's no wall at the end of the tunnel, by properly testing, in real-life scenarios, and not just repeatable non-failing scenarios

        A not about wireless audio devices:

        *) I ended up going back to using cables instead of a transmitter and receiver devices for home use, and I guess CME is not focused into professional use devices for stage

        About embedded wireless technology in XKey Air:

        *) I still like love to use the XKey Air embedded Low-Latency MIDI Bluetooth technology without devices hanging all around
        *) I usually need to reduce the number of messages sent wirelessly by turning off Aftertouch when using it wireless

        About radio-electric spectrum:
        *) I guess you're using any ISM band, and you will tweak the new protocol by rendering any other protocol sharing the same radio-electric spectrum unusable
        *) I guess you're still trying to decide what frequency will you use to be able to manufacture and export wisely

        About low latency:
        *) you can make it real under LAB testing
        *) in more and more countries individuals now have rights to return goods for full refund without needing to specify why (but there's always a reason)

        I wish you all luck, we need to enjoy life although for some people it's harder.

        1. I am getting a bit lost in the first part of your comment. No idea what you are trying to say. So, let’s keep our debate on technology πŸ˜‰

          Let me quote you and reflect right away. Maybe it helps to place things in a wider perspective.

          Quote:

          *) I ended up going back to using cables instead of a transmitter and receiver devices for home use, and I guess CME is not focused into professional use devices for stage

          Answer: As mentioned, we are focussing on professional usage for near-field scenarios in the studio and rehearsal. We are not focussing on stage solutions yet, because the technology needs to mature along the way before we dive into that part.

          Source: https://www.cme-pro.com/is-wireless-audio-finally-ready-for-your-music-studio-in-2023/

          About embedded wireless technology in XKey Air:

          *) I still like love to use the XKey Air embedded Low-Latency MIDI Bluetooth technology without devices hanging all around
          *) I usually need to reduce the number of messages sent wirelessly by turning off Aftertouch when using it wireless

          Answer: The Xkey Air series implement Bluetooth 4. It totally depends on the Bluetooth device you are pairing it with to make a statement that makes sense. For instance, pairing to the built-in Bluetooth of an operating system, brings in many variations. And that is besides your environment. With WIDI devices we are currently implementing Bluetooth 5. When using a straightforward WIDI to WIDI connection, the stability and latency performance are quite impressive.

          *) I guess you’re using any ISM band, and you will tweak the new protocol by rendering any other protocol sharing the same radio-electric spectrum unusable
          *) I guess you’re still trying to decide what frequency will you use to be able to manufacture and export wisely

          Answer: We implement a nano-second pulse technology. As said, it uses pulse technology, which is different compared to the traditional wave transmission. We are not deciding what frequency we are using. The technology is there. It does not operate in the 2.4 or 5.8 spectrums. That is the big benefit. To protect our development, that is about all I can see publicly, at this stage.

          *) you can make it real under LAB testing
          *) in more and more countries individuals now have rights to return goods for full refund without needing to specify why (but there’s always a reason)

          Answer: Thanks, but we are not newbees πŸ˜‰ We have been doing this over 20 years….

          Unquote

          Thanks for all your feedback. It is much appreciated. Wishing you the best.

          1. Quote:
            It totally depends on the Bluetooth device you are pairing it with to make a statement that makes sense. For instance, pairing to the built-in Bluetooth of an operating system, brings in many variations. And that is besides your environment.
            Unquote

            The latency is quite impressive in my current Bluetooth 4 using an old iPhone or iPad, although I need to disable Aftertouch to avoid occasional delays.

            Quote:
            With WIDI devices we are currently implementing Bluetooth 5. When using a straightforward WIDI to WIDI connection, the stability and latency performance are quite impressive.
            Unquote:

            Thank you for clarifying this subject.

            I understand that a WIDI plugged to a Windows PC (or Mac) and another WIDI unit plugged to a master MIDI keyboard would be the best MIDI wireless connection in earth right now.

            I tested a WIDI unit connected to a PowerBank and a Novation LaunchKey/FLKey keyboard, but I had some issues, and according to Novation, every USB controller they make don't only send MIDI commands, but also standard non-MIDI commands (letters and numbers), like the special keys in multimedia keyboards, so I ended up returning both the Novation keyboard and the WIDI adapter.

            Although I ended up purchasing another CME device, the XKey Air 37, with which I am really satisfied, because it is so handy that I love it.

            And that's why I think embedded is so much better, or at least as small as possible, so I don't need also plug in a power bank and so on.

            With my CME XKey Air I can move all around the room with it, no powerbanks or WIDI units hanging around. WIDI is great, but I guess you understand me.

          2. Yes I understand you. WIDI is made for transmitting MIDI wirelessly. It is not made for HID (computer keyboard) messages. In some USB MIDI controller cases, the USB port is used to transmit a variety of non-MIDI messages. If you want to use WIDI, you have to take in mind that your hardware will only work as it works in its MIDI mode. Nothing more, nothing less πŸ˜‰

            Integrated is great. That is why we brought WIDI Core to the market. Any manufacturer can integrate high-quality Bluetooth MIDI this way. Also any DIY developer can do the same: https://www.cme-pro.com/widi-core/

            For us as CME, we focus on the technology and improvement of Bluetooth MIDI via WIDI. We think, at this stage, we are on the top of performance when it comes to MIDI over Bluetooth. Any improvement is based on feedback from the community and more or less concerns improvement of compatibility with all those other Bluetooth MIDI devices available.

            USB MIDI is kind of special, and totally different than MIDI I/O. With MIDI I/O over TRS or 5-pin DIN, WIDI is able to be powered via the phantom power over MIDI Out. Of course, not all manufacturers add that possibility. That is why we launched WIDI Jack with an external power option. Also to support devices with only MIDI In, that obviously cannot output any voltage πŸ˜‰

            For USB MIDI ports, as said, it is often used for other data, not excluding audio too. Also, it is widely used for usb-bus power for USB clients, like a traditional USB MIDI controller.

            What for instance WIDI Uhost can do is A, be the host for the USB client and B, distribute bus-power to power itself and your MIDI controller via one external power source.

            Of course, if you want to have a fixed solution, the Xkey Air series is great. For us, from a manufacturing point of view, integrating batteries and similar, comes with all kinds of risks. Besides the extra service and support, it also has a long-term replacement challenge.

            Currently, the Xkey Series is owned by ESI Audio in Germany and Artesia Pro in the US. They are now responsible for the further development. We focus on innovative technologies completely. They recently launched the Xjam, which is a really nice add-on to the X series, but not with Bluetooth MIDI. Just USB MIDI.

            From our side, besides focussing on iWA, we also launched wired MIDI interfaces and also started integrating WIDI in them. A great example is the WIDI Thur6 BT. It is like your standard thru box with 1-in-5 out via 5-pin DIN and adds a WIDI chipset for 1-in-1-out wirelessly. This way, peopel can jump into the wireless world via a wired solution.

            It was great having this conversation with you. Thanks for your time and dedication, it is much appreciated.

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