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 "This technology was originally made for wireless headphones," adds Murai, "but it was diverted to this project."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....
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: 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: 3-5 ms
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 launched in late 2022 and at the time of writing this blog, more than 3,000 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!