May 10

iWA: Instant Wireless Audio by CME

50  comments

wireless audio by CME

Low latency wireless audio for today's music makers.

Following the successful launch of WIDI Wireless MIDI, CME introduces the next step in ultra-low latency wireless audio without compromising sound quality and playability.

CME iWA

CME iWA wireless audio technology latency comparison with audio over Bluetooth 

Crowd Creation: Become part of the process

You're invited to join the wireless audio revolution. The first goal is to activate at least 1,000 people.

Currently, this technology is in the conceptual stage. After the first milestone has been reached, an early prototype of a portable near-field loudspeaker for mobile music making will be presented.

Of course, other products that fit within the concept of CME's ultra-low latency wireless audio technology will be pitched along the way.

Following your wishes, feedback and input, this prototype will be made ready for production. At the same time, you will be invited to place your pre-order. As an early adapter you will receive an exclusive 40% discount.

Feel welcome to register right now and read the entire story of instant wireless audio below. 

CME iWA - Instant Wireless Audio 

  • ultra low 5ms latency
  • lossless 24-bit/48kHz stereo
  • minimal interference
  • accessible pricing
  • made for prosumers & creators

Is wireless ultra-low latency lossless audio really that complex?

As wireless audio technology moved from analog to digital, a recurring challenge arose between latency and high sound quality. For some time now, only a limited number of solutions have been available for digital wireless transmission of uncompressed stereo audio.

The big problem is the extremely high costs for those solutions.

Why not use Bluetooth technology to make it accessible?

CME has been working on wireless technology for over 15 years. Currently, the WIDI range is taking the world by storm with the most advanced Bluetooth MIDI technology available.

Bluetooth 5 is perfectly capable of handling the MIDI protocol. Latency can be reduced to 3 ms between 2 WIDI devices. That said, when you talk about Bluetooth audio, you're entering a completely different arena.

Latency is created by two major factors in wireless audio transmission, namely: data rate and interference. To wirelessly play CD-quality stereo music, you must be able to transmit 1.411Mbps (1,411kbps) per second. And 24bit/48KHz even needs 2.3Mbps

The Bluetooth standard delivers only 1Mbps (1,000 kbps) by default. And that's not enough. In addition, these specifications only describe the transmission speed in perfect condition. In practical applications you will probably only achieve 50% of this.

Obviously, the stable low-latency data rate of Bluetooth cannot guarantee the lossless transmission of 1.4Mbps CD stereo music.

Therefore, several compression algorithms have been implemented in the technical specifications of Bluetooth headsets and speakers. For example, the maximum data rate of AAC as used by Apple is 320kbps.

As a result, the process of compression and decompression on top of the wireless transmission can lead to a latency of 100ms and easily more…

Test results iWA prototype A + B, May 2022

Bluetooth is not the only technology. What about 2.4 GHz?

Another widely used technology for wireless audio transmission is the 2.4GHz non-standard proprietary protocol, such as Boss' WAZA wireless headphones and many other wireless guitar audio transmitters.

CME has already released the WIDI-X8 wireless MIDI interface based on the proprietary 2.4GHz protocol in 2005. Since the data rate of MIDI is only 31.25 kbps, 2.4GHz (as well as Bluetooth) provides sufficient speed for timely and accurate transmission.

To this day, CME remains the leader in wireless MIDI. With decades of experience in both Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz, our engineers know what wireless technology can do. And certainly what the limitations are. And those limitations come with lossless audio.

Fortunately, that is about to change.

What is the difference between iWA and 2.4GHz solutions available?

The 2.4GHz frequency works in the same bandwidth as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Therefore, this protocol is sensitive for interference. When interference occurs, most 2.4GHz devices do not have the capability to perform rapid frequency hopping as Bluetooth (and WIDI) can.

As with Wi-Fi, the solution implemented to reduce interference for 2.4GHz is to drastically reduce the data rate (often below 1Mbps) and repeat the transfer of the same data to make sure nothing is lost. This is not a problem for file transfers, but not suitable for real-time audio.

Again, with lossless audio in stereo, the data to be transmitted is relatively large. Therefore, many 2.4GHz solutions are mono designs for microphones and guitar signals. Even with a high resolution of 24-bit/48KHz, the data rate of mono audio is only 1,152 kbps.

As you can see, 2.4GHz can provide a solution for mono sound, but not for lossless stereo.

And unfortunately, another problem arises...

Power consumption

While the 2.4 GHz proprietary protocol can achieve relatively high data rates, it consumes much more power than Bluetooth. Usually the 2.4GHz solution consumes 10 times more power compared to Bluetooth.

That's why the JBL Bluetooth headset has a battery life of 50 hours, while the Boss's WAZA only lasts 5 hours. When the battery is low, the data rate and transmission stability of 2.4 GHz is significantly reduced.

And that is another serious challenge for professional musicians....

What about 5GHz?

There are also a few wireless mono audio transmitters that operate in the 5GHz range. Technically, 5GHz can deliver a better data rate by implementing a Wi-Fi protocol.

However, as already explained, Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) has its limitations when it comes to real-time audio and power consumption.

5GHz will only work better when using a proprietary protocol that is fully focused on real-time lossless audio transmission. 

But even then, the solution will again become very expensive and still be vulnerable for interference.

What is iWA by CME?

iWA is the ultra-low latency wireless audio system evaluated by CME. Based on the above, our clever engineers are constantly striving for the best balance between performance and cost in this future system.

For example, during our evaluation we had to let go of several technical solutions with "very good" technical indicators, but with "very expensive" components.

From that point of view, the current concept yields the following: 

  • Enough data rate redundancy to meet the stable transmission of high-quality uncompressed stereo audio
  • No interference from crowded and noisy 2.4GHz frequency band
  • Latency performance meets the demands of modern music makers 
  • Data transfer stability can still be guaranteed in very low voltage condition
  • The cost should be acceptable to most music users

Feel welcome to sign up today and be a part of the process. You are invited to share your thoughts, ideas and concerns in the comment section below.

And last but not least, watch this video to see where we stand today.


Tags

iWA, wireless audio


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  • For me, I have a huge interest in a wireless tx/rx pair that is a virtual wire that results in a line level signal that can go into most devices like any aux in. I’d use it for many other needs before I’d use it with a speaker.

    I have zero interest in an integrated wireless speaker. It’s unlikely your choices in a single speaker unit will match my needs; I have several speakers that I use in different circumstances and one type doesn’t cover the bases. I’ve painstakingly sought out the speakers I like and it’s a complicated mix of features, size intended use, quality, and price points. There’s a reason why there are so many speakers by so many vendors (an even one brand or line of speaker often has many models for varying need).

    A combined wireless speaker will cost more than just the wireless portion (and does not leverage my existing speaker investment).

    Perhaps you can gauge interest in a speaker versus a standalone transmitter/receiver by a poll? I think you’ve already decided, but….

    • Hi Quad, thank you very much for your comment. A standalone transmitter/receiver is definitely on our radar, and when we develop wireless speakers, we actually develop a dedicated transceiver solution at the same time. But to make it into a final product, there are a number of potential issues that need to be addressed. In any case, first we need to know how many potential customers want ultra-low latency wireless audio solutions. After we understand the market size, we will evaluate additional ideas and product plans and make a final decision with the community. So your participation is very important.

  • I agree with Quad, I would prefer to have a standalone TX/RX pair compared to a wireless speaker. Since your product mainly targets musicians/singers prosumer, I would argue that a wireless speaker would not be as successful as a standalone TX/RX pair. Most prosumer musicians/singers have already invested in monitor speaker, PA system, guitar amp… what we are missing is a good reliable wireless system.
    Something like this from Skaa: https://www.skaastore.com/products/rush-receiver + https://www.skaastore.com/products/akiko-pro-for-analog Skaa solution would be great but their lowest latency is 19ms which is to much IMO for musicians/singers.
    If you have a standalone TX/RX pair solution at around 5ms latency for lossless high-quality stereo audio at a reasonable price you will have a huge success. Have you thought about crowdfunding this project on Indiegogo or Kickstarter? I think you would get a better sense of the market size that way, especially since you already produce great WIDI products, this would reassure potential buyers.

    • Thanks Syd for taking the time to comment. We’ve done crowd funding campaigns before. That lead us to develop our own crowd creation campaign with WIDI Master. This is the beginning of such a campaign with iWA.

      Of course, we fully understand that many musicians are in need of TX/RX adapters. Just like WIDI delivers Bluetooth MIDI adapters. With the speaker we more or less launch a very clear concept, like an example, of what iWA can do.

      Along the way, there are many directions we can go. One of them is certainly the TX/RX solution. That said, as we know from our WIDI experience, adapters come with all kinds of challenges. This is limited by considering a straight-forward speaker solution.

      Please note, that nothing is fixed at this stage. Together we explore the instant wireless audio technology. Once validated by the community we can go many ways.

      • “This is the beginning of such a [Kickstarter] campaign with iWA.”

        Perhaps you can create two Kickstarter campaigns (wireless tx/rx and wireless speaker) and let people vote with their wallets.

        • Two Kickstarter campaigns means twice the marketing budgets. I am not sure if you are aware of how Kickstarter works these days, but it needs certainly substantial marketing budget to get things moving on these platforms.

          That is why we prefer to take it one by one. The monitor solution is basically a tx/tr solution. So expanding the range from there is not hard. It is fairly easy to develop compared to the portable speaker, but it also brings us more open environments that cause other problems.

          That is why this blog is here and we monitor the feedback from the market. The direction may change during the process.

          At the same time, we also need to consider the difference between the demand from people that we can now reach and what the potential is for this technology in the overall market.

          That is also a reason to opt for a complete monitor solution at the moment.

          That said, we are open to any suggestions and surely appreciate every single response. Maybe you can help specify your scenario for tx/tr to provide us with a better understanding of the way you would use such a solution?

  • I have been searching for years for a lossless stereo transmitter/receiver to connect my keyboards and all I was able to find out there were Bluetooth mono units dedicated to guitars. Many being sold as stereo, believe it or not. Not enough seriousness out there.

    Even when I asked if I could just buy a pair, one for each channel, I was told not to do so due to interferences.

    I think the keyboardists are being left behind. Connecting my two keyboards via wireless MIDI is a dream come true already. But my second keyboard is to send its audio to the main unit and then this one is to send the audio of both to either my power amp or my active monitors. So I am in as #95 for a pair of devices, as I did with WIDI Master.

    Hurry, please, CME, it is May 2022 !!!!

  • Great Idea, Fully agree with previous comments on TX/RX jack pairs, as well as usb dongle for pc/ios device. I’d also personally like a headphone preamp output as an alternative to wireless headphones. I don’t think there would be much market for near field monitors, though.

  • I believe most musicians hear latency at 15 ms. I start at 5 ms. Any comments on what others can post their’s is ? VLF is used to contact our subs. Will you be using the same frequencies ?

    • VLF is not practical for lossless stereo audio due to its limitations in bandwidth. It has a great reach though. On what product you are using this? Interested to investigate it.

  • I own several Widi products. I know you’re testing the market on the wireless speaker. Like others have said, it doesn’t solve any specific problems I have, so I will sit out this round. But, I’m highly interested in a TX/RX adapter. So, please don’t take my lack of enthusiasm for the speaker as lack of interest in wireless audio. Just not the right product/market fit for professional audio use cases.

  • This is perfect for my Roland FR-8x 🪗digital accordion. With iWA & WIDI I will completely be wireless as a wandering musician. FANTASTIC!👍

  • I would be joining the others who have a need for rx/tx wireless stereo audio. In our current situation, we utilize CME WIDI products in an auditorium where keyboards and MIDI devices need to be relocated during stage changes often. The wireless MIDI allows us to use these devices as controllers for MIDI racks and associated audio outputs off-stage and works flawlessly. What we wish is a wireless audio which can allow us to use onstage keyboards or workstations to send a stereo audio signal with a fair amount of range for versatility. Typical cable connections limit mobility. There are so many wireless speaker options these days, but I have yet to find any product allowing non-interference STEREO audio RX/TX,ultra low latency for live playing, and over 30ft range! We have achieved success in MONO using pro grade guitar packs, but most keyboards require a stereo connection to realize sonic fullness. I am thankful that CME is looking into this at least. One final comment: CME is recognized as the developer of “wireless MIDI connectivity” in the form of multifaceted configurations. A speaker offering may be too limited to a specific audience, but the potential uses for the wireless tech would be much more marketable to the masses. I would rather use iWA as a standalone system which I could choose the monitors I use, or the keyboard to mixer connection, or ….?

    • Thank you so much for your complete reply. It is much appreciated. At one side, the technology itself as in integrated solution for many cases has a large potential. We chose the wireless monitor speaker because it is a very clear proposal of what this technology can do. At this stage, making it into a tx/rx solution only, comes with all kind of limitations and challenges. That is why we are thinking into the speaker direction first. That said, the steps from the iWA speaker to a tx/rx solution are not far apart.

  • Very excited to read this project. Low latency audio over bluetooth will solve a lot of studio and jam setup situations. Happy to support this as I have with all three of your bluetooth midi products.

    • Thanks Scott for using our WIDI products. Our new iWA solution is not Bluetooth, it is another technology which will provide loseless wireless audio with ultra-low latency. Unfortunately Bluetooth could not achieve this goal for audio.

  • I’ve been waiting for a solution like this for a long time too. BUT like some have mentioned, an integrated speaker option would mean nothing to me. tx/rx is the way to go. Everyone already has their favourite speakers/headphones etc. We just want to lose the wires.

    • Good to know. Basically the tx/rx solution is integrated in the speaker. So, just like with WIDI, it is about the technology. We chose a speaker as the first project, because it speaks to a much larger audience than a tx/rx solution.

      The tx/rx solution is fairly easy to create from the speaker project, but it will bring on more challenges. Can you explain how you would use such a solution? What is your tx/rx use case?

      • That’s understandable. Probably a good idea in the business perspective. Wouldn’t headphones make more sense, in that case? Wires are much more annoying on headphones than they are on speakers. I know AIAIAI just launched something like this, but they are expensive.

        For me, a strong use case for a tx/rx pair would be for performers who do gigs at smaller venues but still would like the option of having a wireless in-ear monitoring. (assuming iWA will have a pretty good range) Smaller venues usually don’t have wireless IEM rig on site and the ones you can purchase are expensive/bulky and they sound bad. I guess this is definitely more niche than standalone headphones or speakers.

        • Headphones make sense too. I’ve seen the AIAIAI, they are quite interesting. I can explain a bit the challenge we have with tx/rx. Because the environment and the distance for these kind of adapters are not fixed, we need to ensure we deliver. That means we need to amplify the signal. We can do that, easily. But that will run into trouble with the regulation in some countries. That is why we are looking at a more fixed solution, like a wireless speaker. Still, the headphone is an option too. The fun part is, with these kind of conversations we get a better sense of what is really in demand, and because it is such an early stage, we can change direction too.

          • In any case, this will be an exciting project. I can’t wait to see where it goes!

  • I agree with Quad & Syd. I already have the speakers I need and therefore a standalone TX/RX unit is what I would be interested in

    • Noted with thanks 😉 Can you specify the exact scenario for your tx/rx solution? Why are the current solutions on the market not sufficient for you?

  • Excited for this! As an early adopter of WIDI, I was blown away by the accuracy, low-latency, reliability and of course the convenience, so I expect no less from wireless audio.

    • Thanks. That is great to hear. Of course the purpose is to deliver at least the same quality with wireless audio.

  • Another vote here for the tx/rx form of this exciting new technology. As a keyboard player who often practices with wired earphones I’d love to get rid of those very inconvenient wires!

    I’m also curious – if iWA delivers 24-bit/48kHz stereo audio with 5ms latency, would it be possible to have even lower latency for lower audio quality? The use case I’m thinking of here is for a mono click/metronome for drummers (or, like me, a solo keyboard player) at gigs.

    High or low audio quality (or, better still, switchable) I’m definitely interested in this for earphones. Every couple of years I have a look at what’s available out there and have always been disappointed, so I’ll be watching this with interest. 🙂

    • Thanks Bill! Technically the lower audio quality can reduce the latency because it uses lower data rate. We will investigate switchable audio quality and check if it helps the latency performance with significante different.

      • Thanks Zhao. It’d be great to get it down to just over 0, wouldn’t it? Personally, I wouldn’t care if a click was *really* low quality as long as it was reliable and responsive.

        Just after my first post I realized (duh!) that I use earphones in my music work all the time, not just for practising, and the wired connection is always a real nuisance! Often moving between computer, piano keyboard, rack, cuppa, etc. means there’s always the risk of knocking the wire with a stray limb. The earphones have to be replaced approx. twice a year because of the resulting damage, which is why I use cheap ones.

        • Hi Bill, sounds interesting. Normally what is the distance between your earphones and the audio output of other devices?

  • First, I agree generally with the comments that we all have our own favorite monitors that we would want to use. My personal preference would be towards low latency, wireless headphones. I think more and more home musicians are depending on their headphones for monitoring (and I could see an ‘on stage’ use as well). Personally, I’m tired of the dangling headphone cable and would love to ditch that for monitoring while I record using my CME Bluetooth enabled instruments. Thanks for the consideration.

    • Thanks for sharing. The headphone is certainly a direction we can discover. Mainly we created a starting point with a wireless speaker. This way the innovation gets an immediate role. Now, we can discuss every direction you mention and if there is a better direction, we can change it because we are at such an early stage of development.

    • Hi FGM, thank you very much for sharing this crowd creation project to you friends. We need the community’s help to make it happen.

  • Also only interested in a wireless TX/RX device. Tying it to a speaker or headphones is unlikely to match my needs/preferences (for the speaker or headphones).

    I don’t want to pay (extra) for a second set of speakers/headphones; just want to pay for the TX/RX and bring my own device.

    I think the options to consider for this TX/RX device are:
    – External Powered versus Battery (6-8 hours). I need the battery on the RX side. Could make due with a convenient way to power via USB power pack
    – Line Out versus Headphone Out. Nice to support IEMS and up to 300 ohm easy to drive headphones (e.g., Sennheiser HD-6xx). Does not need to be the best amp in the world. Could make do with line out plus my own headphone amp (but it gets to be cumbersome just like usb power pack). For many uses the headphone out turned down low (by switch or volume knob) is fine as a line out. No need for anything esoteric like balanced outputs.
    – Line Input – Don’t think anything else is needed beyond an unbalanced TRS jack. If you need RCA plugs, there’s a dongle for that.
    – Volume control – Nice to have a knob if this has a headphone amp, ideally recessed/protected to avoid bumping/damage.
    – Stereo versus Mono switch – Nice if reduces latency, but not required.

    • Hi Jim,
      Thanks for all the details, we get it and will see if we can include them in the development.

  • I’m a travelling one man band with an iPad, a headset mic, a les Paul, a 49 key, and a 16 pad beat pad. My dream is to have my guitar, vocals, in-ears and speaker all wireless and latency free as possible. What about sending multiple channels MIMO style?

    • That would be amazing. Multiple in, multiple out. Maybe in the future. We can work towards this step by step.

  • WiSA loudspeakers are already available and offer 7.1 wireless surround sound and 24-bit/96kHz hi-res audio with ultra-low fixed latency, 2.6ms at 96kHz or 5.1ms at 48kHz.
    Klipsch Reference Wireless, B&O Beolab 17,18,19, Harman Kardon Citation…

    I think perhaps you might achieve great a success with a Tx/Rx bundle, as a low latency high quality stereo wireless audio is still a dream for very many musicians.
    You have already accomplished it in the MIDI arena.

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply.

      We are aware of the solutions you mention. That is why we refer to them in this blog.

      As the blog mentions, solutions like WiSA operate in the 2.4 gHz and 5 gHz spectrum. As said, it is highly sensible for interference and does not offer frequency hopping (like Bluetooth does) via their private protocol.

      Also it has high power consumption and high prices. These WiSa systems can easily start at USD$ 1,000

      Also, solutions like Citation are Bluetooth/Wi-Fi combinations where the customer does not care about the latency. The latency metric is mostly not even shared by the manufacturer.

      Al of the above, are things we’d like avoid with iWA.

  • I will buy at least a pair of Tx/Rx as soon as they become available.

    My half-wireless beloved keyboard synthesizer (WIDI Master installed) turning fully wireless. I am not dreaming, am I ?

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