Big Picture Big Sound

Unplug your Home Theater Speakers with Wireless Adapters from Radiient and AR

By Chris Boylan

Look Ma: No Wires!

The idea of having a completely wireless surround sound system is appealing but it has two significant drawbacks: wireless speakers still need a power source and the sound quality of wireless speakers is generally not all that great. 2009 CEA Innovations Honoree Award-winners Audiovox and Radiient can't beat the laws of physics so a power source is still required, but the second problem can be eliminated with their new wireless speaker amplifiers which allow you to make virtually any loudspeaker wireless.

So if you really want to get your high-end discrete surround sound vibe on with your fancy high-end B&W, ProAc or Martin-Logan speakers, but you don't want visible wires running across your floor or walls, simply wire up the transmitter device to your home theater receiver, pre/pro or HTiB, plug the receiver/amplifiers into a power source anywhere within RF range of the transmitter and plug any speaker you like into the receiver/amp module. Voila - wired speakers become wireless speakers.

The Acoustic Research ARW51 from Audiovox is a recent winner of the 2009 CEA Innovations Honoree Award in the home theater speakers category. It broadcasts over 2.4GHz but uses "code-hopping" technology to avoid potential interference from cordless phones, WiFi computer networks and microwave ovens. Its diversity antennas help overcome problems with multi-path fading (signals bouncing off walls, people, pets, etc.) and the transmitter broadcasts six full bandwidth 16-bit CD quality audio channels for a fully wireless 5.1-channel system with 50 Watt digital amplifiers. The ARW51 system will sell for $699 (MSRP) and is expected to be available in Q1, 2009.

The Acoustic Research ARW51 system allows you to make any speaker a wireless speaker.

Radiient won a 2009 CEA Innovations Award in the Audio Accessories category for a similar product, the Roomcaster "early adapter kit." The Roomcaster system works over what's called "Ultra-Wide Band" frequencies, avoiding areas of the spectrum that are currently crowded with the afore-mentioned computer networks and cordless phones. The Roomcaster early adapter kit also features up to six wireless channels so you can deploy a full 5.1-channel wireless surround system with no speaker wires.

Radiient's Roomcaster uses Ultra-Wide Band digital transmission to avoid problematic RF frequencies used by cordless phones and WiFi networks. Pictured here are the transmitter and one receiver/amplifier.

The Radiient "early adapter kit" is aimed squarely at the high-end crowd with a list price of $1999.99 for the 5.1-channel kit (transmitter plus 6 wireless receiver modules).  It is expandable to support 7.1-channel systems with the addition of two extra receivers.  But unlike the AR system, the Radiient kit does not include built-in amplification, which means they're only compatible with powered loudspeakers (or separate amplifiers).  The kit is expected to start shipping in Q1, 2009 and will be on display at CES 2009 in Las Vegas.

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