A couple years ago there was a lot of fuss over whether NuVo’s Renovia or Russound’s Collage system would win the battle of powerline-based multi-room audio technologies. Unfortunately, even as our industry searched for innovative ways to compete in a new economy, the spotlight on both of these well-designed technologies seemed to fade.
After observing this lukewarm response by integrators, I met with NuVo president David Rodarte at CEDIA EXPO in September and asked him if Renovia’s sales had been, in fact, a disappointment for his company. Rarely does such a direct question get such a honest answer, but after hesitating just a moment, Rodarte responded, “Yes, they have been. We expected a lot more, especially after all of the tools we developed specifically to help dealers sell the technology.”
It’s my feeling that the failure of powerlinebased technologies is an example both of our industry’s discomfort with selling certain retrofit technologies and its unwillingness to embrace change. I realize that our industry is constantly evolving and, in fact, often gambles on new technologies, but sometimes we’re just a little too stubborn for our own good.
The industry’s lack of support for powerline makes me cautious about embracing what I think could be “the next big thing.” Though the latest batch of wireless audio (and video) technologies seem ready for primetime, I wonder if they’ll face the same pushback from the industry that powerline-based audio faced.
The difference now, perhaps, is that one company already has the arrows in its back from blazing a trail for wireless audio in our channel. Now, companies that are more firmly established in the CI business than Sonos was when it started are introducing their own solutions with better name recognition and more trust from an existing dealer base.
One example is Proficient Zero, from a manufacturer that may only be limited by its relatively narrow distribution to security installers who want to expand into AV. With SpeakerCraft as Proficient’s sister brand, however, expect Jeremy Burkhardt and his team to extend the reach of the Zero technology further into the CI market.
There are several other companies with competing wireless audio solutions, as well. At CEDIA (see our review), NuVo previewed it Wireless Player System, with allin- one amplifiers that stream from networkstored audio, analog sources, Bluetooth-enabled devices, and an abundance of internet-based services. ClearOne also launched its BluePort audio gateway, Soundcast Systems unveiled its OutCast 3.4 system, and Monster introduced Streamcast BT Bluetooth streaming connectivity. After its own CEDIA launch, Legrand hosted a press conference in New York City last month to further promote its airQast Wi-Fi speaker system in an expensive Tribeca residence.
That’s just to name a handful of companies embracing wireless.
There was a time when wireless audio technology was considered the enemy of our very-wired CEDIA universe. Sonos helped prove that we could go untethered. Now it remains to be seen who will have what it takes to carry wireless audio to the next level.