Thanks to the proliferation of Wi-Fi, customers often expect everything you offer to now be sans wires. “If I can carry the entire internet around in my pocket, why can’t I just beam some music wirelessly to speakers in another room?!”
Atlantic Technology’s WA-5030 consists of a WA-50-t wireless transmitter that connects to the “source” device and the WA-5030-r receiver/ amplifier that powers the speakers.
And sometimes it isn’t even a request predicated by a client but by the job itself. If you’ve ever faced a “nightmare” retro where concealing wiring from point A to point B just wasn’t possible, you’ve probably thought, “If I could just send the signal across the room!” And whether the goal is audio in other rooms or just the back of the room for surround channels, “Isn’t there something wireless?” is one of the questions integrators frequently face.
Of course, there are some wireless solutions available, but the majority are either part of a low-end, “system-in-a-box” solution or have questionable performance. And while there are some terrific wireless options available–such as Sonos or Russound’s AirGo–these don’t work for every solution. Of course, it’s important to clarify that most “wireless” technologies aren’t truly wireless. They either require wire from the receiver/amplifier to the speakers themselves or electrical wire for power.
That’s why I was excited when I stumbled across Atlantic Technology’s new WA-5030 wireless transmitter/amp-receiver system. This is based on the company’s successful WA-50 system but adds amplification for an all-in-one solution. Even more exciting is that this product was brought about from dealer suggestions. According to Peter Tribeman, Atlantic Technology’s president, “Several dealers immediately suggested that we ‘combine the receiver with a small integrated amplifier.’ We always think it is a good idea to listen to our dealers.” Indeed!
The system is two parts; the WA-50-t wireless transmitter that connects to the “source” device and the WA-5030-r receiver/amplifier that powers the speakers. A variety of cables come in the box, allowing easy connection to a host of devices. For most installs, connection will likely be to a receiver’s zone 2 or tape record outputs. When connecting to a computer–a great way for a customer to enjoy their iTunes library or Pandora–the transmitter powers via USB. When connecting to a more traditional source component it uses a wall-wart power supply. The amp requires an external 24-volt/2-amp power supply.
I was immediately impressed by the amp’s five-way binding posts, which are much-preferred to the cheap spring clips found on other devices. The amp’s mini-jack input accepts the included IR receiver for remotely controlling volume.
Installation should be a breeze. I say “should” because I tried for about 30-minutes to get the units to pair–following the directions and then plugging and unplugging repeatedly–but just couldn’t get it to work. A quick call to Atlantic Technology, and a loud “Doh!” on my part, revealed that Step 0 in the manual should read, “Press the power button on the remote control to turn the amplifier on before proceeding to Step 1.” Once I did that, the units immediately synched, and the system worked flawlessly. Actual install should take about two minutes.
The transmitter has three separate channels, allowing up to three to operate in a home. Each transmitter can drive up to three receiver/amplifiers so you could build a pretty nifty three-zone, nine-room audio system. Also cool is that the amp can be configured to run in Left+Right Mono mode, saving Y-cable adapting at the head-end. This will be handy for some commercial and residential applications. Also, the amp can be set in a bi-amp configuration to drive power-hungry speakers.
The WA-5030’s 30-watt/channel amp has enough power to easily drive the kinds of speakers it is likely to be connected to: bookshelf monitors, in-wall, or in-ceiling models. I connected the amp to a pair of Definitive Technology’s StudioMonitor 55 bookshelf speakers, and it drove them to loud levels with clean sound. The amp produced plenty of bass and didn’t sound strained until pushed until extreme levels. Sound quality was on parity with a good multichannel, housewide amplifier.
Wireless range was terrific, reaching from one side of my 2,000-square-foot home to the other, while broadcasting through multiple walls. I never noticed any interference or dropouts.
One potential issue is the system’s 48 kHz broadcasting limit. While this isn’t a problem for most music listening, it won’t support high-res audio. Even more limiting is the incompatibility with Blu-ray’s high-res audio tracks. This makes the WA-5030 unusable for surround channels with Blu-ray. I connected to my player to test and the audio was intermittent and often scratchy. (Update: Although the review was submitted to Atlantic Technology for vetting prior to publication, they read the finished review and contacted me about this bit. As the signal that the transmitter receives is analog – from the receiver or pre-amp’s pre-out – they explained that there is no reason why it shouldn’t work with Blu-ray tracks and they asked that I test the unit again. Upon retesting, I found that it does indeed play Blu-ray high-res audio tracks, and would definitely be usable for surround channels with Blu-ray material.)
It’s easy to think of a lot of problems that the WA-5030 solves. For customers looking to easily add a second room of quality audio, it’s perfect. When you consider that the price of the WA-5030 is equal to a few hours of retro labor, it becomes another great tool in your installer toolbox.
Lots of set-up flexibility, easy install, great wireless range and sound quality
• Wireless full CD quality (48 kHz sampling) sound
• Wireless range up to 150 feet (line of sight up to 300 feet)
• Max time delay of 10 ms
• USB connection with both PC and Mac
• 30-watt x 2 amplifier
• Remote volume control via included IR target
• Flexible install/ configuration options