Sharp Tries Its Hand at Wireless High-Res Audio

For Sharp, high-quality wireless audio is a future worth pursuing.

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There's little doubt that the future of home audio is wireless. While old-school hi-fi enthusiasts gleefully run coils of audio cables around their homes, other music lovers settle for wireless solutions like Sonos—simultaneously forfeiting access to high resolution listening.

Sharp is excited to bring a new product to this space, one that doesn't compromise audio quality: Meet the Wireless High Resolution Audio Player (MSRP $4,999). Thanks to its adherence to a new, dedicated industry standard called Wireless Speakers and Audio (WiSA), this player can deliver high-res audio, and it can do it wirelessly.

Hands-On

Following a passionate preamble about Sharp's dedication to WiSA, I sat down to listen to a FLAC file (Free Lossless Audio Codec). Given a choice of genre, I thrilled the demonstrator by selecting classical jazz, evidently his favorite.

The room immediately brimmed with music: The deep, resonant plucking of a stand-up bass, the distant, gentle shimmer of a hi-hat, and two saxophones came to life with the help of two standing speakers.

And those were the only two speakers. No audio cables in sight, thanks to WiSA.

No, it's not hard at all to see why Sharp is excited about the future of WiSA, and more importantly, it's not hard to see why they want to change the reputation of wireless audio.

We were experiencing musical textures so rich we could almost reach out and touch them.

In an increasingly WiFi-compatible landscape, it's strange to consider how long it's taken for WiSA to find its footing. The commonly held belief seems to be that wireless audio cannot be transmitted without significant degradation to sound quality, and while this stance may have been true in the past, it certainly doesn't hold up today.

Bottom Line

Sharp is launching the Wireless High Resolution Audio Player in September along with the Sharp Wireless Bridge (MSRP $999) While our demonstration was limited to a 2-speaker setup, Sharp is promising 7.1 channels of digital audio when it launches. Together these two devices are capable of transmitting 24bit/96kHz uncompressed audio and support SACD, Blu-Ray, CD, FLAC, WAV, MP3, and DSD.

Compare that to the ever-popular Sonos, which caps lossless audio at 16bit/44.1kHZ and you might be able to see why the extra quality matters to enthusiasts. Audio signals are transmitted to WiSA-compliant speakers and uses a frequency band that isn't crowded by local WiFi devices or subject to the same interference as your home wireless network. You can control the receiver with your iOS or Android device with a Sharp app.

During our conversation with Sharp we spoke at length about the nature of innovation, and how it always takes an "evangelist" — be it a person, a company, or an institution — to pave the way for the rest of us. Sharp doesn't see its support of WiSA as a speculative business venture; it sees WiSA as unchartered territory. You can hear it in their voices, and more importantly, you can hear it in the music.

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