The idea behind Klipsch’s Reference Premiere HD Wireless system, released this month, was simple: create a multi-channel home theater system that’s as easy to set up as a soundbar. “We call it the ‘cold beer setup,'” says Tony Ostrom, VP of product development for systems at Klipsch. “Once the product is unboxed, we wanted you to be able to open a cold beer and assemble the entire system before the beer got warm.”
At GP’s headquarters in NYC, with the 5.1 HD Wireless system in front of us, Ostrom’s statement sounded like a challenge.
Klipsch has been a part of the audio industry since 1946, and it is best known for a respected range of home theater products, such as the Reference line of passive loudspeakers that pump out audio with high efficiency, low distortion and lots of output. However, more recently, Klipsch has transitioned away from its classic “big-boxed” speaker roots, delving deep into wireless technology. At CES 2016 this past January, Klipsch didn’t have a single AV receiver at their booth.
“We call it the ‘cold beer setup.’ Once the product is unboxed, we wanted you to be able to open a cold beer and assemble the entire system before the beer got warm.”
The big pivot came with a partnership with the Wireless Speaker & Audio (WiSA) Association, a deal inked in 2011. This partnership allowed Klipsch to integrate WiSA’s wireless technology into their products, and now, in 2016, the Reference Premiere HD Wireless is Klipsch’s first wireless (meaning integrated with WiSA) high-definition home theater system. The HD Wireless system looks and sounds almost identical to Klipsch’s high-end Reference Premiere, released in 2015. Both systems feature the brand’s 90×90 Hybrid Tractrix horn technology (improving high-frequency response) and Linear Travel Suspension (LTS) titanium tweeters. The only major difference? The HD Wireless system has WiSA.
The advantages of WiSA technology are widespread. First, there are no wires connecting speakers. Each speaker still needs to be plugged into a power source, but the arduous process of running lines from receiver to speaker, under carpets or through walls, is gone. And, even better, every driver in each individual speaker has its own amplifier channel. To clarify: there are five channels of amplification in each of the HD Wireless’s floor-standing speakers, and five more in its center channel speaker; Klipsch’s electronics then allow users to control each driver, within each speaker, independently. From a dynamic perspective, says Ostrom, the listener’s complete control over the signal, and therefore the ability to extract every ounce of performance from all the speakers around the room, is better than it could ever be in a traditionally designed system.
Expandable System: 2.0 to 7.2 channels
Speaker Series: Tower, monitor and center channel speakers, subwoofer, HD control center
Technology: WiSA, 90×90 Hybrid Tractrix horn technology, Linear Travel Suspension (LTS) titanium tweeters
Learn More: klipsch.com
WiSA technology also solved the latency issue — the disconnect between the timing of the audio and video — that’s common with wireless technologies. “We didn’t want everything to look like a badly synced movie,” says Ostrom. “So we needed that latency to be extremely low. With WiSA, signal latency is no more than five milliseconds, and in many cases below three milliseconds, which is outstanding.” They also needed the wireless transmission to be high definition, as it’s not worth sacrificing sound quality just to be wireless. And WiSA transmits at 24 bit/96 kiloHertz at up to 8 channels, so a 7.1 full surround home theater system is no problem.
HD Wireless is also easily expandable. With 8 wireless channels at your discretion, you can start off with the full 7.1 system, or start with a simple system (like two monitors and a control center, which only costs around $1,500) and expand over time. And if another brand releases a WiSA-enabled control center or speaker, you can pair different brands to work together.
Once plugged in, each Klipsch speaker has a button (dubbed the smart speaker selector) on the back that syncs with the location in which the speaker is placed. Once you assign the speaker to the correct channel — left front, right front, side left, etc. — you sync it with the receiver, confirm the location and then you’re ready to go. It’s that easy.
For our setup, we had two people assembling the 5.1 HD Wireless system at our NYC headquarters. We cracked open our beers before unboxing the system (not part of Ostrom’s original plan), which effectively doubled the setup time. Around 15 minutes later, the system was fully functional, blasting Rihanna (my editor’s choice), thus proving that setting up a full surround-sound system can be effectively as simple as hooking up a soundbar.
At the end, the only thing sweating was our beers. And were they still cold? You bet.