The golden age of wireless.
There were times when television sets with remote controls - constituting a small box with push buttons and a long wire connecting it to the television set - were advertised. Soon infrared light was used to replace the cable and the remote control boxes became smaller and more lightweight - technology which is still used for most remote controls.
Back in the 1970s, one of the world’s first information networks was based on wireless radio. However, after condensing in the ‘Ethernet’ standard, cabled connections became the standard. Initially this was using coaxial, then later the ‘twisted pair’ multicable we now know as CAT5.
In the 90s, wireless Ethernet was developed by the ‘WiFi Alliance’, catching on after the 802.11b standard was published in 1999, which supported a bandwidth of up to 11Mbit per second. It’s been said that the brand-consulting company Interbrand coined the catchy name ‘WiFi’ as a pun upon the work ‘HiFi’ (from ‘High Fidelity’, known to pitch high quality sound reproduction in the consumer audio world). It was as if they knew that two decades later WiFi would be in widespread use for audio - although, for most of it, sadly not in HiFi...
In the professional audio world, WiFi was a promising technology to remotely control audio equipment. In 2003, one of the first applications was the ‘Reco’ touch screen networked remote control for the Yamaha PM1D, a remote desktop concept developed by the German system integrator Teqsas. At that time touch panels were expensive and industrial grade, and a rack PC was required to make it work.
This all changed in 2010 when Apple launched the iPad and touch panels became useful and inexpensive tools for us all. The iPad immediately caught the eye of the Yamaha engineers designing the M7CL mixing console, leading to the launch of the first StageMix app at the end of 2010. StageMix has been developed to support every Yamaha mixer launched since then, allowing for commonly available iPads to control digital mixers through a WiFi connection. At this time virtually all manufacturers of mixing consoles, digital signal processors and even ‘HiFi’ AV equipment offer apps for smartphones and tablets as standard - a true revolution in user interfacing.
Meanwhile, WiFi has matured to support high bandwidth and low latency connections that can support real-time transfer of audio signals - not only in the consumer AV market, but also in the professional audio market. Many manufacturers of wireless microphone systems have embraced the wireless frequency ranges used for WiFi and DECT to offer multichannel systems. This is driven by the fact that the ´classic´ UHF frequencies are being increasingly allocated for the use of cell phone data networks and digital television. A common 2.4GHz WiFi band can be used to transmit more than 10 channels of uncompressed audio at a very low latency of about 2ms, co-existing with computer connections over WiFi. We have tried this at several concerts without any problems, even with hundreds of concert-goers posting selfies on Facebook during the opening song of a concert.
In a conference paper, we recently pitched the name WiMi to cover ‘HiFi’ sound transmission of wireless microphones over the ‘WiFi’ radio frequency band.
Our YCATS Yamaha Commercial Audio Seminars curriculum includes WiMi training sessions using the Line6 XD-V series. You can find the European schedule on www.yamahaproaudio.com/training
Next week’s micro tutorial will focus in on the decibel.
Further reading on wireless control applications: