Almost everyone who's into home theater loves surround sound, but even the staunchest audiophiles have to admit that the inevitable result--a room full of criss-crossing speaker cables--sours the deal. Just about every manufacturer is on a quest to kill the wires, but the solutions so far have had drawbacks--single speaker surround-sound systems just doesn't sound as good as a full 5.1 system; wireless rear speakers usually still have wires, exhibit an audible hiss or compression artifacts, and/or often use the interference-prone 2.4GHz wireless spectrum. Neosonik's solution avoids most of these pitfalls by using an AV controller (to which you plug in your sources) that wirelessly distributes the audio to all of the speakers, each of which contains a built-in amplifier and a wireless receiver. The wireless speakers need to be plugged into a power outlet, but the whole system looks a whole lot nicer than a standard wired installations.
Neosonik transmits its data in the 5Ghz spectrum, but does not use the same technology as traditional Wi-Fi. The proprietary wireless audio transmission technology is called as Airpower AV, which is tweaked to improve reliability and latency (Neosonik claims a very impressive 6 nanoseconds delay). In the future, Neosonik intends to license the Airpower technology to other manufacturers, with the idea that any Airpower-equipped device could be seamlessly integrated into your existed Airpower system.
We stopped by Neosonik's suite for a demo and were not disappointed. While the two wireless stereo systems that were set up worked perfectly, we were most impressed by the full 5.1 home theater setup. All five speakers plus a subwoofer were connected wirelessly and they synced up perfectly--we didn't hear a single hiccup even when the room started to fill up with journalists. The idea of having your living room filled with speakers is never going to appeal to everyone, but eliminating the need to run speaker cable really make a difference in term of aesthetics.
On the video side, the system is capable of transmitting HD video, although not quite as cleanly as with audio. While the Neosonik system has enough bandwidth to transmit uncompressed audio, HD video is transcoded to h.264 in the receiver, presumably to lessen the bandwidth demands. Our quick demo of Corpse Bride on Blu-ray in 1080i didn't reveal any glaring flaws in term of video quality, but we can't imagine it will preserve all the detail of Blu-ray and HD DVD discs that videophiles have come to love.
The Neosonik technology is impressive--especially on the audio side--but our major skepticism is whether it will actually come out in 2008. We've written about Neosonik at CES in 2007 (and before in 2006), but we've yet to see the product actually hit the market. (Likewise, a similar wireless implementation from Avega Systems remains a no show in the consumer marketplace a full two years after its CES day in the sun.) Neosonik claims it is "taking reservations from retailers" for summer delivery--which at least sounds like a serious step in the right direction--but we'll believe it when we see it.