I Miss Music On Hold

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We’re sorry.  Your call is very important to us.  Please remain on the line, and the next available customer service representative will be with you shortly.

Sound familiar?  Well, it should, as many telephone systems have similar recordings that usually repeat every 30 seconds while you wait on hold for 3 minutes… or 30 minutes… it really depends on who you are, and reason you are “on hold”.

If I am ordering a pizza, for instance, and I get put on hold for more than 5 minutes, I know they are busy, and I will often just hang up and dial another establishment.  But if I am trying to reach my credit card company or cable provider, I usually have a reason that I need to call them in particular, not someone else.  Oftentimes, it does not matter when I call, I will be put on hold.

In the old days, you would be put on hold and hear nothing. Silence. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But I guess some people did not know if they were still on hold after hearing silence for a few minutes, so someone invented “music on hold”.  The music source could be a service like Muzak but usually, it was just a short loop recording of classical music that would repeat.

Then one day, someone (let’s call him or her The Devil) got the bright idea to add the “We’re sorry.  Your call is very important to us…” and made it REPEAT OVER AND OVER.  Does this really help anyone?  Seriously, I swear, it was The Devil, Bobby Boucher, The Devil!

The last time I was put on hold, it was even worse: in between the verbal lashings of digitally remastered sarcasm mentioned above, they had inter-weaved advertisements for their services!  It was at that moment that I realized we need a revolution.  If We, The People, have to be put on hold, we demand respect; I personally think we should be educated and/or entertained while on hold.  Here is what I think should happen:

You have been put on hold and you are listening to an automated telephone system. I will try to make it as painless as possible by speaking to you in a polite, personal tone.

First, push 1 to mute me at anytime; push 1 to un-mute me.

You will be on hold for approximately 10 minutes. That is a estimate, and I will try to keep you updated if that amount of time changes significantly.  You can press 2 at any time to find out the estimated time you will still be on hold. 

Now for some entertainment, if you are in the mood for it…

Press 3 for local news, sports, traffic, and weather forecasts

Press 4 to listen to light classical music

Press 5 for jazz, funk, and r&b music

Press 6 for rock or indie music

Press 7 for rap and hip hop music

Press 8 for country music

Press 9 to hear these options again

Otherwise, I will leave you to wait in silence, ok?  Just speak up if you need something.  Sorry about putting you on hold. I know its really rude, but we do it to keep our internal expenses to a minimum, which in the end, should mean cheaper prices for you. Thanks for waiting. 

-pk

Wireless Speakers For DJs and Weddings

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What if WiSA-compliant transmitters were built into DJ mixers and musical keyboards?

Originally written for the WiSA Association Blog by Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA™) Association and its Members are quickly becoming the new wireless standard for high-definition digital surround sound audio.  The technology is designed to be incorporated into transmitting devices such as HDTVs, Blu-ray disc players, gaming consoles, set-top boxes, AVRs, and of course, speakers. Members of the WiSA Association include Sharp, Klipsch, Martin Logan, Polk Audio, Pioneer, Paradigm, Definitive Technology, Meiloon, Nyne, Gibson, Dali, Onkyo, Gibson, Summit Semiconductor, Silicon Image, Amber Technologies, Hansong, GGEC.  Together, these manufacturers have agreed to use the same WiSA certification test specification and interoperability standard, which allows users to mix and match their favorite audio and video brands when they see the WiSA logo.  For more information, please visit www.wisaassociation.org

Thus far, the WiSA-enabled products and prototypes have targeted consumers and residential applications.  But just recently, Summit Semiconductor, a WiSA advisory board member company, started delivering RF modules for professional wireless audio applications.  This got me thinking about live events and concerts…weddings… DJs…. which lead me to wonder…  what if WiSA-compliant transmitters were built into DJ mixers and keyboards?

The standard WiSA-compliant transmitter sends 8 channels of uncompressed, 24-bit digital audio to 8 self-powered speakers.  Usually, that equals a 7.1 surround sound mix, or some smaller portion thereof.  But, there is nothing in the specification that says a compliant transmitter has to transmit surround sound audio.  It could also transmit mono audio to 8 speakers, or stereo audio (left and right), sending the left or right channel to four pairs of  speakers.   As long as the receivers (normally in the powered speakers) fall within the minimum transmission range (30 feet) of the WiSA Compliance Test Specification (CTS), then the system is guaranteed to work.  Longer distances are possible, if the signal was boosted, but the specification is certified to a minimum of 30 feet.

Let’s look at our typical DJ setup at a wedding or club.  The DJ plugs all of his or her music sources (CD players, laptop, iPhone, or if you are really lucky: actual record turntables) into their DJ mixer, where they mix the various music sources and adjust the equalization settings, filtering out or boosting different frequency bands to give a live performance aspect (“performance” definitely a stretch of the word for some DJs who usually just push play on their laptop, but I digress). So anyway, this DJ mixer mixes all of the sources into a main mono or stereo mix for the dance floor.  There are also auxiliary outputs on the DJ mixer for headphones and recording; oftentimes if the DJ is famous, their set is made into a CD or MP3 track and released on the internet.

Most DJ mixers also have at least one wired microphone input so various people can make announcements, tell the crowd to put their hands up, and generally makes their voices heard over the music.  Oftentimes, wireless microphones are used, especially at weddings, where lots of speeches are made. Other times, a keyboardist may be hired to play for the cocktail hour, and a microphone may be needed for announcements.  Although the music may be very different, the audio signal flow diagram for both scenarios (DJ or Keyboardist) is very similar, and can be simplified into something like this:

Old DJ mixer

Now, if the sound system depicted in the above diagram was instead a WiSA enabled system, the audio signal path is essentially the same, except the amps and speaker wires are replaced with powered speakers and a digital wireless link:

New DJ mixer and Wireless Speakers

This wireless link to the speakers gives great flexibility to the event planner.  In the past, if the client wanted to have the speakers setup around the pool, the DJ also needed to be out by the pool.  But now, the DJ can be on the balcony, or even the rooftop.  You can have one or two speakers for the DJ and the rest you can place wherever you like.

For the keyboardist playing during a cocktail hour between a wedding and the dinner reception, you could setup two wireless speakers in the lobby, one speaker on the patio, one speaker in the foyer, and another wireless speaker in the bridal party suite, so they don’t miss anything.

Boat parties would be incredibly easier with wireless speakers, as would flash mobs, fundraisers, and fashion shows, where inevitably, someone always ask you to move your speakers at the very last minute. Well with WiSA, you can easily move your speakers and reconfigure the system instantly, adjusting volume levels and delays to each speaker on the fly.

In summary, the WiSA Association definitely sees a market for wireless speakers at weddings and other parties, transmitting uncompressed, interference free HD audio that is easy to set up and easy to use.  Although speaker wires may seem simple on paper, its much more difficult at a formal event, where you often have to tape the wires to avoid trip hazards.  Most event spaces have power outlets on every wall.  Just make sure you bring a few nice extension cords, some gaff tape, and those “triple taps”, that turn one AC outlet into three.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me, Paul Konikowski at pkoniko@wisaassociation.org

You should also download the whitepaper from the wisaassociation.org website:

http://wisaassociation.org/Compliance/White-Paper-Request.aspx

WiSA and The Value Added Reseller (VAR)

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How Can An AV Integrator Make a Living Without Pulling Speaker Wires?

WiSA Wireless Speaker & Audio Associationby Paul Konikowski, CTS-D.
This article was originally published on The WiSA Association Blog 

In a recent HiddenWires article by Jim Venable, President of the WiSA (Wireless Speaker & Audio) Association, he mentioned “the Value-Added Re-seller”, or VAR (pronounced vee – aye – arr).  Also known as home theater installation companies, low-voltage contractors, or residential systems integrators, these VARs add value to the product and the process, by:

  • Designing home theater systems based on the client’s desires and budget
  • Drawing the AV signal flow diagrams and installation details using CAD
  • Acquiring the system components, pretesting them, and storing them safely
  • Delivering the systems to the job site using company vehicles, gas, and labor
  • Pulling the low-voltage (video and speaker) wires through the walls and/or conduits
  • Terminating and testing all connections; configuring the equipment settings so that it is a turn-key solution
  • Training the client on how to properly use the equipment, and how to maintain it
  • Sometimes, the VARs provide on-call system support, and/or semiannual preventative maintenance
  • The VAR becomes the client’s trusted “expert” when its time to upgrade or purchase any additional equipment

Some home theater installers may hear about the WiSA Association, and instinctively ask: Without wires, how can a Value-Added Re-seller make a living selling WiSA compliant speakers?

Notice, “pulling the wires through the walls and/or conduits” was only one of the tasks normally performed by the re-seller.  The re-sellers are still adding value to the product and the process.  They are the still the trusted experts in the field: choosing the right components for the room, delivering the equipment, placing the speakers in optimal locations, configuring the system, training the client how it works.

Now here are some new ways that WiSA-compliant speakers can help the re-seller to add value to the product and process:

  • Offer the customers the ability to upgrade their system over time, from 2.1, to 3.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, 7.2 and so on.
  • Give end-users the option to reconfigure their living rooms for special occasions, or just different furniture.
  • If your customers move to a larger home, they can take their entire investment with them.  They also don’t have to pre-wire their new home.
  • Install high-end surround sound systems into historical rooms with ornate floors, walls, and ceilings which are often “off limits” to contractors.
  • Move the speakers outside for an outdoor movie night.  All you need is some good AC extension cords, a projector, and understanding neighbors.
  • Churches and other houses of worship can host a teen night or family movie night in their hall or basement.  The VAR can provide custom cases or covers for the speakers so they can be stored neatly when not in use.
  • By stocking a few systems from different manufacturers as demo units, the VAR can give the client the option to “test drive” different speaker models before making the final decision of which ones to purchase.

Instead of two installers on a residential job site for a week, a WiSA compliant system can be installed in a day. The customer will still need two guys to hang the big flat-panel TV, and setup the speakers.  Just no more pulling speaker wires.

Now, please raise your hand if you like pulling speaker wires. ….mmhmm…  That’s what I thought.