back to article Wi-Fi for audiophiles: Alliance preps TimeSync certification program

At CES last week, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced a certification program for devices supporting the TimeSync feature. The aim is to provide plumbing-layer tools to help deliver high-quality audio and video across a multi-station Wi-Fi network without the final result looking like a bad lip-sych. And, naturally enough, Wi-Fi …

  1. Griffo

    That's great but...

    So at first glance this sounds like the solution to multi-room and multi-speaker setups without the need to be locked into a single brand such as Sonos etc.

    However it reads like it is a WiFi only protocol - what about when you want to mix and match WiFi and ethernet connected devices? Is this yet another standard that's only part of the solution?

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: That's great but...

      spec sheet sounds great but I bet it will have a cold, clinical soundstage. I'm already assuming that you used a directional, oxygen free atmosphere to propagate your wifi signal.

      I've been suspicious of new audio-tech ever since that fancy pants valve amp melted one of my wax cylinders

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. MrJOD
    Coat

    This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

    The "One True" audiophile industry has always produced its fair share of snake oil - special marker pens to mark the edges of your CDs which produce a dramatic improvement in sound quality because ions or something.

    That WiFi RF is probably in the hearing range of your dedicated audiophile - it is only a 5GHz or so, after all.

    I'm off to design some beam forming crystals which de-ionize the WiFi signal using a patented technology with magnetic resonance. Only then will this wireless thingy be fit for the True Audiophile.

    More seriously, unfortunately this will probably get integrated into consumer grade tat that says "audiophile" on the box.

    I'll get me coat now.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

      "special marker pens to mark the edges of your CDs "

      I thought they were supposed to help with Internal Reflection?

      1. MrJOD
        Thumb Up

        Re: This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

        You are probably right. Most likely I wasn't using it properly, which explains why I didn't get the right effect.

      2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

        @Steve K

        special marker pens to mark the edges of your CDs "

        I thought they were supposed to help with Internal Reflection?

        That's what they wanted you to think...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

          I find that a large plate of baked beans really adds to the low end punch in my setup.

          I'm sure that will still be true in a WLAN setup.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

      While I appreciate the starting humour.

      What exactly is wrong with consumer grade products being audiophile in nature? AKG Y50 headphone ~ £50 on Amazon 3 years in a row winner of what hifi awards under £100 on ear headphone. Yes you get dickheads with more money than sense in any hobby, but being able to watch my t.v. without a capable to the cheap sound bar underneath and not have lip synching issues is no bad thing.

      Look at it this way, putting audiophile on a consumer box is really going to irritate audiophiles, they may even start a letter rating campaign, maybe outrage is a fundamental part of the hobby, you can't be a true audiophile if you are not outraged at something.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

        I was wandering around the HiFi department in Harrods and they were playing some music. Even to my distinctly LoFi ears the quality was stunning. I asked "How much?"

        The reply was "£22k."

        Fortunately I didn't have more money than sense, there is mileage in chipping at the edges to improve quality. Along with the skill of the true engineer much bull shit is, however, sold to the ignorati.

    3. Doc Ock
      Go

      Re: This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

      >Only then will this wireless thingy be fit for the True Audiophile.

      Don't forget to buy your hand picked photons to go that, guaranteed to contain only the finest quarks that will not degrade your listening experience but will only serve to enhance it.

      1. MrJOD
        Thumb Up

        Re: This will never appeal to True Audiophiles (TM)

        I'll be sure to include a claim about photons that have been hand-picked from the thighs of Japanese virgins for my WiFi enhancing crystals.

  4. AMBxx Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Amazed that this stuff is so difficult

    Watching a film on a friend's high-end Blu Ray with projector and uhuge AV sound thing. Cost a mint, but the sound and image are out of sync. My crappy setup with projector and a PC cost less than £1000 but works fine.

    In the old days of film, the sound was carried on a strip down the side of the film. Nothing to get out of sync. Surely we must have a digitial equivalent?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Amazed that this stuff is so difficult

      This protocol is for convenience, something our stereotypical audiophile isn't fussed by.

      Multi-room audio was done by B&O decades ago, and since then by Apple, Sonos and Google Chromecast. It's a slightly different, and probably bigger, market to the gold-plated TOSLink brigade.

    2. iansmithedi

      Re: Amazed that this stuff is so difficult

      It sounds like your friend has a separates-based system. It might not know about the time difference between video and audio streams; however there should be a setting to manually adjust this.

    3. richardcox13

      Re: Amazed that this stuff is so difficult

      > In the old days of film, the sound was carried on a strip down the side of the film. Nothing to get out of sync.

      Of yes it could.

      There was a specific distance between the frame being projected and where the audio pickup is. If there is a little too much film (threaded through too loosely even by one sprocket hole) then the sound would be out of sync.

      There is too much going on – stopping each frame while the shutter is open 24 times a second – around the optical part of the projector to also be picking up the audio track (whether optical or magnetic).

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Broken already (Re: Amazed that this stuff is so difficult)

        One sprocket hole, heck even one frame, would add/subtract at most 50 milliseconds of latency. Yeah, the guys who claim to be able to assess the amount of oxygen left in your cables might object, but real people in the real world would not notice.

        What I, and the comment you are replying to, are talking about is where the audio gets out of sync with the video by multiple seconds, making the experience indeed akin to watching a badly dubbed film.

        The issue is not likely to be addressed by anything a WiFi standard can help, as the content is broken well before the connection from your receiver to your TV/speakers. I first noticed it during the run-up to the digital TV transition, when my totally analog TV, receiving off the air via an antenna, started exhibiting this behavior. A little digging found that the networks had started doing all-digital feeds to the local stations, so even though there was no way for latency warts to appear between the analog transmitter and my TV, it was too late at that part of the chain.

        Synchronized sound was "born" in the 1920, and "died" in about the 1990 (at least in the U.S.A). So, three score and ten applies to technology as well as people (see also the years between the mid 1950s and late 1990s, when a radio didn't need to "warm up" _or_ "boot up" :-)

        Maybe in another 30 years or so, home wireless boxes will be so full of deep packet inspection and neural networks (for "crime fighting") there will be a bit of extra capacity to fix this sort of thing. I'll be too dead to care.

        1. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: Broken already (Amazed that this stuff is so difficult)

          What I, and the comment you are replying to, are talking about is where the audio gets out of sync with the video by multiple seconds, making the experience indeed akin to watching a badly dubbed film.

          Detectability limits for audio sync are +45ms (audio leads) to -125ms (audio trails). Viewer tolerance limits for still being able to enjoy a TV show are much more subjective obviously but are quoted as +90 ms to –185 on average in the ref below

          https://www.itu.int/dms_pubrec/itu-r/rec/bt/R-REC-BT.1359-1-199811-I!!PDF-E.pdf

    4. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: Amazed that this stuff is so difficult

      Analogue is light speed, digital isn't.

      All new HiFi, sound, cinema etc techs should have this beaten into them before designing AV systems. Come to think of it a few regulators could do with a short course in keeping live action in sync with theater mics.

    5. e_is_real_i_isnt

      Re: Amazed that this stuff is so difficult

      That's not true of film. The sound pickup is not next to the projected frame, and can't be. The audio has to be in the section of film that is moving uniformly, while the frame section stops for display.

      In school I was exposed to dozens of occasions of 'If you heard the beep before you saw the flash, make the bottom loop longer..."

  5. cmannett85

    I'm confused, IEEE solved this almost 15 years ago. It's called PTPv2 or IEEE-1588-2008, v1 is IEEE-1588-2003, which came out in... I'm sure you can guess.

    PTP has major traction in industrial control systems, and is starting to make headway into professional and broadcast level audio systems (not domestic). The major issue for most people is the cost, the switches required tend to have Hirschmann, Cisco, and Arista labels on them - rather than D-Link or BT.

    So El Reg, is "TimeSync" actually just marketing fluff for PTP - or is it actually a new standard? And if it is, why is IEEE reinventing the wheel?

    1. CommodorePet

      Plenty to be confused about - PTP doesn't work over WiFi - The IEEE 802.11 working group peeps took their sweet time to come up with this version which is the same basic idea but uses the WiFi mechanisms.

      1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        PTP doesn't work over WiFi

        Why is that? I thought PTP was media agnostic and so came here to post much the same as cmannett85.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      And if it is, why is IEEE reinventing the wheel?

      I'd say its because PTP is an IETF product (the IEEE seems to spend a lot of effort being different for the sake of being different) but it just so happens that the same kind of protocol already exists as IEEE 1588.

      (Of course, it probably escaped people's notice that 802.11 is a time based protocol, it needs synchronized timers in all stations on a network to make the protocol work. These timers aren't going to be much use for A/V time codes out of the box but it probably wouldn't take too much effort to extend it.)

  6. Adam 1

    > “The protocol also determines which determines which device is going to be the master clock – there's a mechanism for devices to evaluate which is the 'best' clock,

    I'm Spartaclock!

    No I'm Spartaclock!

    No I'm Spartaclock!

    1. D@v3

      I'm Spartaclock

      and so is my wife

  7. Tromos
    Joke

    Opens up a new market for gold plated oxygen-free Wi-Fi routers.

  8. petur
    Meh

    Now I'm wondering why my Squeezeboxes have been playing so well for the past many years

    I never new they were impossible to work so well, I guess I will need this new technology to fix this problem I don't have

  9. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Getting consumers to look at decent quality audio components is not a bad thing. While I don't like them, in this way, Beats have been good for the industry as they have persuaded people that spending more than £20 on headphones is often a good thing.

    That said, Beats are awful. Excellent for hip hop, but too bass heavy for pretty much anything else. Last time I tried them, I tried them with a CD consisting of classical music, talking, pop, hip hop and various other styles. The beats sounded good on hip hop, but for everything else where beaten by a pair of Sennheisers that cost about half the price.

    That said, there are plenty of snake oil salesmen in the Audio and Video industries.

    In my local Dixons, for instance, they had a special demonstration area set up apparently to demonstrate the difference between Monster (£80+) HDMI cables and standard HDMI cables. It consisted of two blu ray players connected to two HD Tvs, playing the same Blu Ray. I have to admit, on first viewing, the difference was striking. The picture on the TV they said was hooked up with a Monster HDMI cable was noticably better.

    Then, I looked behind the TVs. The "Monster" HDMI cable was a standard HDMI cable. The "standard" HDMI cable used to hook up the other TV wasn't. It was a phono composite cable.

    Don't get me wrong. In my experience, for long distance (i.e. >10m) cable runs, good quality HDMI cable *does* make a difference. How many people are likely to have greater than 10m cable runs in their home cinema setups though? For shorter runs, there is, IMO, no difference.

    1. pxd
      Coat

      Thank you for your snark-less reply

      A lot of commentards above have been pleased to go to town on the weirder element of the audio community, which is understandable, if a bit predictable. I feel obliged to point out that if one cares to look beyond the snakeoil salesmen, there is an element of the audio community that do understand engineering and electronics quite well enough to understand why they can regularly pick one piece of equipment out as the better (= closer to sound of same music played live) of two, in double blind experiments. Your example of Beats headphones is an easily grasped example: they just don't sound as good as other, less expensive, less 'hyped' headphones. The hoohaw about cables is another example - if cable runs are long enough, or the quality of the connectors is bad enough, even a digital signal can be degraded. I am old enough to remember a lot of spurious claims that were made around the introduction of CDs: anyone remember the bit about how users could drill holes in the CD without effect, as the error correction circuitry would patch everything up? All this utterly overlooks the point that music recording and playback involves a significant amount of analog-digital or digital-analog conversion, all of which has to be done properly in both domains, or the quality of the sound is affected. More to the point, all of the hardware involved actually has to work at an analog level as well; down below the software, a bunch of transistors and capacitors and other stuff actually channels electrons around in a physical medium - at the bottom, it isn't ones and zeros at all. So I don't believe in hyper-expensive cables, or CD pens, or crystal this and that - but I do think that there's a lot more to sound quality than some of the folks commenting above seem prepared to admit. Now see icon - I have adopted the crash position. pxd

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Thank you for your snark-less reply

        Are you old enough to remember the (early 80's?) "Tomorrow's World" programme where Judith Hann demonstrated the miraculous properties of the (then) new-fangled and unreleased CD players.

        She did this by applying marmalade to the top surface of the CD and then marvelling as the CD player coped with it without skipping a beat.

        No mention was made of the fact that the laser reads from underneath, (or indeed what the effects of centrifugally-distributed marmalade on the player would do....) but I am sure that it did wonders for the CD format's marketing at that time......

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Thank you for your snark-less reply

          "She did this by applying marmalade to the top surface of the CD and then marvelling as the CD player coped with it without skipping a beat."

          1. It was Kieran Prendeville.

          2. It was jam

          3. The jam is an urban myth.

          The relevant clip.

          1. Steve K Silver badge

            Re: Thank you for your snark-less reply

            Well it shows that I am old enough to remember some of it.......

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Did you report them to Trading Standards?

  10. Roland6 Silver badge

    Don't get me wrong. In my experience, for long distance (i.e. >10m) cable runs, good quality HDMI cable *does* make a difference.

    As does having quality line drivers. Not seen any test reviews, so don't know whether the ports on your typical budget consumer kit are even capable of reliably driving a signal 10m...

    But then, if you really need to reliably drive signals over 10m I also question whether standard consumer-grade WiFi kit up to the job. Certainly my (non-BT) domestic WiFi router has a useable range of circa 20m (as measured by an android handset), significantly lower than permitted by the Standard.

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