SAN JOSE, Calif. Eleven Engineering Inc. jumps into the pool of providers of wireless audio streaming technology at the Consumer Electronics Show next month. The company plans to give a brand name and show design wins for its 2.4 GHz initiative code named Cecille.
Eleven's approach involves proprietary technology optimized to stream wireless audio from portable devices to headphones or specially equipped speakers inside a room. It will compete with proprietary approaches used by companies such as Avnera Corp. and Kleer Inc. as well as standards such as Bluetooth.
"We are basically coming out with a better alternative to Bluetooth for music," said
John Sobota, chief executive of Eleven Engineering (Edmonton, Alberta) which has developed wireless audio subsystems for home theater vendors since 2004.
"Companies are definitely not happy with Bluetooth in high fidelity applications because it lacks range, configuration options, robustness, low latency and audio quality," Sobota said.
He also criticized Bluetooth for lacking interoperability if devices don't use similar versions of the spec and support the same profiles. "The opportunity for a customer to have a bad experience with Bluetooth is way up there," he said.
In its place, Cecille uses a proprietary spread spectrum, frequency-hopping technology that packs two channels in a 2 Mbit/second stream. It runs on a homegrown baseband processor that can run up to eight threads simultaneously through its eight-stage pipeline. One receiver can send streams to up to four receivers simultaneously.
The company aims to kick start its business by offering a turnkey package that includes transmit and receiver chips built into a variety of dongles and external speakers. It is working on a follow on chip set--including a proprietary 2.4 GHz RF device—geared to be embedded in systems starting in 2011.
The initial dongles will include one for the interface on Apple iPods and iPhones with an RF output of 5 milliWatts and a range of at least 10 meters. It typically will consume 60 mW in transmit mode, about half the power drain of Bluetooth—low enough to run 15 hours on a single AAA battery.
A version for USB will have RF output up to 30 mW, enough to drive range up to 30 meters if used on a desktop PC. A third dongle will support the 3.5 mm audio interface jack.
The chips are already being sampled to prospective customers. Software should be finished by April when first customer products are expected to ship.
The company has signed up Zylux, a contract manufacturer of audio systems in Taiwan to make its systems. It claims it has ten design wins with a range of brand-name audio companies, although none are ready to announce their plans yet.
Sobota would not comment on the price of his components or the expected price of the dongles and speakers. In 2010, the company will start designing an integrated chip set to embedded in systems and license its technology so other chip makers can put it into their components.
The company has no plans to take its technology to a standards group, although it has retained an IEEE fellow for advice on the issue. It plans to create its own certification and testing procedures.
Eleven Engineering was founded in 1992 and started shipping consumer wireless audio modules in 2004 that are now used by a wide variety of companies including Altec Lansing, JBL and Infinity. The private company has taken $15 million in angel financing to date and recorded a profit in 2008, Sobota said.