Sharing a single audio source using cables is pretty easy. You just feed both pairs of headphones into a double jack adapter. Wirelessly streaming that same audio to up to 10 different pairs of headphones, however, can be a bit of a headscratcher. The folks at ekko Audio have designed a means of sharing high resolution audio between four or more listeners that's aimed at satisfying the quality demands of modern audiophiles, yet simple enough for anyone to use. The ekko's base station can be connected to a living room hi-fi, TV or games console and then wirelessly transmits high quality audio to one or more battery-powered receivers, with each user plugging in favored headphones for a shared listening experience.
The 10 x 2.5 x 0.67 in (25 x 6.35 x 1.7 cm) ekko base station transmitter is plugged into a wall outlet for power and can then be connected to just about any sound source. It's reported capable of wirelessly streaming audio over 802.11ac Wi-Fi to up to 10 disc-shaped pucks. There's no need to route the stream through a home network, as ekko establishes its own wireless connection to each puck, though there is a mode available to wirelessly connect to a user's existing Wi-Fi network, to access streaming service for transmission to the sound pucks.
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Each puck is about the same size as a small stack of poker chips and is home to a 3.5 mm output jack that can be connected to powered speakers or headphones. It has semicircular volume up and down buttons for individual control, an LED ring indicator and built-in mute function. The receiver's Li-ion battery is charged by wireless induction every time the puck is placed on one of the slots to the top of the base unit, with a full juice up providing up to 4.5 hours of continuous use.
The ekko system supports digital music streaming at up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution, with its high data rate promising ultra low latency and a broadcast range of up to 100 ft (30 m). In addition to allowing multiple TV watchers to set volume to suit personal preferences, numerous console gamers to tune into the action wearing their own buds or transform cabled cans into hi-res wireless headphones, puck receivers can be connected to different powered speakers throughout the home for multi-room audio with independent volume control.
ekko Audio is planning to launch on Kickstarter in the coming weeks to bring its hi-fi wireless audio hub to production. Two and Four user versions will be offered, though more puck receivers can be added to each system as desired.
The team is also working on a companion app that will allow for extra functionality, such as parental controls, EQ tweaking, volume limiting and content management.
Update March 23, 2016: The ekko project has now launched on Kickstarter. Pledges start at US$139 for a two puck version and $209 for a four puck version. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in July 2017.
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