By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Ridgefield Park, N.J. – Samsung will go to International CES to expand its selection of home-audio products equipped with the company’s Shape wireless multi-room audio technology.
The new products include a second Shape speaker, one soundbar, two Blu-ray HTiBs and one Blu-ray player, all equipped with Wi-Fi.
In the fall, the company plans to ship a Shape adapter that connects legacy sound systems to a wireless Shape network.
The new Shape products will join a $399 (under its unilateral pricing policy, or UPP) Wi-Fi-equipped Shape speaker and $49-UPP Shape Hub available since October.
In other audio developments, the company will:
--expand its selection of core soundbar models to seven from five, including its first under-TV speaker;
--expand its selection of large floorstanding Giga music systems to three from two; and
--launch four new 3D Blu-ray HTiBs and carry over one model to maintain its selection at five SKUs.
All new products ship in the spring at prices that haven’t been announced.
Shape audio products use Wi-Fi to play back music stored on Apple and Android smartphones and on networked PCs. Shape products also play back Cloud-based music from smartphones equipped with a Shape app.
Music travels from smartphones and computers over a home’s Wi-Fi network to a Shape Hub, which plugs into a home’s router, distributes the music wirelessly to multiple Shape speakers, and ensures synchronization among multiple speakers playing the same song throughout the house. A single speaker can be used without the Hub.
The current Shape speaker, the M7 in black and white, is a wedge-shaped stereo speaker with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, nearfield communications (NFC), five drivers and the ability to automatically turn into a left- or right-channel speaker when placed in vertical orientation. The speaker also features TV sound to connect via Bluetooth to Bluetooth-equipped Samsung TVs to reproduce TV sound.
The new M5 will offer the same features and color options but with less power in a 25 percent smaller chassis with three drivers instead of five.
In the soundbar, HTiB and Blu-ray categories, the Shape feature is called Multiroom Link.
Here’s what’s coming in soundbars, HTiBs and Giga systems:
Soundbars: Five new soundbars, which include an under-TV speaker, will join two carryover models. All new models are the company’s first with Bluetooth Power On, a feature that lets users turn on the soundbar remotely from a Bluetooth-equipped mobile device. Three of the new models, including the under-TV speaker, are the company’s first products with listening-position expansion to widen the soundfield and lift imaging from below a TV screen to the middle of the screen.
All new models and the carryover model feature TV Sound Connect, which uses Bluetooth to reproduce TV sound from Bluetooth-equipped Samsung TVs.
All models also feature a USB port to play back compressed music files in multiple formats from USB mass-storage devices.
The 2014 lineup starts with the carryover $179 HW-F355, which features Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 decoding, wired subwoofer, proprietary virtual surround, optical input and no HDMI ports.
The line steps up with the new HW-H450, which adds Bluetooth Power On, NFC, wireless sub, one HDMI input with 3D passthrough, and an HDMI output with audio return channel.
The black HW-H550 and silver HW-H551 add listening-position expansion, more power and metal chassis.
The new HW-H750 adds Multiroom Link, larger wireless sub with 8-inch driver, more total power and vacuum-tube preamp. Like the other new soundbars, this model plays back MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg, FLAC and WAV files from a USB-connected mass-storage device. The HW-H750, however, also supports the 96/24 ALAC and AIFF formats.
The next step up is the carryover $1,299 HW-F850, which features Bluetooth and NFC but not Bluetooth Power On or Multiroom Link.
The company’s first under-TV speaker is the HW-H600, which holds TVs up to 55 inches. It features Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 decoding, 3D-capable HDMI input, HDMI output with audio return channel and built-in woofers.
HTiBs: Two of four new models feature Multiroom Link, and all new models feature Bluetooth with Bluetooth Power On. All four new models and the carryover model also feature 3D Blu-ray player, Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master decoding, USB port and AllShare DLNA networking for audio.
Ultra HD up-scaling and passthrough expand to two models, including the carryover model.
The lineup starts with the 5.1 HTH-4500 with HDMI output, audio return channel, optical input, Ethernet port, DLNA, multiple preloaded apps and 500-watt output.
The 5.1 HTH-5500W adds wireless surround speakers, built-in Wi-Fi and higher power at 1,000 watts.
The 5.1 HTH-6500W adds Multiroom Link, HDMI input, customizable EQ setting for three individuals and one EQ setting for senior citizens, and Samsung Smart Hub, which enables app downloading and web browsing. It also features DTS-Neo Fusion 2, which delivers height information through all speakers. A new speaker design features see-through metal grilles.
The HTH-7730W also features Multiroom Link and DTS-Neo Fusion 2 but adds Ultra HD up-scaling and passthrough, two HDMI inputs, vacuum-tube preamp, more power at 1,330 watts, and separately amplified height speakers in the two front towers
The company is carrying over the top-end 7.1-speaker HTF-9730W, which has Ultra HD up-scaling and passthrough.
Last year, the HTiB line started at $249.
Giga systems: The company is expanding its selection to three SKUs from two with the launch of two new models.
Giga systems are floorstanding 2.2-channel music systems with aggressive youth-oriented cosmetics, a large floor-standing speaker pair with active subwoofer built into each left-right speaker, and music sources such as tuner, CD, Bluetooth and USB inputs to play back music from mass-storage devices. They also deliver DJ effects and feature illuminated rings around the drivers.
The carryover model is the $999 FS-8000, a two-way 2,300-watt system with oversize source component/amplifier. Each speaker cabinet houses a 15-inch sub and an 8-inch midrange/tweeter.
The new MX-HS8500 builds all source electronics and amplification into one of two speaker towers, steps up output to 2,500 watts, adds Bluetooth Power On and adds built-in handles and wheels.
The new MX-H5900 ups output to 3,400 watts and becomes a three-way system with dual 15-inch woofers, dual 8-inch midranges and two tweeters. Electronics and amplification are outboarded into a separate component.
In more traditional music systems, the company is launching two three-piece tabletop systems, both with Bluetooth, Bluetooth Power On, CD and USB Host. One adds TV Sound Connect and two USB ports, one of which is capable of recording onto a USB device.
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