By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Berlin — Nine audio products unveiled here at IFA by Harman include Harman Kardon’s highest priced soundbar to date at an everyday $999 and Harman Kardon’s first tabletop speaker with Bluetooth, AirPlay, DLNA and Wi-Fi.
The $999 soundbar, called Sabre, is promoted as the world’s thinnest soundbar, with a 1.26-inch depth.
The selection of new products also includes a second Harman Kardon soundbar, portable Harman Kardon Bluetooth speaker, a JBL Bluetooth speaker, a JBL PC speaker system, one Harman Kardon headphone and two AKG headphones.
Select Harman Kardon Bluetooth products are the brand’s first with nearfield communications (NFC) for tap-to-pair functionality. Likewise, the new $999 Sabre soundbar and the $599 SB 26 soundbar are the Harman Kardon’s brand’s first soundbars with Bluetooth, though they lack NFC.
Here’s what each brand showed:
Harman Kardon introduced two wall-mountable soundbars, the $999-everday 1.26-inch-deep aluminum-chassis Sabre will be the brand’s highest priced soundbar to date. The brand’s soundbars previously topped out at $899 for a 2012 model now at $799.
The companion wireless subwoofer is also thin. The square-shaped 100-watt sub is only about 3 inches deep, and it can be installed in a vertical position, in a horizontal position on a shelf, or on the wall.
The Sabre fill in a market gap between $699 and $1,199 in soundbar pricing, said national product training specialist Jeremy Brenner.
The soundbar streams the AAC and AptX codecs over Bluetooth, said Brenner. It also features DTS HD and Dolby TrueHD decoding, three 3D-capable HDMI inputs, an HDMI output with audio return channel, and Harman Wave virtual-surround technology, which delivers surround sound from two-channel and multichannel sources. The technology generates plane waves traveling in defined directions to "maximize indirect energy for the rear surround channels," company literature states. Sound doesn’t have to be reflected off side walls to deliver surround effects, the company noted.
The Sabre also features an IR repeater in case it blocks the IR eye of a TV, and it can be programmed to respond to a TV remote’s volume, power and source commands. Harman Volume technology maintains a consistent volume level when video sources or TV channels are changed to when a TV program transitions to a commercial.
The power output of the soundbar’s embedded drivers wasn’t available. It ships in October.
The second soundbar, the $599 SB26, features Dolby Digital decoding, two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output with audio return channel, Harman Volume, Harman Display Surround Virtual Speaker to simulate surround sound and wireless 100-watt powered subwoofer. It comes with Bluetooth with AptX and AAC streaming.
The soundbar also features an IR repeater and ability to be programmed to respond to a TV remote’s volume, power and source commands.
It ships in September.
In portable AC/DC speakers, the $499-everyday Harman Kardon Onyx is the brand’s first tabletop speaker to combine Bluetooth, AirPlay, Wi-Fi, and DLNA. It’s also Harman Kardon’s first speaker with the latter three technologies. It also features NFC.
The spherically shaped speaker sits within a stainless-steel ring that doubles as a handle and as a stand speaker. The design picks up cues from the brand’s Go & Play portable Bluetooth speaker and Go & Play iPod-docking speaker.
It streams the AAC and AptX codecs over Bluetooth.
With the Harman Kardon Remote app for iOS and Android devices, a mobile device will stream music via Wi-Fi to multiple Onyx speakers and networked Harman Kardon A/V receivers at a time. The app also accesses PCs and NAS drives to other to multiple to stream their music libraries to multiple Onyx speakers and AVRs at a time, though only one song can be streamed at a time.
Onyx features all-leather back, 60-watt output, dual 3-inch woofers, dual 0.75-inch tweeters, dual aluminum passive radiators, DSP to enhance staging and voicing, and 55Hz to 20kHz frequency response. Battery life is six hours, company literature states.
It’s due in late fall.
A second new Bluetooth portable speaker is the flat, square Esquire at $249 with NFC. It’s targeted to the business traveler and doubles as a phone-conference speaker with omnidirectional microphone. Battery life is 10 hours. It feature silver-metal finish and leather wrapping, and it comes with a wall adapter with three built-in USB ports to simultaneously charge the speaker, phone and tablet at the same time. It ship in October.
The new Harman Kardon headphones are the $199 over-ear Soho, a leather-and-metal wired-headphone pair with 30mm drivers and included removable Android and Apple cables with in-line mics and controls. It will be available in black, white and camel when it ships in October.
JBL debuted $59 Pebbles computer speakers, shipping mid-September, are wheel-shaped models that stand upright and fire music through the front of each wheel. They connect via USB to computers for power and audio. Ship date is mid-September.
The JBL Spark is a cone-shaped $129 Bluetooth speaker with translucent enclosure available in multiple colors. The AC-only speaker is water-resistant for use in bathrooms and features fabric cord with in-line controls. A stainless-steel handing hook is included. It ships in September.
AKG has unveiled two headphones which include the brand’s first U.S.-market Bluetooth headphones to offer NFC. The $349 K845BT is made of metal and leather, offers 10-hour battery life, 50mm drivers and a closed-back design that delivers open-back spaciousness, Brenner said.
The closed-back design delivers noise isolation, and Harman combined that with new materials and acoustic engineering to deliver the spacious sound of open-back designs.
It comes with detachable in-line control microphone cables for both Apple and Android users.
The wired version of the headphones is the $299 K545.
Both headphones ship in October and come with choice of color accents.
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