By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Southfield, Mich. — Parrot plans before the end of the year to ship a second-generation wireless home speaker and a trio of Android-based car entertainment systems.
The home speaker, due in stores in December, is the $999-suggested Zikmu Solo, a single floorstanding speaker that incorporates stereo drivers and DSP to deliver a wide stereo sound stage from Bluetooth-connected devices and from Wi-Fi-connected Android devices, PCs and network-attached storage (NAS) drives. The 100-watt tower also incorporates top-mount Made for iPod/iPhone 30-pin connector, RCA and optical SP/DIF input, and Ethernet port.
The speaker’s basic functions are controlled from an RF remote. An Apple app and a planned Android app deliver a higher level of remote control that includes source selection, setting EQ, selecting boundary-compensation settings, and adjusting imaging and response according to room size.
The towers’ Bluetooth 3.0 is fully compatible with Apple’s implementation of Bluetooth in the new iOS 6 and iPhone 5, the company said.
The trio of Android-based car entertainment systems connect in multiple ways to the Internet, incorporate GPS, and control multiple Android apps, including Internet radio and navigation apps, downloaded from the company’s Asteroid Market. The products include the $599-suggested Asteroid Smart, a double-DIN in-dash car stereo with 6.2-inch multitouch touchscreen, Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad USB port, stereo Bluetooth, SDHC card slot and GPS.
The two other products are installed dash-top products that can be connected to existing car stereo systems to add many of the same capabilities. The dash-top systems are the $399 Asteroid Tablet with 5-inch capacitive touchscreen and the $299 Asteroid Mini with 3.2-inch non-touch display. Both come with installed black box that incorporates 4x40-watt amp, connections for power, Made for iPod/iPhone USB input, hands-free and stereo Bluetooth, and SD card slot.
All three Android systems, which ship by the end of November or early December, connect to the Internet via a Bluetooth- or USB-tethered smartphone, via Wi-Fi to a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot, or via a 3G- or 4G-equipped USB cellular stick. All also feature voice control of song selection and hands-free calling.
The trio will join the single-DIN Android-based $349 Asteroid launched last year.
For the home, Parrot plans distribution of the single-tower Zikmu Solo speaker through the same channels as its two-tower $1,599-suggested Zikmu, which launched three years ago and offers many of the same features as its single-tower counterpart. Sales channels include the high-end A/V stores, high-end department stores and select online retailers.
Besides delivering stereo from a single tower, the Zikmu Solo differs from its two-tower predecessor in other ways, including the addition of Bluetooth 3.0 to replace 2.0 for better quality sound and faster pairing, the addition of Bluetooth AAC streaming in addition to SBC streaming to improve wireless sound quality, and nearfield communications (NFC) for tap-and-go pairing with Bluetooth devices.
The new speaker also adds Wi-Fi 802.11n, which joins the predecessor’s 802.11a/b/g. The new speaker also adds DLNA certification to join UPnP PC networking, enabling networking with NAS drives.
The new speaker also adds optical digital S/PDIF to join its predecessor’s analog RCA input. Also new is an Ethernet port for wired networking.
Both speaker systems feature 30-pin Made For iPod/iPhone dock on top, 100-watt output and same exterior design.
The new model adds a sealed downfiring 6.5-inch woofer in lieu of a bass-reflex 4.5-inch woofer to deepen bass response to 40Hz from 60Hz. A DSP algorithm takes bass extension down to 30Hz, said Paris-based marketing group manager Theodore Sean.
The driver array also includes a front-firing 2-inch driver running from 350Hz to 20kHz and two vertical flat-panel drivers on the left and right sides of the front panel, also delivering 350Hz to 20kHz output.
For the car, the company’s three new products come with wireless steering-wheel-mounted controls. The double-DIN in-dash Asteroid Smart features Android 2.3, 4x55-watt amplification, no CD mechanism, SDHC slot, removable faceplate, rear-camera input and support for backseat video screens.
The dash-top Asteroid Tablet also provides turn-by-turn navigation, but the Asteroid Mini’s navigation app does not provide turn-by-turn directions. The dash-top models lack connections for rearview cameras and backseat video displays.
The trio’s Bluetooth streaming technology is fully compatible with Apple’s Bluetooth implementation in the iPhone 5 and iOS 6, the company noted.
Parrot chose to embed Android apps in the Asteroid devices rather than depend on smartphone-loaded apps so that any driver can take advantage of the apps’ capabilities whether they have a compatible smartphone or not, said VP Peter George.
Parrot’s other products include hands-free Bluetooth accessories, Bluetooth stereo headphones, Wi-Fi controlled drones, and Bluetooth technology to automakers and aftermarket autosound companies.
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