New Options Coming To Wireless Music Distribution

By Joseph Palenchar On Feb 28 2012 - 10:58pm




NEW YORK – New options for distributing music wirelessly throughout the house are on the way from Navvo Group, Altec Lansing and Grace Digital.

The three companies use Wi-Fi to stream music from networked PCs and NAS drives and from Internet radio services, and their products can be controlled from a smartphone app. The Navvo and Altec Lansing devices also use smartphones as music sources, and new models from Navvo promise to add video streaming.

Altec Lansing of San Diego plans early summer shipments of its first networked music player, the LIVE 5000 tabletop speaker, at a suggested $499.

Multiple LIVE 5000 speakers set up in a home create a wireless multizone audio system that uses PCs, Android devices, and mobile Apple devices as music sources and as system controllers.

Music sources include networked PCs and NAS drives and Internet radio. A PC will be able to send more than one song at a time to different speakers while multiple handheld devices send music to additional speakers, the company said.

The speaker incorporates Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ and triamplified drivers.

From a handheld device as well as from a PC, users will find music sources within the home, command different networked speakers to play different songs, and control the functions of speakers placed throughout the house, including volume and ability to link up multiple speakers for “party mode” playback. The handheld devices will also control the selection of Internetradio sources, which stream from the handheld devices or from the PC.

Another Altec feature is the “now playing queue,” enabling multiple devices in a home to add a song to a play cue.

Another San Diego company, Grace Digital Audio, expanded its selection of tabletop Internet radios with the shipment of the $179-suggested Mondo, the company’s first with color screen.

The device features Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n to stream music from a networked PC or NAS drive, and it can be controlled from an iPhone/Android app.

Mondo also streams more than 18,000 internet radio stations via the Reciva portal and streams Pandora, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM Internet Radio, CBSRadio, NPR, CNN, BBC, NOAA, Weatherbug, DAR.fm, Live365.com, and MP3Tunes.

A 3.5-inch color LCD TFT display shows station name and logo, song title, artist information, and Pandora album art.

For use as a portable radio, the Mondo comes with rechargeable battery circuit to charge a separately sold $39 lithium-ion battery. Other features include USB port to play music files on a USB stick or to connect an optional wired-Ethernet dongle.

For its part, Navvo Group of Minnetonka, Minn., will upgrade its planned selection of Voco wireless-network music players to add high-definition video streaming.

The company will initially offer streaming of YouTube HD video, but downloadable firmware upgrades will be available later in the year to add HD video streaming from networked PCs and NAS drives and, by the fall, from Internet-delivered movie services, said Tom Gotuzzo, sales and marketing senior VP.

Privately held Navvo Group is led by former Best Buy executive Wade Fenn.

Navvo’s networked media players use Wi-Fiequipped Android tablets and Android smartphones as system controllers, and unlike other wireless-A/V systems, the products enable voice selection of songs and videos via Navvo’s free Android app. An app for Apple’s iOS mobile devices is targeted for April availability.

With multiple tabletop Voco devices in a home, consumers can stream up to 10 different songs simultaneously around the house via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n from multiple networked PCs, multiple networkattached storage (NAS) drives and from Wi-Fi-equipped smartphones. The number of videos that can be streamed simultaneously hasn’t been determined.

The devices also stream more than 50,000 free Internet radio stations and podcasts and play back music stored on local USB-connected local music sources such as USB sticks, USB-connected iPods other than the iPod Touch and iPhone, and other-brand MP3 players. Video-enabled models will also play video from connected or internal hard drives.

In 2011, the company launched the music-only $199-suggested V-Zone music-only player, which connects to a home’s existing audio and home-theater systems via HDMI, optical digital cable and analog RCA cables. It also connects to USB devices to turn them into local music sources.

The forthcoming three devices, which were unveiled as audio-only products last year, will add video capabilities. Those products include the $299-suggested V-Zone+ Wireless Audio and Video receiver, which ships in March with YouTube streaming. The V-Zone+ will get the other planned video-streaming capabilities later in the year as an automatic firmware download.

V-Zone+ also doubles as a NAS drive when a USB hard drive is plugged in.

In May, Navvo will ship the $399 V-Spot all-in-one player, which incorporates streamer, speakers and amplifier in a single tabletop chassis. It will ship with YouTube and possibly with streaming of PC-stored video. If not, PC-video streaming and movie-service streaming will be available later as a firmware upgrade. The V-Spot also reproduces music from local sources connected via line input and via front and back USB ports that accept USB hard drives and other USB devices. An eSATA port is also available for external hard drives.

The V-Spot also doubles as a Wi-Fi access point and NAS drive.

In the summer, Navvo plans to ship the componentstyle dual-output Dual Pro at a tentative suggested $699. It lacks amp and speakers, offers the same features as the V-Spot, and adds high-quality DAC, infrared blaster, and ability to host an internal 2.5-inch eSATA hard drive. It also doubles as a NAS drive and Wi-Fi access point.

With dual outputs, the Dual Pro will stream music or video through one output while simultaneously streaming music through a second analog output.

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