By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
A bundled wireless audio system created by Sonos delivers two zones of wireless audio from a user's PC-based music collection to a home's existing sound systems, including table radios, at an everyday $999.
The ZP80 Bundle, available in stores April 10, consists of the company's existing wireless-RF handheld LCD controller and two networked ZP80 ZonePlayers, which incorporate audio decoders; mesh-network wireless technology to act as a repeater; and analog and digital outputs for connection to an existing hi-fi system, mini system or powered-speaker pair. The bundle also streams Internet radio stations directly from a home's networked broadband connection.
The bundle yields a savings of about $100. Sold separately, each ZP80 retails for an everyday $349, and the handheld controller retails for $399. The ZP80 was unveiled at International CES, but the bundle and pricing weren't.
The prime purchasers of Sonos systems have been 35- to 50-year-old men, and the bundle targets the two zones that they care about the most: the zone with a component hi-fi system, and the other with a home computer, said sales and marketing VP Thomas Cullen.
“Our target customer has a PC with upgraded speakers and a nice stereo system,” he said. “They had a music collection their whole life, and they have a sizable collection of CDs and music on PCs. They rip CDs like crazy.”
“We are for the music lover who went digital as opposed to being born digital,” like consumers in their 20s, he continued. “I think the iPod took many of them there.”
The volume is among 35- to 50-year-olds, he added, because "the 25-year-old gets it but can't afford it, and the under-35 customer doesn't have the large living space” that lends itself to a multiroom audio system.
A single Zone Player transmits wirelessly up to 150 feet through U.S. homes, and each additional player extends range up to another 150 feet, Cullen noted.
Traditional audio suppliers have developed dedicated stereo-component-like music servers that sit in a stack of home theater audio components, Cullen noted, but these devices are for “the 55-year-old guy, and up, who has no music on a PC. It's a niche. Our users already have their digital music somewhere else — on the PC.”
Since the first iteration of Sonos's system became available in January 2005, more than 50,000 units have shipped. The privately held company said 2005 dollar revenues achieved double-digit millions and will triple its dollar volume in 2006.
The company sells through 500 retail outlets, including Tweeter, Magnolia, Myer-Emco, Listen Up, Harvey, Crutchfield and Sixth Avenue and through 125 custom installation specialists. Installers target Sonos systems to retrofit customers who aren't tearing down walls, and they integrate them into already installed wired distributed-audio systems whose in-wall keypads and LCD controllers don't display song, artist and album titles, Cullen said.
Sonos's products can be used to create a wireless 32-zone system controlled from one or more RF LCD controllers when more SP80s or SP100s Zone Players are added. The SP100 combines a wireless transceiver with a 2x50-watt amp to drive passive speakers of the user's choice. One SP80 or SP100 must be connected via an Ethernet cable to a PC and network router to distribute music wirelessly and to control all Zone Players from a single RF remote.
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