By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Start-up ZVOX Audio, which launched its first single-cabinet TV-sound system early last year, is updating and expanding its selection and entering the portable audio market.
ZVOX, founded by Cambridge SoundWorks alumnus Tom Hannaher, will replace its original model in mid-to-late summer with an updated version, the ZVOX 315X, which adds a remote, a new woofer to deepen bass response, and improved cosmetics whose rounded-off cabinet looks less like a squared-off center-channel speaker, Hannaher said.
Also in the summer, ZVOX will launch a downsized version, the ZVOX Mini, and the "PortaParty" carry bag that stores the Mini and an optional rechargeable battery. With the battery, consumers use the Mini outdoors to amplify the sound of a portable CD, DVD or MP3 player or portable game player ensconced in one of the bag's four pockets. "It's the first high-performance portable stereo system designed for use with the iPod," Hannaher claimed.
All were designed by Winslow Burhoe, noted speaker designer for Acoustic Research and KLH when they were leaders in high-performance speakers. He also founded speaker maker EPI.
Suggested retails are $249.99 for the 315X, $199.99 for the Mini, and $49.99 for the PortaParty bag. The four- to six-hour rechargeable battery is another $49.99.
The 315X and Mini are targeted to owners of home-theater systems who want improved TV sound in bedrooms, kitchens and other small rooms without adding large boxes or wiring up lots of speakers. They're also touted as a way to enhance the sound of game systems and PCs and deliver quality sound from an unamplified satellite-radio tuner or personal headphone stereo.
Both devices amplify, widen and deepen the soundstage of a TV or DVD program's audio through their built-in amplifier, three front full-range speakers, a down-firing woofer and signal processing. The signal processing design feeds mixed left- and right-channel information to the center driver. The right driver gets right-channel information plus out-of-phase left-channel information, while the left driver gets left-channel information and out-of-phase right-channel information. Users can vary the amount of out-of-phase material supplied to the left-right speakers to vary the width of the soundstage.
When Dolby Surround-encoded TV, VHS or DVD soundtracks are reproduced, listeners also hear surround effects, although it doesn't deliver a virtual 5.1-channel effect because it doesn't include 5.1-channel surround decoder.
The devices turn on automatically when they sense TV-audio on the minijack cable. For hook-up, consumers plug one of the devices' two stereo mini inputs into the TV. One of the mini inputs does double-duty as a subwoofer output for consumers who want to add a powered subwoofer for more bass.
The 315X is 5 inches by 17 inches by 15 inches, enabling it to serve as a TV base. The Mini is half that size at 3.25 inches by 13 inches by 9.5 inches, but both incorporate 28 total watts of amplification, three forward-firing full-range drivers, and a four-inch by six-inch ported band-pass woofer. The narrower Mini features rounded front baffle to help widen the sound stage.
All new products will be sold through ZVOX's Web site, www.zvox.com, and will be available to retail accounts.
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