By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sydney, Australia-based venture-capital startup Avega Systems will show the Oyster series of wirelessly networked, amplified hi-fi speakers, including a wireless surround-sound speaker system that incorporates decoding, amplification and wireless transceivers within the speaker enclosures.
The surround system is promoted as the first distributed wireless, networked and universal plug-and-play-enabled surround sound system in the world. It and the stereo speakers are targeted to the high end and are due in March 2006.
Avega was formed in 2004 to focus on networked home entertainment devices. Three of the company's founders have headed design groups at prestigious high-end U.K. audio companies, Avega said. All have extensive experience in high-performance consumer electronics. The company can be reached at www.avegasystems.com.
Oysters work like this: Music stored on a PC or media server stream wirelessly via built-in IEEE 802.11a/b/g to multiple Oyster speakers scattered throughout a house. Consumers lacking a PC or media server can connect a CD or DVD player via digital optical cable, or an MP3 player via a USB port, to distribute music wirelessly throughout the house.
Avega's mission is to reduce cable and hardware clutter by making it unnecessary to stack outboard amplifiers, outboard surround processors or add-on Wi-Fi adapters. They're also intended to simplify stereo and surround-system setup by eliminating speaker-wire runs around a room.
They're touted by product VP Peter Celinski as offering better quality than many high-end hi-fi speakers. Avega engineers overcame "significant engineering challenges inherent in distribution of audio via 802.11 and TCP/IP, including network bandwidth variability and synchronization," he explained.
Songs can be selected from an 802.11-equipped LCD-screen remote, and because the speakers incorporate Microsoft's universal plug-and-play for automatic device discovery and control, the speakers can be paired with universal plug-and-play-based remotes such as the Philips RC9800i. Users can also control audio playback from familiar interfaces such as iTunes and Windows Media Player loaded on a PC.
Besides reducing cable and hardware clutter to improve room aesthetics, the Oysters were also designed to blend in unobtrusively into a modern home décor. A choice of colors ranges from conservative to modern hues in line with contemporary interior design, the company said.
The company, which is establishing a U.S. base in San Francisco, will ship Oysters in March 2006 to retailers serving "discerning audiophile customers," the company said. Pricing will be announced after CES.
The first batch will include bookshelf and floorstanding stereo speaker systems and a 5.1 system consisting of two front floorstanding speakers, two bookshelf surrounds, a subwoofer and a center channel. Each speaker incorporated decoders for Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Pro Logic II.
Avega will also supply the technology in module form to existing OEMs. The module includes 802.11 networking connectivity, DSP/decoding processor, DACs, power amp and power supply in a compact form ready to be dropped into existing speakers.
Avega said it would ship mass-market derivatives "priced in line with a mass market offering" in the second quarter.
The company is also evaluating market demand for a retail-level add-on module.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.