By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sonance plans to exploit mainstream America's growing awareness of distributed-audio systems with the launch of a new series targeted to tract-home builders that want to offer home buyers an entry-level option.
"People are investing a lot of money in their homes now, and the preference toward distributed audio in new home constructions is on the rise," said sales and marketing VP Hal Hufford during a recent press event here.
For its traditional market segment, the 20-year-old company also unveiled a new line of Merlot in-wall/in-ceiling speakers and a triple tuner.
The tract-builder line, called Architectural Audio, is built around amplified in-wall keypads that connect via CAT-5 wiring and an in-wall hub next to a central audio system. The products, already available, are targeted to tract-home builders through Sonance's existing dealer network, which mainly targets custom-home builders. Distribution, however, will be expanded to nontraditional A/V installers, such as security installers and electricians, said Hufford.
The line will appeal to tract builders because they increasingly install CAT-5 for security and PC-network installations and for structured-wiring solutions. The products will also be priced modestly to appeal to tract-home buyers, he said.
Some traditional custom installers, added marketing director Petro Shimonishi, are experiencing a shift in their business to tract homes from higher-priced custom homes.
The line comprises an in-wall, amplified keypad, amplified volume controls with rotary or slider controls, an in-wall four-zone hub and a standalone four-zone hub. The hubs can he daisy-chained to provide 12-zone audio.
The keypad features on/off and volume control, source status indicators, and an IR eye for source selection and control via a handheld IR remote. The integrated Class D amp supplies 2 by 20-watt RMS output into 8 ohms to in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. The hubs feature RCA inputs and outputs and IR outputs to audio components. The hub sends audio and low-voltage power over CAT-5 to the amplified keypads and volume controls. Control signals from the amplified keypads are also relayed via the CAT-5 cable to the hub.
"As more mainstream consumers get into the market, our focus is on ease of use and ease of installation," Hufford said of the series.
Outside the tract-builder line, Sonance unveiled its first Merlot in-wall/in-ceiling two-way, coaxial speakers, which are designed for residential and commercial applications where rooms may be small Column Wrap and installation space limited. Merlot speakers are also designed to accommodate installations in which limited internal wall space doesn't accommodate standard-depth speakers.
For the in-wall segment, the Merlot 422M rectangular speaker features 4.5-inch woofer with 0 .75-inch pivoting tweeter.
For in-ceiling needs, Sonance launched the Merlot 421MR round speaker with a 4.5-inch woofer, 0.5-inch fixed dome tweeter and a recessed-lighting look.
Each Merlot speaker is rated at 5-60 watts and delivers a frequency response of 60Hz-20kHz (+ 3dB). Each features an aluminum grill that can be painted to accommodate a room's color scheme.
Merlot speakers are available with suggested retails of $325 per pair for the 422M, and $200 per pair for the 421MR.
The company also announced the Trio Triple Tuner, an AM/FM tuner designed for home and commercial multizone audio systems at a suggested $850. It delivers up to three different stations simultaneously to three different zones, allowing listeners in different rooms to choose stations without interrupting or changing another listener's selection.
Trio is the first and only multizone tuner equipped with RDS technology, enabling users to search for stations by program format or call letters rather than by frequency, Sonance said.
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