By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
In a trend that began last year, many name-brand suppliers are entering the OEM integration market. They are offering branded “black boxes” designed to allow other after-market products to work or integrate with OEM sound systems.
For many years, OEM integration devices were offered by third-party suppliers, but, increasingly, name-brand suppliers are entering the market, including newcomers JBL, Kenwood and Rockford, who join last year's entrants, Alpine and JL Audio.
Because new car radios are increasingly tied to other car functions, it is more difficult to remove and to replace the radio. This poses mounting challenges to the aftermarket that the OEM integration devices are designed to alleviate.
According to Victory Technologies, 42 vehicles in 2005 prohibited radio replacement, up from 25 in 2002.
Many of the new OEM integration devices essentially act as alternative head units that can be installed anywhere in the car, so that consumers may keep their factory radio/CD player, but achieve better sound.
Here are some of the new OEM integration products launching at International CES:
Alpine is introducing a second-generation V-Hub Pro that lets users plug in satellite radio, iPods or navigation devices to allow them to work with an OEM screen-based system (typically found on vehicles that offer navigation). According to Alpine, approximately 8 percent of new vehicles have navigation screens, growing at a rate of about 25 percent per year. The newer version of the V-Hub allows a single volume control to operate the volume on numerous sources. It also uses a haptic controller that guides the user through “touch sensitive” controls. It has a new high-speed iPod connection, built-in 4x50-watt amplifier and AM/FM tuner and is expected to ship this spring at a target retail price of $499.
A second product called the Alpine OEM Audio Processor allows users to add speakers, amplifiers and subwoofers to any OEM system. It bypasses the car's bus system so it can be used even in the newer MOST vehicles (including late model European cars). Called the PXE-H650, it first removes the equalization curves built into the OEM system and then sums together the channels to create a 4.1 sound system. It also offers advanced sound processing and is expected to ship in early summer at a target retail price of $299.
JBL is showing a prototype OEM integration device, tentatively called The Fix8. It connects to an OEM system to apply sound processing and amplification for those car owners who don't want to remove their factory radio but who would prefer more volume and bass. The unit comes with a built-in amplifier and converts up to eight channel inputs to two-channel sound. It can then apply Logic7 processing to the signal to create up to 7.1 non-discrete channels. Users can add additional amplifiers and speakers to The Fix. Pricing and shipping will be announced at a later date.
Kenwood is introducing an OEM integration device that can connect any gadget with a line-input (including USB devices, iPods, MP3 players, Kenwood Music Keg, satellite radio and HD radio) to a factory system. Speakers, amplifiers and video can also connect to the unit, and when it is used with an RDS radio, all ID-tagged info will be displayed on the radio. It comes with an optional LCD display and is expected to ship in the first quarter at a suggested retail price of $200.
Kenwood expects to offer a second OEM integration device with onboard sound processing and 5.1 audio later this year.
Rockford Fosgate is offering two new OEM integration 3Sixty devices that allow the addition of subwoofers, amplifiers as well as iPod, MP3 and other devices to either a factory or aftermarket system. The 3Sixty.1 and 3Sixty.2 correct a system signal back to a flat response and also take several channels and combine them to a full-range signal. The 3Sixty.1 then adds a five-band equalizer for the front, four-band for the rear, four-band for the center and two-band for a subwoofer. The step-up 3Sixty.2 adds 153 band equalization as well as Bluetooth capability so that the user can perform real-time adjustments if he has a Palm 5.0 or higher PDA. Both models ship in March at suggested retail prices of $399 and $699.
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.