By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
NEW YORK – Smartphones and tablets have turned into primary music sources for many consumers, and audio suppliers are increasingly turning to wireless as the path to deliver that music to one tabletop audio system at a time or to multiple audio systems simultaneously throughout the house.
Bluetooth is the technology of choice for a growing number of suppliers offering active tabletop speakers because it works with any Bluetoothequipped mobile devices based on the iOS, Android, Windows or BlackBerry operating systems.
For multi-room audio distribution of mobile-device music, suppliers are turning to Wi-Fi or proprietary wireless technologies to deliver house-wide range, allowing for smartphones to distribute their music to multiple rooms simultaneously.
Recently Monitor Audio, Nortek’s Core Brands and Russound have announced homewide solutions, while companies such as AudioXperts, iLuv Creative Technology and Soundcast Systems have turned to Bluetooth.
Here’s what the companies announced:
AudioXperts plans its first portable Bluetooth speaker, the EVA (EnVironmental Audio) Blu.
The indoor/outdoor EVA Blu, a two-way Bluetooth speaker that packs 30 watts of amplification, two 20mm dome tweeters, two 2-inch woofers, a passive radiator and AptX decoding in a bamboo enclosure.
The speaker also comes with a built-in digital audio connection that can be used with an optional Apple AirPort Express to add AirPlay capability. Pricing and delivery date weren’t disclosed.
Core Brands, a Nortek subsidiary, plans fall shipments of the first two products in its Korus-branded wireless multiroom audio line, which is intended for do-it-yourselfers.
The $399 V600 and $299 V400 amplified tabletop speakers will be available at KorusSound.com and in retail outlets this fall.
The speakers stream music up to 65 feet or more without the use of a Wi- Fi network from Apple mobile devices, PCs and Windows tablets equipped with a Korus Baton wireless audio transmitter. Batons will be available with 30-pin and Lightning eight-pin connectors for Apple mobile devices and with USB port for connection to PCs and game consoles. A wireless transmitter for Android mobile devices will be available in 2014. The Batons also control the speakers.
Consumers will be able to stream audio to up to four speakers simultaneously from one device or from separate devices.
The initial Korus products will be compatible with iPads, iPhones and iPods as well as with Macintosh computers and Windows 8 laptops, PCs and tablets, the company said.
The system will play back audio from a mobile device’s local library as well as from the device’s apps.
The systems use 2.4GHz SKAA wireless technology developed by Eleven Engineering.
iLuv Creative Technology has its first AC-only Bluetooth speaker, the $199-suggested MobiRock Bluetooth speaker, which is shipping. It features a well in which users can place a Bluetooth-equipped smartphone and charge it wirelessly using Qi charging technology. A USB charging port is available for Bluetooth smartphones that lack Qi charging.
The MobiRock also features nearfield communications (NFC) technology to enable one-tap pairing.
Monitor Audio has debuted three networked products, all with built-in Wi-Fi, that will ship later this year from the component-audio company. They are the Airstream A100 networked tabletop music streamer/amplifier, the networked Airstream S300 tabletop stereo speaker, and the networked ABS-2 soundbar.
The $499-suggested Airstream A100 connects to any pair of passive speakers to play back music streamed wirelessly via Apple AirPlay, from DLNA-equipped network- attached storage (NAS) drives and PCs that lack iTunes music-management software, and from DLNAequipped Android devices and their DLNA-enabled apps.
It also features AirPlay Direct for peer-to-peer Wi- Fi streaming from Apple’s mobile devices without the need for a home network.
The A100 incorporates a 2x50-watt RMS Class AB amplifier with single optical digital input to double as a DAC for a connected audio source or to enhance TV sound. It ships in September or October.
The $499 Airstream S300 single-chassis tabletop speaker, shipping in September, also incorporates Wi-Fi and the same networking capabilities as the A100.
The ABS-2 three-way soundbar, shipping in September at $1,599, offers the Wi-Fi and network capabilities of the other two models, but it’s also designed to also enhance TV sound and switch cable-connected audio and HDMI video sources.
Russound is developing its first multi-room wireless audio solutions to meet market demand and accelerate growth, the company said. Those products will be available by the end of the year. One of the products is the Xstream X5, a networked tabletop music-streamer/amplifier that can be used to create a 16-zone wireless-audio system if 16 X5 devices are added to a home network.
The system will be controlled from an iOS or Android app, and users will get the option to add control from one of three locally wired keypads already available from Russound for its centralized wired multi-room audio systems.
The device incorporates an audio amplifier to connect to passive speakers, Wi-Fi, Ethernet port, AirPlay, embedded music-streaming services and DLNA networking. It also connects to a local source such as a TV. Sources played back by one X5 can be distributed to other X5 devices.
The Xstream X1, due after the X5, is designed as a wirereplacement product and consists of a wireless transmitter and wireless receivers. Some receivers will come with built-in amplifiers. Applications include wireless surround speakers and extending a wired multi-room audio system into rooms where installers can’t run wires.
Soundcast Systems has launched its first Bluetooth speaker, an outdoor model priced at a suggested $449.
Shipments start the first week of July but will be on allocation until August, the spokesperson added.
The new Bluetooth speaker, called Melody, is an all-weather splash-proof speaker that streams the AAC and AptX codecs over Bluetooth to improve Bluetooth sound quality. The weather-resistant, UV-resistant cylindrical speaker features built-in carrying handle and four 3-inch full-range drivers and four passive bass radiators in a 360-degree array.
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