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High-End Suppliers Embracing AirPlay

1/17/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS — More high-end home-audio suppliers
have begun to embrace Apple’s AirPlay wireless-audio
technology for the first time.

At International CES, home-speaker supplier Bowers
& Wilkins launched the latest model in its Zeppelin series
of iPod/iPhone-docking speaker systems, McIntosh
showed a mockup of a tabletop AirPlay-equipped powered
speaker system, and Klipsch unveiled three tabletop
AirPlay speaker systems.

Component-audio suppliers Denon and Marantz have
already shipped home audio components with AirPlay.
For its part, iHome, the supplier of iPod-docking
speakers, came to CES with its own AirPlay-enabled
$299-suggested iPod/iPhone-docking iW1, due sometime
in early 2011.

Equipped with AirPlay, home audio products select
and stream unprotected and Apple-protected via Wi-Fi
or Ethernet directly from a PC’s iTunes application. Song
selection can also be made remotely via Wi-Fi from a
hand-held iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone.

AirPlay-enabled home audio products also stream music
directly from iPads, iPods and iPhones via a Wi-Fi
network.

With AirPlay, consumers can stream a song from a
networked PC to multiple AirPlay speakers simultaneously
to create a wireless multi-room-audio system with
separate volume levels for each speaker. When music
streams from an iPad or iPhone, only one AirPlay
speaker at a time is able to play back the song, marketers
explained.

The Bowers & Wilkins product, called Zeppelin Air, ships
in March at a suggested $599. The 2.1-channel device
uses individual amps for each of five drivers, amp output
of 4x25 watts plus 1x50 watts, and 24-bit/96kHz DACs.

For its part, McIntosh went to CES to show a mockup
of a tabletop AirPlay speaker that it expects to ship
in the fall at around $2,000 or more. It would be Mc-
Intosh’s first product designed to work with iPods,
iPhones, or iPads.

The McIntosh model will feature biamplified 2.1 speaker
system with two-way speakers and built-in ported sub,
Class A/B amplification, and tentative power ratings of
70 to 100 watts per channel with 150- to 200-watt sub
output. The mockup also features analog aux input and
USB input, intended to stream music from a connected
laptop or PC.

Unlike the Zeppelin Air, McIntosh’s mockup lacks Apple’s
physical 30-pin connector. Nonetheless, iPods and
iPads will be able to stand up vertically on top of the
speaker and charge via a short cable to the speaker’s
USB port. McIntosh didn’t think an embedded 30-pin
dock was needed because consumers would likely keep
their iPod or iPod close by to choose songs.