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Home Audio: What's Coming At CES 2012

12/19/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — Home audio dealers will find plenty
of new products to audition at next month’s International
CES, where suppliers will offer up a growing
selection of products with Apple AirPlay and stereo
Bluetooth to connect to hand-held music sources.

Dealers will also find a growing selection of soundbars,
2.1-speaker home theater in a box (HTiB) system
with virtual surround, iPad-docking speaker systems,
and networked tabletop speakers.

The selection of high-end audio components
with modernized connectivity features such as iPod
USB ports and stereo Bluetooth options will also
grow.

Here’s a segment-by-segment look at some of
the top audio developments expected at CES:

Docking tabletop speakers: Some dockingspeaker
suppliers will add Apple’s wireless AirPlay
technology for the first time to spur repeat and
step-up sales of iPod-docking speaker systems,
and other suppliers will add stereo Bluetooth and
microUSB charging ports to expand the total addressable
market to owners of Android and Black-
Berry smartphones.

At least five well-known brands will launch their
first tabletop AirPlay speakers (Pure Audio, Acoustic
Research, Sherwood and McIntosh), and other
companies will expand their selection.

In the growing Bluetooth-speaker segment,
at least five well-know companies
will launch their first models, several others
will expand their selection, and at
least one more supplier will join Philips
in pairing stereo Bluetooth with a charging
MicroUSB port in a speaker system
to dock, play and charge Android smartphones.

Dealers will also find a growing selection
of iPad-docking speakers systems,
with some suppliers expanding their selection
and others entering the market.

Active soundbars: At least three
well-known brands will expand their selections,
at least one company will add
AirPlay to a soundbar, and at least one
company will incorporate streaming audio
and video services in its model.

More soundbars from well-known will
also incorporate Dolby Digital and DTS
5.1 decoders to improve the sound quality
of the virtual surround sound that they
deliver.

Soundbars proved their value in 2011 as consumers
snapped them up to improve the sound quality of their thin
TVs or look for virtual-surround solutions
that yield less clutter than more traditional
home theater in a box (HTiB) solutions.

Home theater systems: The success
of soundbar systems with virtual
surround processing could be influencing
more suppliers to reduce the number
of speakers in multispeaker HTiB systems
to 2.1 from 5.1 or more.

In 2.1 speaker systems with virtual surround,
at least three well-known brands
will serve up their first models while a
current supplier will update its model.
These products will incorporate Dolby
Digital and DTS 5.1 decoders.

In more traditional 5.1- and 7.1-speaker
HTiBs, Apple’s AirPlay technology will
turn up for the first time, stereo Bluetooth
will expand to more models, and video
switching will appear in more models, including
HDMI 1.4a switching.

HTiBs equipped with integrated 3D
Blu-ray players will fall to a suggested
$299 in one supplier’s line, and at least
one HTiB supplier will incorporate an audio
technology said to make sound leap out from a 3D TV
screen in sync with the 3D image appearing on screen.

Audio components: Suppliers of traditional
audio components are updating their lines with
more models featuring connectivity to new music
sources.

McIntosh, for example, will show its first component
— a home theater preamp/processor
– with Apple AirPlay. It’s also the brand’s first
component with DLNA certification to stream
content from a PC.

Another component supplier will add frontpanel
USB input for iPod/iPhone/iPad and
other MP3 players for the first time to an A/V
receiver, which will also be the company’s first
AVR with stereo Bluetooth option.

For its part, Mark Levinson will unveil its first
three components with USB ports to accept
PC audio, music files stored on USB sticks,
and audio from connected Apple mobile devices.

In other show developments:

• One supplier will launch networked wireless
speakers that use PCs, iPhones and Android
phones as Wi-Fi music sources to create
a wireless multizone audio system. The smartphones
also operate as system controllers.

• Behringer, a major player in the pro audio
market for 22 years, will enter the consumer
market under the Eurosound brand with 50
products, including docking speakers, sound
bars, mics, karaoke equipment, portable PA
systems and more.

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