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Multi-Room Audio With No Strings Attached

9/19/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

INDIANAPOLIS – Wireless-audio suppliers aren’t pulling
the legs of installers who make their living pulling wires.

With new-home construction at levels not seen since
the mid-1940s, installers have focused their energies on
retrofitting existing homes, and
new wireless products on display
at CEDIA Expo give them an
opportunity to make multi-roomaudio
retrofits cleaner, faster
and simpler because wires don’t
have to be run through walls.

The systems could also expand
the market to renters who
aren’t allowed to modify their
apartments.

Proficient president Keith Marshall
positions his new wireless
system as a way for installers
who are mounting a flat-panel
TV to step the customer up to
a multi-room-audio system that
can be installed in one day in four
to six rooms without creating a
mess.

During the Expo, electronic systems contractors saw
new and recently shipped wireless-audio systems from
Jamo, NuVo, Proficient, Navvo Systems, SoundCast Systems
and MusicLites.

Here’s what select companies showed:

Artison: The company’s recently released MusicLites
wireless multi-room-audio system takes the form of combination
LED lights/wireless speakers that fit into 4-, 5-
and 6-inch recessed lighting cans in the ceiling.

Jamo: A powered two-channel speaker system and a
2.1-channel sub-sat system are designed for use with a
wireless sender and receiver to stream music wirelessly
from a PC or from MP3 players, smartphones and other
mobile devices. They’re due next year.

Navvo Group: The company,
led by former Best Buy executive
Wade Fenn, came to the CEDIA
Expo for the first time, bringing
with it an expanded selection of
wireless multi-room-audio products
that use Wi-Fi to deliver up
to 10 audio zones.

Three models will be available
to customer installers, and one
model will also be open to mainstream
retail.

The company’s Voco wireless
system uses Wi-Fi-equipped Android
tablets and Android smartphones
as system controllers.
Unlike other wireless multi-roomaudio
systems, Voco also offers
voice control of song selection via
Navvo’s free app, which also lets
users select songs via an Android device’s touchscreen.

An iPhone version of the app is slated for the fourth
quarter.

Earlier this year, the company launched the $199-suggested
V-Zone player, which connects to a home’s existing
audio and home-theater systems via HDMI, optical
digital cable and analog RCA cables.

With multiple V-Zone players, up to 10 different sources
or songs can be streamed simultaneously around the
house via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n from multiple networked
PCs, multiple network-attached storage (NAS) drives
and from a Wi-Fi-equipped smartphone. Additional music
sources can include USB thumb drives and hard drives,
USB-connected iPods other than the iPod Touch and
iPhone, and other USB-connected MP3 players plugged
directly into the V-Zone player. Sources also include more
than 50,000 free Internet radio stations and podcasts
streamed by a smartphone through Navvo’s app.

For use as a music source, networked PCs and NAS
drives must be loaded with Voco software.

At the Expo, the company showed the new V-Spot and
V-Zone Pro, both due in the first quarter. The V-Spot, at
a targeted suggested $399, is an all-one-one client incorporating
speakers and amplifier. It also doubles as a
Wi-Fi access point. To reproduce music from connected
local sources, it features line input, front and back USB
ports for USB hard drives and other USB devices, and
eSATA port for external hard drives.

The V-Spot will ship in limited quantities in the fourth
quarter.

The step-up V-Zone Pro, due in the first quarter, lacks
amp and speakers but offers the same connectivity features
as the V-Spot as well as embedded Wi-Fi access
point, but it adds high-quality DAC, infrared blaster to turn
on an A/V receiver, and the ability to host an internal hard
drive. It will be priced from $499 to $699, depending on
whether the company ships it with internal hard drive.

Proficient Audio: The brand launched a wireless
multi-room-audio system that provides more simultaneous
sources and more zones than its predecessor.

The wireless multi-room-audio system, called Proficient
Zero, features a wireless transmitter that transmits
music from two sources simultaneously to up to eight
tabletop amplifier/receivers, which in turn are connected
to in-room speakers of the consumer’s choice. If three wireless transmitters are used at a time, the
system promises wireless distribution of up to
six audio sources simultaneously to speakers
in up to 24 rooms.

Each transmitter is capable of sending stereo
audio from two separate sources while
also sending mono wirelessly to a powered
subwoofer.

The new system, shipping in the fourth quarter,
also extends transmitting range through
walls to 90 feet from 70 feet, and a wireless
extender systems adds another 100 feet to that
range.

One Zero transmitter is bundled with a
2x35-watt amplifier/receiver at a suggested
$500. Additional amplifier/receivers cost
$350 each. The preamp/receiver costs $150,
and a matching 2x40-watt amp is $300. The
extender system, which consists of two repeaters,
costs $500.

The transmitters connect to multi-zone A/V
receivers, Internet radio streamers and other
music sources via a digital PCM optical input
and a two-channel analog stereo input.

Using a supplied IR remote pointed at the amp/receivers and preamp/receivers, users can switch
between the two sources connected to a transmitter
and a local source connected to the amplifier/receiver
via optical digital input or stereo 3.5mm input.

Using the supplied IR remote, users can also switch
among three transmitters to access additional remote
sources.

The amp/receiver and preamp/receiver also features
IR passthrough and IR output to control a local source.

Like its predecessor, Zero systems don’t enable users
to turn on or control a source connected to a transmitter in another room.

At the show, the company also revealed plans for a single-
chassis powered tabletop speaker with integrated wireless
receiver. The speaker would also stream music from an
iPod or iPhone equipped with a wireless Zero dongle.

All products but the single-chassis speaker ship in the
fourth quarter.

Soundcast Systems: Soundcast offers indoor
and outdoor wireless speakers, wireless iPod-docking
transmitters, wireless transmitters for PCs and other
audio sources, a wireless subwoofer, and a transmitterreceiver
pair that adds wireless capability to surround
speakers.

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