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PC Audio, Wireless Audio Options Grow

11/21/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK – Wireless audio and the growing popularity
of computers and portable devices as primary music
sources were common themes infusing a series of audio
products launched this month.

Many of the new products use wireless technologies
such as stereo Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Apple’s AirPlay to
stream music from PCs, smartphones or tablets, but two
brands — NHT and Energy — launched their first active
speakers designed expressly for wired analog connection
to a PC or portable device.

Audio products designed for use with PCs as a primary
music source are catching on with audiophiles and nonaudiophiles
alike, said NHT co-founder John Johnsen,
pointing to the availability of high-resolution music downloads
and the rising number of DACs designed to connect
to a PC’s USB port.

Said Tommy Jacobs, customer development director for
Energy, “Consumers are becoming avid viewers and listeners
on their computers and tablets.”

Here’s what various suppliers introduced this month.

Altec Lansing: The company priced its first AirPlayenabled
tabletop speaker system, the InAir 5000, at a
suggested $499 and plans December shipments.

The company promises additional AirPlay speakers in
the future.

The product, unveiled at Berlin’s IFA show,
features tri-amplification and a back-panel
USB port that charges a USB-connected
iPod, iPhone or iPad.

The speaker boasts 110 watts of amplification,
DSP, two soft-dome 1-inch neodymium-
magnet tweeters, two 3-inch Kevlar
cone tweeters, one 4-inch woofer and one
passive bass radiator.

Audiovox: The company is expanding
its selection of Bluetooth-equipped active
speakers under the Acoustics
Research to three with the November
shipment of a portable speaker and
an under-cabinet light/speaker in the
kitchen.

Both feature Bluetooth 2.1+EDR with stereo Bluetooth
and AVRCP (audio video remote control profile).

The $129-suggested under-cabinet speaker also doubles
as a Bluetooth hands-free speakerphone. The ASPB1
streams music from mobile devices such as smartphones
and tablets equipped with stereo Bluetooth. The system
features LED lights to illuminate the countertop, stainlesssteel-
look finish, dual 2-inch full range speakers that fire
down and forward, 2x3-watt amp rated into a 4-ohm load
with less than 1 percent THD, dual omni-directional microphones
with bi-directional noise reduction and echo
cancelling, and capacitive touch switches.

The outdoor speaker is the $99-suggested AC/DC
AWSBT1, which features weather-resistant cylindrical
case, integrated carrying handle, and 5-watt mono speaker
system with 2-inch tweeter and 3-inch woofer. It also
features a 3.5mm aux input. Expected battery life is 10
hours. A storage compartment holds a phone or MP3
player.

Energy: The Klipsch Group brand launched its first
multimedia speaker system, the $99-suggested Energy
Power EM-2.1.

The system, shipping this month, features
a front-firing subwoofer with front-mounted
volume and bass-level controls, a pair of
compact satellites with 3-inch drivers, and
included 60-inch 3.5mm analog connection
to PCs and portable devices.

NHT: The company unveiled the $199-
each active 90-watt two-way SuperPower
mini speaker, the first in a promised series
of powered high-performance speakers
designed to connect to such new music
sources as smartphones, tablets and
computers via an analog connection.

In about six months, the company
will likely launch wireless accessories
that enable wireless transmission from
a computer or other music source to one or more pairs of
SuperPower speakers. NHT will pursue the wireless addon
strategy rather than embed wireless in its products,
co-founder John Johnsen said, because it doesn’t want to
lock consumers into earlier generations of wireless technologies
that are always evolving.

The SuperPower features 4.5-inch long-throw woofer
and 1-inch silk dome tweeter in a sealed box. The amp
in each speaker is rated at 90 watts with more
than 90 percent efficiency. It delivers bass to
72Hz and SPLs of more than 111dB @1 meter.

Russound: AirPlay is part of two recent announcements.
First, the company added AirPlay
to its $2,100 DMS-3.1 digital media streamer,
enabling the three-zone device to distribute
music from an iTunes-equipped PC or Apple
mobile device through Russound’s C-series
custom-installed multi-room-audio systems.

Second, the company launched the
$399-suggested AirGo Outdoor Sound Station,
an AC-only outdoor powered speaker that
mates with Apple’s $99 AirPlay-equipped Air-
Port Express to stream music via Wi-Fi from a
networked PC’s iTunes application and from
iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads.

The DMS-3.1 at $2,100 incorporates a traditional
AM/FM RDS tuner and connects to
a home network to stream Internet radio programming
and music from a DLNA-certified
networked PC.