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Plasma, HTiB Popularity Drive Speaker Launches

1/09/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

The popularity of plasma and LCD monitors is driving the introduction of flat speakers and thin silver-finish speakers here at CES, where some suppliers are also responding to requests by A/V specialty dealers for modestly priced home theater speaker packages.

Multiple companies — including Definitive Technology, SRS Labs, and Artacoustic — plan to unveil their first flat-panel speakers or silver-finish slim speakers for placement next to LCD and plasma TVs on the wall, on a tabletop, or on the floor. McIntosh will add another wall-hanging speaker to its line.

Some of the introductions are targeted to A/V specialty dealers who are searching for high-performance wall-hanging models and stylishly thin silver-finish models.

"[Specialty A/V] dealers are looking for upscale speakers for plasma, but most of what's available isn't where the dealers want to go," said Sandy Gross, Definitive Technology president. In large part, he said, thin 5.1-channel speaker systems are priced from $500-$1,000. "With plasma price points, an upscale speaker solution is the right way to go."

A/V specialists are also looking for high-performance, modestly priced speaker packages that they can bundle with standalone DVD-receivers to compete profitably against one-brand home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems.

Details follow on select suppliers:

Artcoustic: The Danish manufacturer of wall-hanging acoustic-suspension speakers is making its products available to retailers for the first time through StJohn Group of Mission Viejo, Calif. The products, including wall-hanging subwoofers, will be shown at the Embassy Suites. Consumers get a choice of fabrics and silk-screened art.

Canton: A revised Movie line of home theater packages consists of five systems, this time with horizontal center channels, at suggested retails of $699-$1,599. The company also expanded its Karat line with the addition of the slimmer S series.

DCM: Mitek is expanding its DCM-brand selection with a lower priced DCM FullTime series. It consists of two three-way towers at $179 and $219 each, a $119 center channel, and a $129/pair bookshelf speaker.

JBL: The second model in the company's top-end K2 series will be more compact and designed for closer listening distances in smaller rooms and feature wider dispersion. The $18,000/pair K2S5800 complements the $25,000/pair S9800 and ships early this year.

Legacy: The company's first DSP-equipped speakers, the $40,000/pair Helix, ship in April. They use an outboard digital processor to perform crossover, driver-time-alignment, and phase-shift functions as well as compensate for room acoustics.

McIntosh: The company is adding a second LR speaker that can be mounted on- or in-wall or used as a floorstanding speaker. The 5.88-inch-deep XR27 retails for $5,000 each. Its driver complement enables it to be positioned horizontally or vertically as a LR, center or surround speaker. It ships in January.

Monitor Audio: The company plans to launch its first lifestyle-oriented speakers. They feature wall-mountable cube-style speakers and a slightly larger front speakers and center channel for mounting by a plasma TV. An active subwoofer is included.

Polk: The $949-suggested PSW808 powered sub with 400-watt Class D amp replaces the PSW650 with improved drivers, more power and improved cosmetics.

SRS Labs: Having shown its first two speaker series last January and then delaying production to change the design, the company here plans to launch four speaker series due in the first quarter.

Two series — the flat-panel Klayman Signature and Prestige series — use a proprietary lightweight flat-panel High Density Cellular material in an aluminum frame with no cabinet enclosure. It radiates from front and back, must be placed six inches from the wall, and yields a wide sweet spot. The Eva mid-size series comes with brushed-aluminum trim and flat-profile cabinets for wall hanging or placement on a bookshelf. The AcouStix series features floor standing, bookshelf and wall-mount models.

Other models include matching center channels for the Signature and Prestige series.

The floorstanding Signature LR speaker, with response to 80Hz, is available at a suggested $499 each in black or cherry, with $249 center channel. Two Prestige LR speakers are priced at $299 and $399 each with response to 125Hz and 80Hz, plus a $199 center channel.

TAD: The Pomona, Calif., manufacturer of recording-studio monitors will enter the home market with the flagship Model 1, due in spring at a tentative $35,000-$40,000/pair. Additional models are due in the fall.

Tannoy: The company's first home theater speaker package is the FX5.1.

Yamaha: The company's first two speaker packages to include center-back surround are priced at a suggested $199 and $299. They ship in June.

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