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B&O To Offer First WiSA-Certified Products, Other Brands To Follow

9/26/2013 11:04:00 AM Eastern

Denver — Bang & Olufsen will offer the industry’s first WiSA-certified wireless audio products in October, with additional B&O products to come by the end of the year, the company announced.

The B&O products will be the first of a wave of WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Sound)-certified products to hit the market in 2014, with other brands introducing anywhere from five to 10 WiSA-certified products at the 2014 International CES, said Jim Venable, president of the WiSA Association.

The association, formed in late 2011, certifies products to ensure compliance with the WiSA standard and ensure the ability of WiSA products from different companies to interoperate.

In other announcements, the company said it significantly expanded sales of its B&O Play sub-brand through more third-party outlets to complement sales through Bang & Olufsen-branded stores. The company also unveiled a 2.1 version of its 5.1 and 4.1 BeoLab 14 active home-theater speaker systems

WiSA is a technology promoted as delivering interference-free 5GHz wireless audio to stereo and home theater speakers within a room up to 29.5 by 29.5 feet. The technology, also promoted as eliminating cable clutter, delivers up to 7.1 channels of 24-bit uncompressed audio said to be virtually indistinguishable from wired quality. The technology is also promoted as overcoming the sound quality, interference, latency and cost challenges associated with other wireless technologies designed for multichannel home theaters.

The technology also simplifies setup by enabling automatic speaker-level, speaker-delay and phase adjustments that focus the audio sweet spot on any seating location chosen by a consumer within a room.

The first WiSA-certified products to use the technology will be two Bang & Olufsen powered speakers, a powered subwoofer, and a 7.1-channel wireless transmitter. The first powered speaker and the transmitter will ship at the end of October, followed before the end of the year by the other speaker and sub.

Bang & Olufsen did not reveal product details for publication.

The company also plans a running change at the end of October to add the technology at no extra cost to its three BeoVision 11 TVs, making an outboard wireless transmitter unnecessary.

Although an active 5.1-speaker system with WiSA technology was marketed by direct-to-consumer supplier Aperion Audio in 2011, WiSA’s certification program was not yet underway, and the system is no longer available.

The B&O products will bear the WiSA logo but will also be promoted under B&O’s Immaculate Wireless Sound banner and logo.

In other announcements, Bang & Olufsen announced broader distribution of its B&O Play sub-brand products, the first of which were launched in 2012 to expand the company’s demographic to a younger demographic. The lineup consists of more affordable products ranging from tabletop and portable audio products to smaller TVs that require no installation support.

A year ago, the company sold Play products through only 16 third-party outlets, all of which were Apple flagship stores, said Zean Nielsen, president of Bang and Olufsen of America. Today, the sub-brand is sold through 381 third-party retailers, consisting of 269 Apple stores, 70 InMotion stores and about 42 Design Within Reach high-end furniture stores. That number will grow to more than 400 in November with the addition of an undisclosed national chain.

Separately, Nielsen said his company’s U.S. sales grew 20 percent in its 2012 to 2013 fiscal year and that a new store design launched overseas will come to all 53 U.S. stores over the next year or two. The design emulates the look of high-end designer showrooms.

Nielsen also offered more details about the company’s Professional Program, announced yesterday, to expand the company’s dealer base to include more systems integrators.

Under the program, the company will offer select integrators the opportunity to become authorized resellers through partnerships with B&O-owned stores and with independently owned B&O stores.

B&O launched a similar program in 2004 for independently owned B&O stores, Nielsen said, but under the new program, the company will be more proactive in finding integrators for the independently owned stores to team up with. B&O-owned stores will also participate in the new program.

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