Installers looking for slam-dunk alternatives for multi-speaker surround sound systems will find more on-wall sound-bar options at the CEDIA Expo, where more suppliers will offer their first models and other suppliers will expand their selection.
Soundbars deliver two, three or five channels of audio from compact horizontal enclosures that mount above or below a flat-panel display. They're intended for use in tight spaces or in secondary rooms that consumers might not want to clutter up with multiple speakers. Some models deliver two or three front audio channels; some come with built-in amplification; and others deliver all five channels, in some cases using built-in amplifiers, surround decoders and virtual surround technology to deliver all five satellite channels.
At the show, Artison plans to show its first passive three-channel model; Marantz and Denon plans to show their first models, which incorporate amplifier, surround decoders and virtual-surround technology; Polk will add a second five-channel passive model that delivers front and surround channels from one enclosure; and Yamaha will expand its selection of single-speaker surround-sound solutions with built-in amps and virtual surround processing. Boston Acoustics will show its previously announced low-cost amplified two-channel system.
Here's what the suppliers plan to exhibit:
Artison: The passive $1,200-suggested SoundBar delivers three front channels and bass down to 80Hz through five 1-inch tweeters and six 3-inch midranges. It attaches to flat-panel displays with 37-inch and wider screens and is positioned for applications in which side-mounted speaker won't fit. A stand is available for tabletop applications.
The company continues to offer pairs of side-mounted speakers that deliver three front channels.
Boston Acoustics: The TVee Model Two two-channel soundbar at $399 is positioned as a TV accessory sale. It features two tweeters and two woofers powered by a 2x25-watt amplifier. A 50-watt wireless 2.4GHz powered subwoofer is included.
It doesn't feature virtual-surround technology or three-to-five speaker channels like many other soundbars, but the company positions the unit as a much less expensive and much simpler alternative to most other soundbars.
The soundbar learns the command codes of a user's existing remote.
Denon: The $1,199-suggested DHT-FS3 system features active five-speaker soundbar and slim outboard subwoofer. It uses X-Space Surround virtual-surround technology that Denon parent D&M Holdings acquired with the purchase of Philip's OEM speaker business.
Features include total amplification of 5x25 plus 1x50 watts, three digital and one analog input, and a digital display that isn't visible behind the grille until a button on the unit or remote control is pressed. The gloss-piano-black unit comes with remote control, cable connectors, "feet" for shelf placement and wall-mounting bracket.
Marantz: The brand's first soundbar is an all-in-one solution packing speakers, amplifiers and surround decoder in one chassis at a suggested $1,299. The black-extruded-aluminum SSX (simple Surround Experience) ES7001, due in September, marries two speaker channels with DSP-based Optional Sound Distribution (OPSODIS) virtual-surround technology, which is available exclusively through Marantz to deliver surround channels from two front speakers without bouncing sound off side walls. The result is a wider sweet spot and system effectiveness that does not rely on the size or shape of individual rooms, said marketing and product development VP Kevin Zarow.
Developed by the Institution of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) and Kajima, OPSODIS uses multiple DSP-based techniques, including the creation of slight differences in the volume levels to a listener's right and left ear and implementing subtle differences in audio arrival time to each ear.
The chassis, as wide a 50-inch flat-panel display, incorporates three drivers per channel. Digital amps dedicated to each driver deliver a total of 30 watts per side. It also incorporates surround decoders for DVD-based surround tracks and two HDMI 1.1 inputs and one output with HDMI repeater functionality. The sweet spot can be set for wide or narrow, and response can be optimized for mounting above or below a display.
The sound bar can be mated with an optional $349-suggested SW7001 active 50-watt subwoofer with DC-trigger input to turn on when the sound bar turns on.
The bar mounts on a wall, but it can be placed in an optional rack system designed to hold the ES7001 on its top shelf, the optional SW7001 powered subwoofer on the bottom shelf, and a flat-panel TV of up to 50 inches.
Polk: The company's second SurroundBar is a passive single-speaker surround system matching the width of 50-inch flat-panel displays. Due in October at a suggested $1,099, the 4.5-inch by 51-inch by 5.1-inch SurroundBar50 uses new drivers, a new crossover design and a larger enclosure to deliver deeper bass than its predecessor.
The extruded-aluminum enclosure, available in black or silver, houses nine midbass drivers, three dome tweeters and four-board crossover to deliver surround effects without reflecting sound off side walls. The passive technology, called SDA Surround, also equalizes the surround drivers' signals in a way that alters the perceived direction of sound. The equalization curve is based on how the shape of the ear's pina, or visible portion, enables people to detect the direction of a sound.
The new model adds interaural-crosstalk cancellation to the left and right channels to enhance the surround experience and widen the soundstage for two-channel sources, Polk said.
The 50 comes with shelf cradle and wall-mount bracket. Each channel connects to an A/V receiver's speaker outputs via five sets of binding posts that are color coded and marked for easy connection.
The original SurroundBar is 43 inches wide and 4.5 inches wide and a suggested $949.