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Harman Consumer Readies Launches

6/18/2009 11:23:00 AM Eastern

New York — New audio products on the way from the Harman Consumer Group include more Harman Kardon A/V receivers (AVRs) with Internet radio and PC networking, the first consumer headphones from pro-audio brand AKG for the U.S. market, and a new JBL On Stage iPod-docking speaker system, HCG’s Chris Dragon told TWICE.

In the Harman Kardon lineup, the company plans a CEDIA Expo launch of three new AVRs that incorporate Internet Radio streaming, PC networking, front-panel USB media playback and Dolby Volume, said Dragon, director of consumer and field marketing for JBL, Infinity, Harman Kardon and AKG consumer products. The new AVRs will join the first Harman Kardon AVR with these technologies. It is the $2,499-street-price flagship AVR 7550HD, due to ship in late July.

For Internet radio streaming, the AVR 7550HD browses hundreds of stations by format, state or country. It also offers 50 station presets and ability to create groups of favorite stations. The 7550 is also the brand’s first AVR with Dolby Volume, which maintains a consistent volume level when TV channels are changed, a TV program transitions to a commercial and video inputs are switched. It also dynamically compensates for the human ear's lower sensitivity to bass and treble sounds as volume levels decrease within a program.

The 7550 is bundled with the Bridge II iPod-docking station, which enables a docked iPod or iPhone to be operated by the AVRs’ remote control. The dock doesn’t carry Apple’s Works with iPhone designation, but two of the three planned AVRs will feature a Works with iPhone dock. It will be bundled with one AVR and offered as an option on the other.

In iPod-docking speaker systems, the group began shipping its next-generation $249 (street price) JBL Sound Stage 400D, which adds Works with iPhone certification but otherwise retains the specs and features of its predecessor. The single-piece unit with an oval base features down-firing woofer with dedicated amp and two front speakers.

In following through on previously announced plans to bring the pro-audio AKG brand to the U.S. consumer market for the first time, HCG will ship 33 headphone SKUs this month at $24 to $350 followed by six more SKUs in July. Those SKUs will include the brand’s first noise-canceling headphones. One will be an over-ear model, and the other will be an in-canal model with a built-in microphone for hands-free cellphone use. The brand already offers consumer headphones in overseas markets.

The headphone lineup includes ear buds priced up to $100 in contrast to brands that usually offer ear buds only at low price points, Dragon said. The selection of ear buds and in-canal headphones will overlap in price point because of many consumers’ objections to placing headphones in their ear canal, he noted. On-ear foldable and non-foldable headphones are also in the line.

The AKG launch will mark the first time that an HCG brand will use social media in a big way to promote the launch, Dragon noted.

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