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Multi-Room Audio With No Strings Attached

9/08/2011 12:14:00 AM Eastern

Indianapolis - Wireless-audio
suppliers aren't pulling the legs of installers who make their living pulling
wires.

With new-home construction at
levels not seen since the mid-1940s, installers have focused their energies on retrofitting
existing homes, and new wireless products on display at the Expo give them an
opportunity to make multi-room-audio retrofits cleaner, faster and simpler
because wires don't have to be run through walls.

The systems could also expand the
market to renters who aren't allowed to modify their apartments.

Proficient president Keith
Marshall positions his new wireless system as a way for installers who are
mounting a flat-panel TV to step the customer up to a multi-room-audio system
that can be installed in one day in four to six rooms without creating a mess.

During the CEDIA Expo, electronic
systems contractors will find new and recently shipped wireless-audio systems
from Jamo, Proficient, Navvo Systems, SoundCast Systems and MusicLites.

Here's what they plan to show.

Artison: The company's recently released MusicLites wireless multi-room-audio
system takes the form of combination LED lights/wireless speakers that fit into
4-, 5- and 6-inch recessed
lighting cans in the ceiling.

They can be used to create a
five-zone system with up to 12 MusicLites per zone.

The speakers stream music from
audio sources connected to 2.4GHz wireless transmitters. Sources include PCs,
stereos, iPods, iPads and smartphones.

Jamo: A powered two-channel speaker system and a 2.1-channel
sub-sat system are designed for use with a wireless sender and receiver to
stream music wirelessly from a PC or from MP3 players, smartphones and other
mobile devices. They're due next year.

See p. 34 for more details.

Navvo Group: The company, led by former Best Buy executive Wade
Fenn, is coming to the CEDIA Expo for the first time, bringing with it an
expanded selection of wireless multi-room-audio products that use Wi-Fi to
deliver up to 10 audio zones.

The company's Voco wireless
system uses Wi-Fi-equipped Android tablets and Android smartphones as system
controllers. Unlike other wireless multi-room-audio systems, Voco also offers
voice control of song selection via Navvo's free app, which also lets users
select songs via an Android device's touchscreen.

An iPhone version of the app is
slated for the fourth quarter.

Earlier this year, the company
launched the $199-suggested V-Zone player, which connects to a home's existing
audio and home-theater systems via HDMI, optical digital cable and analog RCA
cables.

With multiple V-Zone players, up
to 10 different sources or songs can be streamed simultaneously around the
house via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n from multiple networked PCs, multiple network-attached
storage (NAS) drives and from a Wi-Fi-equipped smartphone. Additional music
sources can include USB sticks, USB-connected iPods other than the iPod Touch
and iPhone, and other USB-connected MP3 players plugged directly into the
V-Zone player. Sources also include more than 50,000 free Internet radio
stations and podcasts streamed by a smartphone through Navvo's app.

For use as a music source,
networked PCs and NAS drives must be loaded with Voco software.

At the Expo, the company is
showing the new V-Spot and V-Zone Pro, both due in the first quarter. The
$399-suggested V-Spot is an all-one-one client incorporating speakers and
amplifier. It also doubles as a Wi-Fi access point. To reproduce music from
connected local sources, it features line input, front and back USB ports for
USB hard drives and other USB devices, and eSATA port for external hard drives.

Five preset buttons can be mapped
to playlists or Internet radio stations. Other buttons features volume control,
play/pause, skip forward and back. Controls are LED backlit touch-sensitive
controls.

At less than a suggested $599,
the V-Zone Pro lacks amp and
speakers but offers the same connectivity features as the V-Spot as well as
embedded Wi-Fi access point, but it adds high-quality DAC, infrared blaster,
and ability to host an internal hard drive.

Proficient Audio: The
brand plans a CEDIA Expo launch of a wireless multi-room-audio system with more
capabilities than its predecessor.

The Zero wireless audio system promises
wireless distribution of up to six audio sources simultaneously to freestanding
stereo speakers in up to 24 rooms if three wireless transmitters are used at a
time. Each transmitter supports up to eight tabletop amplifier/receivers, and
each transmitter is capable of sending stereo audio from two separate sources
while also sending mono wirelessly to a powered subwoofer in the same room or
another room.

Zero's predecessor, called
AirFlex, simultaneously transmitted music wirelessly from two sources to up to
four rooms when two transmitters were used.

The new system, shipping in the
fourth quarter, also extends transmitting range through walls to 90 feet from
70 feet. A wireless extender is planned for first-half 2012 availability to
further extend range.

One Zero transmitter is bundled
with an amplified receiver at a suggested $450. Additional receivers cost $250
each.

The transmitters connect to multi-zone
A/V receivers, Internet radio streamers, and other music sources via a digital
PCM optical input and a two-channel analog stereo input.

Using a supplied IR remote
pointed at the amplifier/receivers, users can switch between the two sources
connected to a transmitter and a local source connected to the
amplifier/receiver via optical digital input or stereo 3.5mm input.

Using the amplifier/receiver's
supplied IR remote, users can also switch among three transmitters to access
additional remote sources.

The 2x35-watt Class D
amplifier/receiver also features IR passthrough and IR output to control a
local source. That feature was unavailable on the AirFlex, which nonetheless
did come with an IR remote to switch between a remote source and a local
source.

An unamplified receiver is in the
works for the first half to add wireless multi-room capability to stereo
systems or active speakers.

Like its predecessor, a Zero
system can also be used to send audio wirelessly to surround speakers, and a
Zero amplifier/receiver can be used alone behind a flat-screen TV to amplify TV
sound.

Also like its predecessor, Zero
systems don't enable users to turn on or control a source connected to a
transmitter in another room.

Soundcast Systems: The company will show its recently expanded
selection of wireless multi-room-audio products, including the $199 UAT 1.2
Universal Audio Transmitter, the $299 UAT 3.4 transmitter, and the $249
SubCast.

Soundcast offers indoor and
outdoor wireless speakers, wireless iPod-docking transmitters, wireless
transmitters for PCs and other audio sources, a wireless subwoofer, and a
transmitter-receiver pair that adds wireless capability to surround speakers.

The UAT 1.2 and 3.4 transmitters
feature a USB port to connect to a PC to use a PC as a music server. The
transmitters also feature analog input to connect a traditional audio source or
MP3 player. The UAT 1.2 streams only source at a time, with one transmitter
able to stream one source to one L-R speaker pair and three transmitters able
to stream one source to up to three speaker pairs. The UAT 3.4 delivers up to
three sources simultaneously to four zones when three are daisy-chained.