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Tabletop Radios Add Wi-Fi, New Sources

1/30/2008 01:49:00 PM Eastern

New York — A tabletop home radio isn’t complete these days without an iPod dock, memory card slots, Wi-Fi access to Internet radio stations and services, or satellite radio reception, a growing number of suppliers believe.

“Table radios are able to do more now,” said Clayton Scott, Sangean sales and marketing manager.






The Cue Radio

Underscoring changes in the tabletop radio market, Sangean plans to expand its selection of tabletop Internet radios in the coming months. European supplier Sonoro will enter the U.S. market with a quartet of radios that include an iPod-docking model and an Internet radio. And Audiovox plans its first tabletop Internet radios under the RCA and Acoustics Research brands.

Companies launching iPod-docking tabletop radios include Eton, which plans its first model with an embedded iPod dock, having already marketed a model packaged with a stand-alone dock. And startup Cue Radio is entering the market with an iPod-docking table radio.

Here’s what dealers will find in coming months:

Audiovox: In Internet radio, the company is launching its first models, including two versions of the RCA-brand Infinite Radio with analog AM/FM, USB Host, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, and direct access to a custom Web radio aggregation service and to Slacker’s personalized Internet radio service. The RIR200 retails for a suggested $99, but the $149 RIR205 adds a companion “Wi-Fi enabler,” a transmitter/receiver that plugs into a wired home-network router and makes it unnecessary to use Wi-Fi setup software.

An Acoustic Research tabletop radio with Internet radio, iPod dock and an Apple authentication chip is due in the second quarter. It will be based on the cosmetics of the $199-suggested ART1 iPod-docking tabletop analog-AM/FM radio with cherrywood cabinet.

Audiovox has also unveiled two Acoustics Research-brand table radios that will be the industry’s first table radios with an embedded slot to accept XM Minituners (see Jan. 7 issue of TWICE, p. 138). They also sport embedded iPod docks and are due in the first quarter at a suggested retails of $129 and $239.

Cue Acoustics: The first product from the Somerville, Mass., startup is a biamplified AM/FM tabletop radio with embedded iPod dock and with optional auxiliary speaker to deliver stereo. The products are due around April at suggested retails of $399 for the 4-inch by 10.5-inch by 6.5-inch radio and $99 for the auxiliary speaker.

The radio chassis features 4x25-watt amplifier to drive the concentrically mounted 3.5-inch woofer and 0.75-inch silk-dome tweeter in the main chassis and the identical driver complement in the optional speaker. It uses an acoustic suspension design and DSP for broad, flat frequency response. The LCD display shows all functions, including iPod, radio and clock information.

To simplify operation, the Cue Radio combines touch-sensitive surfaces, tactile feedback and context-specific controls. Touch-sensitive buttons light up when they’re required to be used. Running a finger on a recess on top of the radio activates the snooze/mute feature.

The tuning knob helps users intuitively find radio stations by providing tactile feedback, in the form of a pulse, when tuning into a station. The feedback varies in strength based on the station’s signal strength, so tuning into a strong station will stop a consumer from turning the knob for a moment, said CEO Sam Millen. The tuning knob delivers the same type of feedback when the user scrolls through the iPod menu. “When you're in an iPod menu, you'll feel pulses as you roll over each menu choice, such as artist, album, and genre, and you'll be stopped from going any farther when you reach the end of the menu,” he explained.

Other features include FM RDS (Radio Data System), 3.5mm aux input and expected “Works with iPhone” certification, enabling a docked iPhone to automatically mute the system when a cellular call comes in.

The radio and speaker will initially be available in high-gloss arctic white with a piano-black face, but other colors are due by the fourth quarter.

Eton: The company’s first tabletop AM/FM radio with embedded iPod dock is the Eton Sound 140 at a suggested $299 (www.etoncorp.com). It’s due late in the first or second quarters with two 3-inch speakers, a bottom-mount woofer, 3.5mm audio in and out, alarm clock functions, an iPod-controlling remote and choice of gloss-black or gloss-white finished.

Sangean: The company launched its first one-piece tabletop Internet radio last November at a $279 street price, and in two to three months will ship a next-generation model and a component Internet tuner.

Compared to the current $279 WFR-20 table radio, the new WFR-1 at an expected $349 street price, will add FM tuner with Radio Data System (RDS) display of analog-FM station metadata, boost speaker size to 3 inches from 2.5 inches, and offer improved station-search capabilities. The radio will sync up with the vTuner Internet-radio database, enabling consumers to not only search for Internet and broadcast stations by country but also by U.S. state, and then by genre within a state, said sales and marketing manager Clayton Scott.

In another change, the new model’s cabinet will be in gloss mahogany instead of black. Both models, however, feature wood cabinets.

AM tuning isn’t necessary in the new model, Scott added, because the majority of AM stations are also available on the Internet at better sound quality than most over-the-air AM broadcasts.

Like its predecessor, the WFR-1 streams Internet radio stations via a wireless 802.11b/g or wired Ethernet connection to a broadband modem. Also like its predecessor, it connects wirelessly to a networked PC to stream PC-stored music and features Microsoft UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) for a simplified connection to UPnP PCs. Both models also feature limited alarm functions, but they’re not intended as a bedroom’s primary alarm clock. Both also come with remotes.

The company’s first component-style Internet tuner, the WFT-1 at a tentative $349 street price, also features 802.11 b/g and wired Ethernet to stream from the Internet or from a PC. The feature set hasn’t been finalized, but FM tuner, digital audio output, and on-TV display are under consideration.

Sonoro: The Cologne, Germany-based company, launched in 2005, is bringing a quartet of luxury-positioned table radios to the United STates after establishing distribution in Europe, where the products are available in A/V stores, high-end department stores and home décor outlets.

The $289-suggested Cubo CD/FM mono radio with alarm clock functions features 3.5-inch driver, 3.5mm input, and availability in seven high-gloss finishes and three real-wood finishes. The 8.27-inch by 5.39-inch by 9.06-inch radio is due in the second quarter.

The Cubo Elements, due as early as the second quarter at a suggested $199, is an AM/FM mono model without CD but with included an iPod stand that connects the iPod to the radio via 3.5mm input. The stand doesn’t recharge an iPod. An illuminated metal ring on the front of the radio controls station selection and other functions. It features a vacuum-fluorescent display and a wood cabinet finished in high-gloss black, with a front panel made of black acrylic.

As early as the third quarter, Sonoro will ship the Internet edition of the Cubo Elements. It is an FM/Internet clock radio with included iPod stand that connects to the radio’s 3.5mm input. The 8.26-inch by 4.33-inch by 5.7-inch unit is equipped with Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port to connect via broadband modem to Receiva’s Internet-radio aggregation service. The radio’s wood chassis is finished in high-gloss black. A brushed, LED-illuminated metal control knob is on front. The suggested retail will be about $349.

In June or July, the Fusion will ship with mono AM/FM radio, CD, embedded iPod dock, LED-illuminated metal control knob, and 3.5mm aux input. The supplied remote controls iPod functions.

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