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AirPlay, Bluetooth Gain In Tabletop Speakers

1/30/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS – AirPlay and stereo Bluetooth proliferated
in powered tabletop speakers during International
CES.

Suppliers ramped up their AirPlay introductions
to leverage the installed base of
mobile Apple devices and iTunesequipped
computers. At the
same time, more suppliers
turned to stereo Bluetooth
to connect with the growing
installed base of Android
smartphones.

TDK Life On Record cited
Android’s rise as the reason
for unveiling its first three
Bluetooth speaker systems,
which global brand manager
Steven Swenson described
as an “open audio solution”
that also connects to
Bluetooth-equipped Apple
devices and to other Bluetooth-
equipped devices, including MP3/video players.

At the show, at least five brands adopted AirPlay for
the first time, while others expanded their selection.
At least eight brands launched their first Bluetooth
speakers, while others expanded their selection.

New AirPlay adopters include Acoustic Research,
Pure Audio and Sharp, which included it in a CD microsystem.
Other new adopters include House of
Marley and Panasonic. Companies expanding
their AirPlay speaker selections include
Klipsch and iHome as well as Sony.

In the Bluetooth speaker segment,
the following companies launched
their first models: Coby, Energy,
Eton, iLuv, and Spectra’s Jensen
brand, as did House of Marley
and TDK Life On Record. For their
part, Soundfreaq and Philips Consumer
Lifestyle showed their first Bluetooth-only speakers,
which lack iPod dock. And Sony expanded its selection
of Bluetooth-equipped iPod-docking speakers.

Other companies, including iHome and Digital Innovations,
sought to leverage the growing installed base of
Android phones not by incorporating stereo Bluetooth
but by combining an aux input with a MicroUSB charging
port.

Here’s what dealers found in new tabletop speakers:

Digital Innovations: A tabletop dockingspeaker
system designed for Android smartphones
doesn’t use Bluetooth but delivers IR-remote control
of phone-stored music.

The $99-suggested Speaker Dock For Android
charges almost any Android phone via its
MicroUSB port. Music streams to the speaker via
the phone’s 3.5mm headphone output. The dock’s
MicroUSB connector is connected to a cable that
retracts into the dock’s chassis. A 3.5mm audio
jack is connected to the end of another retractable
cable to plug into the phone’s headphone output.

To control the docked Android phone via IR remote,
users install a free app onto the phone, delivering
control over the music player’s volume, skip up/
down, play, and pause. Music playback must first be
started from the phone’s user interface.

The same functions can also be controlled from
buttons on the dock’s chassis.

The dock’s cables are 8 inches long, enabling users
to cradle a phone in portrait or landscape mode
regardless of the location of the phone’s MicroUSB
port and headphone output, the company said.

The area where the phone is cradled supports Android phones with protective cases and helps hide
the cables.

The dock’s 2.1-speaker system delivers 2x3 watts
to the left-right drivers and 10 watts to a subwoofer.

Panasonic: The company’s first two AirPlayequipped
tabletop speakers, due in the spring, include
the single-chassis bar-style SC-AP01, which
lacks IR remote but is controlled from an Apple handheld
device via a remote-control app from Apple.

The second system is a flat, one-piece vertically
oriented CD system with FM tuner and front iPod/
iPhone dock. A motorized sliding door hides the
docked Apple device and the CD mechanism. Prices
weren’t announced.

Philips Consumer Lifestyle: Among four new
iPod/iPhone-docking tabletop speakers, all offer
clock radio features and FM tuner. All also feature
auto clock synchronization when an iPod/iPhone is
docked, 3.5mm aux input, sleep timer, time and alarm
battery backup, dual alarms, and free Philips clock-radio
app. The products join multiple AirPlay-equipped
tabletop speakers as well as Android-docking speakers,
which charge a docked Android phone via micro
USB and stream music via stereo Bluetooth.

The company’s first four Bluetooth-only speakers
join a variety of iPod-and Android-docking speakers
equipped with Bluetooth. The new systems are
all one-piece portable AC/DC models due in April
through June at suggested retails from $149 to $179.
The Shoqbox speakers feature stereo drivers, builtin
microphone for hands-free Bluetooth calling, voice
prompts, motion gesture to control song playback,
aux-in to connect other portable devices, built-in
compartment to store USB charging cable, and ability
to pair two speakers at a time to deliver stereo
with wider separation. The lithium-ion battery delivers
eight hours of playback on a charge.

The line starts with the $149 SB7100 with 8-watt
output and metal grille. The $179 SB7200 in black
and SB7210 in white also feature 8-watt output but
add two passive radiators, splash- and shock-proof
materials, and built-in ring to attach the speakers to
sports gear or backpacks.

The $199 SB7300 features 12-watt output, additional
drivers, aluminum materials and large metallic
volume knob.

Soundfreaq: The supplier of Bluetooth-equipped
iPod-docking speaker systems launched its first
Bluetooth-only speaker, the portable AC/DC Sound
Kick.

In the speaker, the company is incorporating a
USB-charging port to charge most smartphones
even when the speaker is running on battery power. The speaker also features an expandable sound
chamber than slides out from the back to increase its
internal volume to deliver deeper bass, enhance clarity
and provide louder overall volume, the company
said. For traveling, the chamber slides in to create a
chassis that’s only 1.6 inches deep.

Via stereo Bluetooth, the speaker will reproduce
music stored on a Bluetooth-connected smartphone
as well as audio from smartphone apps.

The speaker ships in the spring at a price that
wasn’t disclosed.

TDK Life On Record: The Imation-owned brand
unveiled its first three Bluetooth-only speakers. All
three are portable models with AC/DC capability and
rechargeable batteries.

The company already markets three portable AC/
DC iPod/iPhone-docking systems, two of which look
like a boombox. All are positioned as premium pieces.

Of the three Bluetooth speakers, one looks like a
boombox and features AM/FM tuner and 2.1-channel
speak system. Another model, which lacks AM/FM,
is cube-shaped and and features wireless charging
via a charging mat. A larger cube features traditional
battery recharging.

All three are designed to stream not only Bluetooth’s
SBC audio codec but also stream the AAC
codec, used by Apple, over Bluetooth from the iPhone
4S, which Apple enabled over Bluetooth, TDK said.

They’re due in the third or fourth quarter at pricing
to be announced.

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