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Expo 2000: What's New In Freestanding Speakers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Custom installers often spec a mix of in-wall speakers and freestanding speakers when they're designing custom A/V systems, so suppliers exhibiting at CEDIA's Expo 2000 won't be shy about showing new tower and bookshelf models.

Suppliers such as Acoustic Research, Infinity, and JBL plan to add new series to their existing series, and other suppliers will revamp or fill-in lines. Here's what various suppliers plan to exhibit:

Acoustic Research: A new five-speaker series called Stature consists of acoustically matched slim-profile 8-inch-wide tower and bookshelf speakers and a center channel.

Two towers are priced at a suggested $400 each for a three-way and $300 each for a two-way, the former with three 6.5-inch drivers and a tweeter. The latter offers two 6.5-inch drivers and a tweeter. The two bookshelf models retail for $240 and $300/

pair. The horizontal two-way center is $200 each.

Audio Products: The company will continue to increase the differentiation of its Mirage brand from its other brands by limiting Mirage introductions at the Expo to Omnipolar-radiating models. The brand will eventually move to an all-Omnipolar lineup, but the forward-radiating FRx series at $250-$1,200/pair will continue through 2001, a spokesman said.

The new Mirage OM5, 7 and 9 Omnipolar towers feature such enhancements as deeper bass, higher efficiency, more midrange detail, and better resolution than models being discontinued. The new models start at $3,500/pair, $2,000/pair, and $1,300/

pair, respectively, depending on finish, pushing up the brand's top price point from $3,000/pair.

The next step in Mirage's changes will be the introduction of models priced up to $12,000 or to $14,000/pair at January's CES. For now, the brand's Omnipolar opening price will be $1,300/pair, up from $700 for a discontinued pair.

As part of an effort to simplify the positioning of its Energy brand, the company is replacing most of Energy's mid-positioned Connoisseur series with an expanded flagship Veritas series. Six new Veritas models include four left-right pairs starting at $1,000/pair compared to a previous opening price of $2,500/pair. The series continues to top out at $6,000/pair for the V2.8 flagship.

To hit sub-Veritas price points, Energy will rely on its narrow-profile E:XL series at $200 to $1,200/pair.

B&W: The top-end CDM9NT tower expands the NT series to five SKUs: three L-R models, a center, and narrow-profile surround. The series incorporates key design elements of B&W's top-end Nautilus series, including freestanding tweeter pod and tapered-tube tweeter loading to improve clarity, detail, and soundstage precision, the company said. The suggested retail is $2,600/pair.

Definitive Technology: The company is upgrading the BP2004 bipolar powered tower by doubling the subwoofer amp's power to 250 watts, using a new subwoofer driver with larger magnet, and making the enclosure slightly taller and deeper. Renamed the BP2004TL, the model retails for a suggested $799 each.

Infinity: The brand will add two new series: Modulus and Entra. They're available to all Infinity channels.

The compact Modulus home theater series consists of four satellites, a dedicated center, and a 350-watt powered 12-inch sub incorporating single-band parametric equalizer to tailor bass output to a particular room's acoustics.

The center channel and satellites come with integral swivel-mount bracket system for wall and corner mounting. The bracket system also lets users mount the center and L-R speakers to an optional TV-top adjustable bar. It extends the L-R speakers beyond the edges of 27- to 55-inch TVs to widen the sound stage. The system retails for a suggested $1,699. The bracket will retail for less than $150.

Also new: the entry-level Entra series of four speakers: a $299/pair-suggested-retail bookshelf, $249/pair tower, $199 center channel, and $349 powered sub.

JBL: The new HT Series and Performance Series of enclosed speakers offer installation-oriented features.

Performance consists of a powered subwoofer, a center channel, and three-way narrow-profile tower that can be stacked on top of the sub, mounted on optional stands, hung on the wall, or mounted in a wall. The subwoofer is a 14-inch model with 400-watt Class D amplifier. The speakers can be used to create a home theater system priced up to $7,000. They're available.

In the HT Series of small-enclosed speakers JBL uses enclosures that can be incorporated into custom cabinetry and new construction. The seven-SKU series includes four LCRs at $450 to $550 each, some designed for horizontal placement, others for vertical placement. Also: two dipolar surrounds at $550 and $850 each and a $2,000 THX-Select powered sub with 12-inch driver and 1,000-watt amp in a 13-inch cube.

Also new: the TiK series for critical music listening. Prices range from $1,200 to $4,000 each.

NHT: The company will expand its entry-level Performance series by three models to give dealers more NHT options at less than $1,000/pair. The three models, due in March, include the $600/pair Mega One bookshelf and $900/pair Mega Two tower, both of which sit at the top of the Performance series. The MegaTwo is a three-way speaker featuring 8-inch sidefiring sub, replacing the $750/pair SuperTwo. The MegaOne is a two-way bookshelf.

"The Megas are efficient and placement-friendly," said sales director Randy Dowis. The third new Performance-series model is the $325/pair Super.5, which joins three newly upgraded Performance-series Super speakers: the two-way SuperZero i bookshelf at $275/pair, two-way SuperOne i bookshelf at $375/pair, and Super Center i at $300 each.

Also new is an in-wall 6.2Ci 2.5-way at $900/pair and a $750 2x250-watt SSA-1 stereo amp to power the subwoofers in select NHT towers. It incorporates a continuously variable phase switch that complements a 180-degree phase-reverse switch to better sonically integrate the subs with their companion satellites.

Thiel: The company's first sub is the powered SW1, which features two 10-inch drivers, 600-watt amplifier, and an optional component-size active crossover into which users enter data, including frequency-response and sensitivity, about their main speakers. Once the information is entered, the component automatically adjusts crossover points and output level to deliver a more coherent sonic transition between the sub and main speakers. The unit also features boundary-compensation controls. Pricing was unavailable.

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