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Wireless Speakers, Subs Surface At CEDIA Expo

9/05/2007 11:00:00 PM Eastern

DENVER — Installers pull wire for a living, but there are just some applications where pulling wire through walls, floors or ceilings isn’t practical.

Enter the growing selection of wireless speakers and powered subwoofers intended to deliver greater installation flexibility and more placement options.

Here at the CEDIA Expo, at least four companies — Boston Acoustics, MTX, JBL and Infinity — are launching their first wireless powered subwoofers, and companies such as Soundcast and KEF are showing transmitter/receiver packages that replace speaker cables with wireless RF.

Here’s what dealers will find:

Boston Acoustics: One of four subwoofers in the new Horizons series of speakers uses 2.4GHz analog wireless in place of speaker cable. The $399-suggested HPS 8Wi, due in October, features 8-inch driver and 150-watt amp. Like its wired companions, it features front firing, rear-ported configuration with controls for level and phase. It also features auto power, line-level input and LFE input.

The Horizon Series of speakers feature cloth grilles in optional colors.

Infinity: The PS212W 12-inch 400-watt powered sub features crossover frequency and level controls, a phase switch; and LFE (low-frequency effects) line-level and high-level inputs. Its driver is made of proprietary Metal Matrix Diaphragm (MMD) material said to produce a low-mass, highly rigid driver diaphragm that operates with greatly reduced distortion.

The $679-suggested sub ships in October with compact 2.4GHz transmitter with selectable channels.

JBL: The $599-suggested CSS10W wireless subwoofer features 300-watt amp, 10-inch driver and high-gloss-black and metallic-silver enclosure. It uses the 2.4GHz band and is packaged with a companion transmitter. It ships in January.

KEF: A wireless surround-speaker system currently shipping promises wireless transmission of full-bandwidth CD-quality PCM audio with no interference.

The $599-suggested KEF Universal Wireless consists of a transmitter and two 50-watt receiver/amplifiers, one for each surround speaker.

The company also offers the technology with its KHT5005.2W surround sound speaker package, and here at CEDIA, KEF will offer wireless surround speakers in one of its first two DVD-based home theater systems. The KIT 540 “instant home theater” is built around a compact single-chassis DVD-receiver offering HDMI 1.3a output, USB 2.0, iPod control, simple “elegant” on-screen GUI, transcoding off all video inputs to HDMI and 1080p scaler.

KEF’s wireless solution features a 1.1Mbps datarate to allow for uncompressed PCM transmission, which typically extends up to 80 feet. The company uses advanced error protection and “pre-emptive” adaptive frequency hopping in the 2.4GHz band to “hop to the best available channel before errors occur,” the company said.

Another DVD-based home theater system, the KIT120, lacks surround speakers, wired or wireless) but provides surround sound through its two main satellite speakers without using DSP techniques. Instead, like the current DVD-less KEF KIT100 Instant Theater, they use side-firing flat-panel speakers mounted behind front Uni-Q drivers to bounce surround-channel information off the side walls to the rear of the room. It also features HDMI 1.3a output, transcoding off all video inputs to HDMI, and 1080p scaler.

Pricing of the new systems was not available at press time.

MTX: Three wireless-ready powered subs in the MTX Blueprint Contractor Theater line feature a special input to connect a 2.4GHz wireless receiver with a range up to 300 feet.

The 8-, 10- and 12-inch models, called affordable by the company, are rated at up to 100 watts RMS and feature adjustable gain, LED power indicator, and 180-degree phase switch. The transmitter is $79, and the companion receiver’s pricing was not available at press time.

The transmitter plugs into a source’s speaker-level outputs or 3.5mm stereo output.

The system uses wireless technology borrowed from sister brand Soundolier, which this year introduced the Soundolier Duo floorstanding speaker/torchiere lamp that disperses sound in a 360-degree arc and is suited for use as a surround speaker. The lamp is a suggested $299 each, plus $79 for a 2.4GHz wireless transmitter that connects to an A/V receiver. They’ll also be at the Expo.

Soundcast: The 7-inch-tall 2.4GHz Universal AudioCast Transmitter (UAT) can be connected to a PC’s USB port to stream PC-based music to a 2x30-watt amplified AmpCast client, whose on-chassis buttons will remotely control basic playback functions such as track forward/back and pause/play. A supplied IR remote is also expected to perform those functions. One UAT can transmit one PC-based song simultaneously to up to two clients.

The UAT transmitter can also be connected to any audio source component, including CD changers and music servers, via line-level RCA inputs. In this application, however, the AmpCast won’t remotely select songs for playback.

In a home theater application, AmpCast will deliver surround channels wirelessly to surround speakers connected to the AmpCast client.

The devices are due in late 2007 or early 2008 at unannounced prices.

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