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CES 2017: DTS Expands Play-Fi, Talks To Alexa, Adds Virtual:X

Tessera subsidiary DTS came to CES with an expanded roster of audio brands offering Play-Fi multiroom-audio technology and plans for two audio brands to deliver the first Play-Fi speakers with built-in Amazon Alexa voice service.

DTS is also demonstrating its recently unveiled Virtual:X post-processing technology, enabling sound bars and traditional AVR-based 5.1-channel home theaters to deliver immersive height channels from DTS:X-encoded sound tracks without adding in-ceiling speakers or height-effects speakers.

The company is also demonstrating its Connected Radio platform, which combines FM radio with IP-delivered content to deliver supplemental information related to a song playing on a factory car radio.

Here’s what you’ll find:

New Play-Fi brands: Dish, Thiel Audio and Soundcast are the latest brands to launch Play-Fi products, with Dish adding the wireless-multiroom technology as a firmware upgrade this month in the Hopper3 and Joey set-top boxes. Soundcast is launching the VG10 portable outdoor speaker, promoted as the first portable speaker with Play-Fi. And high-end speaker supplier Thiel is unveiling its first wireless multiroom speakers, called Aurora LifeStream speakers.

Before the latest announcements, DTS had 23 Play-Fi brand partners, including Aerix, Anthem, Arcam, Autonomic, Definitive Technology, Fusion Research, Integra, Klipsch, MartinLogan, McIntosh, Onkyo, Paradigm, Phorus, Pioneer, Polk Audio, Rotel, SVS, Sonus faber, and Wren.

For their part, sister brands Onkyo, Pioneer, and Integra have committed to adding Play-Fi to more than 100 products in 2017, DTS said.

Play-Fi meets Alexa:  New Play-Fi products due this year from Klipsch and DTS-brand Phorus are equipped with far-field microphones and built-in voice access to the Amazon Alexa cloud-based personal assistant. The products will enable consumers to use the Alexa voice service to control a variety of smart-home devices in the house as well as control other Alexa skills, including streaming of Amazon’s music service.

In addition, the Onkyo, Pioneer and Integra products will be compatible with Amazon Alexa via a DTS Play-Fi firmware update, enabling consumers to talk to an Amazon Echo, Tap or Dot smart speaker to control select functions of the audio brands’ multiroom speakers. The audio brands’ speakers will also be able to stream the Amazon speakers’ music services and other Amazon cloud-based audio services.

DTS Virtual:X: The company’s post-processing technology will take immersive DTS:X object-based sound tracks, play them through a traditional 5.1-channel speaker system or sound bar, and “deliver a compelling immersive height experience for consumers,” the company said.

AVR and sound bar makers have committed to offering products with Virtual:X in 2017, including Yamaha, DTS said.

A handful of companies, including Yamaha and Samsung, offer rival Dolby Atmos technology in sound bars, including Yamaha and Samsung.

“For new sound bars, this means that a sense of immersion can be preserved or even created in cost-effective sound bars ranging from 2.1 up to 5.1- channel configurations,” DTS said.

Virtual:X chips will be available in the first quarter from Analog Devices, RT-RK / Cirrus Logic, Texas Instruments and others.

Connected car: In demonstrating its Connected Radio platform, the developer of digital HD Radio broadcasting is combining over-the-air FM radio with IP-delivered content related to the songs being broadcast. Connected Radio is being prototyped by a number of global OEM automobile manufacturer partners, DTS said.