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Audio Systems Add iPod Docks, Virtual Surround, XM, Bluetooth

Plenty of home theater in a box (HTiB) and compact music systems will be on display during International CES this week. (See related story on p. 12.) Here is a company-by-company overview of some of the products exhibitors are showing here.

Audiovox: The XM-ready XRC200 desktop hi-fi system incorporates AM/FM tuner, CD player with MP3-CD and WMA-CD playback, alarm clock, 50-watt amp, SRS surround processing and 30 presets for each of the AM, FM, and XM bands.

iLuv: The brand entered the market for iPod accessories and iPod-docking audio and video gear last spring with such products as an iPod speaker system, two iPod-docking tabletop stereo systems, and a clock radio. At CES, the company is expanding its iPod-oriented assortment and adding products and accessories for use with a pair of Samsung Yepp flash-memory MP3 players.

One of the iPod-related introductions is said to be one of the industry’s first iPod-docking home-audio products with two-way Bluetooth technology. A clock radio and one-piece tabletop AM/FM/CD stereo system transmit music to Bluetooth headphones or to any other Bluetooth-equipped device. The iLuv products in turn reproduce music that they receive wirelessly from Bluetooth-equipped portables such as music-playing cellphones and MP3 players equipped with a Bluetooth dongle, also available from iLuv.

iLive: The Digital Products brand plans to show its new $399 iHT8817DT DVD-equipped HTiB system with 5.1 speaker system, all packed into a single set-top bar that uses the industry’s first implementation of SRS Labs’s TruSurround HD4 virtual 5.1 surround technology to deliver all five surround channels. It also incorporates AM/FM tuner.

iSymphony: iSymphony’s V1 Blue, due late in the first quarter, is a $349-suggested wall-mountable one-piece Bluetooth-equipped AM/FM/CD minisystem that plays music from multiple sources. Sources include memory cards, USB-connected flash-memory MP3 players and iPods sitting in an included Bluetooth-equipped docking/charging cradle. The system also plays back Bluetooth audio from other Bluetooth sources, including MP3-cellphones, and it transmits music wirelessly to Bluetooth-equipped headsets from all connected sources.

JVC: The company is offering its first XM-ready HTiB shelf system and boombox following last year’s launch of the company’s first XM-ready A/V receivers. The company is also launching its first two audio products, both HTiBs, with Ethernet connections to stream music, video and photos from a networked PC, but not from Internet radio stations.

JVC is also launching its first two iPod-docking HTiBs, adding three more iPod-docking shelf systems to the line, and adding its second iPod-docking boombox. JVC’s Made for iPod products use a cable rather than a built-in slot to dock, control, and recharge an iPod, except for the current RA-P10 the AC/DC boombox/clock radio.

The networked HTiBs, the DD-3 and DD-8, are the first products appearing in the new Sophisti series. Both are certified by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) for compatibility with other DLNA devices. Pricing and ship dates of all products were unavailable.

Klipsch: The$499-suggested CS-300 virtual surround system consists of two two-way satellite speakers, a subwoofer, and an unobtrusive box incorporating IR receiver, Dolby Virtual Speaker technology, and an analog audio input. The input accepts the audio output of a TV and the audio output of video sources connected to the TV. It ships in April in gloss-blank finish.

LG: In launching seven HTiBs, the company is expanding is selection of XM-ready HTiBs to four SKUs from one, launching its first four HTiBs that control and recharge iPods, expanding its HTiB selection with 1080i-upscaling HDMI outputs to five from three, and offering its first 2.1-speaker HTiB that uses virtual surround to recreate a surround-sound field.

In launching two new shelf systems, the company is offering its first iPod-docking model, which also incorporates CD/DVD player. All of the systems but one HTiB feature front-panel USB port to reproduce music, pictures, and video stores on a USB drive or USB-connected MP3 player.

The 2.1-speaker virtual-surround HTiB is the 400-watt LFD790 with 1,080i up-scaling, single DVD, USB, touchpanel controls, and LG’s Virtual Surround Matrix (VSM) technology to simulate surround sound. The main unit can be placed on a shelf or mounted vertically to a wall.

Panasonic: Audio systems introductions here include the company’s first home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) with wireless HDD music server and first HTiBs with 1,080p-upscaling HDMI outputs. Also in the line is an expanded selection of XM-ready HTiBs and shelf systems.

All four new HTiBs will feature the XM input at targeted suggested retails of $299 to $999. Two new minisystems and a new microsystem are also in the works with XM-ready capability at targeted suggested retails of $179 and $249 for the minis and $99 for the micro.

HDMI outputs with 1,080p up-scaling will appear in all four of the company’s DVD-equipped HTiB SKUs for 2007. A single DVD-less HTiB SKU rolls over. All new HTiBs also accept wireless-rear-speaker kits to eliminate speaker-cable runs to the HTiBs’ supplied surround speakers. The kit is included with two systems separately for the others at a suggested $149.

The music-serving HTiB is the SC-PTX7, which features 80GB HDD and ability to distribute two separate sources simultaneously to separately available one-piece amplified-speaker clients. The system, at a suggested $799, supports up to three clients simultaneously, each at targeted suggested retails of $199. (See p. 131 for details.)

Philips: Second-generation wireless multiroom audio systems will be on display along with its first iPod-docking home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) and shelf systems, an expanded selection of HTiBs with 1,080i-upscaling HDMI output, and first HTiB with 1080p upscaling output. The iPod-docking models also charge Philips’s GoGear MP3 players. (See p. 131 for details of wireless multi-room audio systems from Philips and other suppliers.)

Also new is an expanded selection of virtual surround sound systems, including the company’s first system to pack all speakers, DVD player, and AM/FM tuner into a bar that mounts to the wall under a flat-panel TV. All system amplification is in a subwoofer enclosure.

In new HTiBs, the company is increasing the selection with 1,080i up-scaling HDMI outputs to five from two. One is the company’s first with 1,080p HDMI output. The company is also expanding its selection of virtual-surround HTiBs to three from one and launching its first three HTiBs with outboard iPod dock/recharger, whose pins can be swapped out to dock and charge Philips’ GoGear MP3 players. They’ll join two music systems launched last year with the iPod/GoGear dock.

In its line of virtual-surround Ambisound HTiBs, the company is expanding its selection to three from one, all with surround channels delivered through front speakers and all with 1080i-upscaling HDMI output. The HTS8100 is Philips’ first bar-type virtual-surround system, which packs all speakers, DVD player, and AM/FM tuner into a bar that mounts to the wall under a flat-panel TV. The system is expected to sell at retail for an everyday $999.

Pioneer: The DVD-less HTS-570, due in May at a suggested $399, features a new implementation of Pioneer’s proprietary Front-Stage Surround technology, the company said. In the HTS-570, all electronics are packed in the subwoofer box, so only a tabletop LED display/controller is visible. A DVD-equipped HTiB with Front Stage Surround is the $399-suggested HZ-370DV, due in July. Its surround speakers can be stacked on top of the L-R speakers. It also features HDMI output.

RCA: The brand is launching its first iPod-docking shelf system. The $169-suggested retail RS2130i bookshelf system, due in the second quarter, controls and charges iPods through a supplied dock/charging stand, enables iPod control through the system’s control buttons and included remote, and display’s the iPod’s menu and song titles. The system features the company’s Rip & Go technology to rip a CD’s content to a USB-connected RCA-branded MP3 players or other mass storage class devices. The USB connection also recharges the RCA MP3 players. The system includes a slim five-disc CD changer, playback of MP3/WMA-encoded CDs, and USB connectivity to play back music files from USB-connected Mass Storage Class devices.

Sharp: The company’s first two iPod-docking shelf systems, each single-chassis models available in black or white, are the DK-A1 with AM/FM tuner at a suggested $229 and the DK-A10 with front-load single-disc CD player at a suggested $329. Both feature alarm clock, 14-watt output, full-range bass-reflex speakers, and side-firing woofers that illuminate to the beat of the music. Five shelf systems, all XM-ready, consist of three mini-component systems and two microsystems. The minisystems feature dual full-logic cassette decks and five-disc CD changers capable of playing MP3- and WMA-encoded CDs. The microsystem lack cassette but include five-disc MP3/WMA-CD changer. Prices were unavailable.

Sherwood: Not a newcomer to virtual-surround HTiBs, the company is launching its first such system that incorporates all satellite speakers in a 37-inch-wide soundbar, complemeted by a subwoofer. Like its predecessors, the $600-suggested VR-672 uses Dolby Virtual Speaker and Dolby Headphone technologies. The system’s separate DVD-receiver upscales analog and digital video up to 1,080i for transfer through an HDMI output.