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Bose Gets Behind Wireless Multi-Room Audio

Framingham, Mass. — Bose is stepping up its profile in wireless multi-room audio, promising to bring broader awareness to the up-and-coming product category and additional competition for existing suppliers.

Bose launched three single-chassis SoundTouch Wi-Fi-equipped active speakers, which stream music stored on Macs and PCs, Cloud-based music from Pandora and vTuner, and music stored on Apple smartphones and tablets. Handheld Android devices might also become SoundTouch sources with a software update under consideration.

Over the next six months Bose will add SoundTouch capability to almost all of its current home-audio products either by building it in or offering SoundTouch adapters. Bose also plans to expand the selection of Cloud-based music sources accessed by SoundTouch products.

The tabletop SoundTouch speakers and other SoundTouch-equipped audio devices are controlled from a Bose app running on Apple and Android mobile devices and from Bose software running on Macs and PCs. The user interfaces on the mobile devices, PCs and Macs are identical, including six prominent presets that users can customize to play back particular playlists, user-created Pandora stations and specific Internet radio stations.

The presets are also accessible from the speakers’ top-mount controls.

A speaker can also be controlled from a wall-mountable Bluetooth LE-equipped controller at a range of up to about 70 feet.

The SoundTouch trio is available today through authorized retailers, Bose stores and Bose direct sales.

The products are the AC-only SoundTouch 30 at $699, AC-only SoundTouch 20 at $399, and AC/DC SoundTouch Portable at $399.

They will be followed in December by the tabletop Wave SoundTouch music system with AM/FM/CD at $599. In early 2014, Bose will ship a SoundTouch-equipped $1,199 SoundTouch Stereo JC 2.1 active speaker system with pair of tiny Jewel Cube satellite speakers and subwoofer.

Also in early 2004, the company will ship a SoundTouch wireless adapter at an unspecified price for Lifestyle home entertainment systems and VideoWave TVs. A $499 SoundTouch SA-4 amplifier, which will add SoundTouch capability to such products as outdoor and in-ceiling speakers, will appear around the same time.

The handheld and wall-mountable controller at $99 is also due early next year. It controls only one speaker at a time.

To promote the speakers, “we will be merchandising our products in all retail locations where they’re available and will have some advertising this year,” a spokesperson said without elaborating.

SoundTouch products use proprietary technology to synchronize music playback over Wi-Fi 802.11b/g through multiple SoundTouch speakers operating in different rooms.

Here are other key capabilities:

Up to four sources can play simultaneously through the speakers via Wi-Fi, including four different songs or playlists streaming simultaneously from a PC or Mac. Four simultaneous sources could also include a mix of speaker-embedded streaming services and PC/Mac-stored songs. More sources can streamed simultaneously if the speakers are connected to a home Ethernet network.

The technology supports the use of many speakers throughout a house. In one test, Bose played 22 SoundTouch speakers simultaneously, though the actual number will depend on a user’s Wi-Fi network. Ethernet connections would support even more SoundTouch systems at one time.

Because the speakers leverage the AirPlay capability of an Apple mobile device, an Apple smartphone or tablet can stream only one song at a time from its music library to only one speaker at a time, or only one AirPlay-enabled streaming service a time from an Apple mobile device.

The speakers themselves incorporate MP3, WMA and AAC decoders with up to 360kbps data rates. Additional decoders can be added later with automatic software updates.

The speakers also feature 3.5mm aux in but no stereo Bluetooth or USB input to play music directly from USB-connected smartphones and tablets.

The $99 SoundTouch controller is a disc-shaped device with six presets, preset-name display, and basic controls such as volume, play and pause.

Bose isn’t a newcomer to wireless multi-room audio. The company offers an AirPlay speaker and a Bose Link AL8 wireless-audio transmitter/ receiver package, which streams audio wirelessly from older music-server-equipped Lifestyle 38 and 48 home theater systems to other Bose audio products, including the company’s active Homewide Speaker System and Wave Music System. The two Lifestyle systems were introduced in 2004 and were phased out in the past few years, a spokesperson said. The AL8 will also be phased out with the launch of SoundTouch.