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Digital Media Speakers: Is Docking Dead?

NEW YORK — “Docking is dead,” contended Sakar International VP Stefan Betesh, citing the rise of Android smartphones and Apple’s decision to change the multi-pin connector on the latest Apple mobile devices.

Based on the number of tabletop digital media speakers being introduced with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or both, Betesh might not be too far off. Only a relative handful of tabletop speakers have been introduced this year with pin connectors for Apple’s mobile devices, and of those, many incorporate Bluetooth to connect to other mobile devices.

The latest Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers are on the way from Sakar International’s Altec Lansing, Voxx, Planet Audio, Peachtree Audio and RockDoc.

Here’s what the companies are doing:

Altec Lansing: Sakar International has begun rolling out seven AC/DC Bluetooth speakers under the Altec Lansing brand at $59 to $299.

All feature speakerphone capability, voice confirmation of functions, and 3.5 aux in. All but two feature AptX decoding to improve upon the sound quality of Bluetooth’s standard SBC codec. And all but two feature nearfield communication (NFC) technology, enabling tap-to-pair functionality called “wireless check in” by the company. Two add the ability to charge USB-connected mobile devices even when the speakers aren’t plugged into AC.

The line starts with the $59 mono Orbit, a compact speaker that is weather-resistant. It lacks AptX and NFC.

The $129 Jacket will be available through all 1,900 Verizon Wireless stores on an exclusive basis starting on Father’s Day through the end of the year. It comes with two rubber pull-off jackets, one red and one black, with jackets in other colors available at $14.99 each.

The speaker features eight hours of battery life, two active drivers and two passive radiators. It also lacks AptX and NFC.

The $199 XL Jacket iMW645, which also comes standard with red and black jackets, features 2×2.5-watt amplification, 12-hour battery life, and 3D Sound button to widen imaging. It features AptX, NFC and ability to charge mobile devices.

Also at $199, the iMW555 InMotion is a three-sized speaker with two active speakers and two passive radiators on each of two sides, each side delivering stereo. The speaker can be mounted in horizontal or vertical orientation on a wall. It features AptX and NFC.

At the top of the line, the $299 iMW655 is a two-way three-sided speaker, with a woofer and tweeter on one side and two passive radiators on the other. It also features AptX, NFC and device charging.

Cambridge Audio: The high-end component-audio supplier diversified into the tabletop media-speaker market with the launch of two high-power models incorporating Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth and Internet radio streaming.

The single-chassis stereo speakers are the $449 100-watt Minx Air 100 and the larger $599 200-watt Minx Air 200. Both feature Ethernet port and embedded Wi-Fi 802.11b/g for network connectivity. They stream AAC, AptX and Bluetooth SBC codecs.

The speakers also stream music from universal plug-and-play and DLNAequipped PCs and servers when used with the Minx Air control app and with a plug-and-play control app installed on the mobile device.

Peachtree Audio: The componentaudio supplier expanded into all-in-one tabletop speakers with the launch of the three-way Bluetooth-equipped Deepblue at $399. It’s available in June.

Features include 240-watt fivechannel amplifier, frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz, and sealed elliptical enclosure containing five drivers, including a 6.5-inch bass driver, two 3-inch midrange drivers and two 1-inch soft-dome tweeters.

Planet Audio: Planet Audio: The car audio company is expanding into portable Bluetooth speakers with the launch of its new Lynx brand. Six models arriving in May and June include the top model, the $79 PA600B. It features a splash-resistant design, MicroSD slot, bike clip and a carrying bag. Playback is five hours.

RockDoc: The startup audio supplier began selling a trio of portable batteryoperated palm-size speakers under the RockDoc by Pitbull brand in late 2012 and this year plans to expand its CEchannel distribution and expand into carrier stores. One of the three speakers features Bluetooth.

RockDoc’s speakers include two models with embedded memory and MicroSD card slots, but no Bluetooth. The third model is a Bluetooth speaker with memory-card slot.

The products include the $49-suggested RockDoc Boom with 6-watt stereo output, 4GB of embedded memory, 64GB MicroSD slot and headphone output. The $39-suggested RockDoc Power is a mono speaker with 3-watt output, 4GB embedded memory, 64GB MicroSD slot and headphone output.

The $59 RockDoc Bluetooth features Bluetooth, stereo drivers, 64GB MicroSD slot, 6-watt output and headphone output. It has no embedded memory.