High-End Audio Suppliers Embracing AirPlay

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Las Vegas - High-end home-audio suppliers are embracing Apple's AirPlay wireless-audio technology.

At International CES, home-speaker supplier

Bowers & Wilkins

launched the latest model in its Zeppelin series of iPod-docking speaker systems, and


showed a mockup of a tabletop AirPlay-equipped powered speaker system.

Component-audio suppliers Denon and Marantz have already shipped home audio components with AirPlay. For its part, iHome, the supplier of iPod-docking speakers, came to is at CES with its own AirPlay-enabled $299-suggested iPod/iPhone-docking iW1, due sometime in early 2011.

Equipped with AirPlay, home audio products select and stream unprotected and Apple-protected via Wi-Fi or Ethernet directly from a PC's iTunes application. Song selection can also be made remotely via Wi-Fi from a hand-held iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone.

AirPlay-enabled home audio products also stream music directly from iPads, iPods and iPhones via a home's Wi-Fi network.

With AirPlay, consumers can stream a song from a networked PC to multiple AirPlay speakers simultaneously to create a wireless multiroom-audio system with separate volume levels for each room. When music is streamed from an iPad or iPhone, however, only one AirPlay-equipped speaker at a time is able to play back the song, marketers told TWICE.

AirPlay requires iTunes 10.1 or later and the iOS4.2 on Apple's mobile devices.

The AirPlay product from Bowers & Wilkins is called the Zeppelin Air, which ships in March at a suggested $599. It's the first Zeppelin docking-speaker system speaker dock to offer Apple's AirPlay technology.

Although the DSP-equipped 2.1-channel device retains its predecessor's zeppelin-like shape, the new model adds such upgrades as individual amplifiers for each of five drivers and higher power output at 4x25 watts plus 1x50 watts. DACs have been upgraded to 24-bit/96kHz, and an upgraded port delivers enhanced bass performance.

Although an iPad would fit in the Zeppelin Air's physical dock, which is mounted on an arm, Bowers & Wilkins doesn't recommend it because the arm might not support the iPad's weight.

 For its part, McIntosh went to CES to show a mockup of a tabletop AirPlay speaker system that that it expects to ship in the fall at around $2,000 or more. It would be McIntosh's first product designed to work with iPods, iPhones, or iPads.

The McIntosh model will feature biamplified 2.1 speaker system with two-way speakers and built-in ported subwoofer, Class A/B amplification, and tentative power ratings of 70 to 100 watts per channel with 150- to 200-watt subwoofer output.

The mockup also features analog aux input and USB input, intended to stream music from a connected laptop or PC.

Unlike the Zeppelin Air, McIntosh's mockup lacks Apple's physical 30-pin connector that, when an Apple device is docked, charges iPods/iPads and streams their music directly into a speaker system. Nonetheless, iPods and iPads will be able to rest vertically on top of the McIntosh speaker and connect via a short cable to the speaker's USB port for charging. McIntosh didn't think an embedded dock was needed to play back music because consumers would likely keep their iPod or iPod close by to select music.


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