LAS VEGAS —
The success of soundbar systems with virtual surround processing could be influencing more suppliers to reduce the number of speakers in multispeaker HTiB systems to 2.1 from 5.1 or more.
During International CES, Boston Acoustics and Klipsch’s Energy brand are launching their first 2.1-speaker HTiBs with virtual surround processing.
Harman Kardon will be launching a second-generation 2.1-speaker HTiB equipped with single-chassis A/V receiver/Blu-ray player.
And P&F USA, under the Philips brand, is launching its first 2.1-speaker HTiB with virtual surround.
Some companies are taking the simplification trend a step farther. In2 Technologies, for example, is launching its Unity Home Theater System, which packs home-theater audio electronics, speakers and a 3D Blu-ray player into a floorstanding platform for flat-panel TVs. For its part, Klipsch is reintroducing the stereo console from the ’50s and ’60s with the furniture-grade hand-built Klipsch Console, designed for serious music listening as well as for TV-audio playback. It features built-in 2.1-channel sound system, Apple AirPlay technology, and a USB port to charge mobile devices and capture iPod audio in digital PCM form for playback.
Though such products as Unity and the Klipsch Console defy easy categorization as HTiB systems, they and the new 2.1-speaker systems underscore a desire by audio suppliers to reduce living room clutter and simplify system setup by reducing the number of hometheater components needed.
Those efforts, like the proliferation of active soundbars with virtual surround processing, could help reverse a decline in HTiB sales, which fell in 2010 and again during the first 10 months of 2011. During the January through October 2011 period, factory-level unit sales fell 18 percent to 1.78 million units on a dollar decline of 25 percent to $448.4 million, Consumer Electronics Association statistics show.
Also at the show, Apple’s AirPlay technology is turning up for the first time in HTiBs, with the technology appearing in two Philips models. And more HTiBs with integrated 3D Blu-ray players will appear at suggested retails of $299.
Here are some of the new HTiBs that dealers will find at the show:
The D&M brand is launching its first active 2.1-speaker system with virtual surround processing.
The $499-suggested SoundWare XS Digital Cinema system ships in January to join the brand’s two TVee Soundbar speakers, which also incorporate virtual surround processing and amplification but in a single bar-style chassis with separate subwoofer. Like the passive speakers in the SoundWare line, the XS’s satellite speakers are polyhedron-shaped molded- cabinet models whose shape allows for multiple placement options, including on a shelf, on a wall, in a corner, and where the ceiling and wall meet.
Like the TVee Soundbars, the XS features Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding, Boston’s proprietary Virtual Surround processing, optical digital and analog inputs, stereo Bluetooth to play back music streamed from portable devices, and ability to learn the IR codes of a user’s TV remote. Code learning enables users to use their TV remote to turn the soundbar on and off when the TV is turned on and off, and consumers can use the TV’s remote to adjust the soundbar’s volume.
The systems small high-glossblack speakers are two-way models with 2.5-inch woofers and 0.5-inch tweeters. Articulating wall brackets are included.
A 2.1-speaker system connects to TVs to deliver virtual surround sound. The as-yetunnamed system consists of two satellite speakers, a separate subwoofer, and a control pod. It incorporates Dolby Digital decoding and Dolby Virtual Speaker, which delivers a virtual surround sound.
Video switching is left to the connected TV, which supplies audio to the Trio via analog and digital outputs. The Trio switches among three audio sources as well as a 3.5mm front-panel aux input to connect to portable music devices.
The speaker complement consists of two twoway satellites powered by a 2x25-watt amp. The satellites consist of a 3-inch driver and companion 20mm dome tweeter. They are accompanied by a 75-watt 8-inch sidefiring subwoofer in an MDF enclosure. It is targeted to ship in July or in the fall with auto on/off feature, creditcard- style remote, and learningremote feature to enable control from a TV’s remote. Pricing was unavailable.
The company is expanding its assortment of HTiBs equipped with 3D Blu-ray player to four from three with the launch of four new 3D Blu-ray 5.1-speaker HTiBs, all incorporating LG’s SmartTV platform to access online audio and video services. They ship in February.
Philips (P&F USA):
Four new HTiBs from a suggested $149 to $499 leave audio and video switching to the connected TV.
They start with the $149-suggested DVD-equipped HTS3531 with 5.1 speaker system, HDMI 1.3a output, Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding, and 3.5mm audio aux in. It’s due in March.
At $199, the HTS3541 5.1 system adds 2D Blu-ray player and decoding of such Blu-ray surround formats as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and dts-HD Master Essentials. It also features HDMI 1.3a out, 3.5mm aux in, Wi-Fi and an expanded selection of streaming services. New services are YouTube, Picassa and downloadable updates.
Those services join Netflix, Vudu HD Movies, Facebook, Pandora, V-Tuner, Blockbuster On Demand and more. The system also gets embedded games for the first time, with more than a dozen available. It ships in March.
At $299 and due in June, the HTS5307 comes with the $199 model’s features but adds 3D Blu-ray player, HDMI 1.4a output without audio return channel, Apple AirPlay and DLNA. It also steps up output to 1,000 watts from 300 watts, adds audio source switching, and adds MediaConnect technology to turn a TV into a wireless PC or Mac monitor.
With PC/laptop software and wireless dongle supplied by Philips, consumers will be able to transmit exact images of a PC screen through the HTiB to a connected TV. The TV screen will duplicate exactly what appears on the PC screen, including web browsing sessions, PowerPoint presentations and the like.
At $499, the 2.1-speaker CSS 9216, called the SoundHub, lacks a disc player but delivers virtual surround sound via two left-right speakers. It also features a 3.5mm aux in, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 decoders, and HDMI 1.3a output.
To deliver virtual surround, the CSS9216 packs three drivers in each of its two brushed-metal satellite speakers. One driver fires forward, and two fire to the side at an angle to project immersive sound around you. In addition, the system uses a proprietary algorithm to further enhance the surround effect, the company said. The system uses soft-dome tweeters, neodymium magnets and Class D amplification.
Blu-ray players and analog game consoles connect to the system via digital optical in, digital coaxial input, and two auxiliary inputs.