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iPod Docking Speakers To Diversify In ’07

As the market for iPod docking speakers matures, the category is diversifying from its original core of portable or tabletop speakers into $400 on-wall docking speakers or a $79 shower radio.

Just about any type of audio system is ripe to receive an iPod dock, as seen in the assortment at International CES, held here this week.

From iHome, maker of the iPod clock radio, is the “shower-to-shore” portable iH20, a water-resistant case for the iPod or other MP3 players that includes an amplified speaker so it protects the iPod while acting as a mini speaker dock. iHome says the iH20 has gone through rigorous testing to make sure the iPod is well protected from the shower or beach sand. The iH20 also has a remote on the outside of the case to control the iPod and it charges the iPod when connected to a wall jack. It operates on four AA batteries or an included AC adapter and has a line-in jack for other audio sources and a headphone jack. Shipping is expected this spring at a suggested $79.99.

Kensington is also showing a protective portable MP3 travel case called the FX 500 with built-in amplified speakers. The iPod and speaker controls are accessible from the outside of the case, which protects any MP3 player from impact and shock, said the company. The FX 500 uses NXT speaker technology and has 10 hours of battery life. Shipping is expected this spring at a suggested $49.99.

Sonic Impact, which originally offered portable iPod speakers, is moving to the high end of the market with some unusual products. “We’re trying to pick up some side profile of the iPod user that no one is trying for,” said co-principal Richard Bracke. The company will release a home audio high-fidelity “tube” amplifier that has an iPod dock built into it. “We’re trying to get the younger consumer to step up and get something cool with high fidelity to try to get him away from the boombox mentality,” said Bracke. The 10-watt per channel unit can also connect to a CD player and tuner. It accepts all iPods and charges the iPods. Shipping is expected this month at a target suggested $799.

Sonic Impact said it is also currently developing active speaker products for the Sirius Stiletto.

At the high end of its 2007 products, Altec Lansing is showing the M812, a wireless, 100-watt speaker with a remote dock for an iPod. The speaker can be mounted on the wall or it can sit on a table. It communicates with a remote iPod dock that has a built-in Wi-Fi at 2.4GHz so that the dock can be in a separate room. The speaker includes high end, two-way drivers with one-inch dome tweeters and 4-inch bass drivers and it has an embedded display (for listening mode and radio station). It also has a remote control or the iPod itself can be used as a remote. The unit has an input for a CD player or other device and the remote “learns the codes” from whatever device is added. Altec claims the unit’s Wi-Fi capability is interference-free from cordless phones, microwave ovens or other devices. Shipping is expected in late April/May at $399.

Also from Altec Lansing is the iM600 home or portable iPod docking speaker station with an AM/FM radio as well as rechargeable batteries. It uses the Apple universal well to fit all iPods and has 17 watts of power, which Altec claims is more powerful than any other unit for its price point. It ships with a remote control in February at $150.

Next in line is the iMV712, a video tabletop system that docks with an iPod to display video. It has a large screen for the category, at 8.5 inches, and a 2.1 surround audio system. Altec claims the screen produces higher resolution than other similar devices. The unit has 60 watts of power and a universal well for iPods, as well as an adapter for any portable media player. Shipping is expected in March at $349.

Klipsch is debuting its smallest tabletop docking iPod station called the iGroove SXT, designed for small rooms such as dorm rooms and offices. It uses two-way speakers with 2.5-inch woofers and horn-loaded one inch tweeters and it charges the iPod. It comes with an IR remote and will ship in April at $149 suggested retail price.

Cambridge SoundWorks is introducing a new docking speaker called the PlayDock ZEN for the Creative ZEN Vision:M, ZEN V and ZEN V Plus MP3 players. It runs on AC or battery power and claims accurate sound and a large sound stage, with a built-in subwoofer and a bass control knob. It charges the ZEN as it plays and began shipping in December at $199. A similar version for the iPod, called the “PlayDock i,” ships this month at the same price.

Logitech will ship in March one of the first 2.1 computer speakers with an external dock for the iPod and any MP3 player. The Logitech X-240 has a cradle that can also work with PDAs and mobile phones to play digital music and charge the device. The cradle also doubles as the control center for the system for volume and power. The system includes two satellite speakers with 2-inch drivers and a ported subwoofer with 4-inch driver for total system power of 27 watts RMS. Suggested retail is $49.99.

From SDI Technologies, the parent company of iHome, is a new Timex-branded clock radio that plays flash drives. SDI said the unit is one of the first clock radios to offer a USB slot where the user can wake or sleep to music stored on a flash drive. It is expected to ship with a remote control this spring at a suggested $99.

Also under the Timex brand is the Ti700 Indiglo clock radio for the iPod that lets users wake and sleep to the iPod and charges the iPod. It also includes a remote and will ship this spring at a suggested $79.99.