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LG Upgrades HTiBs, Expands Soundbars, Docking Speakers

 Las Vegas – LG is upgrading its Blu-ray HTiBs, expanding its active-soundbar selection, and getting more aggressive in the docking-speaker market at International CES.

 Like 2012’s four Blu-ray HTiBs, all four 2013 HTiBs feature 3D Blu-ray player and LG Smart TV platform, which accesses online audio and video services. In the 2013 line, however, the company is expanding stereo Bluetooth to all four models from two and adding the following features for the first time to the top two models: Sound Privacy, Wi-Fi-certified Miracast technology, 4K upscaling, 2D-to-3D conversion, and Web browsing.

The Sound Privacy feature uses a home’s Wi-Fi network to stream HTiB audio to an app-equipped smartphone or tablet, from which users can listen to the HTiB’s audio via headphones. An app will be available for Android devices and possibly for iOS devices, said Tim Alessi, LG’s new product development director.

 Miracast technology, certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, uses Wi-Fi Direct to wirelessly stream audio and video from Miracast-enabled mobile devices to the HTiB without connecting to a home’s Wi-Fi network. LG uses Intel’s WiDi technology in its TVs to make the wireless connection between TVs and mobile devices.

 Conversion of 2D video to 3D is included in two models for use with some early 3D TV sets that don’t convert 2D images, Alessi said. Upscaling to 4K is included in the top two models for use with future 4K TVs that might lack 4K upscaling, he noted.

 In another advance, all but the opening-price model feature Aramid Fiber speaker cones, a type of Kevlar used in audiophile speakers and in the aerospace industry. The stiff but light material is said to enhance sound accuracy.

 Like last year, all four feature embedded Wi-Fi, remote control via smartphone apps, iPod/iPhone/iPad-certified USB port, and playback of audio and video stored on a USB-connected hard drive or USB stick.

 Also like before, the top two models feature HDMI switching with two HDMI 1.4a inputs and one 1.4a output with audio return channel. The two lower priced models feature optical audio input to connect to a TV, which would be used to switch video sources.

All four models decode Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, and DTS-HD Master Audio.

All four HTiBs ship in March. Pricing was unavailable, but the 2012 lineup retailed for an everyday $329 to $729 in the fourth quarter.

In soundbars LG is expanding its selection to five SKUs, expanding the price range up and down, expanding stereo Bluetooth to four models from two, and offering its first bar with streaming services. All feature built-in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 decoding.

 Ship dates were unavailable.

The lineup starts with the NB2031A, a two-channel 40-watt model designed for TVs with screen sizes of 42 inches and up. It lacks subwoofer but uses an algorithm from Sontia to offer extended high- and low-frequency response and reduce distortion. It comes with single optical digital input. As with all models in the 2012 line, the bar features LG’s proprietary virtual-surround technology.

The step-up NB25430A adds 2.1 speaker system with embedded subwoofer and Sontia algorithm, 100-watt output, and Bluetooth. It’s also sized for TVs with screen size of 42 inches and up.

The NB3530A adds two optical digital inputs, wireless subwoofer, and 300-watt output for use with 42-inch and up TVs.

Two more bars are sized for 47-inch TVs and up. The first is the NB3730A, a 300-watt bar with wireless subwoofer, Bluetooth, and embedded Wi-Fi to stream Netflix, Vudu, Cinema Now, Pandora and vTuner Internet radio. The bar does not incorporate LG’s Smart TV platform, which offers downloadable apps, not just streaming services. The bar features one optical audio input and, to send streamed content to a TV, an HDMI output.

The top-end bar is the NB4530A, the slimmest of the bunch with a height of only 1.38 inches. It’s designed to fit under the bezel of LG TVs and remain flush with the front of the TV. It features one HDMI 1.4a input, one 1.4a output with audio return channel, optical input, but no streaming services. The system features 310-watt output, wireless sub, and one optical input.

 Soundbar pricing was unavailable, but the 2012 lineup ranged from a suggested $179 to $299 in the fourth quarter.

In docking speakers, LG is buoyed by the response to a handful of docking speakers launched late in 2012 with limited distribution. As a result, the company is launching three home models, all with Apple’s Lightning connector, and its first two portable models, both with stereo Bluetooth.

The lineup starts with the oval-shaped ND2530 with 10-watt output, Lightning dock connector, Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad USB port to play music from connected Apple devices and charge them, USB charging of Android devices, stereo Bluetooth, and nearfield communications (NFC) for initial Bluetooth pairing.

 The step-up ND5530 adds 30-watt output, Apple AirPlay, embedded Wi-Fi, and DNLA networking to go with Bluetooth, NFC, Lightning dock, Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad USB port, and USB charging of Android devices.

 Both models ship in March and will be followed by June shipments of the ND8530, which offers the same features as the ND5530 but adds 80-watt output.

Pricing was unavailable.

For portable use, the company is launching two AC/DC Bluetooth speakers. The two-channel NP3530 features NFC, 6-watt output, and built-in battery. The step-up NP6530 adds WiFi, AirPlay, DLNA networking, and 20-watt output. Both ship in March. Pricing was unavailable.